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India Christians appeal for change of poll date

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     Christians in the northeastern Indian state of Tripura have expressed disappointment over the date of the election for the Tripura tribal area autonomous district council (TTAADC).
      The state election commission announced on March 2 that the election will be on April 4, Easter Sunday. “Easter is the culmination of the week-long obligatory observance of faith for all Christians around the world. Elections held on Easter Sunday would certainly hamper their wholehearted participation in the electoral process,” Father Joseph Pulinthanath, spokesman for Agartala Diocese that covers Tripura state, said in a press note. The diocese has requested the election commission to reschedule the dates so that it does not clash with the religious practices of a community. In a letter to the commission, Bishop Lumen Monteiro of Agartala expressed the concerns of the Christian community.
      “We are concerned about the Christian community’s inability to participate in the polling process as the proposed date coincides with the universal festival of Easter,” he wrote. “The election on Easter Sunday will also hurt the religious sentiments of the Christian community. To enable the people to exercise their franchise and to enable them to fulfill their faith obligations, we request you to reschedule the date of polling in the interest of the Christian voters of the state.” Copies of Bishop Monteiro’s letter have been sent to the Indian government’s chief election commissioner, the Tripura government’s chief secretary and the chief election officer of the TTAADC. The United Christian Forum for Human Rights has also requested a change to the election date.
       Tapas Dey, the Congress party’s vice president in Tripura, said the scheduled date would “deprive” a section of voters on the basis of their religious identity. He urged the commission to change the election date.

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