Archbishop stands beside protesters
“Hum aapke saath hain! (We are with you)…,” the archbishop of Calcutta told the protesters at Park Circus Maidan on Thursday evening.
Women have been protesting at the ground non-stop since January 7 against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, the National Register of Citizens and the National Population Register.
“Hum aapke saath hain.... Hindu, Muslim, Sikh and others will have to stay together and help each other,” Most Reverend Thomas D’Souza said to loud applause from the protesters.
Addressing the gathering, the archbishop said he had turned up not to sympathise with the protesters but to express his feelings for them and to send across the message that he was with them.
“I have come here to share my feelings with you all who have gathered here with a purpose. You have shown great courage,” Most Reverend D’Souza said. “I haven’t come to express any sympathy.”
The Constitution of India, he said, speaks about equality, liberty and fraternity. “Equality means we are all one and liberty is about acceptance of the rights of others.”
The collective clapping continued even after the archbishop completed his speech.
Many at the rally said the archbishop’s visit and his message, calling all religions to come together, boosted the morale of the protesters, many of whom are spending the cold nights on the ground.
The aazaadi chant returned to the protest venue soon after Most Reverend D’Souza finished his speech.
A charged crowd clapped, screamed and threw hands in the air when the archbishop and others were leaving the venue.
“We are here to thwart any move to drive a wedge between religions,” said Sahid Ali, a resident of Topsia. “What he said is exactly what we are trying to tell the government — that Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs and others are all one.”
The archbishop visited Park Circus Maidan — where posters of Sri Ramakrishna, Swami Vivekananda and other personalities were put up — as part of a delegation of the United Interfaith Foundation India, led by Satnam Singh Ahluwalia. The team later visited similar protest sites in Kidderpore, Zakaria Street and New Market.
The Roman Catholic archdiocese of Calcutta, headed by the archbishop, has 65 parishes in the city and a few in districts.
On December 26, the two arms of the archdiocese of Calcutta — the Laity Commission and the Social Communication Commission — had organised a walk from St Paul’s Cathedral to the Gandhi statue on Mayo Road against the NRC and CAA. Pastors, priests, and hundreds of people across communities had joined the march.