According to The Times of India, dated 12.2.2008, always eager to offer sops to minorities, the Andhra Pradesh government under Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy decided to dole out subsidies on the lines of the Haj scheme for Christians who want to visit holy sites in Israel.
Governor N.D. Tiwari in his address to the joint budget session of the Assembly and Council also said the government has decided to extend the Haj pilgrim scheme to Christian minorities also for their religious visits to holy sites in Israel.
The sop to Christian pilgrims by the Chief Minister, himself a Christian, is seen as another move by the Congress government to woo minorities ahead of the general and assembly elections scheduled for early next year.
?Unlike the Haj, which is a protected environment and which sees thousands of pilgrims from all over the world every year, holy sites in Israel including disputed Jerusalem, are located in a virtual war zone and it is unlikely that more than a few Christians from India and the state will want to visit,? said an opposition leader. Christians comprise about 1.5 per cent of Andhra Pradesh'seight crore population.
It is clear from the above news that for winning over the votes of the minorities, the AP Government is dividing the people on communal lines. In fact, Andhra Pradesh Government has earlier sought to grant 5 per cent reservation to Muslims saying that Muslims are a backward community but AP High Court turned down the proposal. It is not clear why AP Government is again and again raising issues which are likely to disturb communal harmony. Haj like subsidy for Christians would raise similar demands from other States. It may also raise demands from other communities like various sects of Hindus and Sikhs for being given such a subsidy for visiting places of religious importance to them. This could include subsidising tours to Kailash Mansarovar or even tours within the country to Shirdi and Satya Sai Baba'splace in Andhra Pradesh besides Tirupati in Andhra Pradesh and religious tours to Nankana Sahib, Patna Sahib, Nanded Sahib, etc. This would also be against the spirit of the Constitution, which says that India is secular. The dictionary meaning of Secular is: of or pertaining to worldly things or to things that are not regarded as religious, spiritual, or sacred.
When a Raj Thackeray or an Udhav Thackeray incites regional feelings that would divide the country on religious lines, we can appeal to the Government for taking action against them but when a State Government does something that would divide the country on communal lines and put unnecessary burden on Government exchequer, we can either ask the Central Government to dismiss it or we can appeal to the Supreme Court to ask the State Government to withdraw such measures terming them unconstitutional. So, let
Central Government and Supreme Court look into this aspect. It is a very grave measure as it could lead to the division of the country on communal lines. All subsidies including Haj subsidy should be immediately withdrawn.