Catholic leaders in India are calling for a cross-faith consultation over an intended repeal of a law that prevents central government employees belonging to specific Hindu and Muslim groups.

The faith-based law, dating back to 1966, bans membership of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Jamaat-e-Islami. Membership of RSS, which once employed India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, was not permitted for employees in central government after 1975.

On plans to repeal the law and replace it with a new civil code, Indian Cardinal Baselios Cleemis says: “All discussions on the uniform civil code must be done taking into account the freedom ensured by the Constitution and without hurting the sentiments of various religious groups”.

Persecution analyst Rolf Zeegers of Open Doors World Watch Research says the implementation of the current law “made sure extremist movements would not be able to influence government services …Now they [the government] are removing all existing barriers to allow groups that were formerly considered extremist to take part in government affairs. This is yet another alarm-signal for the Church in India”.