In India, Muslim groups raised sever objections to the celebration of a three-day-long Hindu religious festival, calling it a sin. Writes Ashlyn Davis
The celebration of a three-day-long Hindu religious festival came to a halt after Muslim groups raised severe objections to the celebration, calling it a sin. The incident took place in a Muslim-dominated locality in Perambalur district in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. The ritual involves a temple procession through the streets; the affidavit of the Deputy Superintendent of Police confirmed that the “three days festival of the aforesaid temples were peacefully conducted till the year 2011.” From 2012 on, Muslim groups in the village started objecting to the celebration of various Hindu festivals, including this three-day procession, deriding the festival as a “sin.”
The Hindus decided to approach the police and seek protection for conducting the temple festivals and holding the processions. The court observed that until 2011, these festivities were conducted through all the streets of the villages without any objections. When the Muslims opposed these religious rituals and processions in 2012, the Hindus sought protection from the police and carried out the festivities until 2015 with restrictions laid down by law enforcement, which also provided protection.
On May 8, the Madras High Court observed that objections had been raised by locals belonging to the Muslim community, notwithstanding the fact that the Court had approved the Hindus’ performance of the temple rituals and religious processions, per Section 180A of the District Municipalities Act of 1920.
A two-judge bench of P Velmurugan and N Kirubakarn, presiding over the case, observed that such religious intolerance is damaging to the secular fabric of India. The court also emphasized that if one religious group exercised such vehement resistance to the religious ceremonies of another, it would lead to a state of riot and chaos.
Reiterating that the dominance of one religious group in an area should not lead to the proscription of the rituals and celebrations of another in a locality, the court remarked, “Merely because one religious group is dominating in a particular locality, it cannot be a ground to prohibit from celebrating religious festivals or taking processions of other religious groups through those roads…If religious intolerance is going to be allowed, it is not good for a secular country. Intolerance in any form by any religious group has to be curtailed and prohibited.”
The court also added, “In this case, intolerance of a particular religious group is exhibited by objecting for the festivals which have been conducted for decades together and the procession through the streets and roads of the village is sought to be prohibited, stating that the area is dominated by Muslims and therefore, there cannot be any Hindu festival or procession through the locality.”
This is not the first time that Muslims have tried to disrupt or put a complete ban on a Hindu celebration. The Durga Pooja is a major religious festival celebrated by Hindus worldwide, and is of paramount importance in the Bengali Hindu culture. Appallingly, 300 Hindu families in the Hindu-dominated Kanglapahari village of West Bengal’s Birbhum district were forbidden to celebrating Durga Pooja for several years because of objections raised by 25 Muslim families in the village.
The district administrative machinery perpetually denied the Pooja committee the permission to hold the festivities, gratifying the 25 Muslim families’ abject display of intolerance in a “secular” country. Even the local panchayat and Nalhati police jointly barred puja organizers from hosting the principal Hindu festival. The Muslim pandering-TMC government did not aid the Bengali Hindus, either, thereby establishing that the Muslims don’t always have to outnumber non-Muslims to have things their way.
The police in this state have been relegated to such a toothless state that a mob of Muslims attacked the religious procession of Ram Navami in Asansol with stones, brickbats and crude bombs, killing one, in March 2018. Over 50 civilians and 20 police officials were injured in the violence. Several vehicles around the site of unrest were torched, and a nearby Shitala temple was ransacked.
Again, such radicals don’t depend on the inefficacy of the state machinery or their increasing numbers to target Hindu festivals and wreak havoc. There were eight reported attacks on Durga Puja celebrations across India in 2019 alone, with the states of Uttar Pradesh, Assam, and Bengal registering some major unrest. It was reported from Gaya that Muslims pelted the procession with stones on the final day of the Puja, when the procession reached the Jama Masjid area, and many police officials were not spared, either.
Muslim mobs have routinely attacked unarmed, barefoot Kawariyas (a Shiva devotee on a religious duty) with sticks and stones, but popular media houses twisted the facts by presenting these incidents as “Kanwariya Menace,” or portraying these pilgrims as miscreants.