Madras HC’s recent judgement on religious tolerance becomes topic of discussion

Chennai: A recent judgement of a division bench of the Madras High Court against religious intolerance has turned into a major topic of discussion among the legal and religious circles.

The court made some crucial observations while hearing a petition over the conduct of a temple procession by people of V Kalathur in Perambalur district.

The village consists of both Hindus and Muslims in good numbers. Muslims are residing on the eastern side and Hindus on the western side.

There are four temples in the locality – Lakshmi Narayana Perumal Temple, Selliamman Temple, Rayappa Temple and Maariyamman Temple in which three days festival is said to be conducted every year.

It is said that a Muslim organisation had opposed carrying out the temple processions through a particular route.

Following this, Ramasamy, a member of the village, approached the Madras High Court.

A single bench judge granted permission imposing certain conditions by an order dated 23 September 2018 including restrictions with regard to the conduct of procession.

However, this was once again opposed by both the sides, and they made an appeal, following which the verdict was delivered.

According to sources there was no problem till 2015. Sources said that Muslims in the village wanted to construct a mosque in the route of the procession. After a meeting of the villagers it was accepted unanimously. After this, the number of Muslims in the village continued to increase, it is said.

Muslims allegedly started buying houses in the route which the chariot procession is carried out. After a few years some Muslims who settled in the chariot road objected to carrying out of procession on the stretch, it is alleged.

It is said that in 2015, the district administration requested to reduce the three days festival to two days which was accepted by the festival committee.

In 2016 a petition was filed by the Muslim representatives asking to stop the procession in the street which they were living. However this was rejected, another petition filed in 2017 was also rejected.

In 2018 Revenue Officer had asked the committee to hold the festival for just two days and asked to not to carry out any procession in the Muslim living areas.

The committee had approached the Court against this and a peace committee was formed to hold talks with both the sides.

During the talks the committee had agreed to conduct two chariot processions on the first day and two more processions on second day. They have also agreed not to conduct the turmeric water spraying event on third day. However many restrictions were imposed for the procession following which the recent appeal was made. Representatives of the Muslims also appealed, sources added.

The court in the judgement said, “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 these roads.”

Justice Kirbhakaran and Justice Velmurugan in the judgement said, “if the content of the private respondent is accepted then it would create a situation in which minority people cannot conduct any festival or procession in most of the areas in India and that if resistance is being exhibited by one religious group and it is reciprocated by other religious groups, then there would be chaos, riots, religious fights causing loss of lives and destruction of properties.”

Ramasamy who had appealed in the Court on behalf of the committee has welcomed the judgement and said that the Court has upheld secularism and religious rights.

On the other hand Jamath’s treasurer Hayath Baasha had said that their aim is not to oppose any religion but to ensure that such processions does not result in any untoward incidents. ‘Violence has broken out during processions in the past and we do not want such incidents to happen it in the future, he said.

We will decide our further course of action after holding discussions in the Jamath, he added.

 

NT Bureau