The Uttar Pradesh Police had recently issued an order banning religious activity in a park in Noida, an industrial hub bordering Delhi. The order made special mention of namaaz which workers of the companies in the area used to perform in the park. Compare this ban order with temples mushrooming on the premises of public utility services like State Electricity Board, Road Transport depots, water supply offices, and government offices. In equal measure, one comes across ‘presence of deities’ in every nook and corner of government offices which are public properties.
The U. P. police’s directive is an unmistakable act of bias against a particular religion. Consider the diktat of then Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh Shivraj Singh Chauhan who made no bones about the RSS shakhas being held at government offices. “Nobody can ban it,” he had thundered while he was at the helm of affairs in the State. RSS shakhas are undoubtedly meant to spread Hindu ideology and physical training verging on combativeness. If such aggressiveness can be allowed in premises maintained by public money, there is no reason to ban the practice of namaaz which, according to the Supreme Court, ‘can be offered anywhere, even in the open’.
It goes against the tenets of the Constitution, the ultimate rule book of the country, to show undue favour to any religion and its practices while declining the same facilities to others. Secularism is not disrespect to any religion but respect of all religions in equal measure. An assembly of people for prayer is a peaceful event while gathering of people for combative training and propagating a particular ideology, especially a sectarian one, in public places can have deleterious impact in the society.
The ban on namaaz in the park is in tune with the Sangh Parivar’s efforts to cleanse the nation of minorities. They have made their intentions clear quite often. Some time back, a leader of Dharam Jagran Saminti (DJS), an offshoot of the Parivar, had made a tongue-in-cheek remark that “their target was to make India a Hindu Rastra by 2021 and Muslims and Christians would not have any right to stay here.” We have witnessed several such attempts to reach their target. The attack on Christians at their worship places, assault on Carol singers, blood-curdling efforts to disrupt Christmas celebrations are all efforts in this direction.
Hindutva forces are straightening the path towards a Hindu Rashtra. They are bending laws to promote Hindu religious practices and to curtail the rights of other religions even to pray. Parks and public places are venues for day and night Hindu religious functions, ceremonies and festivals. But others are denied the same rights. According to one report, Kubh Mela 2019 in Allahabad will cost the exchequer over Rs 4,000 crores. Cow-worship has reached a feverish pitch that it will not be an exaggeration to state that expenditure on cow protection could become at par with allocation for education or health. Only a change of guard could save the situation from further downward fall.(Published on 7th January 2019, Volume XXXI, Issue 02)