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‘Majority of one religious group in a particular area cannot be grounds to prohibit processions carried out by another’: Madras HC in 2021 case

As Mamata Banerjee and Islamists speak against carrying out processions in 'Muslim areas', Madras HC, in its monumental verdict in 2021, noted that the majority of a religious community in a particular area cannot be grounds to prohibit processions carried out by members of other religious groups.

On 30th March 2023, the West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee said that Hindus should not take the Ram Navami processions from what she referred to as the ‘Muslim areas’ and asked Hindu communities to be ‘peaceful’. On the contrary, the Islamists attacked Ram Navami processions in West Bengal and many other states in India, while Hindus were inherently peaceful in carrying out the processions.

As the term ‘Muslim areas’ caught attention against this background, it becomes necessary to know remarks by the Madras High Court in 2021 on hearing a petition in which Muslims in Tamil Nadu had similarly opposed the Hindu processions passing through the so-called ‘Muslim areas’. Notably, in their petition, the Muslims in Tamil Nadu had called the Hindu processions a sin.

V Kalathur in Tamil Nadu’s Perambalur district is a Muslim-majority area where Hindus are a minority. The majority community here has long opposed the Hindu processions taken from the temples. A petition was filed before the Madras High Court about the conduct of temple processions through a Muslim-dominated locality at V Kalathur in the district of Perambalur in Tamil Nadu.

Some local Muslims in the area have been objecting to the conduct of Hindu processions since 2012. The community had dubbed the Hindu festivals as ‘sins’. The petitioner had therefore approached the police for protecting the conduct of rituals and processions. The same was provided by the law enforcement authorities with restrictions.

When the matter came up for hearing before the Madras High Court, a 2-Judge Bench of N Kirubakarn and P Velmurugan noted that religious intolerance is detrimental to the secular fabric of the country. The Court noted that if such a ‘resistance’ to the conduct of religious festivals is reciprocated by another religious group, it might lead to riots and chaos.

While reading out the affidavit presented by the Deputy Superintendent of Police, the Madras High Court observed that objection to temple processions was raised from 2012 onwards. The Judges observed how no such problem existed before 2012. The Court pointed out how objections were raised by the Muslim community despite the Court granting permission to the Hindus to carry out temple processions (in accordance with Section 180A of the District Municipalities Act 1920).

The court said in its order, “Merely because one religious group is dominating in a particular locality, it cannot be a ground to prohibit 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 further said, “In this case, intolerance of a particular religious group is exhibited by objecting to 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 a procession through the locality.”

In this case, the judges simultaneously reiterated that due to the dominance of one religious group in the area, other religious groups and their processions cannot be removed from the area. The court argued that if such cases are accepted, no minority community will be able to celebrate their festivals in most parts of the country. The Madras High Court said that such protests will lead to religious fights, and riots, in which many people will lose their lives and many properties will be vandalized.

Notably, Mamata Banerjee had said on Ram Navami, “I want to request those who are taking out the Ram Navami procession, please do but do it peacefully. Kindly avoid Muslim areas as Ramzan is going on. Celebrate peacefully but don’t try to create violence. Don’t get provoked.”

She further said, “Some goon has said that ‘on the day of Ram Navami, we will come out with weapons and do a procession.’ I will not stop the procession of Ram Navami, but if weapons come out then action will be taken by the government. The month of Ramzan is also going on and during this time if anyone tries to do any wrong thing, he will not be spared. No one has the right to practice riot.”

Mamata Banerjee cited the occasion of Ram Navami to indicate that Hindus create violence in the so-called “Muslim areas” during Ram Navami processions and attack the community. She extended her support to the Muslim community and stated asked Hindus to be ‘peaceful’.

On Thursday, March 30, stones were pelted on a Ram Navami procession from the terraces of the buildings in the Shibpur area of Howrah. This led to a clash between the Hindu and Muslim groups, leading to violence and arson. Vehicles and shops were also torched during the attack. Several disturbing videos of the incident went viral on social media. A large contingent of police was deployed to maintain the law and order situation in the area. The cops conducted a flag march, fired tear gas shells, and chased away the rioters.

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OpIndia Staff
OpIndia Staff
Staff reporter at OpIndia

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