The Madras High Court has said allowing religious intolerance is not good for a secular country. "Resistance" by one religious group, if reciprocated by another, could lead to chaos and riots, it said. A bench of Justices N Kirubakaran and P Velmurugan made the remarks while hearing an appeal over conduct of temple processions by villagers at V Kalathur in Perambalur district in Tamil Nadu on a specified route that was objected to by local Muslims.
"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 observed.
The petitioner approached police, seeking protection for conducting temple festivals and processions, which was given with restrictions. The judges noted that before 2012, temple processions were conducted through all the streets in the village and that there was no problem. Even from the year 2012 to 2015, processions were taken out through all the streets and roads which have been approved by this Court, but later objections were raised. "It was evident from the affidavit of the third respondent, Deputy Superintendent of Police, that three days festival of the aforesaid temples were peacefully conducted till the year 2011 and only from the year 2012 onwards the Muslims started objecting to some of the Hindu festivals, terming them as Sins," the court said in a recent order.
As per Section 180-A of the District Municipalities Act 1920, roads or streets should be used as access to the people, irrespective of their religion, caste or creed.
"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," the court said.
"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 are 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," the judges noted.
"India is a secular country and merely because one religious group is living in majority in a particular area, it cannot be a reason for not allowing other religious festivals or processions through that area. If the contention of the private respondent is to be accepted, then it would create a situation in which "minority people cannot conduct any festival or procession in most of the areas in India," the court said.
"If resistance is being exhibited by one religious group and it is reciprocated by the other religious groups, there would be chaos, riots, religious fights, causing loss of lives and destruction of properties," the bench added.
(With inputs from PTI)