BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi’s remark that he was a ‘Hindu nationalist’ stirred a debate earlier this year, but the Jammu and Kashmir high court has ruled that any person claiming affiliation with any form of religious nationalism shall be barred from contesting elections.
“In our constitutional scheme, a citizen of India is only an Indian. No person can claim himself to be a Hindu nationalist, Muslim nationalist, Sikh nationalist, Buddhist nationalist or a Christian nationalist,” justice Muzaffar Hussain Attar said in the ruling on Thursday.
“The constitutional provision is loud and clear (about it) and in unambiguous terms forbids using such expression,” he added.
Justice Attar said a very serious and potential threat is posed to the very existence of the idea of India by “the fringe elements, who take cover under various types of ‘isms’ other than Indianism”.
Attar’s observation came while hearing a petition filed by Sanjay Tickoo, president of the Kashmiri Pandit Sangarsh Samiti (KPSS), a body of Kashmiri Pandits who stayed back in the valley in the face of armed rebellion in 1990s.
Tickoo had moved a petition on safeguarding the Hindu temples in the valley saying “the ‘secular’ character of the Constitution would require the state and its authorities to protect the religious places”.
The petition said some non-Kashmiri Mahants had illegally allowed use of religious properties for commercial purposes and sought action against them.
The judge has directed the chief secretary “to take all required steps in accordance with law for protection of religious places of Hindus.”
Earlier this year, Modi described himself as a ‘Hindu nationalist’ because he was a born Hindu.
“I am a nationalist. I'm patriotic. Nothing is wrong. I am born Hindu. Nothing is wrong. So I'm a Hindu nationalist,” he said in Gujarat in July this year during an interview with an international news agency. His remarks ruffled many a feather.
However, justice Attar said, "A person, who persists in use of such expression/s and, in fact, believes in such a thought, has to be dealt with according to constitutional mandate and other laws of the land."