The Bombay high court has rebuked the Nagpur civic body over plans to organise a mass recital of Hindu text ‘Hanuman Chalisa’ at an AIDS awareness camp.
The court asked the BJP-ruled municipal corporation on Tuesday if it thought that “India is for Hindus only” and wondered why authorities did not pick passages from holy books of other religions.
The observation comes at a time there is a nationwide debate on freedom of faith, with opposition parties criticising the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for alleged political and religious intolerance.
“Why only recital of Hanuman Chalisa and why not from Quran, the Bible or other religious literature? What is the nexus of AIDS awareness and Hanuman Chalisa recital?
“Is it only Hindus who contract AIDS? Is chanting of Hanuman Chalisa the only remedy for eradication of this deadly disease?” a division bench of justices Bhushan Gavai and Swapna Joshi said, responding to a PIL filed by a former corporator.
The court disposed of the public interest litigation after the civic body agreed to dissociate the ‘Hanuman Chalisa’ recital and AIDS camp. It also agreed to pay the cost of stage and ground used for the event planned on Thursday.
The judges said they were not against any religious programme, but concerned with government agencies getting involved in such an event.
The judges asked the Nagpur municipal agency in Maharashtra to keep at least an hour’s gap between the AIDS awareness programme and the ‘Hanuman Chalisa’ recitation.
The ‘Hanuman Chalisa’ is a Hindu devotional hymn dedicated to the monkey god and contains 40 verses. It is believed to have been authored by 16th century poet Tulsidas.
Nagpur is the headquarters of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), which is considered the ideological mentor of the BJP that is in power in the state in coalition with right-wing ally Shiv Sena.
Around 1.5 lakh people are expected to attend the events, which are organised by Poddareshwar Ram Mandir Trust, a charitable religious organisation.