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Hindu family asked to remove religious flag

A Hindu family of Indo-Guyanese origin living in American state of Florida has been asked to remove a religious flag from outside their home or face a fine of up to $100 a day.

india Updated: Jan 31, 2004 15:41 IST
Indo-Asian News Service
Indo-Asian News Service

A Hindu family in the American state of Florida has been asked to remove a religious flag from outside their home or face a fine of up to $100 a day.

Residents of the Rivermill development area in Lake Worth, Florida, asked Chola and Leila Persaud, who are of Indo-Guyanese origin, to remove the flag.

"We had a general meeting of homeowners. My husband and I were there. The residents signed a petition saying the flag has to go. But we have said 'no' since it is a First Amendment violation," Persaud said.

"We have contacted the American Civil Liberties Union. We are trying to work out what next step to take," Leila Persaud said.

The Persauds migrated to the US in 1981 and spent 22 years in New York.

"We decided to move to Florida after my husband suffered a heart attack and underwent a brain tumour surgery. He is also a diabetic," she said.

A retired teacher, Leila Persaud said she, her husband, three daughters and six grand children had been having a pleasant stay at their present two-storey Spanish home since last year but were taken aback when the Rivermill Homeowners Association slapped a notice of violation against them.

"The notice asked us to remove the flag immediately since it violated the bylaws or face a penalty of $100 a day. They said we could keep it in our backyard," she said.

"But we said that our custom does not permit the flag to be kept in the backyard. The flag is actually hidden behind hibiscus bushes."

Persaud explained that the tri-colour flag, which is aimed at protecting the family, was put up after a prayer.

As per custom, it should remain there for a year and should be replaced after another prayer. The old flag, she added, is immersed in a sea or river.

The red colour in the flag, she said, was for monkey god Hanuman, the pale peach was for god Shiva and the yellow for goddess Durga.

The incident has attracted media attention.

According to Sun Sentinel, a newspaper from southern Florida, the homeowners association had voted last year to ban religious symbols from all the 377 homes, except during a few weeks around holidays such as Christmas.

Mike Magnanti, president of the board, was quoted as saying that the rule was an attempt to address residents' complaints that the flag put up by Persauds looked like a "torn, tattered towel in a tree".

Vidya Meman, president of the Florida Hindu Cultural and Religious Association, however said that in many other Palm Beach communities, Hindus have not had a problem flying their religious flags.

First Published: Jan 30, 2004 15:26 IST