Wednesday, 11 July 2012

On what basis is the government trying to change Hindu practices?

I have become increasingly uneasy about our Government's role in the religious life of our country.

For example, everyone seems to expect that government should have a role in "persuading" temple authorities to open temples to dalits.

I don't see on what basis this is being done or indeed can be done.

It is like asking Muslims to allow Hindus to join the pilgrimage to Mecca.

Or football fans to be supported by government in a campaign to replace the cricket ball with a football.

Muslims have their own rules and, provided those don't conflict with the law, they should be free to practice their own religion.

Similarly, we Hindus have our own customs and should be allowed to practice them unless those practices conflict with the law.  We have the right to allow those we wish into our spaces and to forbid those we do not wish to enter those spaces - in the same way as I should be free to permit someone to enter my house or not.

Of course, I am personally totally committed to eradicate caste discrimination in social, economic and political life.

But a temple is not part of social, economic or political life.  A temple is part of religious life.  It should and must be free to admit only members of that particular religious order. Otherwise "religious freedom" is a meaningless concept.

Naturally, we may think more "enlightened" those temples which admit people other than members (for examples, devotees of other Hindu traditions, foreigners, et al).

But we should not pretend that this is anything other than free choice on the part of the temple concerned.

Except in cases where civil or criminal law is infringed, religious freedom must and can only mean the freedom to practice religion as the members of that religion see fit - not as non-members see fit.

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