Thou shalt not blaspheme

Discussion in 'Religion & Culture' started by Ray, Dec 5, 2012.

  1. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    THOU SHALT NOT BLASPHEME

    Kannada actress Jaimala was recently charge- sheeted for having hurt religious sentiments when she entered the men-only Sabarimala temple in Kerala. Hemchhaya De examines whether India’s blasphemy law should be revised

    At a time when Pakistan’s blasphemy law is in the eye of a storm — the governor of Punjab, Salman Taseer, was assassinated last week because of his opposition to it — India’s version of a blasphemy law is also coming in for flak. It has, in fact, become the major issue in the Sabarimala temple controversy in which Kannada actress Jaimala was recently charge-sheeted for having “outraged” religious sentiments.

    In 2006, Jaimala created a stir when she revealed that she had entered the sanctum sanctorum of Lord Ayappa in the Kerala temple in her youth and had touched the idol’s feet. Religious leaders and the temple authorities were highly affronted by Jaimala’s act because females in the age group of 10-50 years are forbidden from entering the temple.

    After four years of investigation by the state law enforcement authorities into the alleged act of sacrilege, the actress and two others were booked under Section 295A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) for intentionally outraging religious sentiments.

    Section 295A of the IPC states: “Whoever, with deliberate and malicious intention of outraging the religious feelings of any class of citizens of India, by words, either spoken or written, or by signs or by visible representations or otherwise, insults or attempts to insult the religion or the religious beliefs of that class, shall be punished with imprisonment…which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both.”

    The actress’s revelation in 2006 sparked a furious debate, led primarily by women’s groups, on discriminatory practices in religious institutions. But now that debate seems to have been overtaken by the question as to whether or not Section 295A is an archaic law that goes against the concept of freedom of expression or freedom of worship as guaranteed by the Indian Constitution.

    Social activists believe that the law is indeed an anachronism. “Section 295A of the IPC has enough room for abuse as is evident from the Jaimala case. In fact, I am ready to seek the repeal of archaic and redundant blasphemy laws anywhere in the world,” says Swami Agnivesh, social activist and Arya Samaj leader.

    Experts say that Section 295A is the closest to what can be regarded as a blasphemy law in India. Of course, Jaimala’s is not an isolated case where Section 295A has been invoked. There have been instances where cases have been filed under the law on flimsier grounds. For instance, early last year a Muslim organisation in Hyderabad filed a case at a local court under this section, accusing tennis star Sania Mirza, her then prospective husband Shoaib Malik, and his alleged former wife Ayesha Siddiqui of misleading the community about their marriage and divorce proceedings — thereby “hurting religious sentiments”.

    “Such laws violate the very spirit of the Indian Constitution. Every individual has the freedom or the constitutional right to practise religion in whichever way he or she chooses. For instance, a woman has the right to offer prayers to the deity at a temple like Sabarimala,” says Ranjana Kumari, women’s activist and director, Centre for Social Research, New Delhi. “Of course, every religion has to be respected, but a group of people controlling any particular religion or putting restrictions on the ways of worshipping is simply not acceptable. All these archaic laws tend to be misused by select groups of people who try to control religious practices, thereby trampling upon an individual’s religious freedom,” she adds.

    Section 295A has also been invoked from time to time against writers and artists who touch upon controversial religious issues in their works. The legal battle over Taslima Nasreen’s autobiographical novel Dwikhandita is a case in point. In 2004, the West Bengal government issued a notification, based on Section 295A, seeking a ban on the book on account of its “deliberate and malicious intention of outraging the religious feelings of Muslims in India and insult or attempt to insult religion and religious beliefs”. The ban was challenged in Calcutta High Court by human rights activist Sujato Bhadra.

    “There were two notifications from the government on banning the book. They objected to two pages in the book, overlooking the larger context of the work. We challenged the notifications on both counts and won,” says Bhadra.

    While deciding on the case, a Calcutta High Court bench observed, “If it (an insult) is inflicted in good faith by an author in his/her endeavour or object to facilitate some measure on social reform by administering such a shock to the followers of the religion, as would ensure notice being taken by any criticism so made, (it) would not attract the mischief of Section 295A by reason of the phrase ‘with deliberate and malicious intention’.”

    The Supreme Court too had clarified that Section 295A could be applied only when there was a deliberate and malicious attempt to hurt religious sentiments. In a landmark case in 1957, the apex court ruled, “Insults to religion offered unwittingly or carelessly or without any deliberate or malicious intention to outrage the religious feelings… do not come within the section. It only punishes the aggravated form of insult to religion…”

    Activists say that governments have to ensure that freedom of expression as guaranteed by Article 19(1)(a) of the Indian Constitution is not trampled upon when Section 295A is invoked. However, it may be noted here that even though Article 19 guarantees freedom of expression, there are reasonable restrictions on it if it goes against the interest of the country’s integrity and sovereignty and public order.

    In fact, legal experts contend that Section 295A and the right to free speech are not necessarily mutually exclusive. “The intention to hurt religious feelings requires a deliberate and malicious act. But a woman not being allowed to touch the idol is an overtly discriminatory practice, and should be unequivocally condemned,” says Shameek Sen, assistant professor, the West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences, Calcutta.

    He adds that similar curbs on artistic freedom should also not be tolerated. “However, that does not, in my opinion, necessitate doing away with this section altogether as it can be a safeguard against deliberate acts calculated to create religious disharmony, riots, etc.”

    Nevertheless, in civil society, opinion continues to be divided on Section 295A and the ease with which it can be used to charge a person with having “outraged” religious sentiments. It remains to be seen whether the debate intensifies following fresh turns in the Sabarmala case.

    The Telegraph - Calcutta (Kolkata) | Opinion | Thou shalt not blaspheme

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    I was not aware that such an archaic law are on the statute book.

    Such laws are but instruments of the Govt and other personalities to harass people more as a rule than the exception and not for the real intent they are there - to ensure tranquility.

    What is 'outraging religious sentiments'?

    Cow slaughter, not allowing people to wear the burkha, selling Salman Rushdie's "Satanic Verses' or Dan Brown's 'Da Vinci Code' have been taken and is still taken, as 'outraging religious sentiments'. Even making light of the religious rites of fasting be it the Karwa Chauth or Ramazan or Lent would also fall under the category of outraging religious sentiments.

    India is a deeply religious country, be it any religion.

    But is the Section valid in the era of liberal thought and acts, more so when it can be and is misused for political brownie points?

    What tweaking of the Section is necessary so that religious sentiments are not hurt and yet at the same time, it cannot be misused for political brownies or for harassing people?
     
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  3. KS

    KS Bye bye DFI Veteran Member

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    There is a subtle difference between sabarimalai case and the rest.

    Women who are still in their menstruating phase not allowed into Sabarimalai is a time honored tradition which does not physically oppress anyone and hence cant be said to be discriminatory in that sense. It is the rule of that particular temple based on the belief that the viratham when one wears the maalai, does not indulge in any vices and visits temples every day in morning and evening, should ideally be ideally for one mandapa period (48 days) and it would interfere with the menstrual cycle of the women during which days she would not enter any temple or even the puja room in her house..so in that case her viratham would be incomplete and there is no use in her going to sabarimalai.

    Another reason is that Lord Ayyappa is a bachelor and hence women in who attained puberty and not reached menopause are not allowed.

    That is the custom of the temple and I see no reason why it should be changed just because few radical feminists who ironically would never go to sabarimalai keep making it a big issue. And this is not even a discrimination against women perse as girls who have not yet attained puberty and ladies above 50 who have reached menopause can go to Sabarimalai. So are they not women now ?

    Now coming to that prosecution against Jayamala, i think it should be dropped and she let go because anyway the puja and other parikarams have been done and there is no point in prolonging this case.
     
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2012
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  4. Dovah

    Dovah Untermensch Senior Member

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    They'd be equal when Jaimala is sentenced to death by hanging for the offence..rofl.
     
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  5. panduranghari

    panduranghari Senior Member Senior Member

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    KS thank you for providing a robust defence in the favour of Sabrimala temple tradition. To compare the situation in a Christian and Muslim country to what happens in Bharat/India is beyond ridiculous.

    Ray sir, you cannot compare these 2 situations

    When you ask ,'What tweaking of the Section is necessary so that religious sentiments are not hurt and yet at the same time, it cannot be misused for political brownies or for harassing people?'

    I ANSWER - ' Stop or prevent Indians from acting like tools of the west.' This temple is based in Kerala - the current bastion of evangelical Christian and Deobandi Musalman rabids. The Keralites endured the fanaticism of Tipu. I as a Hindu Indian national will not stand by and allow these secularists to control our way of life.

    I also say this with confidence - if the problem becomes worse, the 'wrath of the Hindu' will be uncontrollable.
     
  6. Sakal Gharelu Ustad

    Sakal Gharelu Ustad Detests Jholawalas Moderator

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    Even with all the defense @KS provided, I am not sure if you can still restrict almost half of the population. The case for not letting the SCs in the temple can also be built on similar premises rooted in history.

    I do not know the details of the temple, but I think only if it is a private temple one has the authority to allow or not allow certain people.
     
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  7. panduranghari

    panduranghari Senior Member Senior Member

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    The thing is its not about caste. Hindu can enter the temple but not a woman who may be at an age when she could be experiencing menstrual cycles. Before and after there is no restriction - if I understand it correctly.

    Similarly who is not a Hindu cannot enter a temple as well.
     
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  8. KS

    KS Bye bye DFI Veteran Member

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    Saar, as I said it is not discriminating against women perse..but only women whose body is menstruating...girls before attaining puberty and ladies after attaining menopause can visit Sabarimalai without any problem/restrictions.

    The difference between the SC case and this is, while SCs were considered dirty for their outwardly appearance, this is a biological condition which is the same for all..Moreover,I dont know about NRIs/PIOs, ladies here dont go to temple or even into puja rooms during those three days here..so that means their viratham would be incomplete..
     
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  9. Sakal Gharelu Ustad

    Sakal Gharelu Ustad Detests Jholawalas Moderator

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    I mentioned caste as an example. There were(also are sometimes) people who opposed opening of temples to SCs, same is the discrimination against women. I see no sensible enough reasons to restrict a menstruating women from entering a public place. And under modern laws described by the constitution you cannot achieve it unless the temple can secure its premises on basis of some private ownership.
     
  10. Sakal Gharelu Ustad

    Sakal Gharelu Ustad Detests Jholawalas Moderator

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    Does your argument mean, menstruating women are dirty in some sense, even though it might be natural?

    If a woman understands and respect the code of temple or her own house and not enter the temple it is ok. But I see no way in which you can enforce the rule except the one I mentioned in the post above. The temple definitely has the right to urge womanfolks(of the given age) not to enter the temple.
     
  11. KS

    KS Bye bye DFI Veteran Member

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    AFAIK, some Muslims have known to undertake the pilgrimage link, though the number is getting reduced..but Hindus who undertake it have to visit the Vavarsami dargah at the foothills before proceeding to the shrine.
     
  12. KS

    KS Bye bye DFI Veteran Member

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    Not dirty...but in our parts of the world, a menstruating woman does not go to temple or even perform puja (out of her own will) and not doing the puja or visiting the temple in the intermediate period makes her fast incomplete..

    Bro, trust me, ordinary womenfolk respect these traditions and abide by it..its only the radical feminists and the "secularists" who ironically would never visit Sabarimalai who are making the fuss. They need a chance to scream against Hinduism and they will.
     
  13. Sakal Gharelu Ustad

    Sakal Gharelu Ustad Detests Jholawalas Moderator

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    That is what my point is, those who respect the tradition will follow it anyway. But those who question the discrimination(in this case feminists), can definitely ask for reasons and the menstruating reason would definitely not appeal to many. I personally cannot defend this reason.
     
  14. parijataka

    parijataka Senior Member Senior Member

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    I dont know if you guys are aware of `Attukula Pongala` festival of Kerala in which women congregate and cook pongal for the Mother Goddess. This is essentially a women's festival and no men take part. Perhaps some men's right organisation should raise their voice against this discrimination... :)
     
  15. parijataka

    parijataka Senior Member Senior Member

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    BTW Attukula Pongala festival has Hindu women of all castes taking part. As also Sabarimala temple has Hindus of all castes visiting other than women in the age group 10-50. This is said to be because Lord Ayyappa was a Brahmachari and hence no women.
     
  16. KS

    KS Bye bye DFI Veteran Member

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    When the women in the menstruating age (the discriminated against group) itself dont care about that and infact respect that, I know for a fact since I've been to Sabarimalai often, why do these radical feminists care so much ?
     
  17. Robert_Ali_Venkat_Singh

    Robert_Ali_Venkat_Singh Regular Member

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    I am with you sir, lets start. Men's rights have been neglected for very long :cowboy: time to speak up.

    regards
    RAVS
     
  18. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    I am not too sure if restricting entry to temples or Mosques is a good thing.

    I, for instance, was not allowed to enter the Blue Mosque in KL. I found that odd.

    I sure would love to visit Mecca and see the rituals undertaken.

    But then............
     
  19. panduranghari

    panduranghari Senior Member Senior Member

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    I agree. My family members have stated that they wont go to a temple or do puja vidhi in such times. Yes they are very highly educated. So they do it out of respect of the culture. Sanskriti bhi koi mahatvapurna cheez hua karti thi, until evangelicals ne beech mein taang maar di.
     
  20. panduranghari

    panduranghari Senior Member Senior Member

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    Like Vat Savitri Puja.
     

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