“No two leaves are alike, and yet there is no antagonism between them or the branches on which they grow.” – Mahatma Gandhi
For a nation like ours, filled with such diversity, not only in religion but in thoughts, ideas and cultures, it is a necessity that the state be secular. A secular state ensures that all religion and all people grow together and are nourished and protected under the roof of law, at least so is written in the constitution. India has never adopted a particular religion for itself, rather it has given its citizens the freedom to adopt, to profess and to propagate any religion they want, and yet India witnesses religious crimes every day to an extent that it has become a part of our societal culture. What is the instigator for these crimes, what fuels them and why can’t they seem to be stopped is a question that perturbs everyone.
The increasing rate of religious crimes in India is a threat to its secularism which is an essential part of its constitution as well as India’s identity. One might say that it is the political party in power that is the root of the religious crimes of that period, or that it is the area, region and culture that surrounds a person is what instigates them towards religious crimes.
But what exactly are religious crimes? Religious crimes can easily be defined as actions or words that are either said or done with the intent of spreading hate and creating serious negative emotions in people with strong ideals against a religion, culture or a person. According to several sources such as Hate Crime Watch, it is usually the minorities of the Nation that are the victims of these crimes and that minorities like Christians and Muslims are always at risk along with a very vague group of people who sell or transport meat. In the last few years, it has been seen that out of the total cases of religious crimes, 90% of them were against the largest minority in India. But that does not mean that the majorities of the nation are left untouched by this bane. The kind of people in power, politicians, a person’s family background, his ideals and morals, the society etc. all influence a person’s thoughts and it is one of these that is usually a person’s instigator to have taken part in religious crimes.
In a case S.R. Bommai v/s The Union of India, the Supreme Court held that secularism was an important tenet of the constitution of India. The articles 25-28 of the Constitution of India guarantee to its citizens the Right to Freedom which includes, the right to profess, propagate and practice a religion of their choice and to change their religion at their will. There are even many different State Acts that safeguard the interests of people and their religious views. Chapter 15 of the Indian Penal Code is completely dedicated to offences against religion and are provisions of law to protect all religions of the nation from any kind of defilement and shame. The section covers all actions from speaking words that are intended to cause hurt or wound a person’s religious sentiments, or trespassing onto burial and sacred grounds, defiling a place of worship with the intent to insult or disturbing religious assemblies and malicious acts intended to cause insult to a class by shaming its religious sentiments. There are many section in the IPC that even put restrictions on the freedom of expression. These provisions, such as the section 153(A) or the section 295(A) lay down that if a person believes that speaking or writing or gesturing things that are deliberately said, written or done to insult or attempt to insult or spread hatred, is exercising his Fundamental right to speech and expression, is misled and shall be punished according to the respective provisions and charges as under religious offence. Although the law provides clear instructions on paper, on how cases of offences against religions are to be handled, the practicality of the situation is always discrepant. The implementation of these laws has mostly been subjected to political propagandas, corrupt officials, bribed policeman and biased media. The real question that rises here is , Has the virtue of “Sarv Dharma Sama bhav” meaning that the end destination of all religions is one, and a concept that in one of the main tenets of secularism in India been forgotten?
A part of media has played a very vital role in the increasing Religious crimes. The manipulation of facts, focusing on half or ill-formed and incomplete cases and stories, pressing concentration on issues that create an environment of religious tension in support to a particular group of people or a political party are just some ways in which India media has contributed to this bane. There are many reported cases of mob lynching being used as a medium of religious offences. Many minorities are often at the victim’s side in such lynching. Public outrage is often created by spreading messages of hate against a person and accusing him of crimes that he may or may not have committed in a way that it is directed to a religious conflict. The police, on the other hand is also an important tool of this play. The corruption in some Police officers has very deep roots. It is not very uncommon to hear news of police being included in these malicious acts. Political parties and many officials, also know very well how to turn religious offences, from crimes to tools.
These crimes have often emerged from cases of beef eating, cow slaughtering, inter-caste marriages, runaway couples, casteism, religious intolerance, rigidity in one’s own beliefs and thoughts, religious fanaticism, brainwashing etc. According to a report by Reuters, an estimate of 68 cases of cow-vigilante attacks have occurred and been reported in between 2010 and 2017 and in these attacks 28 Indians out of which 24 were minority have been killed and around 124 have been injured since 2010 in cow-related violence. On religious hostilities, India has been ranked right after Syria, Iraq and Nigeria in social threats including religion. Terrorist organizations, all over the world, use religion to justify their terrorist actions. The young are brainwashed in the name of religion and admitted in this world of violence. There have been many cases reported of crimes against Missionaries, priests, nuns, etc. only on the mere suspicion of involvement in religious conversions. Adhering to one’s religious beliefs and having strong emotions towards the same isn’t wrong, but forgetting that humanity is the biggest religion of all is. It is not surprising that the minorities in India do not feel protected. Most cases of hate crime and religious crime in India from 2015 to 2018 were against minorities especially Muslims says Hate Crime Watch. Although the severity of these cases differ, justice is a luxury many of them do not see. If we see very minutely, there are many religious crimes in India that go unnoticed. Many of them get views only when a political party, or a well-known person or organization gets dragged into it.
Religious crimes do not affect a single person. They affect an entire community. The fear of being the next victim and the blatant ignorance towards these issues is one of the main reasons why the rate of religious crimes in India just don’t seem to decrease. Is it the tolerance of people that gives fuel to this fire?
The law does provide for remedies to the victims in general but the theory and the reality are often different. There is a say of the victim in the bail of the accused, the victim is entitled to a copy of the FIR free of cost and a provision of compensation is also laid in certain cases. These rights and remedies are in reality, a luxury and are not always dispensed. The stringent policies of law can only be implemented only when a complaint is filed. The fear created in these cases is enough to discourage a person from filing a complaint.
To an atheist, religion is a creation of man, and it may be related to the preachings of a person, but never to the crimes committed on behalf of this religion, so why can’t the same be understood by a theist. The crimes committed in the name of religion, should never be considered an act of devotion because no religion preaches or even professes crime or hurt.
Religious offences have been committed over time in many ways, and it does not always have to do something with violence against a person or a group. In a case, Khaii v/s Nanjiappa AIR 1930 MAD 642, the Hindus of a village were unhappy and were opposed to the fact that mohmaeddans of the same village had decided to construct a Masjid on a land owned by them. The court however on hearing the case said that since the land was owned by the Mohmaeddans, the court could not stop the erection of the Masjid on the mere ground of annoyance. Religious intolerance, has deep roots. There are many cases of religious intolerance that are shrugged upon, simply because they have been going on since years. In another case of State of Mysore v/s Henry Rodrigues, the Court said that the purpose of the Section 295(A) is to respect the religious perceptivity of different people of different religious ideologies and doctrines. The judiciary has laid down several provisions to ensure that the State of India, continues to retain its secularist nature.
The continuous disgrace of religions solely on the ground that they follow different ideologies or preach different Gods is an insult to the religion itself. Religious fanaticism is a parasite that turns even a rational man, into a sheep. A person who carries out blasphemous act in the name of religion or God is not supported by his community essentially, and it does not create a sense of hate between the groups and communities involved. It creates a sense of tension and so the idea behind establishment of so many laws, provisions and remedies is to allow smooth and peaceful religious co-operation throughout the Nation. A continuous environment of unrest in the Nation is a downfall for the Government in play as well as the Legislature and the Judiciary.
We might belong to different religions, but as Mahatma Gandhi once said, “The essence of all religions is one. Only their approaches are different.” The law provides for strong provisions but their implementation is necessary too. Stringent laws and stricter punishments can go a long way. In a case of religious offence it is of vital importance that the Courts be sensitive to the religious beliefs of both the parties. It is necessary that all people, reach a mutual level of understanding and co-operation, despite different cultural backgrounds, if we are to live harmoniously. There may be many religions, there may be many Gods, there may be many ideologies and there may be many practices but there is only one pith of all religions, and that is peace, harmony and love. In today’s scenario, we seem to be forgetting that we are humans before we belong to a religion. A Nation broken in itself, cannot stand strong. There is Unity in the Diversity of India. There is still brotherhood between men and women and children of the society and this is our strongest asset, an asset that we cannot afford to lose, for United we stand and Divided we fall.
Reuter’s, & TTommy Wilkes, R. S. (2014). Protests held across India after attacks aganinst Muslims. New Delhi: reuter’s. Retrieved may 2020
Author: Shreya Mujmer (School of Law, DAVV, Indore, M.P)