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  • Writer's pictureMohinder Gulati

Freedom of Hindu Faith in Tamil Nadu?

Government rejected more than 540 out of 550 applications for Pran Prathishtha celebrations


Dear Members

What is happening In Tamil Nadu? The state where Hindus form the majority and where countless temples stand testimony to their rich religious heritage, recent occurrences have cast a shadow over the state's commitment to safeguarding the religious freedom of its Hindu populace.

A few months ago, on September 22, 2023, the Supreme Court called for a response from the Tamil Nadu government and DMK leader Udhayanidhi Stalin on a petition about his hateful comments about 'Sanatana Dharma'. The petition requested the Tamil Nadu Police to promptly file an FIR against Mr. Udhayanidhi and others involved in the 'Sanatana Dharma Eradication Conference', which took place on September 2 in Chennai, organized by Tamil Nadu Murpoku Ezuthalar Sangam.


In the conference, Udhayanidhi Stalin allegedly said that Sanatana Dharma should not just be opposed but it should be eradicated, like the way we eradicate mosquitoes, corona, dengue; we should eradicate Sanatan Dharma, an analogy later intensified by senior DMK MP, Mr. Raja, who likened it to leprosy and AIDS, dubbing it a curse on Indian society and a global menace. These comments have provoked outrage among Hindus highlighting the insensitivity and bias of these political figures.


These do not seem to be isolated, irresponsible statements. Recent celebrations of the consecration of 'Ram Lalla' at the Ram Temple in Ayodhya also seems to have triggered equally virulent comments from other DMK functionaries.


 The General Secretary of the Dravidar Kazhagam Thamizhar Peravai (Dravida Kazhagam’s Tamil Council) gave derogatory speech in an event showing her strong disdain for Hinduism, particularly towards Sri Rama. She questioned the legitimacy of his birthplace and the construction of the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya, terming it as based on a baseless lie. Her labelling of Sri Rama, as 'characterless' and accusing him of various misdeeds demonstrates profound disrespect for a figure held sacred in Hinduism. Her statements suggest a deep-seated animosity and a perspective that is heavily critical of Hindu beliefs and practices.


These harsh statements especially from influential leaders of the ruling party of Tamil Nadu, pose a grave threat to the peaceful practice and preservation of Hindu faith, traditions and civilizational values of India. This threat was starkly evident in the Tamil Nadu government's oral order on banning of the live broadcast of the Ram Mandir consecration ceremony. The Supreme Court had to step in, underscoring the issue's gravity and the need for the state to comply with legal norms and honour the fundamental rights of Hindus.


The Tamil Nadu government's reported ban on the live streaming of this pivotal Hindu religious event that has culminated after a 500-year-long civilizational struggle, has raised doubts about TN Government’s dedication to upholding constitutional right to practice their religion freely. The rationale for denying permissions for Hindu religious ceremonies, especially when it involves the proximity of minority communities, is alarming. This practice undermines the secular ethos of India and sets a worrying precedent that could restrict religious freedom of Hindu community all over India. The Madras High Court's decision to allow private screening of the Ram Mandir ceremony is a positive step, but should Hindus have to seek judicial intervention to protect the rights of Hindus to observe their religious practices without undue government interference?


As per the affidavit filed by the DGP Tamilnadu, before the order passed by the High Court, out of the total number of 288 applications received, only 4 were permitted, while 146 were rejected and 138 were kept pending for verification. All of the 22 applications for live streaming of the event in public places were rejected, as per the DGP. As per the affidavit, out of the 15 applications received for live streaming the events from Ayodhya in Temples and other indoor places in the State, 7 were rejected and 8 were kept pending for verification. Out of the 226 applications for Bhajans, Annadhanams and special poojas in public places, only 4 had been permitted while 94 had been rejected.


This situation underscores the challenges Hindu communities encounter in observing their religious practices and maintaining their heritage in their homeland, reflecting on the dignity of Hindus. It suggests that the mindset of the Tamil Nadu government towards the Hindu population may be perceived as unsupportive or even antagonistic, based on several key points:

Neglect of Hindu Religious Freedom: The government's reported ban on the live streaming of the Ram Mandir consecration ceremony and its overall approach towards the issue indicate a lack of commitment to protecting the religious freedoms of the Hindu community.

Failure to Address Anti-Hindu Rhetoric: The inflammatory statements made by Udhayanidhi Stalin and another leader associated with the ruling party, highlight a failure on the part of the government to address and condemn hate speech towards Hindu beliefs and practices. The government's lack of action in response to these statements could be seen as tacit approval or indifference.

Concerns Over Constitutional Rights: The Supreme Court's intervention to ensure that the government complies with legal norms and honors the fundamental rights of Hindus reflects concerns that the state government may not be adequately upholding the constitutional rights of the Hindu population.

Potential Bias in Decision-Making: The rationale for denying permissions for Hindu religious ceremonies, particularly when it involves the proximity of minority communities, raises questions about potential bias in decision-making processes. This could be interpreted as a mindset that does not prioritize the religious freedom and practices of Hindus.

Judicial Intervention as a Necessity: The need for judicial intervention to protect the rights of Hindus to observe their religious practices without government interference indicates a lack of trust in the government's ability or willingness to safeguard these rights.


Overall, these points suggest a government mindset that may not be fully supportive of the Hindu population's right to freely practice their religion and preserve their heritage, leading to concerns over religious freedom and civilizational values.

 

Sincerely

GHTN Media team

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January Newsletter # 2 (Jan 15 – Jan 30)


 

Global

In New York, the Indian diaspora illuminated Times Square with large Lord Ram's images.  Several events were planned across the United States to celebrate the Ram mandir ‘pran pratishtha’ ceremony. Events lined up in Washington, DC, Los Angeles, and San Francisco were synchronized with the ceremony in India. The billboards have gone up in Texas, Illinois, New York, New Jersey, and Georgia, among other states. Additionally, Arizona and the State of Missouri are set to join this visual celebration, which began on January 15.


To commemorate the inauguration of the Ram temple in Ayodhya, the Hindu-American community across the US has organised several car rallies and planned many more events in the run-up to the grand event. The 'pran pratishtha' of the Ram Lalla idol -- the childhood form of Lord Ram attended by people from all walks of life, including representatives of major spiritual and religious leaders of the country, representatives of various tribal communities and other dignitaries.


In Mauritius, the Indian diaspora lit 'diyas' at temples and recited ‘Ramayan Paath.” The symbolic gesture aims to create a luminous tapestry across the island nation, reflecting shared reverence for Lord Ram. The Mauritian government has announced a two-hour special break for Hindu public officers on January 22.


The Indian diaspora in the UK also organised a car rally in London. During the rally, the participants chanted slogans of 'Jai Shri Ram' and played songs in praise of Lord Rama

In Sydney, the Indian diaspora celebrated the occasion by organising a car rally on Saturday. In the event, over 100 cars participated, attracting hundreds of 'Ram Bhakts' and passersby in the neighbourhood.


The Janakpurdham in Nepal, the maternal home of Goddess Sita brimming with enthusiasm, high fanfare and gaiety, organised a slew of events. Hymns of Lord Ram and Sita echoing in the city with Janaki temple was decked up with lights.

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United States of America

Burglars broke into a Hindu temple in the US state of Texas and stole its donation box, the media reported.

The Brazos County Sheriff’s Office said they are investigating the burglary at Shri Omkarnath Temple located in Brazos Valley, Texas, which took place on January 11.

Srinivasa Sunkari, a board member of the Shri Omkarnath Temple said the priest and his family, who live in an apartment right behind the temple, are safe, adding that the community members were notified about the incident at a gathering.

“We will rebound, we will take extra precautions to make sure our priest is safe, and this family is safe and our place of worship is safe. And we hope that something like this doesn’t happen to anybody in the future,” a shocked Sunkari said.

Condemning the incident, the HinduPact, an advocacy collective in the US, has asked the FBI for a thorough probe into the incident. The incident comes close on the heels of two Hindu temples in Australia that were defaced with anti-India graffiti by alleged Khalistan supporters on January 12 and 17.

 


Ritesh Tandon, the Democratic candidate who is running for election to the US House to represent California's 17th Congressional District, has claimed that several temples were vandalised over the past two weeks.

He called out Senator Aisha Wahab alleging inaction after the temples were attacked in California. "It might be the time to consider a recall," he said, referring to Ms Wahab.

Last month, a Hindu temple in California's Hayward had been defaced with pro-Khalistan graffiti. This came weeks after the Swaminarayan temple in California's Newark was also defaced with anti-India graffiti.

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India


January 22, 2024, is not merely a date but marks the dawn of a new era, proclaimed Prime Minister Modi on Monday participating in the inauguration of Ram Janambhoomi temple in Ayodhya. The temple fulfils a long-standing demand by millions of Hindus who worship the revered deity and extoll him for the virtues of truth, sacrifice and ethical governance.

Hindu priests chanted hymns inside the temple’s inner sanctum, where a 1.3-meter (4.3-foot) stone sculpture of deity Ram was installed last week. A conch was blown by a priest to mark the temple’s opening.


Nearly 7,500 people, including elite industrialists, politicians and movie stars, witnessed the ritual on a giant screen outside the temple as a helicopter showered flower petals.

“Our Lord Ram has arrived after centuries of wait,” Prime Minister Modi said in a speech after the ceremony, receiving a resounding applause from thousands of attendees. He said the temple was built after “countless sacrifices” and is testament to a rising India “breaking the shackles of slave mentality.”

 


The Supreme Court pulled up the Tamil Nadu government for some general orders reportedly issued by police to restrict the live streaming of the Ram Mandir Pran Prathistha (consecration) ceremony and performing religious activities, calling these orders “atrocious” and directing the state not to summarily deny such permissions.

“We believe and trust that the authorities will act in accordance with law and not on the oral instructions... The authorities will examine application seeking permission for such live telecast and deal with it in accordance with law. If rejected, then reasons shall be given for rejection of any such requests,” the court recorded in its order, acting on the petition filed by BJP’s state unit secretary Vinoj P Selvam.


At this juncture, Tamil Nadu’s additional advocate general (AAG) Amit Anand Tiwari appeared, countering the allegations. “My instructions are that there are no restrictions in place. This is a politically motivated petition,” the senior counsel contended.

As per the affidavit filed by the DGP Tamilnadu, before the order passed by the High Court, out of the total number of 288 applications received, only 4 were permitted, while 146 were rejected and 138 were kept pending for verification. All of the 22 applications for live streaming of the event in public places were rejected, as per the DGP. As per the affidavit, out of the 15 applications received for live streaming the events from Ayodhya in Temples and other indoor places in the State, 7 were rejected and 8 were kept pending for verification. Out of the 226 applications for Bhajans, Annadhanams and special poojas in public places, only 4 had been permitted while 94 had been rejected. 

The bench, however, expressed its displeasure upon perusal of the orders adduced by Naidu, who pointed that the only reason for the denial was that minority communities reside near the place for which permissions were being sought.

“What kind of reasons are given for rejection? Can this be a reason that a particular community is in minority, so you won’t allow the procession? Can a reason be given that Hindus are a minority at some place so you will not allow? These reasons are atrocious. If this reason has to follow, no procession or ritual can happen across the state,” the bench told Tamil Nadu AAG Tiwari.

 

Justice N Anand Venkatesh held a special sitting in his chambers on the morning of January 22,2024 to hear a case for permitting Annadhanam & Bhajans in a private marriage hall in view of Ram Lalla Pran Pratishtha in Ayodhya.

Justice Anand Venkatesh of Madras High Court on Monday(January 22,2024) ruled that permission is not required for screening of the Ram Temple event on an LED screen in private temples and halls. He also observed that prior permission is necessary for such events in temples managed by HR&CE and the events must happen in a pious manner without law and order problems. It is to be noted that LED screens were removed from a private temple in Kancheepuram this morning.

Similarly, the Supreme Court ruled that based on oral orders, the fundamental rights of individuals cannot be restricted by the State government of Tamil Nadu in a petition filed by a Tamil Nadu BJP member seeking directions to permit live streaming of the Ram Mandir Pran Prathistha ceremony.

The apex court told the state government that permission can’t be rejected on the sole ground that other communities are living in the locality.

 

Around 100 dignitaries from 55 countries, including ambassadors and MPs, have been invited to the 'Pran Pratishtha' ceremony at Ayodhya's Ram Temple on January 22, according to Swami Vigyananand, founder and global chairman of the World Hindu Foundation. The grand event is set to witness the ceremonial installation of Ram Lalla's idol, and preparations are in full swing.

 

Leaders from 55 countries, spanning continents such as Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Americas, have been invited to the Ram Temple event.

Notable among the invitees is the Korean Queen, who claims to be Prabhu Shree Ram's Vanshaj (descendant of Lord Ram). The guest list includes dignitaries from countries like Argentina, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, the USA, and many others.

 

A multi-layer security cover is in place in Ayodhya for the consecration ceremony at the Ram temple, with 10,000 CCTV cameras and drones equipped with artificial intelligence keeping an eye on the movement of people and police personnel in plain clothes deployed at the venue.

From Dharam Path and Ram Path here, which are witnessing a huge influx of devotees, to bylanes of the Hanumangarhi area and Asharfi Bhavan road, policemen can be seen patrolling the streets. Uttar Pradesh Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) personnel had also conducted patrolling in Ayodhya on Saturday.

While AI-supported drones are conducting aerial surveillance across Ayodhya, anti-mine drones are simultaneously inspecting the ground for mines or explosives, he said.

 

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Belgium


The Hindu Forum of Belgium (HFB) has issued a press release announcing that the Belgian Parliament has voted on January 11, 2024, to grant HFB a subsidy, which is a first step towards Hinduism being officially recognized as a religion in the European nation. This was the result of years of engagement with the Belgian government by HFB.

According to the press release, HFB “was created in 2007 to represent the Hindu communities and organisations in Belgium and to work towards Hinduism’s recognition by the Belgian Government.” HFB organizations include the Shiva Temple, Brussels Mandir, Brahma Kumaris, ISKCON Radhadesh, ISKCON Brussels, ISKCON Antwerp, Bhaktivedanta College and the Nepalese Community. The press release continued, “The HFB is grateful that Belgium has made a very positive step towards recognising Hinduism, signifying recognition for the positive contributions the diverse Hindu communities make to Belgium.”

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Bangladesh


Hindus in Bangladesh have historically been singled out and subjected to acts of violence as a sign of hostility towards the secular Bengali spirit. Since the Hindu community tends to support the Awami League for its commitment to secular values, they are also targeted as an attack against the Awami League.

The political goal to drive the Hindus of Bangladesh from their motherland began in 1947 in the then East Pakistan, was violently executed in 1971 by the Pakistani military and its allies and is now being pursued by fundamentalist and anti-Awami League groups in independent Bangladesh.

The consequence of the continuous marginalization of Hindus results in the forced migration of the Hindu community from their land and subtle hesitance to speak for the Hindus in the public civic space. Several years ago, Abul Barkat, a renowned academic from Dhaka University presented the most startling prediction regarding the Hindu population in Bangladesh—no Hindus will be left after 30 years in Bangladesh if the exodus of Hindu people persists. Why are Hindu people disappearing from their country?

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We welcome your feedback and suggestions on our global media report covering Hindu heritage and the challenges faced by Hindus worldwide. Your insights are invaluable in fostering greater understanding and awareness. Please share your thoughts on our email and let us continue this important conversation together.

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