Byline: J.A. Saman - Islamabad
INDIA'S Supreme Court in a landmark judgment, has ordered an audit of all religious places (temples, mosques and churches) and charitable institutions with regard to access restrictions, financial transparency and even hygiene (cleanliness and free meals).
The critics of this judgment say this order affects only Hindu temples, particularly 7,000 antique (dilapidated) temples. They argue that Muslim and Christian places of worship are already under their respective communities' control. India has only 300,000 big and small mosques and a few thousand churches, whereas there are two million temples!
On the other hand untouchables (dalits) in India have been beaten, fined, and even brutally killed for daring to enter an upper-caste temple. Such incidents have increased over the years.
What angers the upper-caste Hindus is that the court audit is the latest act to question the caste-based access to temples. The Dalits are fed up with the multifarious myriad ways that upper-caste Hindus persecute the untouchables in everyday life.
Even the mainstream media has warned of the simmering anger among Dalit youth. Untouchables have been killed for non-existent slights like keeping a moustache, daring to watch an upper-caste folk dance, owning and riding a horse or a bicycle.
In Orissa, four Dalit women who entered an upper caste temple were severely beaten and fined Rs 1,001 by the village panchayat to spend on temple-purification rituals.
To escape the persecution around 10,000 untouchables converted to Buddhism in October2003 at a mass conversion rally in Ahmedabad. Indian laws prohibit conversion of religion in violation of the UN Charter about freedom of religion. About 30,000 untouchables from all over Gujarat attended this rally to free themselves from a system of social discrimination despite threats from the Visha Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal to disrupt it.
The above are only a few examples of upper caste extremism. The less said about the attacks on Christian missionaries and nuns, the better. The world should not turn a blind eye towards saffron fundamentalists. The minorities are being persecuted fiercely in India, the world's second most populated country.