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K’taka Govt Defends Move By Temples To Exclude Muslim Traders From Fairs

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Image - Hindustan Times

The Karnataka government defended a decision by certain temples to prohibit Muslim businessmen from entering temple grounds during religious festivals on Wednesday, citing a little-known rule to argue before the assembly that only Hindus should be permitted within temple grounds during fairs and sacred events.

The state’s law and education ministries approved the recent bans imposed by at least six temples, and chief minister Basavaraj Bommai said the government couldn’t intervene if the bans were legitimate. Banners have appeared outside temples in Udupi, Dakshina Kannada, and Shivamooga districts in the last five days, declaring that Muslim entrepreneurs will not be permitted to put up booths at religious fairs, breaking away from decades-old local customs.

According to the Hindu Religious Institutions And Charitable Endowments Act, passed in 2002, it is illegal to lease premises near a Hindu religious institution to a person of another faith, according to state law minister JC Madhuswamy. “If these recent incidents of banning Muslim traders have occurred outside the premises of the religious institutions, we will rectify them. Otherwise, no other community is allowed to open up shop on the premises, as per the norms,” the minister stated, noting that the Congress was in power in 2002.

Non-Hindus are not permitted to set up shops near temples during festivals, according to legislation, according to CM Bommai. “During such jathres (religious fairs), there are a lots of shops that are sub-leased. These people who take up the lease from the temple management board would do it for money. This is something that the government cannot interfere in. When it is such cases, we will look into the laws as well as the facts of the case.”

Muslim vendors have never been prohibited in this way before, according to Mohammed Arif, secretary of the Udupi District Street Vendors’ and Traders’ Association. He said “There are about 700 registered members of which 450 are Muslim. We did not have any business for the last two years because of Covid-19. Now as we begin to start earning again, we have been left out by the temple committees.”

Professor Ravi Varma Kumar, former Karnataka advocate general, senior lawyer, and constitutional expert, responded to the government’s argument by saying, “This is discrimination purely on the basis of religion. This is impermissible. The act has to be challenged on that grounds. As long as they are contracts given by the government, the government cannot discriminate on the grounds of religion,” Kumar said.


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