Eric Linge, Pitt Law '09, files from Mumbai:
India is a nation that takes religion seriously. Articles 25-8 of the Constitution guarantee citizens the fundamental right to religious freedom. Rickshaw drivers stick their arms up into the air when they pass by cows pulling shrines on carts down the road. And beginning two weeks ago, Sikhs took to violent and deadly protests in Indian Punjab in retaliation for what they felt to be an insult to their religion. Newspapers had been running an advertisement showing an obscure religious sect leader dressed in a costume resembling that of a deeply revered 17th century Sikh guru.
India takes religion so seriously that the Indian Penal Code, sec. 298, makes it illegal to wound the "religious feelings" of a person with deliberate intention. Sec. 295A makes it illegal to outrage the "religious feelings" of any class of Indian citizens with deliberate and malicious intention.
Sikhs claim the leader of the Dera Sacha Sauda (DSS) has done just this — that he has wounded and outraged their religious feelings. Lawsuits were threatened with secs. 295A and 298 as the causes of action, but it is unclear to me whether any suits have actually gone forward. Feelings appear to be somewhat healed and tempers have somewhat cooled during the past week, especially since a statement was issued this Sunday by the DSS apologizing directly to the revered Sikh guru. One youth died during the strife.
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