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UK Muslims decry UP bill

UK-based Indian Muslims have sent a 13,000 signature petition to the Indian President Mr K.R. Narayanan protesting against an Act passed by the state Assembly of Uttar Pradesh, which imposes stringent restrictions on religious freedom, and Central Government's proposals to amend the constitution.

The petition was presented to the Indian High Comm-issioner Mr Nareshwar Dayal by a four member delegation, led by Indian Muslim Federation's (IMF) President Mr Shamsuddin Agha.

Praising Mr Dayal's candid and sympathetic attitude, the delegation said that personalities like him gave a ray of hope otherwise attempts to create problems for Indian Muslims and anti-Muslim propaganda in school text books presented a very alarming and dark future. Mr Dayal gave a patient hearing. He said that unpleasant incidents were merely phases that could not last long. ‘I am very optimistic about the future,’ he said. 

The UP Regulation of Public Religious Buildings and Places Bill 2000, which was passed in January, gave absolute powers to District Magistrates and Commissioners on matters like granting or refusing permission for constructing, adapting or renovating religious buildings and institutions or organizing religious assemblies. According to this legislation, Commissioner's decision will be final and can not be challenged in any court of law.Supporting the Bill, BJP members in UP Assembly spewed venom against Muslims and left no doubt about the real motives of this draconian law. It violates so gravely the basic provisions of the Indian Constitution that the State Governor found it difficult to approve it and has referred the matter to the Indian President for his assent.

This Bill has been condemned by all secular parties in India and demonstrations have taken place against it in different parts of India.Even the US State Department, in its 2000 Annual Report on International Religious Freedom has cited this Bill as an example of religious intolerance.

President K.R. Narayanan, who had earlier disagreed publicly with Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's statement that Parliamentary Democracy in India had failed, is expected to reject the Bill. ‘We have been encouraged by your principled stand and opposition to Prime Minister's view that parliamentary democracy has failed. We found reassurance in your view that the situation in the country was our failure and not that of the system and now we are, perhaps, justifiably optimistic that when the UP Bill is presented for your assent, it will be rejected. And when any proposal for the review of the Constitution is made it will be dismissed.’ Says the covering letter signed by IMF's President Mr Shamsuddin Agha.
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