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Want to build a mosque? Get permission from your DM!
|The BJP-led government of Uttar Pradesh has passed the Regulation of Public Religious Buildings and Places Bill which seriously curtails religious freedoms and human rights of the minorities, especially of Muslims. UP chief minister Ram Prakash Gupta justified the act citing ‘ISI activities in areas bordering Nepal through a string of madrasas and mosques.’
According to the Bill, permission of the district magistrate (DM), the highest bureaucratic authority on the district level, must be obtained before constructing any religious buildings or using any public places. If someone defies the law, or attempts to do so, he can be imprisoned for a year or fined upto Rs 5,000 or both. What makes the act exceptionally draconian and unconstitutional is the provision that the DM’s decision cannot be challenged in a court of law and the DM can withdraw permission even after giving it.
The act’s provisions include:
» No building or place can be used as a religious building or place, nor can one be constructed, without the district magistrate’s permission;
» The DM can refuse permission if he is satisfied it is not in the interest of public order, morality or health, that it will interfere with the right of any other religious denomination to freely profess and practice religion;
» The DM has the authority to withdraw his permission even after construction has begun.
Leaders of minority communities, secular and justice-loving people condemned the Bill saying that it gives unlimited discretion to DMs, who will usually bend to the will of the state’s ruling party. Moreover, it will open new avenues for corruption.
Muslim leaders feel that the law will harm them in particular, and Christians, Buddhists and Sikhs in general. Said Zafaryab Jilani, advocate: ‘when in normal circumstances we cannot get layout plans of our educational institutions and mosques approved, one can imagine the situation now.’