02/05/2014, 00.00
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India’s Supreme Court to review "pro- Hindu" ruling, to curb religious extremism

by Nirmala Carvalho
In 1995, the country's highest court ruled that seeking votes in the name of Hinduism is not a form of corruption. The verdict was heavily criticized, because the defendant in that trial had been elected on the back of Hindutva, a nationalist ideology . The president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC ) urges a favorable decision of the Supreme Court in view of the general elections of May 2014. "In states where Hindutva is pursued, minorities live in insecurity".

Mumbai (AsiaNews) - The Supreme Court of India has decided to review a judgment of 1995 , which had established that seeking votes in the name of Hinduism is not a form of corruption. The highest court of the country has decided to revise the judgment - strongly criticized 18 years ago - in view of the general elections to be held next May, in light of an already hard-fought election campaign . The vote pits the two major - and diametrically opposed - parties against each other: the secular and democratic Congress, now in government and the ultra-nationalist Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party ( BNP) .

In its reasons for the judgment , the Supreme Court pointed out that " the 2014 elections are important. Seeking votes in the name of religion must be considered in the interpretation of section 123 (3) of the Representation of the People Act [ RPA , Law on behalf of the people ] . "

The RPA is a law that sets the code of conduct of elections for Parliament and the individual states, indicating the necessary qualifications of the candidates and grounds for disqualification. Sect. 123 (3) includes in corrupt practices , "the appeal by a candidate or his agent or by any other person with the consent of a candidate or his election agent to vote or refrain from voting for any person on the ground of his religion [ ...] ."

Known as "the Hindutva ruling " [ nationalist ideology based on Hinduism , ed] , the 1995verdict of  concerned Manohar Joshi , leader of the Shiv Sena (an ally of the BJP) who was elected chief minister of Maharashtra. In one of the pre-election speeches, the politician stated that "the first Hindu State will be established in Maharashtra". For the High Court in Mumbai, statements such as this violated sect. 123 (3) of the RPA , and thus declared the election invalid. The case went before the Supreme Court, which overturned the ruling, saying that such an appeal was not based on religion but was "an expression of hope".

Contacted by AsiaNews Sajan George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), said he was "satisfied with the decision of the Supreme Court , which will safeguard the secular credentials of India, as they are enshrined in the Constitution. There are inherent dangers in hindutva, which is an extreme form of nationalism that threatens the secular character of the country. Traditional Hinduism is not linked to nationality. The Rashtriya Sawayamsevak Sangh (RSS , a Hindu fundamentalist group ) follows Hindutva , which has as its objective the creation of a Hindu state, and the BJP is its political arm . "

"In many states led by the BJP - continues the Christian leader - minorities live in insecurity, fueled by the Hindutva strategy that is based on the polarizing of  religious communities through violence".



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