12/05/2006, 00.00
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Delhi High Court: “Union should fund pilgrims of all faiths”

by Nirmala Carvalho
The court ruled in favour of a petition presented by a Hindu who asked for the allocation of public funds to pilgrimages of all faiths, not just the one to Mecca. Every year, Delhi allocates 50 million euros for this ritual Muslim journey.

Delhi (AsiaNews) – The Delhi High Court yesterday called on the government of the Union to supply financial subsidies to pilgrims of all religions, like those it has been giving to members of the Muslim community going for the annual pilgrimage to Mecca.

The sentence was handed down in response to the public petition presented by Ashwani Gupta, a Hindu, who reminded the judges about Articles 14,15 and 16 of the Indian Constitution, which stipulate that: “The state cannot give benefits to one particular religion and ignore the others.”

Gupta said: “The Hindu community also has popular places of pilgrimage like Amarnath and Mansarovar, as do the Sikhs who look to Nankana Saheb, the Buddhists who desire to visit Sarnath and Catholics who want to go to Rome”.

The petition said: “Providing subsidy to Muslims is politically motivated as it is aimed at buying their votes, while several Muslim countries do not grant subsidies to Haj [a ritual pilgrimage to Mecca, the duty of every good Muslim] pilgrims.” The government, to meet the demand of thousands of pilgrims who ask to undertake the Haj every year, allocates more than three billion rupees, that is, around 50 million euros.

John Dayal, president of the All India Catholic Union, “welcomed the court ruling”. He told AsiaNews: “I hope the government will use this opportunity to dispel the myth about policies to appease Muslims: it’s obvious that if the Union has any preferential policies, they are applied to Hindus.”

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