How is it that religious people can get offended, demand censorship, go on a rampage and destroy property with impunity and yet peace loving citizens are harassed when they want to take out a rally against superstition? A few days ago an atheist’s organization wanted to take out a rally in Chennai to spread awareness of the dangers of blind belief. By all accounts, the rally would be peaceful and the participants wouldn’t make a nuisance of themselves. Because…come on. Have you ever heard of a mass group of atheists going on a rampage anywhere in the world?
And yet, the police denied them permission to peacefully assemble and make their point, giving the excuse that the road was too narrow. When that argument was shot down in court by showing that rallies had been organized there before and that the road could have not have suddenly become narrow, the true reason was revealed. The advocate general Somayaji told the court that it hurt the religious sentiments of people and infringed on the religious rights of worshipers!
What religious rights?
I must not have paid attention in civics class because I don’t recall any right stating that people must never be exposed to anything that offends them. If religious people don’t like what atheists have to say then by all means ignore the rally! A peaceful festival doesn’t violate anyone’s religious rights. To put this nonsense in perspective, both Christianity and Islam claim that theirs is the one true god. By definition therefore, a Christian rally must hurt the “sentiments” of Muslims and vice versa. So instead of offending everyone minus one group, an atheist’s festival offends everyone equally!
Fortunately we have courts in this country that understand the concept of fundamental rights and liberties better than the politicians or the police. After a very brief deliberation, the court gave permission to the atheists festival to go ahead provided they didn’t create a law and order situation. Did that even need to be said? Isn’t it obvious?
A peaceful festival doesn’t violate anyone’s religious rights.
To my knowledge, “religious rights” in India refer to the freedom to practice one’s religion in any peaceful way. I fail to understand how an atheist rally is going to infringe on those rights. Is anyone preventing Muslims from going to their mosque? Or Christians from going to church? Are their festivals being taken away? Are their holy books being banned? Are they being persecuted for their faith? No, no, no, no, and no! What I don’t understand is how something can be so clear to me and all right thinking people and yet appear so controversial to the police? The only reason I can think of is that the police fear that religious people will go on some kind of rampage destroying property and injuring people in “retaliation”. Even then, isn’t the duty of the police clear? They must provide protection and arrest those who create a nuisance. But of course, thugs and criminals in India are coddled. Peace loving citizens are the only ones who are persecuted. Free speech and expression are threatened because of the powerful heckler’s veto. And the police blindly stand by. Hopefully the court’s decision will set a precedent. Religious people have no right to be “not offended”. They have the freedom to ignore whatever they don’t like. But they can’t stop others from exercising their freedom of expression.