Expresses concern over such poojas being used for “communal purposes”

Expressing concern over ‘guru pooja celebrations’ being used for “communal purposes,” the Madras High Court has directed the State authorities to seriously consider banning such celebrations; alternatively, these ‘poojas,’ which are held to mark the anniversary of community leaders should be reduced to low key affairs. Issuing a set of guidelines to be followed by the authorities, the court also said visits of political leaders and communal leaders have to be banned on these occasions.

Justice N. Kirubakaran laid down these guidelines while dismissing petitions which challenged the various restrictions imposed by district administrations in the communally charged southern districts

The Judge said the State’s southern part is communally very sensitive. Any untoward incident would definitely create communal tension and law and order problem. “Nowadays, year after year, leaders/ heroes are discovered as caste leaders so as to enable them to conduct celebrations in their names and such celebrations are termed ‘guru poojas.’

Lamenting that such celebrations were used for a communal cause, the Judge said, “It is said they are conducted only to show their strength among the various other groups, or to exhibit supremacy over other communities. It is said these celebrations invariably are undertaken by a group of leaders and the so-called community leaders. Naturally, political leaders would queue up before the memorials for the sake of political gains. No doubt, heroes and freedom fighters should be honoured, irrespective of their communities. However, in reality, it is said they are being honoured not for a good cause but for a communal cause only.”

Relying on recent statistics, Mr. Justice Kirubakaran said the arrival and assembly of people and volunteers caused law and order problems, sometimes leading to death and injury, damage to property and communal tension.

The authorities were right in imposing restrictions. “Therefore, this court cannot direct them to grant permission contrary to the ground realities.”

“The restrictions imposed by the authorities, by no stretch of imagination, can be said to be violating the fundamental rights of the petitioners, the Judge added.

In its set of guidelines, the court also said, “Hate speeches and objectionable slogans of the community leaders, preparatory meetings and processions have to be strictly prohibited during the particular month of celebration; carrying banners, pasting posters and painting of walls for the guru poojas have to be banned.”

The court also said hiring of vehicles for the celebrations should be prohibited in the coming years also, as was done this year.

It also asked the authorities to rope in various political leaders, social workers and non-governmental organisations to create normality among the various communities in the areas.

Stressing that in the interest of the public, political leaders and so-called community leaders should not visit these memorials of leaders/ heroes/persons during the celebrations, the Judge termed it a greater service to society.

On such occasions, they could feed the poor, help orphanages/old age homes or distribute scholarships to the needy.

Such acts would be a befitting tribute to the memories of great leaders whom the petitioners and others wanted to honour.

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