Civil society slams AAP decision to use public funds for Saraswati Puja

February 13, 2016 12:00 am | Updated 05:34 am IST - New Delhi:

Civil society representatives have termed the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government’s decision to use public funds to sponsor “a large scale religious ceremony” here over the weekend as violation of “the secular character of the Constitution”.

Arguing that the decision to sponsor a Saraswati Puja at Central Park here on Saturday will set an “unacceptable administrative and legal precedent,” over 125 city-based intellectuals and academics, in a statement, argued that the State’s responsibility should, ideally, cease at ensuring security at such events.

“We the citizens and residents of Delhi are alarmed to hear of the official decision by the Delhi government, as announced by its Tourism Minister, to hold a large-scale religious ceremony in the form of Saraswati Puja on February 13, 2016, at Central Park, in the heart of Delhi,” the statement read.

“We believe that while State institutions concerned with public safety must do their duty at religious events, the State’s responsibility must end there. The government must not use public funds to sponsor religious events,” it added.

Arguing that the decision violated the secular character of the Constitution, they said the event “will open doors for misuse of public money” even as they asserted that citizens who are religious believers were free to hold any religious ritual at their will and expense, could also seek State intervention if their freedom of religion was constrained in any way but, as regarded sponsorship, “the State machinery should stay neutral”.

“We wish to make clear that our position on this is not directed at any particular form of belief and will be the same for all religions...[and] ask the Government of Delhi to desist from sponsoring the announced Saraswati Puja, and leave it to citizen’s bodies to perform pujas.”

Demanding that the government return the funds spent on preparations for the event to the public exchequer, they also requested that the artistes scheduled perform at the upcoming Puja to “avoid supporting the event until it is made clear that it is a private and not a State-sponsored function”.

The representatives argued that this decision by AAP violated the secular character of the Constitution

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