MUMBAI: Are your ‘Hindu’ sentiments hurt by Aamir Khan’s take on godmen and gods in the new Bollywood movie PK? Or by Ram Gopal Varma’s queries regarding Lord Ganesha? Don’t worry, the Hindu Legal Cell will address your concerns. Launched six months ago by more than 100 lawyers across India, this organisation will tackle any perceived insults against the faith, besides fighting for “Hindu human rights”.
“Our religion is under threat, and in India, in the name of secularism, everyone wants to protect other religions, except Hinduism,” said Prashant Patel, a 27-year-old graduate in management and law from Delhi who’s the organisation’s secretary. “In India, there are some people who talk against Indian culture and get away in the name of free speech,” he said.
“But free speech should be used to talk good things and not hurt others’ sentiments,” Patel said.He is also a member of the Hindu Defence League, described on its website as a “movement and voice to stamp out anti-Hindu Nehruvian secularism and fight the incursions of hostile nations and the forces and ideologies which threaten the territory and people of this country, including Jihadist, evangelists, anti-Hindu communism and its variants.”
Ram Puniyani, a leading political commentator and member of the All India Secular Forum, finds the emergence of organisations such as the Hindu Legal Cell a worrying trend amid the coming to power of the BJP-led Narendra Modi government.”With the new dispensation coming to power, sectarian tendencies and organisations opposed to plural values are becoming bolder and more assertive,” he said. “This lawyers’ organisation is a step in the same direction—to harass those opposing blind faith. Those promoting rational thought will be targeted and this will subtly promote Hindu religiosity.”
He added that there is no systematic way of targeting the liberal values of those upholding scientific temper and values of diversity. “The lawyers’ organisation is a systematic attempt by Hindutva politics to target, intimidate and suppress the freedom of expression of those who do not conform to what the RSS combine wants to propagate,” he said.The Hindu Legal Cell recently filed a case against Bollywood star Amir Khan and the makers of PK for “hurting religious sentiments”.
The movie takes up the issue of religion as seen through the eyes of an alien that challenges and ridicules blind religious practices and the idol worship of god men. The organisation also filed a case against filmmaker Ram Gopal Varma when he sent out tweets asking about the relevance of celebrating Ganesh Chaturthi-.Patel and his team believe that it’s because Hinduism and Hindus appear to be soft that people like Khan and Varma are taking advantage. He asks why nude paintings are made of only Hindu gods, and whether Khan would have the “guts” to challenge the practices of other religions. It may be remembered that painter MF Husain was forced into exile after being accused of hurting religious sentiments for such art works.But Patel insists that “we are not getting offensive, we are just using the Constitution to fight for our cause. People should get the message that no god, goddess should be offended.” Ajaypal Nagar, one of the working committee members of the Hindu Legal Cell, said other religions have lobbies, so Hinduism should also have one.”The earlier (Congress-led UPA) government was not so open to the issues of Hindus, but the present government is much more open to our cause,” Nagar said. The next step for the organisation will be to expand its base in other parts of India and encourage people to file cases against any issue that impacts them. The organisation will also be fighting cases on behalf of poor Hindus who do not have access to legal aid or can’t afford the fees, Nagar said.