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Karnataka: New Restrictions on Religious Processions Cause Concern

ICC Note: Indian state is restricting citizens’ freedom of assembly, will limit public gatherings to 5 people, thus threatening churches.

by Nirmala Carvalho

4/26/07 India (AsiaNews) – Christians in India are rising up in protest against “ambiguous” regulations to control “public gatherings” in Karnataka State , which also aim to impose restrictions on religious monuments and processions. The Dakshina Kannada district has introduced a draft notification which intends to limit public gatherings to 5 people due to “previous public order problems”.

John Dayal, President, All India Catholic Union and All India Christian Council, expresses the Christian communities concern to AsiaNews. “This order would put many of its religious and social gatherings that generally happen in public places into jeopardy. I do appreciate the idea behind the order, but it also stops other peaceful congregations of people organized for religious and social purposes, such as those by the Christian community”. The activist feels that, “the existing provisions of the law have enough power for effective management of the law and order situation. Moreover it lacks clarity on vital issues on what constituted public places, property and public gathering”. Dayal has written a letter to the Karnataka Chief Minister, asking him to evacuate the serious risks such a law would have regarding the freedom to practice religious beliefs.

If introduced the regulations would impose various restrictions on public gatherings: it would empower the District Magistrate to regulate all type of public assemblies or processions; obtaining police permission for the holding of any type of public meeting, procession, assembly will become mandatory, three days before the event; the police, under magistrate supervision, can impose changes on the assemblies, during which the exposition of banners, placards and symbols will be controlled; three members of the demonstration will be forced to take full and formal responsibility for any form of damage that the demonstration may provoke on persons or property.