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Is the country divided by religion? Somebody going for the hijab, some for the topi: Madras High Court

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The Madras High Court has expressed shock over the country being divided by religion, referring to the dress code in temples.

A Bench comprising Acting Chief Justice M.N. Bhandari and Justice D. Bharatha Chakravarthi expressed these views on Thursday, while hearing a batch of PILs filed by Rangarajan Narasimhan of Srirangam in Tiruchirapalli district.

Justice Bhandari said, “It is really shocking, somebody is going for the ‘hijab’ (headscarf), some for the ‘topi’ (cap) and a few others for other things. Is it one country or is it divided by religion or something like that? This is quite surprising.

“What is found from the current affairs is nothing but an effort to divide the country in the name of religion.

“What is paramount? The country or religion?,” the court asked, taking in view the controversy surrounding a government order that banned Muslim women from wearing Hijab to educational institutions.

Narasimhan sought directions from the court to ban the entry of non-Hindus to temples and order the Tamil Nadu government’s department of Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR & CE) to ensure a dress code for devotees entering temples.

The petitioner asked for display boards, banning entry of non-Hindus, to be placed prominently at the entrance of the temples.

When there was no particular dress code, then how can the question of putting up display boards arise, the Bench asked.

But the petitioner persisted. The High Court advised him to produce evidence for his prayer. What part of the ‘agamas’ (rituals) refer to pants, dhotis and shirts, the court asked.

The Judges also warned that he could be barred from appearing in person before the court and directed him to use appropriate words, and desist from quarrelling.

Tamil Nadu Advocate General R. Shanmugasundaram told the court that each temple follows its own custom and visitors belonging to other religions are allowed only up to the ‘kodi maram’ (flag mast). The Court also sought the response of the government on the PIL.

AG Shunmugasundaram also pointed out that there has been a Single-Judge Bench order imposing some restrictions on the dresses that can be worn inside temples.

This decision was reversed by the Division Bench as outside the scope of the writ petition filed. The Advocate General added that devotees are not allowed entry in some South Indian Temples, if they are wearing shirts. He was referring to the instance of Sree Padmanabha Swamy Temple.

Rangarajan Narasimhan responded that he will be able to produce the text of Agama Sastras if a short accommodation is given. Accordingly, the court asked the Registry to list the matter after 10 days.

On the second writ petition seeking to restrict the entry of non-Hindus in temples, the bench granted Advocate General two weeks time to file a counter on behalf of HR & CE Department. The petitioner argued that the entry of non-Hindus in temples for ‘sight-seeing’ violated the sanctity of temple premises.

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