Friday, September 10, 2010

Name immaterial, practice is what counts for being a Hindu

Nearly 15 years ago the Supreme Court had found it tough to define Hinduism and had said it was a way of life. Now, it has found it equally difficult to crystallise who could be termed as a Hindu.

Can a person with a Christian name be counted as a Hindu? He can be, said the SC adopting the Shakespearian logic, "what's there in a name", but with two caveats -- he must follow the practices of Hinduism professed in the area and be accepted by the community as a Hindu.

This important ruling came in a case relating to AIADMK MLA M Chandra, whose election from the Rajapalayam scheduled caste reserved constituency was annulled by the Madras High Court faulting her for being a Christian yet concealing the same to contest from a reserved constituency.

Accepting her arguments that she had converted to Hinduism and had always practised Hindu rituals, a Bench comprising Justices D K Jain and H L Dattu said that as long as she was accepted as part of the Hindu community in the locality and there was nothing to contradict that she had converted to Hinduism, her election could not have been set aside.

Justice Dattu, writing the judgment for the Bench, said: "Hinduism is not a religion with one God and one Holy Scripture. The practices vary from region to region, place to place. The Gods worshipped, the customs, traditions, practices, rituals etc. they all differ, yet all these people are Hindus."

"The determination of religious acceptance of a person must not be made on his name or his birth. When a person intends to profess Hinduism, and he does all that is required by the practices of Hinduism in the religion or by the caste to which he belongs, and he is accepted as a Hindu by all persons around him," the Bench said.

Quoting from the book "Facets of Hinduism" by Swami Harshananda, Justice Dattu said: "Hinduism appears to be a very complex religion. It is like a centre of gravity doll which always regains its upright position however much it may be upset. Hinduism does not have a single founder, a single book, a single church or even a single way of life."