The Punjab government has inserted Section 295AA into the Indian Penal Code to punish with life terms “whoever causes injury, damage or sacrilege to Sri Guru Granth Sahib, Srimad Bhagwat Gita, Holy Quran and Holy Bible with the intention to hurt religious feelings of people”. In imitating a move by the earlier Akali-BJP government, Punjab CM Amarinder Singh’s administration has taken a regressive step. In India, people are quick to complain of hurt feelings, and Capt. Singh wants to jail for life those supposedly causing hurt. This mocks the idea of personal freedoms.
The Parkash Singh Badal government passed a similar bill in March 2016 after torn pages of the Sikh holy book were found strewn at different places. Some violence began, but soon died down. Some thought it was an ISI operation meant to create social tension in Punjab.
It was really a minor matter. But Mr Badal used a sledge-hammer to kill a fly when his government sought to amend the IPC to punish anyone seeking to cause sacrilege to the Guru Granth Sahib. The Centre rejected the request as it said the scriptures of just one religion were sought to be protected. So now the Congress government has named the holy books of all major faiths.
Enough laws are available to tackle miscreants who cause social tension by trying to manipulate religious sentiments. But Capt. Singh, like
Mr Badal, has tried to curry favour with religious outfits. This can’t be said to be an imitation of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, that are a part of a wider corpus of laws to underpin a certain kind of state structure. But this move still stinks.