Sunday, August 20, 2006


4. Arati Link On Government Website Causes Controversy

BHOPAL, INDIA, August 14, 2006: The inclusion of a link for conducting arati (a Hindu prayer ceremony) at Ujjain on the state's public relations department website has stirred considerable controversy. Describing the step "as a violation of the tenet of secularism enshrined in the constitution of India," the Congress, the main opposition in the state, charged the government with furthering the 'saffron' (Hindu nationalist) agenda of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP). The party warned of an agitation in case the idea to include the arati on the site was not dropped. The arati link, however, is still under construction. State Congress leaders, including its general secretaries Manak Agrawal and Syed Sajid Ali, said the government should desist from identifying itself with one religion, especially in a democratic country like India. However, State Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Narottam Mishra dismissed these allegations and said the aratis in Ujjain were a part of the state's spiritual and cultural heritage and therefore providing a link on the website was not wrong. He added: "In the month of Ramadan, Islamic signs will be put up and on Christmas, prayers and pictures of Jesus Christ will be included on the site." The minister suggested that prayers of Jain community and the Guruvani of the Sikhs could also be shown during their respective festivals.


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