Calling it a “very serious issue”, the Bombay High Court (HC) Monday expressed concern over participation of children during the mourning processions of Muharram and asked the state why it was not doing anything to restrain children below 18 years.
“It is a very serious issue. Why are children below the age 18 years allowed to participate? Photographs show that two-three year-old children participate,” remarked Justices V M Kanade and Anuja Prabhudessai.
Muharram marks the anniversary of the battle of Karbala in which Imam Hussein ibn Ali, the grandson of Prophet Muhammad, was killed. Family members accompanying Hussein ibn Ali were also killed or subjected to humiliation.
A public interest litigation (PIL) has sought HC’s directions to the state for restraining children from participation, stating they were slashed with sharp objects and knives during the mourning.
According to the PIL, on the concluding day of Muharram, Chehlum, which is on December 14, there would be more “disturbing” scenes on the streets this year.
The PIL also states that use of objects like knives and blades might lead to infections to both children and adults as the same objects are used passed on from one person to another.
The petitioner, activist Faisal Banaraswala, through his lawyer Dr Gunratan Sadavarte, told the HC that participants who inflict bodily injuries on themselves and children in the name of mourning were “bad in law”.
The petition said it did not oppose any freedom of religion, but only the act, which led to wounding of the human body, on the grounds of “health, public order, morality and provisions of the Constitution for social welfare”.
Describing the ritual as “horrible” and “unbearable” to observe, the petition states that the processions are carried out in Imam Bada, Abbas Chowk, Bhendi Bazaar and several other areas during the 40-day period of mourning.
“All this takes place in public in the presence of police personnel, including security agencies of the state machinery,” the PIL claimed.
Sadavarte, therefore, sought a direction to the state government for restraining participants from inflicting injuries to children and themselves.
The HC has asked the public prosecutor to file a reply on November 28.