The Fiji Labour Party was shocked to hear that Hindus are required to have a permit to celebrate the Hindu festival of Ram Naumi – Lord Rama’s birth.
The Fiji Times reported on Thursday that Pt Mahend Sharma of the Nakoba Ramayan Kirtan Mandali in Qaloa, Navua had his permit to hold Ram Navmi celebrations, granted on Monday, later rescinded because he was not affiliated with the Shree Sanatan Dharam Pratinidhi Sabha of Fiji.
Police spokesperson Inspector Atunaisa Sokomuri told The Fiji Times permits would only be issued for prayer gatherings to religious groups registered with the main Sanatan organisation.
“Those who are not registered are not getting permits to gather every night to celebrate the Hindu festival of Ram Naumi, ” he said. The festival is held over nine days.
Police said people had to get a permit for a gathering of three or more people for a religious or family gathering because the Public Emergency Regulation was still in force.
This policy is clearly discriminatory, and in breach of the individual’s right to freedom of religion.
For one, why is the Police giving recognition to only one Hindu organisation? This is similar to saying that all Christians must be registered with one organisation before they will be allowed to worship on Sundays.
Secondly, why are Hindus required to seek a permit at all to observe their religious festivals?
The Police have since withdrawn this policy and that is welcomed. However, it is still restrictive in that a permit is not required if the prayer meeting is held in a private home. But a permit will be needed to hold celebrations in a temple. People have questioned whether the same applies to all others.