Article 25 (1) of the Indian Constitution states: “Subject to public order, morality and health and to the other provisions of this Part, all persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practice and propagate religion.”
I have always been a supporter of the rights of religious minorities in India, because I firmly believe that a mark of a civilized society is that minorities therein can live with dignity and respect.
Christians are only about 2% of the 1.25 billion people in India. In January 2009 a case came up before a bench of the Supreme Court of which I was a member, in which the allegations were that Christians in Orissa were being persecuted by right wing Hindu groups. It was alleged that about 50,000 Christians had fled from their homes, some had been killed, their houses burnt, and they were living in camps or in the jungle.
During the hearing of the case I remarked “We will not tolerate persecution of minorities. If the state government is unable to protect them it should resign. Article 25 of the Indian Constitution guarantees freedom of religion to all”.
These oral observations had their effect, and the persecution of Christians in the State stopped, and compensation was awarded to those whose properties had been destroyed or damaged.
When I was a Judge of the Allahabad High Court a case came before me pertaining to some village in U.P. In that village the majority consisted of Muslims, while the minority were Hindu Harijans. A Harijan girl was gang raped by some Muslim boys, who were prosecuted. I awarded the accused harsh punishment, holding that since Muslims were in the majority in that village it was their duty to see to it that Hindus could live with dignity and respect, but the accused did just the opposite.
In India Hindus are a majority out of the total population, but they may be a minority in a specific area. It is the duty of the majority in every specific area to ensure that the minority lives with dignity and respect. So it is not only Muslim and Christian minorities whom I have sought to protect, but also Hindus where they are in a minority in a particular area.