HR & CE: Rogue Department of the Government of Tamil Nadu

T R Ramesh
27 Jul 2011

It is a great irony that a secular Government should deeply embroil itself in the administration and running of Hindu temples and institutions in the guise of supervising the secular aspects of temple administration. This grotesque policy of the Government to supervise religious institutions applies only to Hindu Religious institutions.

 

Viselike grip on Religious Institutions

 

By its own account the HR & CE Dept administers (or rather mal-administers):

–        36,425 temples

–        56 Mutts

–        47 temples belonging to Mutts

–        1721 Specific endowments and 189 Trusts

 

This has been possible due to Tamil Nadu being ruled continuously by atheists and unscrupulous persons, a corrupt bureaucracy, a debased High Court and above all, stark apathy, indifference and ignorance among Hindus. In recent times, the covert and overt designs of Christian missionaries and agencies have added to the plight of Hindu temples.

 

Around 1840, the then British Government started giving up administration of temples. They asked some of the prominent mutts in Tamil Nadu to look after some of the important temples and endowments. The Heads of Mutts who were happy to takeover the administration of these temples so that they are run as they ought to be run, were careful enough to get written documents or “Muchalikas” from the British Government, which assured them that they would not take back the temples from the Mutts.

 

Thus some very important temples came under the complete control and ownership of these Mutts and the Mutts ran them ably and efficiently. The primary purposes of worship and utilization of funds meant for the upkeep of temples and conduct of rituals were never lost sight of by the Heads of Mutts or officers. While a few temples were thus brilliantly administered by the Mutts, thousands of other temples in the then Madras Presidency were handed over to the respective trustees with the then Government playing little or no role in supervising them.

 

 In 1925, the Madras Hindu Religious Endowments Act, 1923 (Act I of 1925) was passed by the local Legislature with the object of providing for better governance and administration of certain religious endowments. The Act divided temples into what are known as Excepted and Non-excepted temples. Immediately after the Act came into force, its validity was challenged on the ground that the Act was not validly passed. For this reason, the legislature enacted the Madras Hindu Religious Endowments Act, 1926, Act II of 1927 repealing Act I of 1925. 

 

This Act was amended from time to time. It is unnecessary to refer to the changes introduced later. Suffice it to say that the Act was amended by 1946 by as many as ten Acts I of 1928, V of 1929, IV of 1930, XI of 1931, XI of 1934, XII Of 1935, XX of 1938, XXII of 1939, V of 1944 and X of 1946. A radical change was introduced, however, by Act XII of 1935. The Government was not satisfied with the powers of the Board then existing and they clothed the Board with an important and drastic power by introducing a new Chapter, Ch. VI-A, by which jurisdiction was given to the Board to notify a temple for reasons to be given by it.

 

Thus, it can be seen that even in the pre-independence era, the Board had systematically consolidated its powers to take over and administer temples. Of course, this despicable intervention by Government applied only to Hindu Institutions.

 

Hindu Religious Endowments Board

 

Shri Krupananda Vaariar had undertaken to build the Vadalur Ramalinga Swami’s Sathya Gnana Sabha in the 1940s and had gone around Tamil Nadu collecting funds from devotees and spending such collection with great care. The Hindu Religious Board, of which one Chinnaiah Pillai was president, intervened in the selfless work of Shri Vaariar and tried his best to scuttle it. Thanks to the just intervention of the then Chief Minister of Madras State, Omandur Ramaswamy Reddiar, his evil designs fell flat.

 

Omandur Reddiar also intervened to stop the unjust takeover of Chidambaram Sabhanayagar Temple in 1947. But Chinnaiah Pillai and his cronies in the HRE Board were not to give up.

 

The 1951 Act

 

Notwithstanding the clear directions of the Madras Government in 1947 to drop notification proceedings and the clear direction of the Hon’ble Madras High Court in 1939 that the Board cannot undertake notification process on frivolous grounds, the Board started the notification process of the Chidambaram Shri Sabhanayagar Temple in 1950 and the then Madras Government issued a Government Order (G.O.) Ms. 894, Rural Welfare Dept. dated 28-8-1951 published in the Fort St. George Gazette on 4-9-1951.

 

Meanwhile, India after gaining independence from British rule had become a Republic on 26 January 1950, with its Constitution guaranteeing certain fundamental rights to its citizens. Special religious and administrative rights were guaranteed to Religious Denominations or sections thereof.

 

The Board also tried to take over the famous Shri Guruvayurappan Temple in Guruvayur, Udupi Shri Krishna Temple under the management of Shri Shirur Mutt of Udupi and Shri Venkataramana Temple belonging to the sect of Gowd Saraswath Brahmins in Mulkipetta of South Kanara district.

 

All the above religious institutions challenged the takeover by the HRE Board. In the meantime, a new Hindu Religious Act was passed by the Madras Government, known as the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Act, 1951. The Board was now replaced by the Hindu Religious & Charitable Endowments Department, headed by a Commissioner who was given vast powers under the Act.

 

The Government facing stiff opposition in the Kerala region against its order on Guruvayur temple, withdrew the order. Shri Lakshmindra Thirtha Swamiar of the Shirur Mutt, the Podu Dikshitars of Shri Sabhanayagar Temple and Devaraja Shenoy representing the community of Gowd Saraswat Brahmins in Mulkipetta filed Civil Miscellaneous and Writ petitions challenging the Government Orders.

 

Landmark Judgments

 

On 13 December 1951, a Division Bench of Hon’ble Madras High Court presided by the Learned Judges Justice Satyanarayana Rao and Justice Rajagopalan passed two landmark judgments.

–        1952 I MLJ 481 – Devaraja Shenoy vs. State of Madras – quashing the Government order to takeover the administration of the Shri Venkataramana Temple in Mulkipetta.

–        1952 I MLJ 557 – Shri Lakshmindra Thirtha Swamiar of Shri Shirur Mutt vs. State of Madras quashing the Government order to takeover the administration of Shri Udupi Krishna Temple and Shri Sabhanayagar Temple in Chidambaram.

 

In the Shirur Mutt Case, many provisions of the new HR & CE Act of 1951 were held ultra vires of the Constitution. The Division Bench clearly defined a Religious Denomination, their rights – religious and administrative. It also explained how these rights were intermingled and could not be separated in the case of a Mathathipathi and since it was the same with the Podu Dikshitars of Chidambaram Temple, it equated them to Mathathipathis.

 

Equally important were the findings of the Division Bench that the attempt of the Board and the Commissioner HR & CE to takeover the temples were not only unconstitutional but bad on merits.

 

Appeals to Supreme Court

 

The Government of Madras filed three appeals against these two landmark verdicts. On 9 February 1954, a five-judge Constitution Bench of the Hon’ble Supreme Court dismissed the civil appeal 39/1953 after recording the statement of the Advocate General of the Madras Government that the G.O. passed to takeover the Chidambaram Shri Sabhanayagar Temple would be withdrawn. The Government sought no leave and none was granted.

 

Similarly the Government’s Civil Appeal no.15/1953 filed against the verdict of Hon’ble Madras Court in the Shri Venkataramana Temple Mulkipetta was also dismissed after the Government offered to withdraw the G.O. appointing the Executive Officer.

 

The Government of Madras contested only the Civil Appeal 38 of 1953, pertaining to the Shirur Mutt Case and even in that appeal did not contest on merits. The Advocate General argued only on constitutional grounds. This was clearly recorded in the Supreme Court judgment.

 

Thus, it is amply clear that the HR & CE Department and the Government never had any case right from the beginning on merits, and they simply wanted to takeover the administration of large and famous temples to pave way for the takeover of all other temples in the Presidency.

 

The 1954 Supreme Court judgment in the Shirur Mutt Case

 

The judgment of the Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court in the appeal related to the Shirur Mutt (AIR 1954 SC 282) and the judgment by another Constitution Bench in the Venkataramana Devaru vs. State of Mysore (1958 SCR 895) are landmark judgments that Courts in India are expected to follow regarding Article 26 of the Indian Constitution and Denomination rights.

 

The Hon’ble Supreme Court agreed with the Hon’ble Madras High Court that many of the sections of the 1951 HR & CE Act were ultra vires the Constitution. It also clearly observed that while the legislature could seek to regulate the administration, it must always leave the administration to the denomination. It struck down the sections of the 1951 Act which sought to appoint Executive Officers to religious institutions as arbitrary and ultra vires the Constitution. The Advocate General of Madras agreed with the Court and said he could not defend those sections.

 

Major Fraud by the Madras Government in the 1959 Act

 

Left with no choice but to come up with an amended Act in light of the above judgments of the Madras High Court and Supreme Court of India, the Government of Madras passed a new Act known as the Hindu Religious & Charitable Endowments Act of 1959 (Act 22 of 1959).

 

In that amended Act, it committed serious frauds which till today continue unchallenged. To understand these frauds we need to know more about the 1954 Supreme Court judgment in the Shirur Mutt Case.

 

Under the 1951 Act, the HR & CE Dept. had powers under sections 56, 58(3)(b) and 63 to 68 to appoint an Executive Officer to religious institutions including Mutts. Of these, sections 56 and 63-68 were held ultra vires the Constitution of India and were struck down by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in the above-mentioned judgment. The same judgment upheld Sec. 58(3)(b) as valid (this section was earlier struck down by the Division Bench of Madras High Court) since there were adequate appeal safeguards and since the Executive Officer so appointed could only be a servant of the Trustee and could not be empowered to act as the Trustee himself.

 

Any honest and law-abiding person would imagine that the Madras Government, in deference to the Supreme Court of India and to meet the ends of justice, would have deleted the two sets of sections struck down and retained the section upheld by the Hon’ble Supreme Court.

 

What happened was exactly the opposite.

 

The Government of Madras introduced a new section [section 45] in the 1959 Act which was even more arbitrary and draconian than Sec. 56 of the 1951 Act. It also retained the Sections 63-68 in the new Act which now carried the numbers 71-76.

 

The only section relating to appointment of Executive Officer that was upheld by the Hon’ble Supreme Court was not carried in the new Act. But this would not seem strange if we understand that the intention of the Government and the Department was that no appeal safeguards should be provided to the Trustees of Hindu Institutions against the Department’s illegal and arbitrary orders. Sec. 58(3)(b) of the 1951 Act had earlier afforded such safeguards – it was therefore removed by the Government.

 

More intriguing is the fact that this rogue department continue to appoint Executive Officers under Sec. 64 of the 1959 Act (the equivalent of Sec. 58 in the 1951 Act) without any power to do so. For example, the Deputy Commissioner in 1963 modified the scheme for Shri Kamakshi Amman Temple of Kachipuram, which is under the ownership of the Kanchi Mutt. While proceeding to modify the scheme under Sec. 64 of the Act, the Deputy Commissioner appointed an Executive Officer and this is an illegal act.

 

These frauds show there were adequate number of scoundrels and scalawags in the HR & CE Department sixty years ago, and we all know the Dept. has no dearth of such people now.

 

Going against the dictum of the Hon’ble High Court and the Hon’ble Supreme Court did not stop here. One classic example of the arrogance of the Government is the amendment they brought out soon after the Full Bench judgment in the Rajan Kattalai Case in the Supreme Court (1965 SCR (3) 17). In this case, to get over the quashing of the Extension of the Executive Officer’s appointment, the Government amended the HR & CE Act introducing Sec. 75-A which gave such extensions retrospective effect notwithstanding any judgments by any courts including the Supreme Court. This attempt to retain control over Rajan Kattalai of Tiruvarur Thiagarajaswami Devasthanam in utter contempt to the judgment of the Highest Court of the land in that case was thwarted by the Hon’ble Madras High Court. The Hon’ble High Court of Madras, held:

 

–        “by introducing Section 75-A the Legislature has simply directed the Commissioner of Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments and Executive Officer of Sri Thiagarajaswami Temple to disobey or disregard the decision of the highest court of the land in S.D.G. Pandara Sannadhi v. State of Madras (1965) 2 M.L.J. 167. The obvious purpose of Section 75-A extending the impugned notification is to nullify the effect of this decision of the Supreme Court.” (emphasis added).

 

In view of this judgment of the Madras High Court, the Government could not succeed in retaining administration of Rajan Kattalai Endowment, but this and other illegal sections 75-B and 75-C are still part of the HR & CE Act, not only in utter disregard of the dictum of the Supreme Court of India, but also in violation of Article 31A(1)(b) of the Constitution.

 

What Hindus should know

 

HR & CE Dept. officials carry out of a lot of illegal activities in temples and other religious institutions. Most of their orders replacing Trustees or interfering in temple matters are without jurisdiction or in abuse of it. The general impression of Hindu devotees is that these officials have the power under law to do such acts. Nothing can be farther from truth. Every Hindu Devotee should be aware of the following facts:

 

(1)      HR&CE Dept. or Government cannot appoint Executive Officers to any religious institution without valid reasons and without following natural justice:

As per the Supreme Court’s judgment in the Velur Devasthanam Case 1965 SCR (2) 934, a case must be always made out for an appointment of an Executive Officer. Government or HR & CE Department or even Courts cannot appoint Executive Officers without strong justification. This is the position in the case of non-denominational temples. In case of denominational temples like Chidambaram Shri Sabhanayagar Temple, the HR & CE Dept. has no rights at all, in view of the special status accorded to denominations by Article 26 of the Constitution and by Sec. 107 of the HR & CE Act.

 

Further, the Commissioner or the Department need to follow the principles of natural justice while seeking to appoint an Executive Officer and failing to do so would invalidate the appointment. This has been the dictum of a Division Bench of Hon’ble Madras High Court in D. Nagarajan vs. Commissioner, HR & CE AIR 1971 Mad 295.

(2)      General Policy or “Better Management” cannot be reasons for takeover of temple administration: HR&CE Dept. cannot appoint Executive Officer to any religious institution stating it is Government policy to appoint Executive Officers for most temples. Better or efficient management too cannot be reasons for takeover of temples from the Trustees.

 

(3)      Executive Officer can be given powers only to look after the properties of the temple. He cannot interfere in religious matters or other matters of administration: Even in cases where Courts have approved the appointment of Executive Officer due to presence of mismanagement in the religious institution, the Commissioner can give powers pertaining only to the properties of the temple or institution to the Executive Officer. No other powers, administrative or religious can be assigned to the Executive Officer.

 

(4)     Executive Officer’s office premises should not be within the temple premises: As per rule 8 of the Temple Entry Authorization Act, 1947, “the temple buildings and premises shall not be used for purposes not connected with or arising from the worship, usages and observations of such temples”.

 

(5)      Any notice issued by the HR & CE Dept. appointing Executive Officer should state the reasons for appointment and should provide reasonable opportunity to reply or refute the notice.

 

(6)      Executive Officer or any other HR & CE official cannot introduce innovations concerning the time, place or mode of worship in the temple or stop or discontinue any religious practice followed in the temple.

 

(7)      Executive Officer has no authority to fix archana or darshan charges: This may come as a surprise to many but it is only the Trustee or Trustees who can fix these charges and not the Executive Officer or any other official in the HR & CE. This is as per Sec. 57 of the HR & CE Act, 1959.

 

Frauds committed by HR & CE in appointing Executive Officers to Hindu Religious institutions

 

In 1970, a division bench of the Hon’ble High Court of Madras came down heavily on the practice of HR & CE in not following natural justice while appointing an Executive Officer for a temple. If one imagined that the Department would have corrected itself and adhered to the principles of natural justice after this judgment one could not be more wrong.

 

To this day, the practice of the HR& CE is to begin by issuing “an order” appointing an Executive Officer to a religious institution. If the institution receiving the “order” does not seek any legal remedy, the Executive Officer takes over immediately. If the Trustees file a suit or writ against the arbitrary takeover attempt, HR&CE would state in the Court that this memorandum can be treated as a notice and the trustees can reply to it. Trustees and institutions naïve enough to fall for this stratagem would accept this in the Court and start replying to the HR & CE Dept to the “notice”. HR&CE Dept. would usually pass a “final order” appointing an Executive Officer while the purported “enquiry” is still on.

 

If the trustees file a case against this “final order”, HR&CE Dept’s stand in the Court would be that there is an alternate remedy available to the petitioners by way of review petition to the Government. Courts usually are inclined to tell the petitioners to avail this alternate remedy, which in reality is no remedy at all as the Government is known to uphold all the illegal and unethical orders of the HR&CE Dept.

 

There have been instances in recent times where HR &CE officials demanding bribes to cancel takeover proceedings were arrested. In 2009 a Joint Commissioner of HR & CE Dept was caught accepting bribes for this purpose.

 

Commissions and Omissions

 

HR & CE Dept. claims it is administering only the secular aspects of Temple Administration and ensuring that the moneys due to the institution are realized and used for the purposes for which the endowments were made. Lofty sounding, but if one were to analyse what really happens in the temples administered by this rogue department one would find corruption and looting not found even in traditionally corrupt Government departments.

 

Temple Properties

 

Temples and Mutts in Tamil Nadu own 500,000 acres of agricultural and other lands. The tenancy laws in Tamil Nadu and the non-functioning Revenue Courts make it almost impossible for landowners to realize any rent or revenue from the leased lands. The HR&CE Dept., which is hand in glove with the Government, takes no credible action to realize these rents or arrears of rents. The Dept. gave a shocking reply to a recent query under the RTI Act that it has no records of the ageing arrears or amount due to the temples. This admission alone is enough to boot out this rogue department from the temples.

 

Temples in Tamil Nadu also own about 22000 buildings and about 33,000 sites. These buildings and sites are leased out at values much below the market value. The corrupt HR & CE officials and Tamil Nadu Government officials and Ministers pocket huge sums for favouring leaseholders. These buildings are also leased out to non-Hindus especially Christian missionaries and charities which carry out their anti-Hindu activities from these places. This is against the intent and dictum of the people who had donated these places to the temples.

 

Huge corruption money flowing out of such transactions is the main reason Government does not want to give up its hold on Hindu Temples and institutions. Highly inflated project costs are another way by which HR & CE officials loot temple moneys. For example, Podu Dikshitars of Chidambaram had dismantled the Paniya Nayagam temple dedicated to Lord Subramanya, within the Chidambaram temple precincts, as the roof and pillars were bound to cave in due to loose soil in the basement. This was done as per advice of engineers and stapathis; a new construction plan drawn at a cost of Rs. 90 lakhs and work begun. The Executive Officer after assuming office in the Chidambaram temple stopped the sponsors from continuing the work. He has now given a proposal for the same work at a cost of Rs. 10 crores!

 

A luxury Toyota car was bought for Sri Maasaniamman Temple near Pollachi at a cost of Rs. 11.5 lakhs. The first question that comes to mind is why a luxury car is required for a temple.  It has come out in newspapers and through RTI queries that this car was used for private purposes of the HR &CE Secretary in the Tamil Nadu government. It is also now known that the monthly petrol bills of this corrupt official were taken from Temple funds.

 

Funds accumulated in fixed deposits in the accounts of rich temples would suddenly be transferred for flood relief, tsunami or Chief Minister’s relief fund. Funds were repeatedly taken from Tiruverkadu Mariamman temple to conduct free marriages by the Tamil Nadu government. This temple which had huge deposits of money became almost bankrupt.

 

Temple Jewels

 

Since the HR & CE stopped having external audit from 1985, it is almost impossible to gauge how many antique and valuable temple jewels have been looted. There is widespread belief that valuable diamonds and stones in jewels have been removed and replaced by ordinary stones in many temples. Missing Maragatha lingams worth thousands of crores have not been recovered. Jewels from 215 temples have been stolen and this rogue department does not even reveal the actual value of the jewels stolen. In many cases the loss of jewels is not known to the outside world at all.

 

On 22 December 2010, devotees discovered that about 156 globes made of gold and 108 globes made of silver, in the palanquins of the God and Goddess in the Perur Temple, were missing. This came to light only when the Golden and Silver palanquins were taken out in procession.

 

Temple Icons

 

More than 400 antique metal icons have been stolen from temples under the administration of the HR&CE department, which has not taken any credible follow up actions to recover the valuables. Instead of installing closed-circuit cameras, burglar alarms and modern safety locks, the Department keeps many icons belonging to various temples at one safe room in a big temple. These icons are thus deprived of poojas and maintenance. Continuous neglect of these icons can result in irreparable damage. Further, these sacred icons were meant for worship and this Department willfully ignores this primary purpose. While millions are wasted and looted by Dept. officials no care is taken to protect these treasures.

 

Festivals, etc

 

Another crime commonly perpetrated by the department officials is soliciting sponsors to celebrate festivals even for temples that have sufficient and surplus income. Two things are achieved in this manner. One, the unscrupulous officials are not called upon to show the incomes realized from specific endowments meant for such festivals. Soon the endowments or their existence would be soon forgotten and those properties can be sold or leased out for a pittance. Two, bribes can be taken from competing sponsors or accounts can be easily fudged when there are multiple sponsors.

 

Kapaleeshwar temple in Mylapore has many income generating properties. Still, the Department takes more than 80% of the money required for the Arupathi Moovar festival from sponsors who are given undue positions of importance during festivals ignoring devotees whose families and communities have contributed for generations.

 

Prasadam Stalls 

 

Prasadam stalls are amongst the biggest frauds openly committed by this rogue Department. Only food prepared piously in the temple kitchen and offered to the deities in the temple in traditional manner can be termed as prasadam. However, Prasadam Stalls are auctioned by the Department (needless to say many improprieties are committed in these auctions and allotments) to the public and supposedly the stalls are allotted to the highest bidder. This means the Department openly allows third parties to produce food items to be manufactured outside the temple premises and packages them to be sold at temples. This is an act which is at once blasphemous and anti-religious besides being a huge fraud on devotees visiting the temple.

 

Besides, prasadam shops and stalls, other shops and commercial activities are permitted by the Department. These acts of the Department are detrimental to the serene atmosphere that needs to be maintained in temples and commercialises Hindu religious institutions.

 

Hundies

 

Hundies serve the Department in two ways. One, they generate income which the Department fails to realize from the properties of the temple it is administering. Two, they are the easiest source of income that can be looted. In most temples, the real amount generated by hundials is never accounted for. The only exception to this story is the tale of the Hundies illegally installed in Chidambaram Shri Sabhanayagar temple. At Chidambaram the Department is trying to prove a point by showing a big collection of hundie monies. In the first place, the Hon’ble Division Bench of Madras High Court in 1951 had clearly ruled that the Podu Dikshitars are justified in not having any Hundie in the temple and further stated installing Hundies and introducing archana tickets commercialises the temple.

 

But after assuming office in the Chidambaram Temple, the Executive Officer came with a posse of policemen and installed Hundies in the temple that never had Hundies in its entire history. This is against the law, temple tradition, and in contempt of the Hon’ble High Court of Madras.

 

After installing Hundies, the Department did two things to ensure it is able to show good collection in the Hundies. It did not handover the second key of the Hundies to the Trustees and they do not seal the Hundies each time after they open it for counting. When it was pointed out the Podu Dikshitars’ collection in gold and other valuables far exceed the Hundie collections even today, and the public have not contributed a single gram of gold to the Executive Officer like they do to the real owners of the temple, the Podu Dikshitars, about 4 gms of gold suddenly appeared among the hundie collections!

 

What Hindus should do

 

Hindus should question any attempt to takeover temples in their respective areas by HR & CE Department. They should remember that HR & CE officials have no right to takeover temples that are run by devoted trustees. HR & CE Dept. is only a supervisory department even for temples under its administration, and cannot decide matters pertaining to rituals and religion.

 

Devotees should ask HR & CE Dept. pertinent questions regarding the temple properties, the income realized, in whose presence Hundies are opened, what are the procedures followed in making and distribution of prasadams, salary arrears of temple employees, income arrears for the properties, why Executive Officer was appointed for each temple, for what period the appointment has been made, order copies of the appointments, arrears of income pending from temple properties, action taken by the Executive Officer, the festivals celebrated in the temple regularly 25 years ago, festivals celebrated now, vehicles bought for the temple, who uses the vehicles and for what purposes, etc. under the Right to Information Act.

 

Hindus should remember that it is not the duty of a secular government to manage the affairs of Hindu Temples or institutions. They should also remember that the same Government keeps away from mosques and churches.

 

Hindus should join together and petition the Government and the Courts to bring back outside agencies to audit the HR & CE Dept.

 

Hindus should take legal action against the Government to restore the temples back to the Trustees or to appropriate Hindu associations.

 

 

The author is a banking professional and research scholar on Hindu religious affairs

http://www.vijayvaani.com/FrmPublicDisplayArticle.aspx?id=1887

 
 
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Chidambaram Temple & the Podu Dikshitars

T R Ramesh
31 Jul 2011
The KoyilThe Lord resides at Chitrambalam

The Lord resides at Chidambaram

The Lord resides at Tiruvambalam

The Lord resides at the Splendorous Podu

–          Tirumantiram – the Tenth Tirumurai; Song 869 – Saint Tirumoolar, 3rd century CE

 

For Tamil Saivites across the world, Chidambaram Sri Sabhanayagar Temple is known as “the Koyil” or “the Temple”. For them, no Siva Temple is or could be more important or sacred than this Temple of Sri Nataraja at Chidambaram where the Lord performs his Cosmic Dance in the Hall of Wisdom.

 

Indeed it is the belief of Saivites and other Hindus that after the last pooja of the day (Artajama Pooja), the Siva Jyoti present in the Sivalinga of every other Siva temple converge in Nataraja, the presiding deity of this Supreme Siva Temple. The words Chitrambalam, Chidambaram, Tiruvambalam and Podu all denote that this place of worship was only the Dancing Hall of Siva in the beginning.

 

Origin of Sri Sabhanayagar Temple

 

“Sri Sabhanayagar Temple or Sri Nataraja Temple in Chidambaram is an ancient temple of great importance to Saivites all over India.”

– Statement of Case by Government of Madras in Civil Appeal 39/1953 in the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India.

 

This Temple is very ancient one and apart from Epical history no historical evidence could be traceable in respect of the details of its founding and age.

– Document no. 30 at page 101 of the Government’s submissions before the Hon’ble Division Bench of the Madras High Court in W.A.181 of 2009.

 

Admittedly, the Chidambaram Nataraja Temple is one of the most ancient temples in India whose origin is lost in antiquity. Chidambaram temple is a hoary temple that goes back to the period of Sages Patanjali and Vyagrapadha. Sage Vyagrapadha is the father of the great Siva Devotee Upamanyu. Shri Upamanyu is the ‘Deeksha Guru’ of Sri Krishna.

 

“The Koyil” rose on an ancient site, some of the inner portions being of the remotest antiquity, was preserved with care by the Podu Dikshitars and enriched by Kings of yore through the efforts of the Podu Dikshitars. The first true building on this worship site would seem to be the sacred central shrine, which is still the heart of the temple. What started as a small Dancing Hall (‘Citrambalam’, meaning ‘small hall’) of Siva later became a huge temple complex. As the Temple grew in size, importance and fame, the town too grew big and became a ‘Taniyur’, an independent self-governing town.

 

Epigraphical and other records show that Chidambaram occupied in former centuries much larger limits than now. A 12th century inscription mentions it as Perrumpatrapuliyur-Taniyur, a large self-governing local unit comprising 23 hamlets with a radius of eight miles. By that time (and now) the Temple Complex comprised an area of almost 40 acres. The Raja Gopuras present now in the temple were built at various periods, spanning many centuries. It is marvellous to note that all four Gopuras are uniform in size, structure and form. All Gopurams are 7-storeyed and 135 feet tall. All have 13 Copper Kalashas on them. They are uniformly 90 feet long and 60 feet wide at the bottom and the entrances are 40 feet high. All Gopurams have beautiful statues depicting various postures of Natya or Dance Karanas. This uniformity has been possible only due to the continuous presence and administration of the Podu Dikshitars from the inception of the temple.

 

The innermost part of the temple where the Dancing Hall of the Lord is present is a very ancient structure that is very early in tradition. It is a wooden structure in rectangular shape with a thatched roof covered with gold leaves. Such a style is unknown or cannot be seen in other temples in Tamil Nadu. The closest resemblance to this structure is found in a relief panel from Nagarjunakonda, north of Tamil Nadu and dates from about the 3rd century.

 

Citrambalam

 

The gold-roofed stage or dancing hall is the sanctum sanctorum of the Chidambaram temple and houses the Lord in three forms:

–          the ‘form’ or anthropomorphic form of Lord Nataraja, called the Sakala thirumeni

–          the ‘semi-form’ or semi-anthropomorphic form as Crystal linga Chandramouleswarar, the Sakala nishkala thirumeni

–          the ‘formless’ as the Space in Chidambara Rahasyam, an empty space within the sanctum sanctorum, the Nishkala thirumeni

 

The Dancing Lord

 

“Every part of the Nataraja image is directly expressive not of any superstition or dogma, but of evident facts. No artist of today however great, could more exactly or more wisely create an image of that energy which science must postulate behind all phenomena. It is poetry; but nevertheless science”

– Dr. S. Radhakrishnan

 

The Chidambaram Temple is unique since the presiding deity worshipped is a metal icon of Lord Nataraja in contrast to statues of deities made of stone found in other temples. But in the same sanctum, the ethereal or Akasa linga is present and is worshipped along with the Nataraja. There is also a Spatika Linga for which the six daily kala poojas are done.

 

This Sanctum is the Kanakasabha or the Golden Hall where Nataraja, as Kanakasabhapati, Lord of the Golden Hall, performs his Dance of Bliss, the Anandatandava. It is important to note that in this Sanctum there is a screen of golden Bilva leaves which hangs to the right of Nataraja and the screen when moved aside reveals empty space that represents Akasa or Space. The removal of the screen is the removal of ignorance and behind the veil is the real truth – Sat, Chit and Ananda – which is the subtle ethereal form of Nataraja. This is known as the Chidambara Rahasya.

 

The Dancing Lord Nataraja while dancing enacts the five activities known as PanchakrityaSrishti (creation), Sthiti (preservation, continued maintenance), Samhara (destruction, involution), Tirobhava (veiling, incarnation), and Anugraha (release, salvation).

 

Chidambaram temple is owned by the Denomination of Podu Dikhistars

 

–          “An interesting feature about Chidambaram Temple is the system of management. It has no landed or other endowments nor any dastik allowance and is the property of a class of Brahmins peculiar to this town…” – Mr. W. Francis, Gazetteer of the South Arcot District (1906)

 

–          “The Pagoda is the property of a class of Brahmins known as Dikshadars” – Manual of South Arcot District by J H Garstin M.C.S., Collector of South Arcot District (1878)

 

–          “The pagoda is the property of the class of Deecshita Brahmins” – Glossary of the Madras Presidency by C.D. Maclean (1893)

 

–          “The formal Committee of Dikshitars is called “Podu Dikshitars”. This Committee meets at the “Perambalam” hall of the temple. This Committee is the traditional administrator and protector of this temple. Only Dikshitars have the right to perform worship in this great temple of Chidambaram. Since this temple belongs to them as their personal temple Dikshitars do not take any other avocations – Vaazviyar Kalanjiyam – an encyclopedic work by Tamil University

 

There are many religious and historical records to show that the temple belonged to the Community of Podu Dikshitars, besides two judgments of the Hon’ble Division Bench of the Madras High Court.

–          The Tamil Canonical works known as Tirumurais clearly record that the Chidambaram temple is the temple of the Podu Dikshitars and all rights of services within the temple complex is entirely theirs. This has been most clearly recorded by the Tirumurais and by the chief minister of the Chola Kingdom, St. Sekkizhar who authored the Periya Puranam, a hagiology of Saiva Saints in the year 1140 C.E.

 

–          It is also amply clear that the Sabhanayagar temple at Chidambaram is owned by the denomination of Podu Dikshitars from the following two judgments of the Division Bench of the Hon’ble High Court of Madras: [1] Marimuthu Dikshitar vs. State of Madras (1952 (1) MLJ 557); [2] Devaraja Shenoy vs. State of Madras (1952 (1) MLJ 481)

 

Temple Administration

 

The Podu Dikshitars of the Chidambaram temple are both Archakas and Trustees of the temple from time immemorial. The Chidambaram temple is ably administered by the Body of Podu Dikshitars as per their temple constitution written centuries ago and printed for the first time in 1849. Any Dikshitar gets his right to do sacramental service to Lord Nataraja and participation in Temple Administration only after his marriage. The Dikshitar who thus takes participation would not be discriminated by age, education, capability or wealth. The Dikshitars would be on duty at the temple 20 at a time and each batch of 20 stays for 20 days till each has in his turn performed the complete tour of puja at the different shrines of the temple where the daily pujas are held.

 

The 9 Management Committee members of Podu Dikshitars are elected by lots on 31st March of each year. This Committee looks after the daily administration of the temple but the major decisions are taken only by the general assembly of Podu Dikshitars in a democratic way. Though Dikshitars live in poverty, they never faulted in their rectitude. The temple possesses invaluable offerings of jewellery made by opulent people and Kings of Tamil Nadu. There are prescribed regulations for physical verification of these (jewellery) once in 4 days, 20 days and six months. These accounts remain perfect and are free from embezzlement till date.

 

Who are the Podu Dikshitars?

 

If one were to search the Globe for a community or sect or clan that for more than 20 centuries has done the same religious, social and cultural activities and is domiciled in the same place throughout the 2000 years, one would not find such a community until one zeros in on the geographic coordinates 1.399686°N, 79.693622°E, the exact location of the ancient temple town of Chidambaram, Tamil Nadu, in South India.

 

Chidambaram town was known as Tillai till recent times, Chidambaram being the name of the Temple. The Podu Dikshitars are also known as Tillai Vaazh Antanar or ‘the Brahmins of Tillai’ were associated with the temple from its inception. This unique clan was originally three thousand in number and hence they were also known as Tillai Moovayiravar or “The Three Thousand Brahmins of Tillai”. As per Sthala Puranas, traditions and Saivite belief, the presiding deity of Chidambaram Temple, Lord Nataraja, is one among the Tillai Brahmins. Lord Nataraja is their God of worship and Leader of their clan.

 

Uniqueness of Chidambaram Podu Dikshitars

 

Chidambaram Dikshitars differ from other Brahmins in many respects. They are found only in Chidambaram town and form an endogamous clan. They do not have marriage alliances with any other Brahmin sects, marry only from their own community, and are thus a closed community. Their life, religion, education, training, culture and vocation revolve around the Chidambaram Nataraja Temple. From the time of birth, they are dedicated to the services of Nataraja and His Chidambaram Temple.

 

Podu Dikshitars are staunch Saivites, among the foremost of Saivites. Servitorship is an important aspect of Tamil Saivism. It is the belief of Saivites that Saint Sundaramurti was ordained by Lord Siva to sing in praise of the great Saiva Devotees. Saint Sundaramurti sang a hagiology of Saiva Devotees in eleven Tamil verses naming 63 individual devotees and the nine general classes of devotees. These devotees are worshipped in all major Siva temples in Tamil Nadu. The pride of place among all these Saivite devotees is accorded to the Podu Dikshitars of Tillai. It is also a fundamental religious belief of Tamil Saivites that this predominant position was accorded to this community of devotees by Lord Siva Himself.

 

Pooja Rituals

 

The Pooja rituals and tenets found in the Chidambaram Temple are very special and are found nowhere else in the Hindu world. Chidambaram temple poojas are based on Vedic rituals in contrast to agamic rituals found in most other temples. Further, the Podu Dikshitars follow a unique set of tenets for their poojas and festivals. This is the only temple where Vedic traditions as expounded by the Sage Patanjali are the tenets of the Podu Dikshitars, and only these are used in worship and rituals in the Chidambaram temple. The Podu Dikshitars’ ritual and pooja traditions have not changed for over two millennia. It is among the very few temples where one can witness Vedic traditions followed by sages and rishis of ancient days.

 

The Podu Dikshitars take turns to be the Chief priest of the day. This turn may come to them once in about 300 days. Only married male members above 25 years of age, who have gone through an initiation called “Diksha” and whose wives are alive are eligible to be the Chief Priest of the day. Before performing the kala poojas and poojas to Lord Nataraja performing the “Dance of Bliss” in the Sanctum Santorum, the designated ‘Chief Priest of the Day’ takes a bath in the holy temple tank called Sivaganga. After bath he performs the fire ritual before starting the kala poojas. The Vedic modes of rituals with chanting of Vedic mantras are integral parts of these pooja rituals.

 

The “Rahasya Pooja” done in the evening is not open for public darshan as are the other poojas. Only the Chief Priest of the Day and his assistant who is also a Dikshitar would be present to conduct and witness that pooja. The public and other Dikshitars are excluded from this every day.

 

Dikshitars and Tamil

 

Tamil is the mother tongue of Podu Dikshitars. It is the language spoken in their homes and used by them in their administrative records in the temple and in their communications. There have always been Tamil scholars in every generation of Dikshitars. Saint Umapati Sivam, a Tillai Vaazh Antanar of extraordinary merit has authored many Saiva Sastra works in Tamil and has sung the History of Chidambaram (Temple) in Sanskrit as original and has rendered it in Tamil, naming the Tamil work “Kovil Puranam”.

 

Many Dikshitars have erudition in the Tamil Canonical works known as Tirumurai. Many publications and research works have been authored by Podu Dikshitars on Tamil Tirumurais. Besides Vedas, Tamil Tirumurai are accorded great importance by Dikshitars at the Chidambaram Temple. Recitation of “Pancha Puranas” or five songs from the 12 Tirumurais in a prescribed manner during the allotted puja times is unique to Chidambaram.

 

Similarly, honouring the Tamil Saint Manikkavasagar during the Arudhra festival days by reciting 20 of his hymns and performing special aradhanas after reciting each hymn is unique and special to Chidambaram Temple.

 

In Chidambaram, the collection of the first Seven Tirumurais were found and preserved. In Chidambaram the eighth TirumuraiTiruvachakam and TiruKovaiyar were written. The ninth Tirumurai consists of songs which are mostly in praise of Chidambaram Temple, Nataraja and Podu Dikshitars. The tenth Tirumurai is the earliest Tamil work which mentions Chidambaram, the Dancing Hall and Nataraja. The eleventh Tirumurai too has many songs on Chidambaram temple, Nataraja and Podu Dikshitars. The Eleventh Tirumurai clearly records that Chidambaram Temple is the temple of the Podu Dikshitars. It clearly states that Nataraja came to Chidambaram with the Podu Dikshitars and took the Dancing Hall as His dwelling place.

 

The twelfth and final TirumuraiPeriya Puranam – was written by the chief minister of the Chola Kingdom, St. Sekkizhar at Chidambaram. In this hagiology St. Sekkizhar has recorded the greatness of the Podu Dikshitars and how devoted are they to the temple and to the Lord. St. Sekkizhar also records that all services to the Lord and the temple belong rightfully to Podu Dikshitars.

 

Temple Administration and the Denomination of Podu Dikshitars

 

As early as 1890, a Division Bench of the Hon’ble High Court of Madras consisting of the first native High Court Judge of India, Justice Muthuswamy Aiyer and Justice Sheppard, clearly recorded that the Podu Dikshitars of Chidambaram have held both the offices of Trustee and Archaka in the temple from time immemorial. The Division Bench also clearly recorded that the net income of the temple is their recognized means of livelihood.

 

–          “About 250 families of Dikshadars reside at Chitambaram, and the nett income of the temple, which is derived from general offerings, is their recognized means of livelihood. According to their usage every Dikshadar becomes entitled, on marriage, to take part in the management, to do puja or perform service in the minor shrines, and to share in the emoluments of the institution. He is, however, considered not qualified for performing service in the principal shrines, until he is twenty-five years old and initiated in a ceremony called Diksha.”

–          “It is not denied that the institution has been used as a place of public worship from time immemorial but it is said that the public worship in it by permission of the dikshadars.”

 

[Justices Muthuswamy Aiyer and Sheppard of the Hon’ble Madras High Court – ILR 14 MAD 103 (17/03/1890)]

 

Both religious and administrative duties and rights of the Podu Dikshitars are inseparably intertwined. The Division Bench upheld this inseparable nature of both the offices in ILR 14 MAD 103. Their Lordships held the pooja rights were, according to the usage of the institution, appurtenant to their status as dharmakartas and the interests of the temple would be but inadequately protected if the two rights were severed…

 

Again in CRP.121/189, Justice Muthuswamy Aiyer reinforced the above decision by stating, “ The right to perform Pooja being appurtenant to plaintiff’s status as Dikshidar and trustee and the two rights being inseparable, he cannot divest himself of the character of the trustee and at the same time insist on his right to perform Pooja.”

 

This inseparable nature of trusteeship and archaka was further confirmed when the Hon’ble Division Bench of the Madras High Court, in 1952 I MLJ 557 equated them with Matathipathis since there can be no demarcation of religious and administrative duties of the Podu Dikshitars.

 

The nomenclature “Podu Dikshitar” refers to individual Dikshitars of Chidambaram when they indulge in mundane or pooja activities. It refers to the body of Podu Dikshitars when they attend to the administrative duties of the temple. The administration of the Chidambaram Temple is carried according to the constitution of the temple framed by Dikshitars centuries ago and printed for the first time in 1849. This temple law is known as “Shri Sabhanayagar Koil Sattam”. The Hon’ble Division Bench of the Madras High Court was awe-struck at the elaborate rules and the thoughtfulness and planning that had gone into framing them.

 

Podu Dikshitars strictly follow the temple traditions and ensure that the temple rituals and practices are conducted without any deviation from the traditions. Poojas and rituals are conducted on time every day. Administrative meetings are held once in twenty days and a lamp is brought from the sanctum of Nataraja to denote the presence of the Lord who is the leader of the Podu Dikshitars. The administrative decisions are taken in the presence of the lamp in a democratic manner and all Dikshitars have equal rights in the administration.

 

The unflinching loyalty of the Podu Dikshitars to Nataraja and to their temple, their strict adherence to rituals and their excellent administration have been recorded by scholars, institutions, Central and State Ministers, Hon’ble Judges of the High Courts and the Supreme Court, Government officials and Devotees.

 

Protectors of the Chidambaram Temple

 

The Podu Dikshitars have gone through many ordeals and tribulations in protecting the essential properties of the temple and the deities at various times. After the decline of the Chola Empire, Chidambaram town and the temple suffered many invasions and occupations at various times. The Podu Dikshitars were the body of persons who safely hid the murtis of the main deities and safeguarded the valuables and jewels, even at the cost of their lives. In 1597 CE, when a Vaishnava fanatic of the Vijayanagara Empire proceeded to expand the Vishnu temple at the cost of the Nataraja Temple in Chidambaram, more than twenty Dikshitars including women gave up their lives protesting this transgression.

 

During the Anglo-French and other wars, Podu Dikshitars took the Nataraja and other murtis away for safekeeping in various places and reestablished Nataraja worship at Chidambaram after nearly 37 years.

 

The Podu Dikshitars protect the temple jewels with a very elaborate and safe twenty-one custodian system. The Hon’ble High Court of Madras and other institutions of merit like the Tamil University have praised this system of protection. Even to this day, a team of Podu Dikshitars regularly takes up watch and patrol duty at the temple every night.

 

Religious Denomination of Podu Dikshitars

 

Article 26 of the Indian Constitutions protects the religious and administrative rights of religious denominations or sections thereof.

 

In 1951, when the HR & CE Department and Government tried to takeover the Chidambaram temple from the Podu Dikshitars, the latter opposed the move on both merits and constitutional grounds. The Government opposed the Dikshitars’ claim of protection under Article 26.

 

The Division Bench of the Hon’ble High Court of Madras held that it could be asserted that the Podu Dikshitars of Chidambaram form and constitute a religious denomination. It also held that the Podu Dikshitars in whom the management of the temple is vested are both the Managers and the Archakas and they have a substantial beneficial interest in the income of the temple, and the procedure to notify this temple encroached upon the rights of the Dikshitars to manage the property belonging to the denomination. The Government appealed to the Supreme Court challenging these and other findings, but a Constitutional Bench of the Supreme Court dismissed the appeal.

 

Thus the denominational nature of the Podu Dikshitars and the Chidambaram temple were decided in favour of the Podu Dikshitars and the matter attained finality.

 

Though the matter attained finality, we could still apply the three conditions to form a religious denomination enumerated by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in subsequent judgments, including the Shirur Mutt Case, on the Podu Dikshitars. These are:

–          It is a collection of individuals who have a system of beliefs which they regard as conducive to their spiritual well-being; the Chidambaram Dikshitars are Vedic Brahmins who have a common religious belief i.e. believe and worship Lord Nataraja as per the principles of “Dhakaropasana” as expounded by the Upanishads.

–          They have a common organisation and the collective body of Podu Dikshitars is the common organisation of this denomination.

–          The collection of these individuals has a distinctive name; this collective body has a common name, “Podu Dikshitars”.

 

Indeed, the Chidambaram Podu Dikshitars are the benchmark of religious denominations. They are even a closed body with distinctive religious and cultural features.

 

Conclusion

 

It is to protect such unique micro communities and minor denominations from the onslaught of the mighty and those in power that the framers of the Indian Constitution mooted special rights and protection under Article 26.

 

Due to various invasions and autocratic actions of kings and rulers at various periods and due to poverty, the 3000 Chidambaram Brahmins have today dwindled to 360! But as a community and as a religious and cultural identity they have so far survived.

 

Podu Dikshitars are great patriots. They invested, from the temple’s gold reserve, the highest value ever invested in Tamil Nadu, in the Government’s Gold Defense Bonds when India faced war with China. The Chidambaram Temple is the first among temples which hoists the National flag atop the main Eastern Gopura every Independence Day and Republic Day.

 

Podu Dikshitars were also among the first to open the temple to all castes of Hindus. This is probably the only ancient temple in Tamil Nadu which permits non-Hindu devotees to have darshan of the deities including the presiding deity Nataraja. In the two main festivals celebrated every year, devotees of all communities are permitted to participate with equal respect and prominence.

 

It is ironical that the Podu Dikshitars who survived tremendous tribulations and ordeals under tyrannical and totalitarian kings and regimes now face the threat of annihilation from the mala fide actions of a democratically elected and ostensibly secular government.

 

The author is a banking professional and research scholar on Hindu religious affairs

http://www.vijayvaani.com/FrmPublicDisplayArticle.aspx?id=1897

Explain Raja’s charge: Jaya to PM, Sonia

Continuing her attack against the UPA Government and Congress, the AIADMK on Saturday demanded an explanation from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Union Home Minister P Chidambaram on charges made by former Telecom Minister A Raja with regard to the 2G spectrum scam of “Himalayan proportions”.

“The Prime Minister and the Home Minister have not given any reply even days after the former Telecom Minister had named them in connection with the scam of Himalayan proportions,” stated a resolution passed at the AIADMK executive council meeting chaired by the party general secretary and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa.

The resolution faulted Gandhi, who is also the UPA chairperson, for not expressing her opinion in this matter. “People have a right to know the truth in this matter. The Executive insists that in deference to people’s views, the Prime Minister, the Home Minister and the Congress president should immediately reply to Raja’s charges,” the resolution added.

Later, addressing the media, Jayalalithaa said, “It is people’s right to expect a clarification against such allegations, when they are levelled against head of the Government.”

The reaction of the AIADMK follows Raja’s deposition in the Supreme Court that Singh and Chidambaram (as Finance Minister) were aware of the sale of equity by spectrum licensees as it was discussed with them.

The attack on the UPA Government is part of the ADMK’s strategy to lash out at the Centre, as decided by the party chief few days ago.

On Friday, Jayalalithaa had criticised the Communal Violence Bill, to be tabled in the Monsoon Session of Parliament beginning Monday. One can expect ‘active’ ADMK members in Parliament to join hands with the BJP, Communists and other Opposition parties over these issues.

Raja had lost his post to the 2G scam and he was arrested in the same case. He has been charged with granting mobile network licences and 2G spectrum at throwaway prices to companies not at all eligible to get them.

Some of these companies went on to leverage their licences at huge prices to foreign partners.

In court, Raja denied any crime or conspiracy in the scam.

“Telenor buying a stake in Unitech Wireless and Etisalat buying a stake in DB Realty was totally legal as per the corporate law. The Finance Minister approved the sale in the presence of the PM. Let the Prime Minister deny it… What the telecom companies do after I give them spectrum is not my domain,” Raja had argued in court. Chidambaram has already rubbished the claims of Raja, while Singh has been silent.

Jayalalithaa also elaborated on the Sri Lankan Tamil issue and charged the Centre of not responding to the resolution passed in the Assembly demanding economic sanctions against Sri Lanka.

She noted that the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton responded more positively to her arguments on Sri Lanka when the two met on July 20.

At the executive meeting, the AIADMK has also sought the rollback of hike in the prices of petrol and diesel. She announced that her party MPs would take up the issue of retrieving the island of Katchatheevu, ceded to Sri Lanka in by Indian in 1974, in the Parliament.

While her party seems to have changed stance strengthening its criticism of the UPA, Jayalalithaa continued with her stance on the Lokpal bill that the Prime Minister should be out of the anti-graft bill. She stressed that if the Prime Minister is brought under the Lokpal ambit, it would undermine the Prime Minister’s authority and lead to formation of a parallel Government. Her view is opposed to that of the DMK which last week passed a resolution asking for the Prime Minister to be included under the Lokpal.

http://www.dailypioneer.com/357263/Explain-Rajas-charge-Jaya-to-PM-Sonia.html

Islamist student group said to terrorize Pakistan campuses

In Pakistan’s Punjab province, the Islami Jamiat-e-Talaba, the student wing of a powerful hard-line religious party, seeks to enforce its fundamentalist agenda, intimidating and sometimes attacking students and teachers alike.

July 22, 2011|By Alex Rodriguez, Los Angeles Times

After philosophy students and faculty members rallied to denounce heavy-handed efforts to separate male and female students, Islamists on campus struck back: In the dead of night, witnesses say, the radicals showed up at a men’s dormitory armed with wooden sticks and bicycle chains.

They burst into dorm rooms, attacking philosophy students. One was pistol-whipped and hit on the head with a brick. Gunfire rang out, although no one was injured. Police were called, but nearly a month after the attack, no arrests have been made.

Few on Punjab University’s leafy campus, including top administrators, dare to challenge the Islami Jamiat-e-Talaba, or the IJT, the student wing of one of Pakistan’s most powerful hard-line Islamist parties.

At another Lahore campus, the principal disdainfully refers to the Islamists as “a parallel administration.”

The organization’s clout illustrates the deep roots of Islamist extremism in Pakistani society, an influence that extends beyond radical religious schools and militant strongholds in the volatile tribal belt along the Afghan border.

University administrators fear that the IJT’s influence on many campuses will lead to an increase in extremism among the middle class, from which the next generation of Pakistan’s leaders will rise.

“These people have connections with jihadi groups, and they are taking hostage our campuses,” said Sajid Ali, chairman of Punjab University’s philosophy department. “This is a real danger for the future of our country.”

Fellow students and teachers regard them as Islamist vigilantes. In addition to trying to separate the sexes, they order shopkeepers not to sell Coca-Cola or Pepsi because they are American brands. When they overhear a cluster of fellow students debating topics, from capitalism to religion, they demand that the discussion stop and threaten violence if it continues.

The recent trouble here at Punjab University started when a posse of IJT members slapped a male philosophy student for talking with a female classmate. Students and faculty members organized a protest rally, which led to the dorm attack on June 26. Shahrukh Rashid, 22, who was among those attacked, said the police have been of little help.

“One of the police inspectors told us, ‘Whatever is done is done,’ ” he said.

University officials say that government leaders in Punjab, the country’s wealthiest and most populous province, have allowed the IJT to flourish rather than jeopardize their political alliances with hard-line clerics at the helm of religious parties. Even when students, teachers or university administrators seek criminal charges against IJT members, the police rarely respond.

“If the government wanted to solve the problem here, they could do it overnight,” said Asif Mahmood Qureshi, principal of the Government Islamia College, a state university in Lahore, the provincial capital.

IJT members don’t allow him access to their dormitory, and physically force students and teachers to join their protests. With support from a bloc of teachers sympathetic to the IJT’s cause, they have managed to control the school’s teachers union, Qureshi said.

“They don’t want the principal to do anything without their consent,” said Qureshi, the administrator who referred to the organization as running a parallel administration.

At Punjab University, IJT sympathizers include some teachers and even some of the security guards, teachers and students say.

Ali, the chairman of the philosophy department, said students and teachers in most of the university’s academic departments do not resist. The IJT won’t allow music classes on campus, Ali said, so the music department’s teachers meet their students at a concert hall off campus.

Standing up to the IJT can trigger severe consequences. Last year, an environmental sciences professor, as head of the school’s disciplinary committee, expelled several IJT members for unruly behavior. A group of IJT students stormed into his office, beat him with metal rods and smashed a flowerpot over his head. He survived the attack.

When IJT members attacked the philosophy department dorm late last month, the students fought back, chasing the fundamentalists. Within 15 minutes, the IJT youths had fled.

“We’ve never been cowed by them,” Ali said. “So we’re on an island at this university.”

The IJT’s campus leader, Zubair Safdar, acknowledged that some student members went to the philosophy department’s dormitory to confront students there, and that fights broke out. The IJT members involved later apologized to the department’s students and teachers, Safdar said.

“It was a miscommunication between the IJT students and the philosophy students,” he said.

Safdar, however, denied that the IJT relies on violence to get its message across. Seated at his desk in a small office at a dormitory dominated by IJT members, the 27-year-old sociology student said his organization is opposed to male and female students sitting together because “the university is not a date point, it’s a place of education.”

He also denied that IJT members rough up male students who resist. “We just talk to them,” he said. “We are trying to create an environment that puts students on the right path. We don’t forcibly push students onto that path.”

At Government Islamia College, Qureshi paints a portrait of a school under siege. Last year, IJT members staged 33 protests in six months, often threatening to beat students and teachers if they didn’t join the rallies. The demonstrations created major disruptions in the college’s routine; many students refused to show up to classes for two or three days after a protest because they feared that the IJT would instigate more violence.

Qureshi says he lacks the means to fight back. The power to suspend or expel students lies with the college’s board of governors, which hasn’t convened since January because of a pending lawsuit filed by IJT students challenging the board’s authority. His attempts to get Punjab provincial education officials to clamp down on IJT behavior have been ignored.

In January, IJT members smashed the windshield and windows of Qureshi’s 1990 Nissan and broke down the front door of his office. He met with Punjab province’s education secretary and asked him to intervene.

“I explained what happened, but all I got from him was silence,” Qureshi said.

The IJT’s logo, a blue shield with a star and crescent moon, is plastered all over campus: on walls, lampposts and the school’s main gate. On the perimeter walls, IJT graffiti declare that “Martyrdom is our desire, and jihad is our way. Islam revolution is our destination. So join us.”

Qureshi can’t keep the group’s images out of even his own office. Affixed to a file cabinet behind his desk and a nearby bookshelf are IJT stickers. Asked why he doesn’t peel them off, Qureshi laughs nervously. “I have control, but not so much.”

alex.rodriguez@latimes.com

http://articles.latimes.com/print/2011/jul/22/world/la-fg-pakistan-islamist-bullies-20110722

After Julia Roberts it is the turn of Brangelina to become Hindus

Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt to marry as per Hindu style in Jodhpur

JODHPUR: While it’s splitsville for Liz Hurley and Arun Nayar after three rocky years of marriage, Hollywood’s celebrity couple Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie have decided to cement their bond further. Like Liz and Arun, who tied the knot according to Hindu customs in Jodhpur, the Brangelina couple, too, are looking to take the ‘pheras’ in this historic Rajputana city.

British news portals have reported that the Hollywood royalty is planning a Hindu wedding in the New Year under the supervision of their spiritual guru, Ram Lal Siyag. Siyag, 84, the founder-patron of Jodhpur-based Adhyatma Vigyan Satsang Kendra, neither confirmed nor denied the news.

The Siddha Yoga guru, who is said to have played a key role in bringing peace and harmony into the jet-set lives of Jolie and Pitt, is unconcerned about his name being bandied about in the western media. His disciples, too, refuse to disclose any detail about the glamour wedding.
http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2010-12-15/india/28223243_1_jodhpur-disciples-jolie-and-pitt

Couple Looking in pleasant mood

couple
Looking in pleasant mood

Like Kate Perry and Russel, the favourite Hollywood couple Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitthave also decided to marry as per Hindu style in Jodhpur.

British news portals report that the Jolie and Pitt are planning a Hindu wedding in the New Year under the supervision of their spiritual guru, Ram Lal Siyag.

The news websites also reported that Guru Siyag has also given a mantra to Jolie and Pitt which they recite every morning and evening and which has helped them to further develop their relationship.

http://www.allvoices.com/contributed-news/7622686-angelina-jolie-brad-pitt-to-marry-according-to-hindu-traditions

Two DMK Leaders Arrested for Land Grab

Chennai, Jul 30 (IANS): Two DMK leaders, including a former minister, were Saturday arrested on charges of seizing land, police said.

Former minister and senior leader Veerapandi S. Arumugam was arrested in Salem, 350 km from here, while he had gone there to mark his attendance as he was out on bail since July 27 in another land grabbing case, a police officer told IANS.

Arumugam was arrested on the basis of another land grab complaint, the officer said.

A local court remanded Arumugam to 15 days judicial custody and he was lodged in Coimbatore central prison, he said.

DMK legislator from Chepauk constituency, J.Anbazhagan, was arrested here and was taken to Tirupur, around 380 km away.

http://www.daijiworld.com/news/news_disp.asp?n_id=110219

Jayalalithaa Opposes Communal Violence Bill, Says, It’s Fascist

PTI

[ Updated 29 Jul 2011, 14:59:29 ]
Chennai, Jul 29:  Slamming the draft communal violence bill as “fascist”, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa today said it would give sweeping powers to the Centre and keep the states under constant threat of dismissal.

In a hard-hitting attack on the proposed bill, Jayalalithaa said that under the garb of preventing communal and targeted violence, the Prevention of Communal Violence Bill was yet another “blatant atttempt” to totally bypass the state governments.

The bill concentrates all powers in the Centre rendering the state governments absolutely powerless and totally at the mercy of the Centre,she said in a strongly-worded statement.

Calling it an “undesirable piece of legislation,”, she said it was being brought in by a Central regime that was running “out of steam and ideas for survival.” The AIADMK chief said it was the “sacred duty” of all those who believed in democracy to oppose it in toto and throw it out “lock, stock and barrel,” at the introduction stage itself.

The bill was aimed at keeping the state governments under the constant threat of dismissal, perhaps because of the Central government’s limited capability to use Article 356 of the Constitution in view of a Supreme Court verdict in this regard, the Chief Minister said.

The Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence (Access to Justice and Reparations) Bill 2011 sought to give “sweeping powers” to the Central government, to the total exclusion of state governments in handling instances of communal and targeted violence, Jayalalithaa said.

She said this vitiated the norms of Centre-state relations envisaged by the Justice Sarkaria Commission.  “The Bill appears to be a new ruse to side-step the judicial constraints imposed on the indiscriminate use of Article 356 (to impose President’s rule) against opposition-ruled states by an antagonistic Centre,” Jayalalithaa said.  She expressed fears that the Bill, if it became Law, could be misused by politicial parties at the Centre to create a “volatile” situation in an opposition-governed state.

“If the agitators are put down, the state government would be pilloried for stifling dissent. On the other hand, if violence erupts, it can be dubbed as communal or targeted violence and the state government concerned can be dismissed using the sweeping and wholly subjective provisions of the law,” she said.
“This sort of a Catch-22 situation will never be in the interest of a nation on the threshold of being recognised as a super power of the world. This is nothing but an undemocratic and fascist bill which is against and totally repugnant to the basic principles of the constitution,” Jayalalithaa said.

“I also appeal to all right-thinking political parties cutting across political divides, community leaders, thinkers.  the free media and the people of this great nation to see the dangers lurking in this Bill and voice their opposition to it in unambiguous terms,” she said.

Slamming various provisions, including terminology and definitions in the proposed Bill, she said their subjective interpretations could lead to misuse, adding, the very purpose of the law is “unstated.” PTI

http://www.indiatvnews.com/news/India/Jayalalithaa_Opposes_Communal_Violence_Bill_Says_It_s-9508.html