|28 Jul 2011|
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 InstitutionsBy 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 BoardShri 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 ActNotwithstanding 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 JudgmentsOn 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 andultra 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 ActLeft 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 knowHR & 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 OmissionsHR & 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 PropertiesTemples 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 JewelsSince 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 IconsMore 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, etcAnother 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 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 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 doHindus 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
A SURYA PRAKASH
The proposed Communal Violence Bill, which paints Hindus as criminals and minorities as their victims, is downright dangerous.
Determined to promote its minority-appeasement agenda, the United Progressive Alliance regime is readying itself to introduce an obnoxious Bill that could disturb communal harmony, wreck the federal features of the Constitution and give the Union Government a fresh set of excuses to interfere in the governance of States.
The aim of this Bill — called the Prevention of Communal and Targetted Violence (Access to Justice and Reparations) Bill — is ostensibly to curb communal violence and hatred, but it rests on the flawed premise that in all situations the religious majority perpetrates violence and members of the religious minority are the victims. Therefore, ab initio it treats the Hindus, who constitute the majority in 28 of the 35 States and Union Territories, as the offenders and Muslims, Christians and other religious minorities as the victims of communal hatred and violence. The draft of this abominable law has come from the National Advisory Council, which has among its members some pseudo-secularists, Hindu-bashers and Nehru-Gandhi camp followers, all of whom have been hand-picked by its chairperson, Ms Sonia Gandhi.
The Bill describes “Communal and Targetted Violence” in Section 3 ( c ) as “any act or series of acts … knowingly directed against any person by virtue of his or her membership of any group”. The biggest mischief is in the definition of the word “group” that occurs in Section 3(e). It says a “group” means “a religious or linguistic minority, in any State in the Union of India, or Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes…”. This means that Hindus, who today constitute the majority in most States and Union Territories, will not constitute a “group” under this law and, therefore, will not be able to invoke its provisions, even if they are victims of Muslim or Christian communalism, hatred or violence.
In other words, if this law had been in force in 2002, the relatives of the 59 Hindus who were burnt to death by a Muslim mob at Godhra Station in Gujarat would not have had the right to lodge an FIR under this law because Hindus constitute a majority in that State, but the Muslims would have used its provisions to prosecute the perpetrators of the post-Godhra violence. If enacted, this Bill will amount to treating Hindu victims of communal violence as second class citizens and would approximate to the kind of anti-Hindu laws that prevail in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
The Bill describes a “victim” as a member of a religious minority who has suffered “physical, mental, psychological or monetary harm or harm to his or her property as a result of the commission of any offence under this Act, and includes his or her relatives, legal guardian and legal heirs, wherever appropriate”. Going by this description, a Muslim or Christian in most parts of India who is aggrieved with a Hindu neighbour over some issue can turn around and accuse him or her of causing “psychological harm”. Further, if the “victim” is not inclined to deploy this mischievous provision, the Bill allows his or her relatives to do so.
Hindu-bashing appears to be the primary aim of this exercise. The Bill says once enacted the law will extend to the whole of India. However, when it comes to the only Muslim-majority State in the Indian Union — Jammu & Kashmir — it says that “the Central Government may, with the consent of the State of Jammu & Kashmir, extend the Act to that State”. One must see what other caveats will be put in place in respect of the only Muslim-majority Union Territory — Lakshadweep — where Hindus constitute just 3.7 per cent of the population.
However, though Hindus will bear the brunt of this Bill’s obnoxious provisions, Muslims, Christians and Sikhs could also find themselves in trouble because the State is the unit to determine the issue of majority-minority. As per the religion data in the 2001 Census, Sikhs constitute 59.9 per cent of the population in Punjab, whereas the Hindu population in that State is 36.9 per cent. If this law comes into force, the Sikhs (constituting the majority) will face the music if Hindus begin accusing them of promoting communal hatred and anti-secular policies. Similarly, Christians, who have an overwhelming majority in three States — Nagaland ( 90 per cent ), Mizoram ( 87 per cent) and Meghalaya (70.3 per cent ) — will find themselves in deep trouble if the Hindu minority in these States begins to leverage this law and lodge complaints against the religious majority.
Therefore, citizens who are Muslims, Christians or Sikhs should not be taken in by the claims of the Congress that this Bill will strengthen secularism. Because this law does not treat all perpetrators of communal violence and hatred equally, these citizens will face the heat in all States where they are in a majority. Also, the demographic reality in some States will place the Hindus at a disadvantage. For example, there are States like Manipur (46 per cent Hindu) and Arunachal Pradesh (34.6 per cent Hindu) where no religious group has a clear majority. So, who is the “culprit” and who is the “victim” in these States?
Further, if you exclude the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes from the Hindu population, what will be the percentage of Hindus in these States? Kerala, with 56.2 per cent Hindus, is also a case in point. If you exclude Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (22 per cent approximately), what is the percentage of the Hindu “majority” in that State? Can this so-called “majority” be seen as the oppressor of the Muslim “minority” (24.7 per cent) or the Christian “minority” (19 per cent)? The Bill also tends to intimidate the bureaucracy and the police in the States. These provisions, which are repugnant to the federal features of our Constitution, will have to be discussed separately.
Finally, far from being a “Prevention of Communal and Targetted Violence Bill”, this is a “communal” and “targetted” Bill because it empowers only religious minorities and targets not all communalists but only the religious majority. Should Ms Gandhi and her cohorts have their way, the country’s unity and integrity will be in peril. Instead of promoting communal harmony, this law will promote communal strife. Such a Bill could only have come out of the Devil’s workshop! It could not have been drafted by persons who care for India’s unity and integrity. Where has the original draft come from? We must investigate.
BANGALORE: A circular issued by the Karnataka government has asked teachers to set aside three hours a week for classes on the Bhagwad Gita, which hasn’t gone down well with the 8,600 minority schools in the State. Education Minister Vishveshwar Hegde Kageri said that any protestors against the Gita classes should leave the country.
“Only those who want to promote religious ideologies of foreign countries are protesting the Bhagwad Gita classes. If they want to promote their ideologies, they have no place in this country. They should leave,” Kageri said.The minority schools petitioned to the Governor on Tuesday to Kageri from his post.Minorities Institutions’ Federation Chairman C R Mohammed Imtiaz said, “It’s unconstitutional. It’s a breach of the oath he’s taken. We’ve asked the governor to dismiss him.”The Karnataka government now says that the Gita classes are not compulsory for all schools to implement.State Govt spokesperson S Prakash said, “Some motivated people are trying to create a controversy… It’s not a government programme. It’s a programme by a private mutt. The government has only said to make it available one hour for.”The issue is not whether learning the Gita is compulsory or voluntary, the issue is school hours and school resources are being used to teach a particular religion and that’s being seen as an attempt at saffronisation.”Tomorrow someone will want to teach the Quran and the Bible. If religious books are for studying in school, what’s the fate of students? Let Kageri make special arrangements to teach the Gita in temples and mutts. We’re also proud of our religion,” said CR Mohammed Imtiaz.However, The BJP has come out strongly in support for the implementation of the Gita classes saying that it is just moral education that will be taught to the students.BJP Spokesperson S Prakash said, “When you want to teach moral education to students, you shouldn’t think of it as waste of resources. Schools are not spending any money. The mutt is organising it. There is nothing wrong in it.”Whether it is right or wrong will be decided by the High Court soon which will take up the case from Thursday onwards.– Deepa Balakrishnan
Bhagavad Gita, BG, is a master-piece guide for day-to-day life, not simply a spiritual book. BG classes should be made compulsory in all educational institutions across the nation and be read by all. Was Mahatma Gandhi communal, who carried BG all time and found guidance and solace in It? Just for few fanatic muslims, we can’t give up our ethical spiritual sastra BG. BG is an Universal book read even by most westerners, Its teaching creates righteous thinking personbality. Koran and Bible are secterian books, whose breeds fanatics. Morever, if muslim-christian run institutions can teach their religious books, Hindus have every right to teach theirs. Those institutions are beyond so-called minority are Hindu (all Bharatiya dharmic religions Hindu, Sikh, Buddia. Jaina) institutes.
7/20/2011 2:17:00 PM
The offerings of gold and gems to Padmanabhaswamy, valued in billions, are not anonymous. Records of the gifts have been properly documented for centuries. Padmanabhaswamy temple archives contain several hundred bundles of palm leaf manuscripts called “churunai”, each bundle containing one lakh manuscripts of documents detailing the day-to-day administration and events of the temple. These documents are in Malayalam, Tamil, and Koleluttu scripts. It is estimated that there are 3,000 bundles of records, meaning that the total number of palm leaf documents would be about 30 crore! Unfortunately, these have not yet been deciphered and published. The few that have been published so far show systematic recording and documentation of gifts to the temple which would give enough information to fix the date, even the type of donors, of this huge wealth in the temple treasury.
In early 15th century (1425 AD), the then King Vira Ravi Varma constructed a record room in the temple compound. Another record (1486 AD) says that two categories of accountants were appointed—one, Karana-kanakkan, an accountant or caretaker for legal documents; the other, Pandara-kanakkan for maintaining accounts of valuables and jewels. The duty of the Pandara-kanakkan was to write and preserve day-to-day accounts of the temple and also maintain correct account of the temple treasury and the revenue collection. It was all very strictly done.It is now known that in 1931 there was an effort to open the vaults of the main cells in the temple. They could not be opened; the attempt was abandoned. But a few other rooms were opened, and inventories prepared. Therefore, the present wealth consisting of treasures, jewels, gold image, coins, vessels and the rest belong to an earlier period. There is yet another record of 1874, which registers and seems to suggest that a great number of gifts were pouring into the temple through pilgrims like Sankaracharya, who offered kanikkai (offering). The record also says the Hindu representatives of Mohammed Ali Nawab of Arcot and the British government, besides the rulers of Kashi, Nepal, Vijayanagaram, Kashmir, Mysore, Gwalior, Cochin, Kozhikodu, Pudukkottai and others had paid homage to Lord Padmanabha during that period. It shows that the donors representing all of India have visited the temple, a unique record of national integration. It is likely that the treasures now being inventoried were presented mostly between 1700 and 1900. One of the great personalities who gifted enormous wealth was the illustrious Rani of Travancore, Gowri Lakshmi Bai, early in the 19th century. In addition to these offerings, it is seen that the revenue realised from the temple land and other possessions, meant for meeting the expenses of the temple services, were also turned into valuables and kept in the treasury.It is clear that the rulers of Travancore protecting the Padmanabhaswamy temple have taken adequate measures almost from the 12th century onwards to safeguard and administer the wealth of the temple. This is what has preserved the Lord’s wealth. It is not unlikely that documents about the wealth after 1900 are also available in some of these churunai bundles. Significantly, nowhere is there any mention or suggestion that the king’s treasures could have been kept in the temple for safety as has been surmised. According to 11th century Chola inscriptions, which ought to be the Agama tradition applicable to all Agama temples, it is not permissible to bring an outsider’s property inside the temple.The foremost need, therefore, is to put a batch of youngsters under competent directorship and get these manuscripts digitised and transcribed in modern characters. This temple, which follows Vedic tradition, had a great Rig Vedic school that existed for over 500 years but was closed down about 40 years ago, when the temple lands were taken away under the land reform programme. This remarkable school had preserved the Vedic tradition from 15th century and had produced two of Kerala’s two tallest and outstanding scholars, namely, Narayanan Nambudri, who wrote Tantrasamuccaya, a book on architecture, and Narayana Bhattathiri who wrote Narayaneeyam, a book on Lord Guruvayurappan. Bhattathiri ’s work bears the testimony to the ethos of Kerala’s devotion and Nambudiri’s is the basic text of Kerala’s architecture. There must be only 15 survivors from the last batch of students, all above 70.What should be done now to bring this tradition back alive? A small amount of money can revive a great devotional tradition, the principal drive that promoted such gifts of wealth, and, more important, preserved it with the highest integrity and honesty.The writer is former director, Tamil Nadu Department of Archaeology
Petitioner in Padmanabhaswamy temple case dies
T. P. Sundarrajan, whose legal battle led to the opening of the long-shut vaults of the Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple in Thiruvananthapuram where priceless treasures have been found, died in the wee hours on Sunday.
A bachelor, Sundarrajan was 70. He had been suffering from fever for the last two days, relatives said.
A former Indian Police Service (IPS) officer, Sundarrajan had also served in the Intelligence Bureau and security staff of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. He later quit IPS and settled down in Thiruvananthapuram.
It was Sundrrajan who initiated the legal battle for transparency in preservation and protection of the assets of the temple, managed by a trust under the erstwhile Travancore royal house.
The case took a decisive turn when the Kerala High Court in February ordered the State to take over the temple.
Later, the Supreme Court, while considering an appeal by the trustees, ordered an interim stay of the High Court decision but asked the temple cellars to be opened and the priceless wealth stored there, whose value was believed to be over Rs. one lakh crore, to be inventoried.
Following this, a seven-member panel of observers including two former Judges of the Kerala High Court was formed to go about the job of opening the secret chambers.
Sundarrajan, whose father was a legal advisor to Travancore royal family, had been staying in a house close to the temple complex for the last few decades.
The Supreme Court had on Friday reserved its interim orders on the question of permitting inventory of one more vault of the temple which is yet to be opened.
|15 Jul 2011|