Uttarakhand’s recently appointed BJP Chief Minister, Tirath Singh Rawat has revoked the former Chief Minister, Trivendra Singh Rawat’s decision to take over the management of 51 temples in the state including the Char Dham Yatra temples of Badrinath, Kedarnath, Yamunotri and Gangotri.

This decision of Trivendra Singh Rawat of bringing prominent temples and pilgrimage sites in Uttarakhand made him hugely unpopular and evoked an uproar from the Hindu community there and even invited severe criticism from the VHP, RSS and the Sangh Parivar.

As the Free Hindu Temples gained momentum and Amit Shah promised in his election speech to free Kerala temples from government control and hand it over to a committee of Hindu seers, saints and well known religious leaders. Pressure only grew on Uttarakhand BJP government to correct its erroneous step of taking over Hindu temples, which the new chief Minister as a responsive head of a government took the decision to free the 51 temples from government control by promising to revoke the Char Dham Devasthanam Booard Act.

Notably, Dr Subramanian Swamy had challenged the taking over of the 51 temples by filing a petition at the High Court, by stating that the Act was in violation of Art25, 26 and 31-A of the Constitution of India. The High Court partially gave relief to Dr Swamy by ruling that the Treasury of the temples will lie under the control of body of priests who were administering the temple earlier. The High Court though it upheld the take over of the 51 temples stated that the government and the Board headed by the Chief Minister cannot interfere in the religious practice and rituals conducted in the temples; the role of the Board was to be strictly confined to management and administration of the temples.

Dr Swamy had appealed against this order of the High Court as it was not in congruence to the SC verdict in the Chidambarm Temple case of 2014, where the SC clearly stated that it is not the business of a secular state to run religious establishments, and even if take overs happen due to allegations of mismanagement, the government administration should be confined to a defined time limit and cease once the problem is rectified.

The Uttarakhand CM’s announcement to free temples came on the sidelines of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) Kendriya Margdarshak Mandal meeting held in Haridwar on Friday.

CM Tirat Singh Rawat took the decision to take the 51 temples out of government control after meeting with religious leaders and seers at the ongoing Kumbh Mela. He reportedly stated, “I have decided to take out of the Devasthanam Board’s ambit 51 temples which had been brought under it.”

The CM also said that the government will also review the decision to form the Board in question.

The Devasthanam Board under the Act was assigned to adminster and manage 51 temples of the state, including the four famous Himalayan shrines of Gangotri, Yamunotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath.

Needles to say, the formation of the Board by legislation in December 2019 upset Hindu devotees, pilgrims, local residents, the holy seers and “teerthpurohits” who felt their traditional rights over the temples have been infringed and violated by this move.

Although the former Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat tried to convince that enough safeguards had been made in the Act to protect the rights of “teerthpurohits“, the priests in the state, including those in Uttarkashi, were agitated over the issue.

Many ‘teerth-purohits and devotees approached BJP leader Subramanian Swamy to move the courts to free the temples as discussed above. With the High Court ratifying the taking over of the temples, Swamy challenged the High Court decision in the Supreme Court through a SLP. Before the SLP could be heard, Uttarakhand CM Tirat Singh Rawat decided to revoke his predecessor’s action of taking over control of the 51 temples including the Char Dham.

Dr Subramanian Swamy welcomed the decision of CM Tirat Singh Rawat to free the 51 temples from government control and   tweeted+, “So before I could argue the SLP I had filed on the Uttarakhand temple take-over issue the Government has withdrawn the Act and freed 51 temples. This is called responsive government in a democracy”.

Dr Swamy praised the present CM for being a sensitive and responsive leader and hoped that the Act would be formally repealed by the government, failing which he said, he would seek for the repeal of the law when his case is taken up in the Supreme Court.

The seers at the VHP meet at Haridwar also demanded that the Ram Setu should be declared as an anctient National Heritage monument. Incidently, Dr Swamy’s proposal to declare Ram Setu as national heritage monument is cleared by the Ministry of Culture and pending with the PMO. Swamy had also filed a PIL in the Supreme Court regarding the same.

It is hoped that PM Narendra Modi, who is proud of his cultural and religious heritage, unlike his other predecessors who were obsessed about appearing “secular” would declare the Ram Setu as a protected national heritage monument.

The Free Hindu Temples movement has intensified and unified Hindus to demand their fundamental right to pray, worship and establish and manage religious establishments just like their counterparts Muslims and Christians who enjoy the rights to establish, administer and manage their places of worship without government interference.

There about 39000 temples in Tamil Nadu alone under the control of government, which is completely mismanaged and in ruins. Totally in India the number of temples under government control would be over four lakhs, a secular state has no business to control and manage temples. It is surprising that the government wants to manage singularly Hindu temples when it is privatising secular services like education, health, telecom, insurance, banking, airways, railways, power and even strategic defence sector to implement its moto of good governance through minimum government and maximum governance.

It is hoped that the Hindus of India finally get their independence and freedom to worship, pray, establish and manage their religious establishments which was taken away by the British from 1810 onwards. This injustice continued even after independence by successive governments managing and administering Hindu temples, which belong to Hindu devotees and not secular governments.

News Input: News 18, Hindu Existence. Image Sourced from internet

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