“No government will have the courage to enact laws to take control of churches, mosques, dioceses and wakf boards and no party will ask for such legislation in the name of secularism. Secularism is only for Hindus and not for minorities. The HR and CE Act is a fraud on the Constitution. It is high time the temples were liberated.” – B.R. Haran
The recent episode of opening the secret vaults of Trivandrum Anantha Padmanaba Swamy Temple on the orders of Supreme Court and the subsequent expose of its wealth gave yet another opportunity to the ‘secular’ brigade to harp on and condemn Hindu religious traditions. The secular brigade, which never opens its mouth about the richness of the minority institutions and the huge foreign money flowing into them, gave ‘generous’ suggestions on how the temple’s wealth could be used for the ‘benefit’ of the nation and its citizens thereby upholding ‘secularism’. As the secular brigade exhibited its cleverness by talking only about the wealth of Hindu temples, a section of Hindus exposed its stupidity by debating how other ancient temples could also have such wealth and how they could be used for the uplift of society. One naïve scholar, asserting his scholarship, went to the extent of petitioning the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister requesting her to dig out the ‘wealth’ present under the Garuda Mandapam of the famous Srirangam Temple.
The law of the land, which is common and uniform throughout the country across all states and union territories for the religious minorities, is not so for the Hindu majority. This anomaly is clearly evident from the fact that the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Act is not uniform across the country. In a ‘secular’ country, which is supposed to have equal respect for all the religions, how could a state have control of only Hindu Temples and not other religious worshipping places? How come the HR and CE Act is enacted in some states and not so in some other states? So, it automatically throws a big question, whether the charter of HR and CE Act is Constitutional?
Although the Constituent Assembly felt that ‘secularism’ is ‘respect for all religions’ in Indian parlance, it has degenerated into pseudo and farcical over the years, and become a synonym for ‘anti-Hinduism’. The ‘secular brigade’, which comprises almost all major political parties, major and mainstream media houses (both print and electronic) and most of all intellectuals and ‘celebs’, has wreaked havoc in the society causing deep divisions.
While the ‘secular’ political parties indulge in vote bank politics by adopting appeasement policies, the ‘secular’ media, in connivance with those parties, take a blatantly anti-majority and pro-minority position religiously, notwithstanding its practice of creating and fuelling caste wise divisions among the majority community. On the other hand, the ‘intellectual’ section of the secular brigade, which is mostly left-oriented with a ‘liberal’ attitude enjoy travel tours with five-star treatment, organized by alien forces, to attend seminars and present lectures against the interests of their own country India, notwithstanding their talks and writings, which are blatantly anti-majority in the name of secularism.
The survival and sustenance of Hindu Dharma could be attributed mainly to two aspects namely, temple tradition and acharya parampara. The invaders were also aware of it and that was why they focused on destroying the temples, which stood tall as magnificent symbols of our cultural heritage. If the Islamists indulged in iconoclasm and forceful conversion, the Christians indulged in inculturation and evangelisation in addition to iconoclasm. During the British regime, they brought the temples under the government control in order to usurp the temple properties and loot their wealth.
After independence, our national leaders made a huge blunder of framing a Constitution, which did not reflect our ethos at all. Stuck with a colonial mindset, they relied on the British Constitution and a few other western countries’ constitutions and framed ours. Despite the partition and birth of Pakistan on religious grounds, they failed to exchange the population and created a Hindusthan. Later on, the continuation of MacCaulay system of education clubbed with the successive governments following Nehruvian secularism, the so-called independence turned out to be only a transfer of power, as the sufferings of the majority continued due to the second class treatment it got from the state.
The practice of vote bank politics and appeasement policies led to a gradual and steady acquisition of lands and properties and construction of worshipping places by the minorities totally disproportionate to their population. On the other side, the state started taking control of a large number of Hindu temples and maths while simultaneously using the temple revenue for civil and non-Hindu purposes leading to the reduction of temple lands and properties. Over the years, thousands of temples have also been demolished by the respective state governments in the name of developing infrastructures.
That which happened to the temple tradition, happened to the acharya parampara too. In a country which has a glorious tradition of guru-sishya parampara and great reverence for acharyas and religious gurus, moral values have degenerated to the extent of foisting cases on them and placing them under incarceration and subjecting them to even physical harassment. Governments run by pseudo secular political parties have developed the temerity to arrest Hindu swamijis on foisted charges and imprison them purely for political reasons. This outrageous act of persecuting Hindu gurus has started only with the advent of the UPA government led by alien-headed Congress. The atrocious trend, which started with the outrageous assault on Kanchi Acharyas, continues unabated, as evidenced by the brutal murder of Swami Lakshmananada Saraswathi and his disciples, incarceration of Swami Amritananda Dev Tirtha, Shankaracharya of the PoK-based Sri Sharada Sarvagya Peeth, harassment of Sadhvi Pragnya Singh Thakur (both on false charges of involvement in Malegon blasts and without even a shred of admissible evidence), imprisonment of Swami Aseemanand foisting the involvement in Samjhautha Train blasts on him maligning Sri Sathya Sai Baba by concocting dreadful stories about his ashram activities even after his samadhi and the atrocious midnight assault on Swami Baba Ramdev and his disciples even while they were sleeping.
De-Hinduisation as objective
If India still stands as a ‘Hindu Nation’ without losing its core values of religious tradition and cultural heritage despite the devastation perpetrated by the alien forces for more than thousand years, it is purely because of its spiritual strength and the basic principles of Sanatana Dharma. As the alien religions are not true religions per se, but purely political concepts in the garb of religions, they operate with the aim of capturing this nation. To accomplish this aim, de-Hinduisation of India becomes a necessity, which can be realised only by capturing or influencing the four pillars of democracy.
On the one hand, they have slowly and steadily infiltrated into the political, bureaucratic, educational and health care systems and to some extent into judiciary also. On the other, they indulge in expanding their land holdings, educational and health care institutions and infrastructures, increasing their domination even in entertainment industry, preaching and propagating their faiths and converting the gullible masses. Their political influence helps them increase their covert activities through their missionaries and NGOs and the secular media power extends huge support by projecting those activities as genuine.
Strategies for De-Hinduisation
To achieve the objective of de-Hinduising India, the secular brigade applies the strategies of attacking religious tradition, cultural heritage, nationalistic principles and influencing the psyche of the generation next.
So, in this kind of a hostile atmosphere, if at all the de-Hinduisation of India has to be stopped, the temple traditions and the acharya parampara have to be protected. It is possible only when the temples are liberated from government control and administered by the local Hindu communities under the guidance and blessings of acharyas. In this context, it is very imperative to know why the temples have to be freed from the government control, for there are still a considerable number of people who naively believe that temples would be better under the administration of government. There are many aspects around the temples which need to be preserved and protected. They are temple properties such as lands, buildings, movable properties such as motor vehicles, etc., bank accounts, temple jewels, temple murthys (images), kaala poojas and periodic festivals, prasadam (production and distribution) and hundies.
Though we have HR and CE Departments in all the southern states, let us take Tamil Nadu as an example
Between 1947 and 1990, 31 Acts have been passed with regards to tenants, share to the tenants, protection for tenants, formation of cooperative farming societies on the lands of religious trusts, provision of moratorium, recognition of sub-lessees, inclusion of rent arrears within the ambit of debts, extension of moratoriums, barring eviction of tenants, ex-parte reduction of trusts’ rent, stay of proceedings for collections and eviction, which proved totally detrimental to interests of temples.
The HR and CE Dept enjoins the officials concerned to collect the required data of all the holdings of the temples in time and document the following:
For every religious institution, there shall be prepared and maintained a register in such form as [the commissioner] may direct showing – the origin and history of the institution and the names of past and present trustees and particulars as to the custom, if any, regarding succession to the office of trustee; particulars of the scheme of administration and of the data of scale of expenditure; the names of all offices to which any salary, emolument or perquisite is attached and the nature, time and conditions of service in each case; the jewels, gold, silver, precious stones, vessels and utensils and other movables belonging to the institution, with their weights and estimated value; particulars of all other endowments of the institution and of all title-deeds and other documents; particulars of the murthis (images) and other images in or connected with the institution, whether intended for worship or for being carried in processions; particulars of ancient or historical records with their contents in brief; such other particulars as may be required by [the commissioner].
The perennial callousness of the Tamil Nadu government could be gauged from the fact that it doesn’t even know the actual number of temples which fall with the ambit of its own HR and CE Department. For example, from 1961 to 2001, the various government agencies and records have shown the number of temples in Tamil Nadu as ranging from 10,000 to 36,000. The glaring anomaly is that in 1961 the number of temples is shown as10, 532, which came down to 9, 532 the next year (1962). Similarly, in 1992 the then chief minister Jayalalitha announced in the assembly that the HR and CE Departments controls 40,000 temples, which came down to 33,700 as announced by her own HR and CE minister in 1995, whereas in 1989 itself the then minister K.P. Kandaswamy gave the figure as 35,150. Later the number went down to 36,355 in 2002 (DMK period) and at present the number of temples stands at 36,425. If a government doesn’t even know the correct number of temples under its control, how can it be expected to preserve and protect them and their properties?
No wonder the department dodges the RTI queries. And the last DMK government attempted to exclude the department from the ambit of RTI Act! T.R. Ramesh, Chennai based research scholar and RTI activist says, “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.”
India became a republic in 1950, and in 1951 the Tamilnadu government took control of the temples. With some changes in 1954 and 1956 the government enacted The Tamilnadu Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Act, 1959 (Tamil Nadu Act 22 of 1959). Between 1950 and 1959 the Madras High Court and Supreme Court heard different cases concerning Chidambaram Temple, Mulkipetta Venkataramana Temple and Shirur Mutt and ruled in all the cases categorically that the HR and CE Act 1951 was ultra vires of the Constitution and struck down the sections of the Act, which sought to appoint executive officers to religious institutions, as arbitrary and unconstitutional.
Pointing out the fraud committed by the Tamil Nadu government by enacting the Tamil Nadu Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Act, 1959 (Tamilnadu Act 22 of 1959), Ramesh says, “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.”
T.R. Ramesh also adds, “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 Kanchipuram, 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.”
Tamil Nadu has been alternately ruled by the two Dravidian parties DMK and the AIADMK since 1967. During every election and the resultant change of government, the state has witnessed trading of charges on crime, corruption, nepotism, etc., etc., between the two parties. They would spell out various charges like lack of governance, abuse of power, misappropriation of funds, favouritism, corruption and many more against each other, in almost all departments of government.
But, there is one and only one department where they do not point the finger at each other, brazenly collude for a combined loot. This department is a treasure trove – the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowment Department, HR and CE. The state had never seen any kind of corruption charges by either party against the other regarding the administration of over 30,000 temples in the state controlled by HR and CE.
Notwithstanding the lack of record about the number of temples under the department’s purview. There has been no proper record of the details of movable and immovable assets of each temple since the inception of HR and CE Department. Many are allegedly looted; many sold at throwaway prices; there is no proper track on collection of rents from the tenants using lands and buildings owned by the temples.
Most importantly, it is not clear if there is a proper account of the huge amount of jewels and ornaments belonging to the deities of these thousands of temples, many of them are more than 1000 and 2000 years old. There seems to be no proper auditing system of accounts, revenue and expenditure in place. Reliable sources say that the external auditing of the department has been done away with since 1985. If the government could question about the accounts of a private and denomination temple like the Sabanayagar Temple, Chidambaram, and take control of it, that too against the verdict of the Supreme Court, by citing maladministration by the concerned trust (in this case Podhu Dikshidar Saba) as reason, the same charge can be leveled against the government and the HR and CE Department also, by the general public, particularly the Hindu Bakthas, who worship and contribute regularly to the protection of Temple and its activities.
There is nothing wrong if the general public submit an RTI application asking for the accounts of jewels pertaining to the temples, say for example, a Mannargudi Rajagopalaswamy Temple or Thiruvarur Thiyagarajaswamy Temple. The government will have to answer. What is the guarantee that all the jewels of the thirty thousand plus temples are safe and pure? Who is going to check them? Theft in temples has been happening in Tamil Nadu every now and then. In fact, theft of jewels and murthis (images) has been rampant in the state and recently a huge racket was busted by the police. Even the connivance of official machinery cannot be ruled out.
A few years back, in the early eighties, an official was murdered inside the Thiruchendur Murugan Temple and jewels were also reportedly stolen. The government appointed a Commission of Enquiry under Justice CJR Paul. Till date the report has not seen the light of day and the enquiry officer also disappeared from the scene.
Though the temples bring in huge revenue, their periodical consecrations are done by funds raised from the public and money donated by philanthropists. The last DMK government took ‘lot of interest’ to do gold plating of vimanas and make golden chariots for utsava murthis in many temples. Media reports have alleged a lot of malpractices in the gold plating of vimanas and making of gold chariots. A Tamil bi-weekly reported swindling of 200 kilos of gold! The last DMK government also took ‘special’ interest to regularise the encroachers and usurpers as tenants, instead of evicting them, and also to reduce the rents of already existing tenants and lessees leading to a huge loss of revenue. If the government could not keep a proper record on the number of temples, one could imagine what sort of a record it would have on the temple lands and properties!
As in the past, the same trend is likely to continue in the present Jayalalitha regime too, as evidenced by the lack of specific mentioning about the HR and CE Department in its budget presentation two weeks back. The only mention was a paltry increase of Rs. 250/- in the ‘pension’ for odhuvars, archakas, poojaris and temple musicians and nothing else. Probably the AIADMK government thinks of only ‘taking’ from temples and not ‘giving’to them!
Despite the huge revenue, thousands of temples are left unattended in dilapidated conditions. The poor priests are not properly paid and taken care of. The huge revenue from the temples, which is ‘cent percent Hindu money’, is not spent exclusively for temples and Hindu causes. A considerable portion is allegedly spent on non-Hindu purposes and even civil governance. The temples are turned into restaurants in the name of ‘anna dhanam’ scheme and ‘prasadam stalls’; they are made as commercial enterprises by bringing different worshiping systems at different rates; department’s offices and libraries are built within the temple premises; meat stalls are allowed and public toilets are constructed adjoining the temple walls. The end result is the sanctity of the temples is lost! Both the Dravidian parties have alternately wreaked havoc in temple administration.
The same condition prevails in the other states too. The devastation caused by Samuel Reddy’s administration in the selling of temple lands, construction of churches on temple lands, evangelization attempts on Thirumala, etc., cannot be forgotten. Similarly the Kerala government’s interference in devaswom boards’ activities, particularly in famous temples like Sabarimala and Guruvayoor, etc, have been witnessed. The same prevails in Karnataka too.
No government will have the courage to enact laws to take control of churches, mosques, dioceses and wakf boards and no party will ask for such legislation in the name of secularism. Secularism is only for Hindus and not for minorities. The HR and CE Act is a fraud on the Constitution. It is high time the temples were liberated.
» B.R. Haran is a senior journalist in Chennai.
Filed under: archaeological survey of india, corruption, culture, god, goddess, hindu dharma, india, indian politics, psychological warfare, religion, temples Tagged: | anti-hindu, consitution of india, dravidian politics, hindu temples, hinduism, HR & CE Act, HR & CE department