So-called secular Indian state controls temples, not churches and mosques – Swaminathan Venkataraman

Gangaikonda Cholapuram Shiva Temple

Swaminathan VenkataramanRich temples such as Tirupati, Guruvayoor, or Mumbai’s Siddhivinayak Temple have routinely been raided to fund state budget programmes or line politicians’ pockets, while what happens in Tamil Nadu can only be described as wholesale loot. – Swaminathan Venkataraman

In April 2016, more than a 1,000-year-old temple, built by Rajendra Chola I in Thanjavur district of Tamil Nadu, was pulled down by the state government in the name of renovation. The government said the temple was only “dismantled” and would be put together again. In May 2010, the temple tower of the famous 500-year-old Kalahasti Temple in Andhra Pradesh, built by King Krishnadevaraya of Vijayanagara, collapsed. A UNESCO report released in August 2017 raised alarm that the Tamil Nadu government, which manages more than 36,000 temples, neither had the capacity nor qualified experts to carry out conservation work, leading to the “massacre” of ancient temples. These magnificent temples would be national treasures in any other country, and protected with great care. Tamil Nadu’s temples are indeed known globally, but the sheer scale of the treasure is unappreciated (dozens or hundreds of temples are over 1,000 years old) and numerous gems languish in obscurity, crumbling away for lack of care.

Foxes guarding the hen-house

This sorry state of affairs is the direct result of temples being managed by callous and corrupt state governments. Several Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HRCE) acts have allowed states to assume financial and managerial control of more than a hundred thousand Hindu temples. These HRCE departments are headed either by a cabinet minister or by ostensibly autonomous boards. According to a Supreme Court judgement, governments are free to appoint Marxists and non-believers to manage these departments.

During deliberations that preceded the passage of the landmark Madras HRCE Act of 1951, the premier of Madras, O. P. Ramaswamy Reddiar, assured the House of his government’s intention: “In bringing forward this Bill sir, let me make it clear that I have the highest interest of our faith at heart…. The regulation of Hindu temples and maths is regulation of the community’s life and conduct; the revival of our temples is the revival of our people…. If we do not make our temples a positive force, radiating a healthy progressive, social and cultural outlook, we shall be playing into the hands of the surging Godless crowd….”

How ironic then that temples are managed by Marxists in Kerala, atheist Dravidian parties in Tamil Nadu, or Christians such as Y. S. Rajasekhara Reddy in Andhra Pradesh, who tried to build a church right on top of Tirumala. They have wreaked havoc on the financial sustainability of temples, although ostensibly practising Hindu politicians are also culpable. Virtually all of Reddiar’s stated intentions stand belied or worse. T. S. S. Rajan, who introduced the bill in 1949, said, “Ours maybe called a secular government, and so it is. But it does not absolve us from protecting the funds of the institutions which are meant for the service of the people.”

This has been the pre-eminent rationale to justify government management of Hindu temples. In reality, state after state has used the precedent of Tamil Nadu to pass HRCE acts, seeing temple funds as cookie jars they can raid for all and sundry purposes. Mismanagement extends to all aspects of temple administration, and borders on the criminal.

Rich temples such as Tirupati, Guruvayoor, or Mumbai’s Siddhivinayak Temple have routinely been raided to fund state budget programmes or line politicians’ pockets, while what happens in Tamil Nadu can only be described as wholesale loot. The HRCE Department controls more than 4.7 lakh acres of agricultural land, 2.6 crore square feet of buildings and 29 crore square feet of urban land. The government, however, collects a mere Rs 36 crore in rent, while any reasonable measure will run into thousands of crores.

Financial mismanagement is compounded by gross incompetence when it comes to temple maintenance. There are numerous instances where ancient murals and paintings were white-washed, mandapams were demolished and walls sand-blasted causing precious inscriptions to disappear. While the government eventually issues notifications acknowledging the errors of such senseless acts, the damage is already been done, and new forms of egregious violations occur at other temples. There are long running rackets in the smuggling of exquisite ancient sculptures abroad and while there have been some notable successes in recapturing artifacts recently, they remain the tip of the iceberg. Moreover, the initiative and intelligence for these successes come from private efforts, like the one initiated by the India Pride Project.

Such a loot has been the inevitable outcome since modern bureaucratic control of temples commenced during the British rule. The first Collector of Chengalpattu, Lionel Place, noted in his “report on the jagir” of 1799 that, soon after he became the collector, he took over the “management of the funds of all the celebrated pagodas” into his own hands and allocated expenses for their festivals and maintenance. By 1801, these were converted to “fixed money allowances” under a “permanent settlement”.

An article on the Tirupati temple by the collector of North Arcot in the Asiatic Journal in 1831, is even more explicit: “It was a strange but determined piece of policy when throughout the country the pagoda lands were resumed by the company and tusdeck allowances were granted in their place…. Now let us contemplate the result of this plan. From one end of the country to the other, the pagodas are ruined, unmaintained…. The revenues of Tripetty are on a gradual decline and will die in the lapse of years a natural death. Some of the most celebrated temples in the country are worse off. But there are still, alas, many more strongholds of the devil.”

Legal apartheid against Hindus

These acts of what can only be called “state-sanctioned violence” acquire the colours of apartheid when compared with the rights of other religions in independent India. One of the great ironies of Indian secularism is that a vocally secular government sees no contradiction in managing Hindu temples—and only Hindu temples. The dramatically different legal, nay constitutional, position of the Hindus vis-a-vis other religions is best understood with reference to a few key provisions of the Indian Constitution, summarised below:

Article 14 — Equality Before Law

The State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India.

Article 15 — Prohibition of Discrimination on Grounds of Religion, Race, Caste, Sex or Place of Birth

Article 25 — Freedom of Religion

(1) Subject to public order, morality and health … all persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right to freely profess, practise and propagate religion;

(2)(a) Nothing in this article shall … prevent the State from making any law regulating or restricting any economic, financial, political or other secular activity which may be associated with religious practice.

Article 26 — Freedom to Manage Religious Affairs

Subject to public order, morality and health, every religious denomination or any section thereof shall have the right

(a) to establish and maintain institutions for religious and charitable purposes;

(b) to manage its own affairs in matters of religion;

(c) to own and acquire movable and immovable property; and

(d) to administer such property in accordance with law.

Article 29 — Protection of Interests of Minorities

(1) Any section of the citizens residing in the territory of India … having a distinct language, script or culture of its own shall have the right to conserve the same.

Article 30 — Right of Minorities to Establish and Administer Educational Institutions

(1) All minorities, whether based on religion or language, shall have the right to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice.

The Indian Constitution confers extraordinary protections on minorities. But crucially, the equality promised under Articles 14 and 15 and the freedom to manage religious affairs under Articles 25(1) and 26 are abrogated for Hindus, and Hindus alone, in the matter of their temples by recourse to Article 25(2)(a). By considering temple finances a secular matter, the tentacles of the state are now deeply entrenched into purely religious matters such as conduct of puja and other rituals.

Articles 29 and 30 together constitute yet another assault on the Hindu community and its unity. The right to manage institutions conferred by Article 30 ought to be a natural right for all communities. But Hindus alone have been denied this privilege. Article 29 virtually guarantees that Hindus will splinter into smaller groups that can claim minority status on the basis of language or culture, thereby securing immunity from the depredations of the state. Groups such as the Ramakrishna Mission, and now Lingayats, have claimed/are claiming minority status for this reason, as are many private educational institutions run by Hindus. As far back as 1927, the passage of the Hindu Religious Endowments Bill caused communities in Canara and Malabar to claim to be “separate and independent communities”. This harms the unity and integrity of India by encouraging more groups to separate as distinct entities, not because they have seen themselves as such historically but simply for constitutional convenience.

This also severely hampers the Hindu community’s ability to respond to the menace of religious conversions. Hindus are routinely accused of not performing adequate social service for the poor, unlike Christian missionaries. But how could they, when the government usurps temple funds and interferes in educational and other institutions?

By contrast, churches are completely free from interference and run schools and hospitals on a for-profit basis that fund conversion efforts. A comparison of the legal rights of various religions in India today is shown in the table below. Such institutionalised discrimination against an ostensible 80 per cent majority community is without parallel anywhere in the world.

Hindus have a right to manage their temples

The near total ignorance and indifference among the educated elite of India about how temples are managed is only now beginning to change, with the growth of a right of centre media ecosystem. But granting Hindus the right to manage their temples should not be a partisan issue. On the one hand, politicians of all hues have been guilty of misappropriating temple funds. On the other, intellectuals on the Left have opined just as much against state interference in temples.

Hinduism has a millennia-old history of local management of temple affairs. An inscription at the Tirupati temple from 1390 CE indicates the composition of the local management committee, while describing the share (nirvaham) of the prasadams to be given to the members:

• Four nirvaham for the Tirupati Srivaishnavas (local devotees)

• Three nirvaham for the sabhaiyar of Thirucchanur (local lawmakers)

• One nirvaham for the nambimar (priests of the temple)

• Two nirvahams for the kovil kelkum jiyars (Vaishnava religious heads)

• Two nirvaham for the kovil kanakku (accountants)

This is a structure that can easily be adapted to modern needs. There are legitimate questions about how temples would be managed and how corruption can be avoided, but no one questions the right or ability of minorities to manage their places of worship.

Claiming that the government must manage temples makes the implicitly bigoted assumption that Hindus alone are incapable of managing their temples. – Swarajya, 6 November 2017

» This article is part of Swarajya Heritage Program. If you liked this article and would like Swarajya to do more such ones consider being a sponsor—you can contribute as little as Rs 2,999. Read more here.

 
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RSS-BJP gaining ground in Kerala, Tripura and West Bengal – Kundan Jha

BJP in Kerala and Tripura

Sunday GuardianSince the arrival of Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the national stage, the BJP and RSS have been steadily gaining ground in communist-ruled states like Kerala and Tripura, as well as in Trinamool Congress-ruled West Bengal – Kundan Jha

Since the arrival of Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the national stage, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) have been steadily gaining ground in red bastions like Kerala and Tripura, as well as in Trinamool Congress-ruled West Bengal, earlier a red bastion for long, experts say. All these three states are witnessing changing social and political dynamics, they say.

The increasing popularity of the RSS in Left-ruled Kerala is evident from the fact that Kerala accounts for the maximum number—6,000—of RSS shakhas (branches) in the country, operating on a daily basis across all the state’s regions, and the number is rising. “The Left is losing ground in Kerala as more and more people are joining the RSS. In the last few years, Kerala has witnessed a rapid rise in the number of members joining shakhas and this is also one of the reasons that our workers are being attacked there,” J. Nandkumar, Akhil Bharatiya Sah Prachar Pramukh of the RSS, told The Sunday Guardian.

“The most noticeable sign of the rise of the RSS-BJP has been due to the use of the Kshetra Samrakshana Samiti (KSS or Temple Protection Committee) and Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) to build a ‘temple-based organised society’ and a ‘temple-based way of life’. Dozens of kavu, or ancient shrines, where Theyyam (Living God) performances have been held for centuries, have joined this drive by the RSS. Also, small family temples and old temples in need of maintenance have joined the KSS, as matters of private faith have been turned into public symbols of majority assertiveness,” said Manindra Nath Thakur, an expert on electoral politics, who teaches political science at the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU).

In the November-2015 local body elections, the BJP snatched the Palakkad municipality from the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) and also emerged as the second largest party in the Thiruvananthapuram corporation after the Left Democratic Front (LDF). If there are turning points, this certainly was one: the saffron party’s vote share rose from 10.5% in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections to 14% in the local elections. It was also a signal that the RSS had acquired the “critical mass necessary to openly pursue its agenda”.

“In the local body elections held in November 2015, the BJP emerged as the second largest party in the Thiruvananthapuram corporation after the LDF and this was certainly a turning point for the BJP in Kerala,” said Anand Desai, a political analyst who teaches social science in JNU.

However, experts give credit to Kummanom Rajasekharan for the BJP gaining ground in Kerala.  According to them, the appointment of Rajasekharan in 2015 as the BJP chief in Kerala has brought “good fortune for the party in the state”.

“Over the past decades, Rajasekharan has been playing an all-encompassing role in the functioning of the Hindu Aikya Vedi (HAV), the VHP, KSS, Balasadanams (for very young children) and Ekal Vidyalayas, schools run by Hindu outfits for children. Also, Rajasekharan brought well-known figures like G. Madhavan Nair, former chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation; T.K.A. Nair, principal secretary to former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, into the BJP, which has helped the party gain ground in Kerala,” Desai told The Sunday Guardian.

The rise of the consumerist Malayali and a thriving middle class has made the path for the rise of the BJP in Kerala easier, Desai added.

A similar story of the BJP gaining ground in Bengal is visible. Many Left leaders fear that the Left could be pushed towards political isolation, while the BJP will rise because of “sustained activities of the RSS” in Bengal’s districts where religious divide has started to emerge as a raging issue.

Left, Congress and BJP leaders, who have started preparing for the “biggest micro-level electoral exercise”, feel that 2018 will present a picture Bengal hasn’t witnessed yet and the state’s villages may “significantly break the political equilibrium” when panchayats go to the polls next year. “The number of RSS shakhas in Bengal has gone up from 475 till 2014 to 1,680 this year and members are steadily increasing,” RSS office bearer Nandkumar confirmed.

“In Bengal, it is mostly supporters of the CPI(M) and other Left parties who have switched allegiance to join the BJP and its parent organisation, RSS, in recent years,” Ritesh Tiwari, BJP state secretary of Bengal, told The Sunday Guardian.

The increasing vote share of the BJP in Bengal also tells the story of the party’s growth in the state. According to Election Commission data, in the 2009 parliamentary elections, the BJP manage to get just 6.4% vote. However, in the 2014 parliamentary elections, the party secured 17.02% votes by registering over 10% growth. The vote share of the BJP has increased in all the elections from the panchayat level to Parliament. However, over the same time period, the vote share of the Indian National Congress (INC) and Left parties has gone down. 

The BJP has also turned its gaze to Tripura, another red citadel. The tiny northeastern state is significant for the BJP as the Left has been ruling Tripura since 1993 and the Congress seems to be losing ground. Recently, the BJP made its maiden entry into the state Assembly in Tripura—one of the oldest Left bastions in the country—with six rebel Trinamool Congress legislators formally joining the party in Agartala. “A setback in Tripura would further marginalise the Left nationally. If the BJP manages to take on the CPM in Tripura in the coming elections in February, it will be a blow to the Communist Party’s efforts to cook up an alliance of non-BJP parties to counter Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the 2019 general elections,” said Tapas Majumder, BJP state secretary in Tripura. – Sunday Guardian, 12 August 2017

» Kundan Jha writes for The Sunday Guardian in New Delhi.

The Indian Marxist

Freeing temples from state control – Subramanian Swamy

Srirangam Temple Gopuram

Subramanian SwamyWhat is scandalous is the corruption after the takeover of temples as politicians and officials loot the temple’s wealth and land, and divert donations of devotees to non-religious purposes. – Dr Subramanian Swamy

The Supreme Court delivered a landmark judgment on January 6, 2013, allowing my Special Leave Petition that sought the quashing of the Tamil Nadu Government’s G.O. of 2006 which had mandated the government takeover of the hallowed Sri Sabhanayagar Temple (popularly known as the Nataraja Temple).

The Madras High Court Single Judge and Division Bench had in 2009 upheld the constitutionality of the G.O. by a tortuous and convoluted logic that new laws can overturn past court judgments that had attained finality earlier. The Supreme Court in 1953 had dismissed the then Madras Government’s SLP seeking the quashing of a Madras High Court Division Bench judgment of 1952 that had upheld the right of Podu Dikshitars to administer the affairs of the Nataraja Temple while dismissing all charges of misappropriation of temple funds against the Dikshitars. The Supreme Court thus made this judgment final and hence that which cannot be re-opened. But in 2009 the Madras High Court did precisely that. In 2014, in my SLP, the Supreme Court Bench of Justices B.S. Chauhan and S.A. Bobde therefore termed this re-opening of the matter as “judicial indiscipline” and set aside the 2009 Madras High Court judgment as null and void on the principle of res judicata.

In their lengthy judgment, the Bench has clearly set the constitutional parameters on the scope of governmental intervention in the management of religious institutions. In particular, the Court has opined that any G.O. that legally mandates a takeover of a temple must be for a fixed limited period, which I had suggested as three years.

The Dravidian movement intellectuals and politicians in various parties in Tamil Nadu are incensed with the judgment. The recent article “Reforms in the House of God” (A. Srivathsan in The Hindu January 13, 2013) is one such example that laments the Supreme Court judgment.

In this Dravidian movement background, it is not difficult to understand the views of those who believe that Hindu temples ought to be managed by the government, and that any deviation is a social, ethical, moral and legal sacrilege! In Mr. Srivathsan’s article it is stated that: “For almost a century, the Tamil Nadu government has been trying to bring the Chidambaram Natarajar Temple or the Sabanayagar Temple as it is officially known, under state administration”. This is one expression of the outlook that only Hindu religious affairs need to be managed by the government. The obvious question, why should a “secular, socialist” government control only Hindu places of worship, but not Muslim and Christian religious institutions clearly has been avoided.

But the country has moved on after the phase of British imperialist grip on Tamil Nadu during which phase the Dravidian Movement was founded. Prominent leaders of this Movement had declared that “blowing up of the Nataraja Temple by a cannon is the goal of the Dravidian Movement”. Unfortunately for them, in the last two decades, the rising popularity of the Hindu religion among the youth, and the debilitating corruption in financial affairs of the Dravidian movement have made such a violent aim unattainable. But the biggest roadblock is the Constitution of India.

In fact, what is scandalous is the corruption after takeover of temples by the Tamil Nadu officials, MLAs and Ministers by looting the temple wealth, lands, and jewels, and the reckless diversion of donations of devotees to non-religious purposes.

For example, temple properties: Tamil Nadu temples, under Hindu Religious & Charitable Endowments Department, has control over more than 4.7 lakh acres of agricultural land, 2.6 crore square feet of buildings and 29 crore square feet of urban sites of temples. By any reasonable measure, the income from these properties should be in thousand of crores of rupees. The government, however, collects a mere Rs. 36 crore in rent against a “demand” of mere Rs. 304 crore—around 12 per cent realisation. How much is under the table only a court-monitored inquiry can reveal. In any corporate or well-managed organisation with accountability, those responsible would have been sacked. Yet, we have people rooting for “government administration”.

Temples themselves: The Srirangam Ranganathar Temple paid the government a (yearly) fee of Rs. 18.56 crore (2010-11) for “administering the temple”; for employees rendering religious services, like reciting Vedas, pasurams during the deity procession, no salary is paid. There are 36 priests in Srirangam who perform the daily pujas—they are not paid a monthly fixed salary. They are entitled to offerings made by devotees and a share in the sale of archana tickets. Yet the temple pays a monthly salary ranging from Rs.8,000 to Rs.20,000 for the temple’s government-appointed employees, like watchman, car drivers etc. who perform no religious duties.

The situation is “significantly” better at the famous Nelliappar Temple in Tirunelveli. In this temple, priests performing daily pujas are paid monthly salaries, but ranging from Rs. 55 to Rs. 72 (and this is during 2010-11). But did some politician not say you can have a hearty meal for Rs. 5 per day? But it is just Rs. 1.65 per day, going by the standards of the “secular” government.

Many large temples maintain a fleet of luxury vehicles, typically the “fully loaded Toyota Innova”, for the use of VIPs! And for the use of assorted Joint and Additional Commissioners and, of course, the Commissioner himself. It is very difficult to understand the religious purpose such extravagance serves or even a ‘secular’ purpose! The HR & CE Dept takes away annually around Rs. 89 crore from the temples as administrative fee. The expenditure of the department including salaries is only Rs. 49 crore. Why does the government overcharge the temples—literally scourging the deities—for a sub standard service?

Temple antiquity: The third “contribution” of the government is the mindless destruction of priceless architectural heritage of our temples.

There are several instances of sand blasting of temple walls resulting in loss of historical inscriptions; wholesale demolition of temple structures and their replacement by concrete monstrosities; in a temple in Nasiyanur near Salem, an entire temple mandapam disappeared, leaving behind a deep hole in the ground, literally.

Recently the government started covering the floor of Tiruvotriyur Thyagaraja Temple with marble, a stone never used in south Indian temples. The original floor was of ancient granite slabs with historical inscriptions. There are several initiatives for “renovation” of temples—the bureaucrats rarely consult archaeologists or heritage experts. Without knowledge, experience, competence or appreciation and with great insensitivity they use inappropriate chemicals on ancient murals, insert concrete/cement structures, use ceramic tiles to “embellish” sanctum sanctorum and construct “offices” within temple premises. Ancient monuments 300 to 1000 plus years old are never “renovated”, only “restored”, a distinction that escapes the babus.

More importantly, the Supreme Court, in the 2014 Chidambaram case has held that the government cannot arbitrarily take over temples, which is what has been happening in Tamil Nadu under the Dravidian movement’s influence.

In the case of Trusts and Societies, takeover of temples can happen, the Supreme Court held, only on establishing a clear case of mal-administration and that too the takeover can be for a limited period, and the management of the temple will have to be handed back immediately after the “evil has been remedied”.

There are several large temples in Tamil Nadu under government control for several decades. If the Supreme Court judgment is applied, then the government is in illegal, unethical and unfair control of these temples. apart from being answerable for innumerable acts of dereliction of duty, defiling of temples that has resulted in loss of several thousands of crores of rupees to the temples and to their antiquity. That is my next move—to liberate all Hindu temples presently in government control on expired GOs. In the future we need to bring some mosques and churches to rectify the mismanagement going on in these places. Then the secularism of India’s intellectuals will be truly tested. – The Hindu, 12 September 2016

Chidambaram Nataraja Temple

India’s honest majority look to Modi to cleanse bureaucracy – M.D. Nalapat

Corruption in the Indian bureaucracy

Prof M.D. NalapatOnly an accelerated drive against high-level official corruption may motivate citizens into enduring for months more the pain caused by the incompetence of much of the bureaucracy tasked with implementing the epochal policy unveiled by PM Modi on 8 November 2016. – Prof M. D. Nalapat

The most meaningful “majority, minority” dichotomy in India is between those citizens who are honest and those others who are dishonest, i.e. those who correctly pay the numerous taxes due and those who do not. Despite the reality that continuous additions to the colonial governance codes in India have arbitrarily criminalised swathes of activity that are legal in practically all other democracies, it would be safe to say that the “majority community” in India (i.e. those who are honest) comprise 90% of the population, leaving 10% in the “minority”. Even within that sometimes under-appreciated group, government servants, about 75% are honest and less than a quarter crooked, judging by the many this columnist has come across. Among officials, around 10% occupy posts which have the potential to make a significant difference to the situation facing the public.

It is on this 2.5% of the total of government employees that Prime Minister Narendra Modi needs to most concentrate on. Corrupt officials have an outsize influence on policy. They have the ability to move up the promotion ladder much faster than the honest, who need to spend most of their time trying to make both ends meet till the next payday, rather than wooing their superiors and political heavyweights in the manifold ways that the crooked have access to. Indeed, the uninterrupted flood of repressive laws and regulations that each government unleashes on the population demonstrates the choke-hold of the upper echelons of the 2.5% of officials who are dishonest. 

Almost all such regulations are broad and vague enough to be subject to misuse, thereby becoming manna for the dishonest rather than (as pious declarations accompanying such measures invariably aver) balm for the honest. The historically outsize influence of the dishonest in the actual working of the governance system ensures that many honest citizens get penalised under such laws and regulations, usually for technical violations, even while relatively few of the big fish get caught. These latter have the means to reach out to the dishonest minority within the governance system, thereby ensuring their safety. For public consumption, there may be a prime time hullaballoo raised by the very officials who are shielding them. However, proof of official intent vests in practical outcomes. If depredators either escape or get away with a mere wrist slap (such as a small fine), it is reasonable to assume that much more than conversation was exchanged between officials and the wrongdoer. When the political executive is being served a menu of policy options, and the judiciary the chance to review them, these two pillars of the governance system need to factor in the reality of corruption within the system in weighing and discounting recommendations made by officials which may focus not on the public interest but on their own and that of other corrupt individuals.

RBI ATMThe Reserve Bank of India has believed since the time of Governor Yaga Reddy that the 1.26 billion people of India should be made to adopt the cashless ways of Sweden, despite the difference in conditions between the life of the median Swede and the median citizen of this country. It is clear from 8 November that RBI Governor Urjit Patel looks askance at those citizens with zero untaxed income who have nevertheless withdrawn substantial amounts of cash from their accounts to use towards patronising the (much-derided by Central bankers ) “informal” economy. The most trumpeted e-gateway in India for making payments is controlled by Jack Ma, who when last sighted was not an Indian citizen. Indeed, foreign rather than domestic interests have a lock on most major internet and mobile telephony entities in India. And “Indian” banks have been silently taken over by foreign entities. US shareholders dominate the big credit card gateways used in India, with Chinese shareholders in the same companies coming a close second and those with Indian citizenship nowhere on the equity horizon. Unless PM Modi manages to endow digital keys to over 600 million citizens within his term, for a considerable time to come it is more socially advantageous to put (taxed) rupees in the hands of the poor and the lower middle classes such as small shopkeepers and crafts-persons, rather than entirely through plastic controlled by multinational interests that are gaining in advantage over their domestic competitors with every passing day because of the rupee falling while interest rates and crippling regulations rise, with some rules making the word “draconian” an extreme understatement. An individual may have kept apart substantial cash (drawn from his or her bank account and shown in tax returns ) not to pay the “black” component of a future real estate purchase, but to make repairs to a temple entering the stage of dilapidation. The grim 1970s-style warnings issued by officials to taxpayers who prefer holding on to and paying with cash are making honest taxpayers, rather than the big crooks, nervous about depositing their clean “old” cash in banks despite the fact that such holdings will become waste paper after 30 December. Prime Minister Modi must protect the honest majority of citizens from crooked officials expert at using technical or imagined violations into darts designed to squeeze payments from honest taxpayers. Modi needs to ensure that the regulations being unveiled day after day on television be designed so as to protect the honest and get used on “bulk carriers” and not only small “fishing boaters” of black cash. A sniper rifle should be used in enforcement that aims at big fish rather than allow bureaucrats to wield blunderbusses spraying multiple innocents even as they incentivise the guilty to increase the bribe offer. 

India’s honest overwhelmingly cast their 2014 votes for Narendra Modi. The target of his next high-octane “surgical strike” should be the crooked among the higher rungs of the bureaucracy. Those who have defiled the noble calling of government through graft and misfeasance should be made to encounter justice rather than peacefully catch a flight together with family to London or Miami for—in more than a few cases—a very long stay. Only an accelerated drive against high-level official corruption may motivate citizens into enduring for months more the pain caused by the incompetence of much of the bureaucracy tasked with implementing the epochal policy unveiled by PM Modi on 8 November 2016. – Sunday Guardian, 26 November 2016 

Corruption in India

Whether UPA or NDA, discrimination against Hindus and Hindu temples continues – Kanimozhi

Padmanabhaswamy Temple Gopuram

Lady ReporterWhy should government control Hindu temples, while churches and mosques are given a free hand? Why is the government spending, tax-payers’ money towards churches and masjids, while diverting most of the money collected from temples into non-temple, non-Hindu activities? – Kanimozhi

There are as many as 2,07,000 temples in Karnataka and the total income of these temples amounts to Rs 72 crore. Only a sum of Rs. 6 crore is being spent by the Government for their upkeep. On the other hand, the Government spent a phenomenal amount of Rs. 50 crore for the madrasas and Rs. 10 crore for the churches,” Sri Sri Ravi Shankar said in 2003.

That was when S. M. Krishna of Congress was the chief minister of Karnataka. In the last 13 years, while the income from the temples has doubled, and the amount spent towards madrasas and churches has also doubled, the amount spent on the upkeep of the temples has remained the same. During these 13 years, Janata Dal (S) and the BJP were in power between 2006 and 2013 and the Congress is in power since then, but the condition of temples continues to remain pitiful.

Here are some key-facts from a 2003 article by Anjali Patel, which are dated but still relevant today:

  • 70% (Rs. 50 crores) of Hindu temples’ money is diverted for Muslim madarasas and haj by Indian Government.
  • 5,000 temples in Karnataka were to be closed down due to lack of funding and maintenance.
  • During Kumbh Mela in Nasik, each Hindu devotee was forced to pay Rs. 25 to Rs. 50 for a dip in the holy water. Congress, BJP and Shiv Sena said nothing about this (while giving money to Muslims and Christians).
  • If a Hindu or a Sikh wishes to visit holy places in Kailash Mansarovar or Gurudwara in Pakistan, leave alone subsidy, they are forced to shell out large amounts of money to visit their holy places, while Muslims enjoy massive 70% subsidy for their visit to haj in Saudi Arabia, which is paid from the pockets of taxpaying Hindus. The gross income of TTD for the year (2014-15) is estimated to be Rs. 2359.2 crores ($385.33 mn)

The issue here is not just about the government misusing the funds collected from the temples, or taxpayers’ money being spent on subsidizing religious travel of a particular community, the issue is much beyond that.

But, let us first understand the difference between Hindu temples and the places of worship belonging to other religions.

Dr. Subramanian SwamyAccording to Dr. Subramanian Swamy, as he explains very clearly in this video (see below), the temples are the places of inhabitance of our Gods, and not simply a place to offer prayers. The construction of a temple and the subsequent installation of the idol involves processes called prana pratishta, by which the very presence of Gods are established within the premises of the temples and thus, the temples become the abode of the Gods. On the other hand, a mosque or a church, is simply a place to offer namaz or prayers, respectively, and they have no conception of these places as being the very abode of God.

Most Hindu temples have a rich story to tell and during ancient times they were also utilized as places of learning. But, today, it is disheartening to see, how temples have transformed from being places of learning to being commercial complexes, from which government is pocketing crores of rupees as income every year. The ground situation for adherents of Hinduism has become critical over the last seven decades, mainly due to political interference and politics of discrimination and appeasement. Though, India got independence in 1947, and the constitution guarantees Right to Religion, it appears that the implementation has catered to the needs of all communities, except the Hindus. This is especially troubling, since India is a Hindu-majority nation.

The successive governments and political masters, need to answer why this discrimination against Hindus? Why should government control Hindu temples, while churches and mosques are given a free hand? Why is the government spending, tax-payers’ money towards churches and masjids, while diverting most of the money collected from temples into non-temple, non-Hindu activities?

If only the Hindu community is given back the control of the temples and their activities, then the money collected from the temples could be utilized for so many community oriented, religious, cultural, and educational activities.

Hindu temples are not the sacred places that they should be, because, they are not under the control of Hindu community. The income from most of the Hindu Temples, the offerings by the devotees, etc. goes to the government treasury and become government revenue and hence, the Hindu community has no say as to how the temple money is utilized. Prior to 1925, the Sikh Gurdwaras were in control of Udasi mahants, who were largely perceived as corrupt and degenerate from the mainline Sikhs. The Sikhs fought hard and forced the British to pass a law, which brought the administration of Gurdwaras under the control of an elected body of the Sikh people. That law is the Sikh Gurdwaras Act 1925. That law has worked exceptionally well and has satisfied the Sikhs’ desire of being in control of their Gurdwaras and overseeing them as per the group’s mandate. This is one of the best examples that Hindus can emulate.

Sri Siddhivinayak TempleTemple statistics

The government takeover of temples has resulted in several state governments running full-length ministries for the management of various activities of those temples. The erstwhile Andhra Pradesh government, for instance, employed 77,000 people to ensure “smooth conducting of pujas” in its 33,000 temples. Similar numbers could be found in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, and Kerala. Ministries for management of temples are present in some north Indian temples as well. This is one of the immense incongruities of Indian secularism is that a vocally non-religious government sees no contradiction in overseeing Hindu sanctuaries, and just Hindu temples.

Such systematized oppression and discrimination against the majority community, which constitute around 80% of the population of the country, is without parallel on the entire planet. Some Hindu sampradayas, for example, the Ramakrishna Math and Mission have even attempted to claim “minority” status so as to preserve their institutions from government interference. This continuing grip of the government over administration of Hindu sanctuaries is not only an infringement of the religious rights of the Hindus, but has also resulted in massive corruption and abuse of assets. Add to this, the government’s apathy and utter disregard towards the sacredness and sanctity of the temples.Add to this, the utter disregard and contempt shown towards the sacredness and sanctity of the temples.

In 1980s, the then Kerala chief minister K. Karunakaran had ordered the Guruvayur Temple to transfer 10 crore rupees from its bank account to the state treasury to offset financial deficit. Whether the amount was ever returned or not is doubtful. What’s more, the temple’s property was reduced from 13000 acres of land to a meagre 230 acres of land by the Land Reforms Act (pdf), which helpfully avoided non-Hindu foundations. In 2004, the Maharashtra government admitted to diverting US$ 190,000 from Mumbai’s Siddhivinayak temple to a charity run by a politician, in the Bombay High Court. In Tamil Nadu, the HR&CE Department controls more than 4.7 lakh acres of land of horticultural area, 2.6 crore square feet of structures and 29 crore square feet of urban place that is known for temples. The earning from these properties must be at least few thousand crore rupees, yet the government collects a meagre Rs 36 crore in rent. This is a classic case of corruption and underhanded dealings.

Politically influential people have shamelessly appropriated temple property for individual use. A friend of mine narrates how a representative from the Tamil Nadu HR&CE Department would arrive at one of the small temples in the state to collect the money deposited in the temple hundi and would pocket a part of it for his personal use. Petty corruption, underhanded dealings, and misuse of temple assets are rampant in the government administration of the temples.

Ram Lalla VirajmanAyodhya, Will a temple be built there ever?

Ayodhya is among the most sacred places for Hindus across the country. According to Hindu Itihasa (history) texts, Lord Rama was born, brought up, and ruled from Ayodhya. But, for the last many decades Ram Janmabhumi has been in the middle of political dispute. The dispute traces its origin to the destruction of the Hindu temple in Ayodhya and construction of a mosque in its place during the reign of Babar of Moghul dynasty in the 16th century. The recent excavations in the area have also confirmed the presence of a Hindu temple beneath the demolished Babri mosque. Yet, a new temple for Lord Ram is yet to see the light. Though, BJP leader Subramanian Swamy has expressed a certainty that such a temple will be built soon, it remains to be seen how much of his assertion will materialize on the ground.

Conclusion

It is high time that Hindus realize that their government is discriminating against them in the name of secularism. Income from Hindu temples should be spent on those very temples and on activities that enrich Hindu community and propagate Hindu religion. For this, it is vital that temples are freed from government control and are instead managed by the community. Hopefully, the Supreme Court, which is scheduled to hear today, the petition of late Swami Dayananda Saraswati to free temples from government control, will be able to address these genuine concerns of the Hindu community. IndiaFacts, 13 July 2016

» Kanimozhi is a NRI living in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA. She is an engineering electro-mechanical consultant and the founder of the Kurukshetra2019.com web portal. 

Venkateshwara Temple Tirumala

India’s secularism is anti-Hindu – David Frawley

Vamadeva Shastri / David Frawley“India is the only country that is exploiting, not defending its majority religion, and rewarding minority religions. It sounds more like a continuation of the old British Raj than a country that honors its indigenous traditions, which in the case of India are ancient, vast and profound. Relative to India’s foreign affairs, the country has rarely defended Hindu interests the way secular Western countries like the USA watch over Christian concerns throughout the world.” – Dr David Frawley

India is the only country in the world today where the principle of secularism is invoked for regulating the practices and taking funds from the majority religion, while protecting and subsidising minority religions.

Secularism in the West originally refers to a separation of church and state, rejecting church interference with state policies. Churches should not dictate state policies and the state should not dictate religious policies.

In India, on the contrary, the principle of secularism is used to justify state and judicial interference in the religious sphere – yet for one religion only, the Hindu.

India’s judiciary makes decrees regulating Hindu religious festivals and deciding who is allowed into Hindu temples, but it does not regulate minority religious practices in the same manner. Besides anti-Hindu discrimination by the courts, state governments take the revenue gained from Hindu temple offerings and use it for their own purposes, which may include funding minority religious causes.

Gold CoinsThis is in spite of the fact that minority religions inside India represent majority religions outside of India and receive considerable foreign help, including through numerous NGOs. It provides minority religions a financial and political power far beyond their actual numbers.

Secularism in the West

Secular Western governments do allow tax breaks to religious groups. In the USA over $ 70 billion in tax exemptions yearly is afforded to religious institutions, mainly to Christianity, the majority religion. Minority religions are not excluded from these exemptions but must work harder to receive them. For example, getting Hindu temples approved, in the few Western countries that recognize Hinduism as a legal religion, is much more difficult than getting churches approved.

If minority religions in the USA were to gain the special tax benefits and support that they receive in India, and America’s majority religion of Christianity regulated like majority Hinduism, many American religious groups would try to become minority religions just to gain the benefits involved.

In many European countries, on the other hand, governments either provide direct funding to churches or aid in collecting church taxes, reflecting vestiges of favoritism for majority religions. This includes Austria, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Italy, Sweden and Switzerland.

India, an Anti-Hindu State

In India, some claim that state governments can manage temples better than Hindu religious groups, even allowing atheists or non-Hindus on to Hindu temple boards. That states do a good job of managing temples is quite debatable. But it is not the right of the states to do so, and they do not attempt to for Christian or Islamic institutions, however poorly these may be run.

The fact is that no secular state worth its name has a right to regulate religious practices. If it does so, it should not be called secular but a religious state. In the case of India, the country might be better called an anti-religious state, specifically an “anti-Hindu state”, as interfering only with the majority religion.

India is the only country that is exploiting, not defending its majority religion, and rewarding minority religions. It sounds more like a continuation of the old British Raj than a country that honors its indigenous traditions, which in the case of India are ancient, vast and profound. Relative to India’s foreign affairs, the country has rarely defended Hindu interests the way secular Western countries like the USA watch over Christian concerns throughout the world.

India’s secularism is also allied with socialism. Socialism works upon the principle of redistribution of wealth from the rich to the poor. India’s secular socialism, it seems, seeks to redistribute the wealth and power from the majority religion to minority religions!

Chief Justice of IndiaRole of India’s Media

And how does India’s media view this problem? It has never exposed the hypocrisy of secularism in India. Quite the contrary, India’s media portrays Hindus as a privileged majority, as if the laws benefitted them unfairly. It promotes anti-Hindu attitudes, and encourages government and judicial interference in Hindu affairs.

And when Hindus complain about the brazen discrimination against them, the media accuses Hindus of being intolerant. No religious group in the world today tolerates the kind of judicial regulation, state interference, and media denigration such as Hindus in India have to routinely face. Much less denigration has been blamed for fueling terrorism in Islamist groups.

India Crossed-OutWhy do Hindus allow this?

The question is why Hindus allow such discrimination against their religion in a country where they constitute a decisive majority. One cannot imagine Muslims in Pakistan or Christians in the West acquiescing to such discrimination. The Islamic world is quite the opposite. Islam is promoted blatantly in Islamic countries, including the enforcement of Islamic law on all groups in the society. Other religions are marginalized or suppressed by governments said to be Islamic democracies or Islamic republics, not to mention overt religious states like Saudi Arabia that ban them altogether.

This Hindu apathy appears to be a hangover from the long period of foreign rule and is rooted in anti-Hindu policies by the dominant Congress party in decades past. It includes a lack of self-confidence, ignorance of the extent of the problem, or protecting benefits that some individuals or groups may receive from these discriminatory policies. Denigrating Hindu practices is part of a political strategy of appeasing minority vote banks, and trying to weaken and divide any potential Hindu vote.

Yet as long as Hindus do not create a mass grassroots level movement to reclaim Hindu temples from state management, and remove court interference in Hindu religious affairs, these biases are likely to continue. The current BJP national government, which is not under the compulsions of India’s hypocritical secularism, should encourage such a national awakening, not only for Hindus but for true religious freedom in the country. – Swarajya, 2 May 2016

» Dr David Frawley (Pandit Vamadeva Shastri) has a D. Litt. (Doctor of Letters), from SVYASA (Swami Vivekananda Yoga Anusandhana Samsthana), the only deemed Yoga university recognized by the Government of India.

Hindus Rising

See also

Congress attempts to takeover Kamakhya Temple – Jayant Chowdhury

Kamakhya Temple, Nilachal Hills, Assam

Journalist“This is a shameless attempt by the Tarun Gogoi government to run the temple through its chosen agents. The government has no business to run a temple or any place of worship, be it a mosque, church, gurdwara or synagogue. The Kamakhya Temple is being run perfectly well and the Tarun Gogoi government was trying to subvert last year’s Supreme Court verdict restoring the task of running the temple to the Dolois, as has been the age-old practice. We will strongly oppose any attempt by this government to resuscitate the bill,” said BJP leader Himanta Biswa Sarma. – Jayant Chowdhury

Tarun GogoiAn attempt by the Tarun Gogoi-led Congress government in Assam to take over the management of the ancient Kamakhya temple has been nixed, albeit temporarily.

The state government had introduced a bill (the Assam Sri Sri Maa Kamakhya Devalaya Management Bill, 2015) in the state assembly on Monday that would have led to the creation of a board, headed by a serving or retired IAS officer and comprising members nominated by the government, representatives from the temple management, and the district administration as well as the state revenue and finance departments, to look after the management and development of the temple.

After Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) members objected to the bill, the government withdrew it temporarily.

But to fully understand the sinister motive behind the Congress government’s attempt to take over the Kamakhya Temple, it is important to delve a bit into its history. The management and administration of the Kamakhya Temple, one of the most powerful Shakti peeths and an important religious site for Hindus, has been under two ‘Dolois’ who are elected by the ‘Bardeuris’ or priests of the principal Kamakhya Temple, since the time of the Ahom kings.

These Bardeuris are descendants of the famous Kanyakubja Brahmins of Kannauj and were brought over to run the Kamakhya temple by Maharaja Dharmapala of the Pal dynasty in mid-11th century. There are four clans of Bardeuris and each adult male of the four clans (there are around 450 of them) can stand for election to the post of the two Dolois .

The person getting the highest number of votes becomes the ‘Dangor Doloi’ and the one getting the second-highest votes become the ‘Xoru Doloi’ (‘Dangor’ means ‘elder’ in Assamese, and ‘Xoru’ is ‘younger’). The two Dolois have five-year tenures.

In 1992, Jnananda Prasad Sarma and Paran Chandra Sarma were elected as the ‘Dangor’ and ‘Xoru’ Dolois respectively. But when their terms were about to end in 1997, they constituted the Kamakhya Debutter Board to run the temple. Over time, this Board came to be packed with priests and pandas loyal to the Congress, which has been in power for most of the time in Assam since Independence.

The Kamakhya Bardeuri Samaj filed a case against the Debutter Board at the Gauhati High Court in 1998 and the High Court, in November 2011, ruled that the Board had no locus standi and the affairs of the temple should be handed over to the Bardeuris. But the Board challenged this verdict in the Supreme Court which, on July 7, 2015 upheld the High Court verdict. This was a big blow to the Congress government in Assam, which could no longer remote-control the affairs of the temple through the Debutter Board that was packed with its loyalists and lackeys.

Kamakhya DeviBut the state government did not honour a vital part of the SC order. “The Supreme Court had asked the district authorities to seize the premises, accounts and properties of the Kamakhya Devalaya from the Debutter Board and hand them over to the Bardeuri Samaj. But even six months after that order, we haven’t got the accounts of the temple and most of the properties. So we filed a contempt petition in the Supreme Court last month,” said Bhaskar Sarma, the secretary of the Kamakhya Bardeuri Samaj.

The bill brought by the Tarun Gogoi government is, thus, a sinister attempt to subvert the Supreme Court order and take over the management of the temple. On getting to know of the state government’s plans to introduce the bill, members of the Bardeuri Samaj launched an indefinite hunger strike from January 30.

The state’s move attracted criticism and widespread condemnation from intellectuals and cultural personas of the state as well as the powerful All Assam Students’ Union and the opposition BJP and the AGP. When the bill was tabled, Opposition members questioned the motive behind the bill, especially since the Kamahya Temple was being run perfectly well by the two Dolois and the Bardeuri Samaj. They also said the age-old traditions of the historic shrine should not be interfered with, and pointed out that the Bardeuri Samaj had not been consulted. Facing flak within and outside the Assembly, the government kept the bill in abeyance. However, it has not dropped the bill and chances are that it would try again to introduce and pass the bill.

The Opposition, while questioning the Congress government’s motives, has also pointed out that governments have no business managing the affairs of religious places. “This is a shameless attempt by the Tarun Gogoi government to run the temple through its chosen agents. The government has no business to run a temple or any place of worship, be it a mosque, church, gurdwara or synagogue. The Kamakhya Temple is being run perfectly well and the Tarun Gogoi government was trying to subvert last year’s Supreme Court verdict restoring the task of running the temple to the Dolois, as has been the age-old practice. We will strongly oppose any attempt by this government to resuscitate the bill,” said BJP leader Himanta Biswa Sarma.

AGP leaders also spoke in the same vein and wondered why the Tarun Gogoi government is targeting the Kamakhya Temple. “In that case, the government should take over the management of all mosques and churches in the state. Can Tarun Gogoi dare do that?” wondered a senior AGP leader.

In Assam, a wide cross-section of the citizenry are dismayed by the Congress government’s attempts to interfere in the management of a Hindu place of worship and are asking if Tarun Gogoi can even think of taking over the management of any mosque or church in the state. – Swarajya, 4 February 2016

» Jayant Chowdhury is a commentator on politics and society in Bengal and eastern, including north-eastern, India.

Sonia Gandhi & Tarun Gogoi