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

Vijay Pingale: This man’s advice would have helped Chennai avoid flood fury – Zee News

Vijay Pingale

Vijay Maruti PingaleThree days after he named the defaulting road contractors, Pingale was shunted out of the Corporation of Chennai and moved to the Industries Department as Joint Secretary.

Chennai would have avoided the flood fury to a large extent had the authorities there paid heed to the warnings of an honest IAS officer, who had to pay a huge price for acting against  local contractors for their botched up road work in the city a few days ago.

As per reports, Dr Vijay Pingale, Joint Commissioner in Works Department of Corporation of Chennai, had acted heavily against the powerful contractor lobby for poorly laid roads just few days before incessant rains hit the state, later triggering a flood-like situation.

Pingale, an MBBS graduate and IAS officer of the 2004 batch, had undertaken several important initiatives in his 16 months tenure as the Joint Commissioner in the corporation.

Due to his fearless approach towards the defaulters, mostly in the matters related to road quality, this top official had earned a reputation for being highly competent and scrupulous.

On November 11, Pingale made public the names of nine contractors who were asked to reimburse the civic body Rs 2 crore for repairs the corporation carried out on stretches laid by them.

Vijay Maruti Pingale IASPingale had also promised to name other contractors for poor work and said the total penalties were likely to rise.

Pingale’s actions, however, irked the powerful contractor lobby who started building pressure on the political establishment to shunt him at the earliest.

“The penalties infuriated the contractors. Pingale insisted on accountability and never buckled to political pressure. This obviously did not go down well with some people,” a corporation engineer was quoted as saying in a report by The Hindu.

Another official who attended a monsoon review meeting headed by minister S. P. Velumani last week said the minister and other bureaucrats had taunted Pingale for being a straight arrow.

“It appears that the minister and senior officials had then decided that Pingale had to go,” he was quoted as saying.

“It was because of his expertise that we were able to limit water-logging when it rained,” the official said, on the condition of anonymity.

“If he remained in the corporation for two more years or so, he could have truly helped it move forward,” he added.

Consequently, just three days after he named the defaulting contractors, Pingale was shunted out of the Corporation of Chennai and moved to the Industries Department as Joint Secretary.

Pingale’s transfer came as no surprise for his associates who had the inclination of something unpleasant happening to the IAS officer soon.

Pingale’s transfer had affected work on ambitious corporation projects such as a pedestrian plaza in T-Nagar, state-of-the art public toilets for the city and a bicycle-sharing project to reduce vehicular congestion, not to mention his abortive attempt to give the city better roads by making contractors accountable for their work.

In hushed tone, corporation officials say inferior works by contractors, who had formed cartel to bag contracts from the corporation, use of poor quality materials to lay roads and massive corruption at various levels in the civic body had left the city’s roads potholed and broken with the first monsoon rain.

Now, when Chennai is slowly limping back to normalcy after days of flood fury, the officials of the corporation regret the day when Pingale was transferred for attempting to bring more transparency in  the civic body. – Zee News, 4 December 2015

Saidai Duraisamy

S. P. Velumani

Ripon Building Chennai

 

Chennai Floods: Modi mocked and ‘Amma’ missing in action during emergency – Malay Mail

Chennai Floods 2015

Chennai Floods 2015

Chennai Floods 2015Modi became the object of mockery on social media after his press office released a doctored photo of him inspecting flood damage. For both him and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa Jayaram, the image of strong leadership created by their publicity machines was undermined. – Reuters

One of India’s most powerful politicians, a former movie star called “Amma” or “Mother” by her followers, is being heckled and abused for going missing in action after floods swept the capital of the southern state of Tamil Nadu, which she rules.

It’s a salutary lesson for Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who at first drew nods of approval when he rushed to Chennai last week, promising to stand by its people in their hour of need.

Yet, within hours, Modi became the object of mockery on social media after his press office released a doctored photo of him inspecting flood damage.

For both him and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa Jayaram, the image of strong leadership created by their publicity machines was undermined.

Until the floods that ravaged the city of six million, the lofty remoteness of Jayalalithaa added to the aura around a leader with an almost hysterical following. Devotees of the 1960s screen idol have immolated themselves in her defence in the past.

Now, she faces a backlash from residents fed up with the sight of her image on billboards, aid packets and her own Jaya Plus TV channel. She has been seen in public only twice during the crisis—once with Modi.

Angry youths heckled a state minister and officials in Jayalalithaa’s north Chennai’s constituency, where people were sitting on the roadside amid sludge and mountains of garbage, their shanties swept away by the worst rains in a century.

“Forget about Amma coming here, there was no sign of the party cadres,” said one of them, called Dorairaj.

Chennai Floods 2015About 280 people have died across Tamil Nadu since torrential rains on December 1 submerged tracts of Chennai under up to eight feet (2.5 metres) of water, trapping people on rooftops with no communication.

There was further revulsion after a party legislator put up a poster of Jayalalithaa lifting a baby above the floodwaters, in a scene from a blockbuster movie. “Adding salt to the wounds,” said one Twitter post.

Avadi Kumar, a spokesman of her ruling AIADMK party, said there was anger among the people but the administration was doing all it could to bring relief: “It is impossible to reach all areas immediately or be present everywhere at all times.”

Good days

Modi’s own promise to voters of good days to come for India is also starting to face disenchantment, 18 months into his five-year term, with key reforms stalled by bureaucratic inertia and political gridlock.

Ambitious initiatives, such as a “Clean India” campaign, have made little headway—even as Modi has built up huge followings on social media and addressed enthusiastic diaspora Indians at packed stadiums on his many trips overseas.

“If today he appears to have lost control over his own narrative, it is his own fault,” commentator Tavleen Singh wrote in [the December 6th] Indian Express, urging Modi to hire a professional media team. Modi does not have an official spokesperson.

Jayalalithaa, 67, in the past considered as a possible prime ministerial candidate backed by regional groups, faces an election in Tamil Nadu next year.

Modi’s nationalist party has little presence in Tamil Nadu, a state of 70 million. It would rather the iron-fisted Jayalalithaa stays in power, believing she is more inclined to back his reform agenda in parliament than her rivals.

But there are concerns around her health and that she may have to curtail her campaign.

Earlier this year a higher court acquitted her in a graft case for which she was briefly jailed, which had caused an outpouring of anger from her supporters. Some lay down on roads and tried to persuade bus drivers to go over them.

“She is supposed to be a fantastic administrator. But this time there was no presence of government at all. Ordinary people did all the work that government and police were supposed to do,” said S. Raja, one flood-hit resident of Chennai. — MalayMail Online, 6 December 2015

Chennai Floods 2015

Chennai Floods 2015

Chennai Floods 2015

Chennai Floods 2015

Chennai Floods 2015

Chennai Floods 2015

Chennai Floods 2015

Chennai Floods 2015

There are many hundreds of private individuals, organisations, and civic workers serving in water-logged Chennai and assisting the city’s affected citizens (see the Google Crisis Page). We cannot begin to name them or show them in action, so we have limited ourselves to depicting images of the Air Force, Army, Navy, Coast Guard and NDRF sent by Prime Minister Modi, along with the Tamil Nadu Fire and Rescue Services. – Editor