Karnataka HC directs govt to appoint Hindu priest at Datta Peeta shrine

The Karnataka High Court on Tuesday directed the state government to appoint a Hindu priest at Datta Peeta, a cave shrine in Chikmagalur’s Baba Budangiri mountains.

It also quashed an order dated March 19, 2018, by Siddaramaiah-led Congress government which had permitted the appointment of only a Mujawar (Muslim priest) selected by Shah Khadri to enter the sanctum of the Sri Guru Dattathreya Swamy Peeta cave.

The Mujawar was also made to distribute ‘teertha’ or holy water to both Hindus and Muslims and perform other Hindu rituals.

The Court in its order observed that the impugned order was “a flagrant violation of rights of both communities guaranteed by Article 25 of the Constitution of India”.

What is the controversy?

Sri Guru Dattathreya Swamy Peeta is located on the Chandra Drona Range at Bababudangiri Hills in Karnataka’s Chikmagalur district. A sacred place for Hindus, it is said that the first Guru, Dattatreya, chanted the Vedas for his disciples at this very place.

“The Mysuru Wodeyars and Rani Keladi Channamma donated 200 acres to the cave shrine to conduct Trikala Pooja,” VHP Kshetriya Sanchalak Suryanarayan had informed while talking about the significance of the place.

Whereas, the Muslims claim it to be the place of Dada Hayat Mir Qualandar and refer it to as “Sree Gurudattathreya Bababudnaswamy Dargha.” They believe that the saint took up residence here more than 150 years ago and brought coffee seeds for the first time to India from Yemen.

However, the controversy around the peetha began when the temple in 1975 was handed over by the state government to the Wakf board from Muzrai Department, just before the Emergency was declared in the country.

Prior to that, it was a major Muzarai temple under the Mysore Religious and Charitable Institutions Act, 1927, according to court documents.

What did the Endowment commissioners report say?

The High Court in its order stated that as per the annual report of the Mysuru Archeological Department, 1932, Shri Guru Dattatreya Swami Peetha is a small cave in Baba Budangiri, which is sacred to both Hindus and Mohammadans. The Endowment commissioner’s report recorded Shri Dattatreya as the son of Sage Athri by his virtuous wife Anasuya and embodiment of Hindu trinity, the gods, Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva.

It further said that 1,861 acres of land was granted to Shri Dattatreya Devaru and 111.25 acres to Shri Baba Budan Dharga separately by the then Maharaja of Mysore. This Endowment commissioners report was submitted on March 10, 2010, before the Supreme Court. It suggested that a Hindu priest should be appointed by the management committee of the shrine.

The controversy once again picked up steam in 2018, just before the Karnataka state assembly elections, when the BJP accused Congress of pandering to minority voters by ordering the compulsory appointment of a Mujawar for the peetha.

Observations made by the HC

The Court’s order was in response to a petition filed by Guru Dattatreya Peetha Samvardhana Samithi with a plea to quash the impugned Government Order.

Referring to Article 25 of the Constitution and observing that the practice was against both Hindu as well as Mulsim faith, the Court remarked, “By the impugned order, firstly, the State has infringed upon the right of Hindu Community to have the pooja and archana done in the manner as per their faith. Secondly, the State government has imposed upon the Mujawar to perform ‘paduka pooja’ and to light ‘nanda deepa’ contrary to his faith.”

“Both these acts amount to flagrant violation of rights of both communities guaranteed by Article 25 of the Constitution of India,” the Court observed. It also stated six reasons to justify why the order was unsustainable. It also remarked that the High-Level Committee Report was not free from bias.

Source : OpIndia

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