Dismantle Devaswom Boards : State has no right to loot temple funds

Phalgun Shuddha Chaturdashi, Kaliyug Varsha 5111

By Ravi Varma

It is high time to take up the following for the judicious consideration or rational analysis and sagacious judgment of Honable High Court of Kerala to decide as to whether in the context of the below-explained reasons, administrative decisions and the consequent activities of the State and Central Government-the Executive-are volatile of well understood provisions of the highly acclaimed Indian Constitution in spirit and ethical value and in the back ground of the ancient cultural tradition and heritage of the country.

As per the popular understanding and the dictionary meaning of terms, secularism, a government is committed to secular principles, has nothing to do with and also prohibited from indulging in the religious matters or any section or community in the country, whether they belong to majority community or minority religious community. Otherwise, the state is particular religious state like Islamic or Christian or Buddhist State. In short, a scholar state does not interfere or indulge in the religious affairs of any section of the country’s population. But contrary to the secular precepts the present elected state and Central Government always interfere even in the purely religious affairs of the Majority Hindu Community alone. This is violative of the secular principles incorporated in the Constitution, But the same Executive, misinterpreting relevant provisions of the Constitution, also refrains from interfering or indulging in the religious affairs of Muslim and Christian religious minorities in the country. It is very clear from the administrative decisions and actions of the Kerala Government that they are not only partial to minority religious community thus promoting minority communalism and disharmony between communities but also bent upon destroying and disintegrating Hindus religions and the majority Hindu Community through the destruction of temples and denigrating Hindu religions.

It is in the same context of anti-Hindus secular policies of the secular government of Kerala, either led by the secular congress party or communist parties, the elected "Secular" Government of Kerala has passed a legislative Bill and has taken over only Hindu temples, trusts, their asserts and related affairs including the revenue from Hindu devotees, their donations and endovements, and entrusted their ownership, management and control to specially constituted statutory bodies like Travancore Devaswom Board, Cochin Devaswom Board and Guruvayoor Temple Committee. The secular government then started appointing their own nominees on these Devaswom boards. Being the nominees of the secular legislators and ministers, they are also invariably atheists or some times sown non-believers in Hindu religion and traditional temple culture. They even refuse to take oath in the name of God or inside any major Hindu temple before taking over the temple administration like the traditional Thantris or Brahmin Poojaris appointed in different Hindu temples for conducting pujas and other connected religious rituals exposing their true commitment to atheism.

But before Independence and introduction of the newly adopted Indian Constitution, all temples in Kerala State including their assets, revenue and management and Control of the traditional religious affairs were handled traditionally by reputed Nair Tharavads, Groups of Brahmin families, different royal families and sometimes even singly. And at state level, they were traditionally entrusted with Chiefs of local royal families-Samudirins, Chirackal and other families in Malabar region, Travancore and Cochin Royal families in their respective kingdoms, besides, Pandalam Royal family in the care of the famous Sabarimala Sasta temple and Kodungallur Raja in the case of Kodungallur Durga temple. Since they were all Hindus and committed to Hindu religion and temple culture, they were very particular about the strict observance of all temple matters as per the local traditions and satisfaction of the Hindu devotees. In case of any dispute or difference of opinion, the concerned authorities or the royal houses had taken a final decision but only after consulting local community leaders, Thantries and vedic schalarism… the past.

Since Hindu kings of Travancore and Cochin, they were the sovereign rulers-and therefore, had temperal and religious authority in their states. But they never misused their sovereign power to bring the Mosques, Churches, and related trusts under the control of Hindu Maharajas. That is the traditional Hindu concept and practice of the secular principles which show respect and tolerance to the beliefs and practices of different religious communities in their Hindu states.

Once the royalty was abolished and the new secular constitution was adopted, as the basis of administration, ideally, normally and ethically, the democratically elected secular government of Kerala-led by the secular Political parties like congress or communists with their allies who swear by the high principles of secularism, should have refrained from blatant interference in the religion affairs of the majority Hindu community and instead, voluntarily entrusted the ownership, control and management of their temples, muths and related trusts and religious affairs to Hindu Community. The only reason for the state to take over the ownership, control and management of all matter connected in the Hindu temples excluding those of Ezhava temples Kudumbi temples and Konkani temples -seems to be because they were earlier vested in the Deveswom departments in the secretariats under the ruler of Travancore Maharajah and Cochin Maharaja.

When royalty was abolished and after the adoption of the Indian Constitution, ruling power were vested with the new Constitutional authority and naturally all the departments in the respective government secretariats also revolved to it. As a matter of fact, under the previous rule of the Hindu Maharajas, all affairs of the states were looked after and accounted for, by various departments in the government secretariat like public work, forest, excise and revenue department, Devaswom department also was located in the same secretariats because the concerned Maharaja, was directly in charge of all department including that of Devaswom. Since the abolition of royalty, only secular and sovereign authority should have been taken away from the previous regime and not the traditional non-secular religious affairs, like the Devaswom departments in the same secretariats. The state’s majority Hindu community had raised objection only to the transfer of authority of Hindu temple and related religious affairs from traditional Hindu authorities to the new secular authority. Besides, the same secular authority had not taken over similar religious matter connected with Muslim and Christian religious Communities and their Mosques, Churches and their related trusts and religious teaching institution and transferred the power to manage and control them to a new Minority Religious authority through a similar special Bill as done in the case of Majority Hindu religious Institutions in the state. This is partial and distorted version of their secular precepts and is violative of the Indian Constitution both in spirit and ethics.

The newly created statutory bodies-Travancore Devaswom Board, Cochin Devaswom Board, Religious endowment Board and Guruvayoor Temple Committee-mainly and only consist of those nominated by the elected legislators and ministers having only Hindu names. But being the nominees of so-called secular political parties, most of them are either atheists or sown non-believes in Hindu temple culture, tradition and rituals. Under above context, once a secular government led by Communist and their allies had even appointed a Christian by name Baby as their nominee to the statutory Guruvayoor Sri Krishna Temple Committee for controlling and managing the religious affairs of the famous Temple. It was only after angry agitation by Hindu devotees that he resigned from his post.

Besides, under the statutory autonomous status conferred on the Board, members of the boards are not answerable or accountable to any other constitutional authority and hence they are a law unto themselves. This is one of the main reasons to breed and spread corruption in almost all transactions and activities of administration in various departments of the Boards, both in Travancore area and Cochin area. In the case of Hindu Religions Endowment Board’s administration of Malabar temples, less said, is the better. In the famous temple like Thaliparambu Siva Temple, Annapurneswari Temple, Trichambaram Srikrishna Temple and many others though, there are arbitrarily appointed fit-men or chiefs of royal families likes Chirackal Royal family, accounts of these temples are invariably manipulated under non-ethical and corrupt practices under various pretexts and is well known to local Hindu community.

Imagine that very often Bhandarams kept inside Annapoorneswari temple are reported to have only very few pieces of gold, silver and other costly items besides coins-some times nothing at all even though one of the main offerings there is alrupams-images of Gods-made of gold or silver metals. It is also the practice of the concerned authorities of the endowment aboard to somehow get the signature of the fit-man and nominal chiefs of the families, sometimes under Coercion. All these are well-known to the local Hindu devotees and are also well-documented and brought to the public through several inquiry reports. Latest among them is the Sree Paripoornan Committee report regarding the malpractices and rampant corruption in the case of temples administered under Travancore Devaswom Board where according to inquiry report, even political interference is also citied as one of the causes for the prevailing corruption. Same is true in the case of temples under Conchin Devaswom Board also, though not at that level.

Source: The Organiser

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