Though a secular state can neither reward nor punish any religion, shackling Hindu religion through State control of temples continues all over India except in Himachal Pradesh where in 2008, the government decided to liberate the temples from its control.
Government control of their places of worship has crippled the cultural, social and spiritual life of Hindus. Apart from depriving temples of their income and wealth, this un-secular government action is ravaging the body and soul of Hinduism.
While the government subsidises ?Haj? pilgrimage with hundreds of crores of rupees every year, State control is destroying the self-supporting edifice of Hindu places of worship.
Apart from being the centre of Hindu community'sreligious, social and cultural life, the temple is supposed to be the focal point for learning Vedas, Upanishads, Ramayana, Mahabharata and Tirukkural etc. from religious scholars. But Vedic learning and Sanskrit have been banished from most of the government controlled temples.
As reported in media, Andhra Pradesh government has brought Christian institutions into the decision making body of Tirumala Tirupathi Devasthanam (TTD) and its institutions. JRG Wealth Management, a Christian organisation has been employed for Prasadam materials for use in Tirupati temple.
And there are apprehensions of evangelists? design to build a church at Tirumala.
Since temples belong to Hindu society which has built and maintained them over the centuries, they must be restored to Hindu community to give religious freedom to Hindus. Like other communities, Hindus too have a constitutional right to manage their places of worship. And they must not be denied this fundamental right.
Independent boards comprising of Hindus must govern Hindu temples and shrines as is the case with places of worship of other religious communities. And temple income should be used for educational institutes, hospitals and welfare activities for general public, and also for Sanskrit and Hindu religious studies.
All pro-Hindu individuals and organisations have to assert themselves and force the State governments to liberate the temples. Alternatively, apart from demanding the amendment of Hindu Religious Endowments and Charitable Trusts Act 1951, to make it compatible with Articles 25 and 26, suitable legal action should be taken by filing writ petitions / public interest petitions in the respective High Courts since the government control of Hindu temples violates Articles 14, 25 and 26 of Indian Constitution which bestow the Fundamental Rights to equality, freedom of religion, and freedom to manage religious affairs.
As per Kathopnishad, Uttishthta jaagrta praapya varaan nibodhat (Arise, awake, and do not stop till the goal is achieved).
Personal greed of a few individuals, and Hindu community'ssuicidal tolerance of gross injustice of confiscation of their temples must not be allowed to destroy Hinduism in truncated India, the way Hinduism has been liquidated in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh which too used to be Hindu lands.
(The writer is former Chief Commissioner of Income Tax. E-mail address is: [email protected])