Dr Kailash Chandra
The Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowment Act of 1951 allows the State Governments to take over Hindu Temples and maintain complete control over their properties. It is claimed that they can sell the temple assets and properties and use the money in any way they choose.
A charge has been made by a foreign writer, Stephen Knapp, in a book, Crimes Against India and the Need to Protect Ancient Vedic Tradition published in the United States and it makes shocking reading.
Hundreds of temples in centuries past have been built in India by devout rulers and the donations given by devotees have been used for the benefit of the (other) people. This letter is what has been happening currently under an intrusive law.
It would seem, for instance, that under a Temple Empowerment Act, about 43,000 temples in Andhra Pradesh have come under government control and only 18 per cent of the revenue of these temples have been returned for temple purposes, the remaining 82 per cent being used for purposes unstated.
Even the world famous Tirupati Tirumala Temple has not been spared. According to Knapp, the temple collects over Rs 3,100 crore every year. The author tells that as much as 85 per cent of this is transferred to the State Exchequer, much of which goes to causes that are not connected with the Hindu community. Was it for that reason that devotees make their offerings to the temples?
Another charge that has been made is that the Andhra Government has also allowed the demolition of at least ten temples for the construction of a golf course. Imagine the outcry, writes Knapp, if ten mosques had been demolished.
It would seem that in Karanataka, Rs 79 crore were collected from about two lakh temples and from that amount temples received only Rs seven crores for their maintenance. Muslim madrassas and Haj subsidy of Rs 59 crore and churches about Rs 13 crore were given. Because of this, Knapp writes, 25 per cent of the two lakh temples or about 50,000 temples in Karnataka will be closed down for lack of resources, and he adds: The government continues to do this is because people have not stood up to stop it.
Knapp then refers to Kerala where, funds from the Guruvayur Temple are diverted to other government projects denying improvement to 45 Hindu temples. Land belonging to the Ayyappa Temple, apparently has been grabbed and church encroaches are occupying huge areas of forest land, running into thousands of acres, near Sabarimala.
And to top it all, Knapp says that in Orissa, the state government intends to sell over 70,000 acres of endowment lands from the Jagannath Temple, the proceeds of which would solve a huge financial crunch brought about by its own mismanagement.
Says Knapp: Why such occurrences are so often not known is that the Indian media, especially the English television and press, are often anti-Hindu in their approach, and thus not inclined to give much coverage, and certainly no sympathy, for anything that may affect the Hindu community. Therefore, such government actions that play against the Hindu community go on without any attention attracted to them.
Says Knapp: Nowhere in the free, democratic world are the religious institutions managed, maligned and controlled by the government, thus denying the religious freedom to the people of the country. But it is happening in India. Government officials have taken control of Hindu temples because they recognise the indifference of Hindus, they are aware of the unlimited patience and tolerance of Hindus.
Many Hindus are sitting and watching the demise of their culture. They need to express their views loud and clear. It is time someone asked the Government to lay down all the facts on the table so that the public would know what is happening behind its back. Temples are not for looting under any name.
(The writer can be contacted at [email protected])
Govt sponsored loot of Hindu TemplesForeign writer opens our eyes