Our temples can do much, much more social work as compared to churches and madrasas if their financial resources had not been taken over by the State under the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowment Act of 1951. What has happened is downright robbery.
Lest I am charged with reporting an elaborate list of lies, let me say here that I am basing my assertions on two sources. One, a book published in the United States by an author, Stephen Knapp, and two, a report also published in the US by one Forum for Religious Freedom (http://www.frfnet.org). And what do they say? Here are some facts that have been unearthed: (a) Thousands of small and medium temples, in addition to nationally and historically important ones such as Jagannath in Puri, Tirupati, Kashi Vishwanath, Vaishnodevi, Shirdi, Guruvayoor, Chamundi Devi, Dattapreeth, Amarnath, Badrinath and Kedarnath have been under Government control, some of them for decades. (b) In 1981, the Siddhi Vinayak Temple in Mumbai was ‘nationalised’ and government appointed trustees siphoned off “crores of rupees out of temple coffers to non-profit organisations, selected on the basis of political connections”. (c) In 2002, from 2,07,000 temples in Karnataka, the Government took away Rs 72 crore, returned Rs 10 crore for temple maintenance and granted Rs 50 crore for madrasas and Rs 10 crore for churches. (d) An estimated 50,000 temples have shut down during the last five years in Karnataka due to lack of resources. (e) In May 2006, the Government in Andhra Pradesh demolished a centuries-old, thousand pillar mantapam in the Tirumala Complex. (f) The Government has not denied a charge that 85 per cent of revenues from the Tirumala Tirupati Devaswom (TTD), which collects over Rs 3,100 crore every year, as the richest temple in India, are transferred to the state exchequer. The amount is not fully accounted for. Temple Watchdog Groups have alleged Rs 76 crore as the amount allotted by the Andhra Pradesh Government for repairs and renovation of mosques and churches in a certain year. This is ‘secularism’, considered of the highest order. (g) Elsewhere in Andhra Pradesh, out of 420,028 acres owned by temples in Visakhapatnam, Kakinada, Guntur, Kurnool, Warangal and Hyderabad, 60,843 were allowed to be occupied illegally by professional land-grabbers. Nobody tried to prevent it. Which State Minister should be hauled up, as was Lalu Prasad Yadav in Bihar? Isn’t it time for some action to be taken against the guilty ones, whether ministers or top officials? (h) In Sabarimala, the forest hill with the famous temple of Ayyappa in Kerala, 2,500 acres of temple property had been sold by the Communist Government controlled Travancore Devaswom Board to a non-Hindu group. It is reported that the Board, which used to get about Rs 250 crore every year as income is almost bankrupt today; and to mention just one more significant item, (i) in Bihar, Government control over the temples through its Hindu Endowments Department has, according to the Religious Trust Administrator is in the loss of temple properties worth Rs 2,000 crore. One wonders whether Narendra Modi is aware of all this. Notes the Forum for Religious Freedom: “The reverse discrimination against Hindus and our institutions by a supposedly secular Government cannot be allowed to continue any longer. The time has come to secure for the majority Hindus of India the same secular rights and religious freedom that the followers of all minority religions already enjoy.” Has anybody ever heard of a church or masjid financial trust being taken over by the Government on grounds that the trustees function arbitrarily?
I may now be permitted to quote Stephen Knapp from his book Crimes Against India and The Need to Protect Ancient Vedic Tradition. It would seem 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 revenues of these temples have been returned for temple purposes, the remaining 82 per cent being used for purposes unstated. 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…… Nowhere in the free, democratic world are the religious institutes managed, maligned and controlled by the Government, thus denying the religious freedom of the people of the country. But it is happening in India. Government officials have taken control of Hindu temples because they smell money in them, they recognise the indifference of Hindus, they are aware of the unlimited patience and tolerance of Hindus, they also know that it is not in the blood of Hindus to go to the streets to demonstrate, destroy property, threaten, loot, harm and kill. Many Hindus are sitting and watching the demise of their culture.”