Hindu dharma is implicitly at odds with monotheistic intolerance. What is happening in India is a new historical awakening... Indian intellectuals, who want to be secure in their liberal beliefs, may not understand what is going on. But every other Indian knows precisely what is happening: deep down he knows that a larger response is emerging even if at times this response appears in his eyes to be threatening.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Distribution of temple lands in Tamil Nadu

By Dr Jagan Kaul

The Tamil Nadu CPM’s demand for confiscating and distributing the Hindu mutt endowment lands to the poor is outrageous, anti-Hindu and anti-secular. It deeply violates the religious sentiments of the majority Hindu community. These lands donated by the devotees were historically meant for the purpose of use and sustenance of the religious places in perpetuity. The government in its capacity as a “trustee” and not an “owner” has no power to alter that course. Doing so will be prejudicial to greatly sacred Hindu tradition and it will violate the “trusteeship covenant”.

That the irreligious CPM in a calculated strategy is focusing upon the temple lands in its national campaign shows its utter disregard towards the Constitution and the Hindus’ religious rights. The central purpose for unleashing this venomous strategy against the Hindus religious properties is to cultivate electoral dividends to be harvested during the forthcoming elections. On the broader side, it once again opens up the question of illegal government control of temples and mutts in Tamil Nadu seriously violating the religious rights and sentiments of over 80 per cent of the national population.

To extend the government jurisdiction exclusively upon Hindu places of worship and their estates while leaving similar entities of other religious formations outside the draconian control speaks volumes about the hypocrisy exercised by the administration. Furthermore, if distributing temple properties amongst the poor is a worthwhile and noble cause, then how many church and mosque properties has the government distributed amongst the poor? Or do they not subscribe to that philosophy and, therefore, are out of bounds to such generosity?

Government control over Hindu religious places is a deliberate policy of radically altering India’s cultural complexion.

It is a sad yet lawless story of unconstitutional usurpation of Hindu temples and their estates by the government and becoming their self-appointed trustee and then violating the trusteeship covenant by diverting their resources for other than Hindu religious purposes. Since Hinduism, like other religions in India, is not a state controlled or managed religion therefore, it is far beyond its competence to divert temple revenues, change physical structures and/or sell/transfer their lands or estates for non-Hindu religious purposes.

By controlling Hindu temples and their estates, the government is depriving Hindus of their fundamental “religious rights” guaranteed under Articles 25 and 26 of the Indian Constitution. According to Article 25 of the Constitution, all persons are equally entitled to the right to profess, practice and propagate religion. While Article 26 provides that every religious denomination “shall have the right (a) to establish and maintain institutions for religious and charitable purposes; (b) to manage its own affairs in matters of religion; (c) to own/acquire movable and immovable property; and, (d) to administer such property in accordance with law”.

The Indian Parliament through an Act in 1991 legislated that “the status of religious places, as on August 15, 1947 shall be retained”. The faithful implementation of this law itself will require the authorities to revert the control of places of worship of Hindus to the community governance.

The term “secular” was incorporated in the Constitution of India by the 42nd Amendment in 1976. A secular government cannot legitimately be involved in the operation and management of religious places since secularism firmly stands for the separation of state and religion. With unjustifiable exception of Hindu religious entities this principle is held high in Tamil Nadu. In the case of Hindus, the State Government has chosen to act above and beyond the limitations imposed upon it by the Constitution.

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