The on-going loot of Hindu temples
By MV Kamath
|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. Robbing Peter to pay Paul is not secularism. And temples are not for looting, under any name. One thought that Mohammad of Ghazni has long been dead.
WHILE Congress leaders are hell-bent on damning the RSS – it is an old game that has long ceased to have any meaning – they seem to be unaware (or deliberately wish to ignore) that as late as on July 4, 2010 the right hand of a 53-year old Christian college professor (one TJ Joseph) was chopped off by Muslim fundamentalists, at Thodapurzha, Iduki district, in Kerala, for alleged blasphemy.
Digvijay Singh probably doesn’t want to be reminded of this. Nor, one suspects, would he be anxious to know that police found out that this heinous crime was committed as part of the implementation of the verdict of a Shariah court run by fundamentalist elements in Kerala. The police apparently discovered that 14 such parallel courts have been running in Kerala for the last twenty years and Kerala State Home Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan has been reported as confessing that since 1993, twenty two murders have taken place under the direction of the Shariah courts in Kerala (vide, Mangalam Daily Kottayam, July 21, 2010). Digvijay Singh can check this bit of information as could Rahul Gandhi. At the same time, they could both check out on the performance of The Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowment Act of 1951 which allows State Governments and politicians to take over thousands of Hindu Temples and maintain complete control over them and 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 not by any Temple authority, but 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 that makes shocking reading. Hundreds of temples in centuries past have been built in India by devout rulers and the donations given to them by devotees have been used for the benefit of the people.
If, presently, money collected has ever been misused (and that word needs to be defined), it is for the devotees to protest and not for any government to interfere. 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.
Apparently even the world famous Tirumala Tirupati Temple has not been spared. According to Knapp, the temple collects over Rs 3,100 crores every year “and the State Government has not denied the charge 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 offering 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 crores were collected from about two lakh temples and from that, temples received Rs seven crores for their maintenance, Muslim Madrassahs and Haj subsidy were given Rs 59 crore and churches about Rs 13 crore. Very generous of the government. 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 only way the government can continue to do this is because people have not stood up enough to stop it”. Knapp then refers to Kerala where, he says, “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”.
A charge is made that the Communist state government of Kerala…. wants to pass an Ordinance to disband the Travancore & Cochin Autonomous Devaswom Boards (TCDBs) and take over their limited independent authority of 1,800 Hindu temples. If what the author says is true, even the Maharashtra Government wants to take over some 450,000 temples in the state which would “supply a huge amount of revenue to correct the state’s bankrupt conditions….” 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 of temple assets. 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 much or any attention attracted to them”.
Knapp obviously is on record. If the facts produced by him are incorrect, it is up to the government to say so. It is quite possible that some individuals might have set up temples to deal with lucrative earnings. But that, surely, is none of the government’s business? Instead of taking over all earnings, the government surely can appoint local committees to look into temple affairs so that the amount discovered is fairly used for the public good? Says Knapp: “Nowhere in the free, democratic world are the religious institutions 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 recognize 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. They need to express their views loud and clear….” Knapp obviously does not know that should they do so, they would be damned as communalists. But 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. Robbing Peter to pay Paul is not secularism. And temples are not for looting, under any name. One thought that Mohammad of Ghazni has long been dead.
From: RAMASWAMY SRINIVASAN email@example.com
Dear Hindu Friends,
I totally agree that our Government is diverting temple funds to general revenues and using them not only for project unconnected with Hindu religion but also give to Madrasah and Christian Institutions. Not even Muslim kings, who ruled us for eight hundred years, dare to do such a dastardly act. Such is the Adharma of our Government in the name of secularism. I would not blame UPA. When the BJP were in power, they also did not do anything to stop such Adharmas. In fact, they are competing with UPA in creating a public image that they are more secular than UPA.
What we can do is to organize ourselves better. But we are not good in organization, as in the case of Christians and Muslims. It is equally true that there is misuse of power and position. But that does not justify the Government. In fact, I had occasionally represented the top most authority in India about our unhappiness that Hindu temples are being taken over by the Government. The cynical reply was that we have taken over the temples only at the request of Hindus connected to the temples who complained to us that there is misuse. It is noteworthy that there is a lot of misuse of funds, even in the Sai Trust. Whether it is true or not, Hindus have a tendency to criticize each other based on caste and personal prejudices. Shri Narayana Guru Ashram in Kerala had internal dissension and even violence which made the Government to intervene. Not a single Christian or Muslim openly criticizes their religion, but Hindus take a pride in ridiculing and criticizing Hindu practice, customs, and traditions. They do this to demonstrate their modernity and liberalization from orthodoxy. Eighty million go to temples and over thousand ashrams teach ethics, either through Upanishads or Ithihasas and Puranas. Twenty TV channels are telecasting Hindu themes and yet we are reported to be one of the most corrupt countries in the world.
I had occasions to address over two lakhs student and faculty during the last three years. Every week, I give one or two talks in colleges. I used to ask the students whether they have read one book on Hinduism, Indian culture, Indian civilization or Indian history. Not even one out of hundred has raised their hands. This is the pitiable situation.
But everything has not lost. Things will improve, may be in hundred years; thanks to the efforts by vested scholars like Knapp, David Corey and others. Indians will realize that they are doing a great injustice to their religion.
The only segment of society which can change this situation is the business and industrial community who have the financial and organizational resources to fund institutions, which will protect Hinduism. It is in their interest that India remains as one country and that too under democratic system. They have managerial resource to implement ethics and unity. But they have not taken interest so far, except giving some money or gold to temples, presumably hoping that God will return part of it for their own growth and happiness. I was the first to participate and give the keynote address for the Kerala Brahman Association, first in Palakkad and later on in Kozhikkode. This was 30 years ago, but they have not invited me once even when I asked them to give me a chance to speak in Trichur. The secretary refused that they have no time. I am one among Brahmins in Kerala to be awarded Padma Bhushan and National Professorship. They did not care even to report it in their magazine, which shows their inefficiency and indifference.
In spite of being a 10,000 year old civilization, we are not united. Now, we have managerial competence. Therefore, Hindus have to suffer for a long time for now until a leader comes to take us forward. Fortunately, Swami Vivekananda had predicted that the 21st century is India Century and that the whole world will come to India to pay tributes to our sages and saints. As I am too old, I will not be there when that beautiful day comes, when we will be open up from our lethargy to help our religion.
Prof. N.S. Ramaswamy, Padma Bhushan and National, Professor in Management, Director, CARTMAN/Indian, Heritage Academy, 17E Main, Koramangala 6th Block,Bangalore – 560 095: Ph: 2553 0121/2553 0304/ Mob: 93412 59392 EM: firstname.lastname@example.org
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