Karnataka Chief Minister Kumaraswamy has dug his hands into the Hundi’s of Hindu Temples and has ordered 81 notified temples under the Muzrai Department to transfer Rs 12.3 Crore to Chief Minister’s Relief Fund
HD Kumaraswamy’s Government in Karnataka seems to have responded to the people of Kodagu, albeit delayed. Is there anything to be happy than a Government being responsive to its people? Not so in this case. The hugely devout and religious CM Kumaraswamy has dug his hands into the Hundi’s of Hindu Temples for this. His government has ordered 81 notified temples under the Muzrai Department to transfer Rs 12.3 Crore to Chief Minister’s Relief Fund. Undoubtedly, we have to help Kodagu. The pathetic situation they live in now is something we do not wish even for our enemies. We can imagine the conditions they are in when we realise that 300 people in relief camps have to manage with just three toilets. There are organisations like Seva Bharati and others who are working to alleviate this. They have even raised funds and contributed to the CM Relief Fund (CMRF).
But the Congress-JD(S) Government is for some reason enjoying provoking Hindus. We are aware how the Government that seeks Rs 12.5 Crore from the temples today has conducted themselves in the past. Isn't it important to know how much funds have been provided for the development of these temples by the Muzrai Department. Once we know, we would be more clear on how much to be donated to CMRF.
HD Kumaraswamy offering prayer at a temple (file photo)
Post-Independence, there were several Endowment Acts like Madras Religious Endowment Act, Bombay Karnataka Religious Endowment Act, Mysore Religious Endowment Act and so on. People are sermonizing and swearing by the Constitution, where Article 25, Right to Freedom of Religion under which everyone has equal religious rights. The Supreme Court also pronounced that even if any law is violated, at no cost Constitutional rights should be broken. The unfortunate part is that Article 25 is continuously violated concerning Hindus and Hindus alone. The matters related to Temples are covered under Article 25 Right to Freedom of Religion. This means the State cannot interfere or poke its nose in matters of Religion. Dr BR Ambedkar refers to the Cantwell v. Connecticut, 310 U.S. 296 case, in the constitutional debates, which says “The right of worship is granted by God for the man to worship as he pleased. There shall be no compulsion by law of any creed or practice of any form of worship” Yet, in respect of Hindu Temples, the Governments decide how and who should worship our Gods, who have to manage, how the temple has to exist, how to distribute the contributions of devotees. Doesn’t this mean that the entire administration of the temple is with the Government? Isn’t this a violation of the Constitution?
In the case of Nataraja Temple, Chidambaram, Tamil Nadu, the Supreme Court has clearly ordered “In case of administrative failures in any temple, Government can administer the same only for a bare minimum period. Once streamlined, the control has to be handed over back to the Temple Committee because Temple is not an Office but a Religious place” This means that Government in the worst case can take control of administration for a bare minimum period, say one to two years. However, to take custody of all temples, Governments have established a separate department and usurped to the extent that they have almost become the property of the Government.
Earlier Siddaramaiah’s Government had granted Rs 50 Crore for Madrassas and the same Siddaramaiah provided a measly Rs 25 Lakhs for Veda Pathashalas
The Hindu Religious Institutions And Charitable Endowments Act was promulgated in 1997 under which, apart from usurping the Temple, it also transferred ownership of lands donated by erstwhile Kings to the temple, as Government-owned properties. This in effect meant that whatever are the earnings from the land accrues to Government account, the contributions made by devotees (Hundi) to Muzrai Department and all monies of the temple was thus out of temple control. The renowned Chamundi Temple of Mysore reportedly owned more than 6000 Acres of land. Today this temple doesn’t even have an acre of land. This is the same CM who keeps hopping
various temples notified by the Muzari Department.
Are they at least following the rules specified in the HR&CE Act? No! The act clearly states that the revenue from the Temples cannot be used for any Non-Hindu religious purposes. More importantly, it also requires that no one who does not believe in Hindu Religion, or in the Hindu deities can be appointed in the Muzrai department. Violation of this rule has resulted in the temple priests forced to go and stretch their hands for salary before a Muslim or Christian who works in the Muzrai department. What a cruel fate! We must recall the harassment meted out to Puttur Mahalingeshwara Temple in Dakshina Kannada by a District officer recently.
There are 34,526 temples under the control of Government. If you analyse the amount spent on development of temples, you will be surprised to know that it is less than half of what is spent on the development of Mosques. They are now reaching again to dig into temple funds.
The government allocation to the Muzrai Department is a meagre Rs 40 Crore. Further, temples receive a mere Rs 13 crore, from the Muzrai Department. Another fact is that Siddaramaiah’s Government had granted Rs 50 Crore for Madrassas and the same Siddaramaiah provided a measly Rs 25 Lakhs for Veda Pathashalas. Isn’t the government which allows a little 13 crore ashamed to demand Rs 12.5 crore from 81 notified temples? In the last three months, the same Kumaraswamy has hopped more than 50 temples. Does his conscience even permit him to demand this amount from temples?
A question might have come up in our minds. Whenever there were natural calamities, Temple wealth and treasures were used for relief activities in earlier days. Assuming it is okay to do that now, are they (government) following and conducting themselves as per Agama Shastras? No. Instead, they bring in legislation and rules to bind the temple in knots. Do we follow the Constitution or the Agama Shastras? Using the constitution when convenient and dumping it by passing another law reduces the Constitution to a tool to serve the Government’s agenda.
The government sanctions a mere Rs 11,000 (Eleven thousand rupees) to conduct a Chariot festival. Let alone organising a Chariot Festival, even a Ganapati Homa cannot be performed with this amount. When challenged, the stock answer is that it is disbursed as per the law. When it orders to transfer a certain amount of money to CMRF, has the Government forgotten these laws? Why should only Temple funds be used? Can’t they demand the same from Mosques and Churches?
As bizarre as it may seem, the Muzrai department launched ‘Aradhana Scheme’ to protect Secularism in the country. What this scheme entails is funds are granted for the development of Temples and Mosques through the local MLA. Since by nature the scheme is ‘secular’, it is anyone’s guess if any temple would benefit at the cost of a mosque from the scheme.
Among the 81 Temples having been issued notice by Government of Karnataka, I spoke to around 30 temples. These included Kateelu Durga Parameshwari Temple, Bengaluru’s Banashankari Temple, Ghati Subramanya Swamy Temple on the outskirts of Bengaluru, Dodda Ganesha Temple in Basavanagudi, Bengaluru and others. The Government has decided on a particular amount for each of these temples, and they have been mandated to contribute the same compulsorily. The first question I asked was if the funds have been transferred to CMRF for which the answer was ‘Yes’, from all these temples. The next question asked was, if their temple had received any funds from the Muzrai Department and if yes how much. The answers threw a big surprise. These temples had received not a single paisa from the Muzrai department! Apparently, the administrators here are aware that they only have to part with the temple money. And apart from Salaries, they didn’t even know that Muzrai department is supposed to earmark and grant funds for development of the temple. On top of this, the Muzrai department has put up boards with messages “Money dropped in the Hundi is for Temple, money dropped in the Puja plate is for the priest” It would have been more appropriate to write “Money in Hundi for development of Mosques/church, and for the interest and benefit of Politicians”!
Can anyone answer why do these temples have to part with Rs 12.5 Crore to the relief fund as demanded by the Chief Minister? The sins of this Government are countless. While a clerk in the Government gets Rs 35,000 as Salary, the priest is paid Rs 5000. Not only that, they appoint an Administrator for a temple. He manages all the income and expenses of the temple. Even the abhisheka and rituals are decided and budgeted by him. He will jot down 2 litres for a 5-inch idol and go away. And abhisheka is supposed to be performed as per this order. The remaining amount of around Rs 500 required for the milk is shelled out by the priest from his meagre income of Rs 5000. You don’t need a better example of how the constitution is violated every moment. Will they dare to try this kind of disgusting procedures in a mosque or a church?
The fundamental question is if the temple fund is diverted for the Relief fund, who will fund the temple when it is in dire need? Even to erect a shelter at our own cost, we have to seek Government’s permission. The administrator has no time constraints to give the consent. While it's given right away sometimes, it might take days or even years most of the times. It is left to the whims and fancies of the sanctioning officer. In effect, it means not only they do not provide, but they also don’t let others give too. When questioned, they quote the constitution and rules. But when they want to extort money from temples by passing orders to transfer a specified amount of cash, the law is conveniently forgotten.
Let's keep temples aside for a moment. Can we find out how much the government asked Muslims to contribute? How much did they donate to the Relief fund? How much did Government instruct WAKF Board to contribute? The answer is ZERO! The Janata Dal ‘Secular’ Government demands money only from the ‘Communal’ Hindus alone. Girish Bharadwaj of Bharata Punarutththana Trust has filed a petition in the High Court on this issue. But it is pointless unless we are ignorant about all these issues. It is high time for Hindus to decide if this demand from Temples to contribute Rs 12.5 Crore is right or wrong.
(The writer is a well-known columnist and a regular contributor to various newspapers and magazines)