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BNN News Archive Page
       Tuesday, July 25, 2006

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Sabarimala priest Tantri row - Is it time to free our religious institutions from Government Interference

In a rather bizzare Sabarimala priest episode that has grabbed national headlines, Kantararu Mohanararu a Thantri in Sabarimala was sacked from the shrine on Monday following allegations of immoral activities. The Thantri was alleged to have been visiting a woman of dubious antecendents. The alleged inoccouous sexual escapades have hogged national headlines with the Communist V.S. Achutanandan lead CPI-M Kerala Government getting involved in the issue in an unprecedented manner. The maginitude of state interefernce in this issue is highlighted by the order from Kerala Home Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan who on Tuesday asked the state intelligence to provide all details of the controversial case involving Sabarimala priest Kantararu Mohanaru, who has been stripped of his powers. Rather curious order for it begs the question why is there a State Intelligence, what is it doing spying on individuals private lives. What is even more apalling is the manner in which this order is being executed. The Additional Director General of Police in charge intelligence has been asked to examine the complaints lodged by the `Tantri` (priest) with the police and the investigations into them, Balakrishnan told a press meet.

Further higlighting the extent of state intervention, is the recent controversy over the claim of Kannada actress Jaimala that she had years ago entered the Sabarimala temple`s sanctum sanctorum, which is barred to women aged between 10 and 50. Balakrishnan said the government had decided to order a probe by the crime branch into the controversy triggered by Jaimala`s claim. In a demonstration of the extent to which politicians and the state are controlling religion in what is considered to be a secular country and a state government ruled by non-believing atheists, the decision to go in for this probe was made on the basis of a request from the Devaswom Minister, who had forwarded the Travancore Devaswom Board`s resolution in this regard. All issues thrown up by the Jaimala episode will be covered by this probe.

In neighbouring Andhra Pradesh the christian neo-convert Y.S. Rajashekar Reddy lead Congress Government was also in the news for all the wrong reasons in its interference of Tirumala Tirupathi Devasthana (TTD) one of the richest shrines in India with an annual turnover that can put corporations to shame. To begin with TTD has prettty much been reduced to the personal fiefdom of T. Subbirami Reddy erstwhile movie producer and self proclaimed afficianado and guadrian of telugu culture. Subbirami Reddy's self serving interest in TTD is reflected in the manner in which he successful lobbied the Central Government to include the TTD Chairmanship held by him in the Office of Profit Bill to save him from disqualification and ensure his perpetual occupancy of this office to posterity while the Congress is in power in Andhra Pradesh. Added to this were the recent series of incidents on alleged Christian missionary activities in Tirupathi that were investigated upon by a panel of eminent individuals convened by the pontiff. The issue escalated to a point with BJP and VHP, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh street protests forcing the state government to clarify that the seven hills continued to be considered as part of the Tirumala Tirupathi shrine and the Government had not transferred ownership.

For long the Congress and the Communists have raised the bogey of secularism to tar the BJP with the brush of communalism and make political capital. But the conduct of the Manmohan Singh Sonia Gandhi lead Congress and the Prakash Karat Sitaram Yechury lead Communists has been anything but secular. They dont see any separation of Relgion and State as long as it is their Government that is intervening in religious matters and not the BJP. That this practice of Government Ministries controlling religious bodies has been allowed to perpetuate post Independence secular India is mind numbing and has resulted in a series of shameful episodes of state intervention. The Jayalalitha episode of harassing the Kanchi Sankaracharya to the governments of Andhra Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh taking over temple properties and revenues and retaining priests on measly Government salaries. The financial aspects of State accumulating religious revenues and the powerful enjoying offices of profit apart we have the other ridiculous aspect of State sponsored burial grounds management for muslims in the form of Wakf Boards and state sponsored religious piligrmages to Mecca in the form of Haj. There are Congress, Samajwadi party and RJD ministers with Haj and Wakf portfolios reflects that the conduct of the Congress and Communists is anything but secular. The Wakf board offices in Uttar Pradesh incidentally were also part of the Office of Profit Bill which now the Congress government is attempting to push through in the Rajy Sabha tomorrow despite Presiden Kalam returning it. The NDA has raised the bogey of Article 143 as demanded by Offstumped on sunday and urged the President to refer the matter to the Supreme Court. It remains to be seen where that goes.

In the meantime there is a growing movement building up in India that is urging for the Formation of United Hindu Dharma Samsthan (UHDS)http://www.indiacause.com/cause/iv003_uhds.aspx. Offstumped is fully endorsing this move lead by Professor T R N (Narasimha) Rao, Ph.D, Mr.Fran├žois Gautier, Dr. David Frawley, Dr. Srinivasan Kalyanaraman, Ph.D, Dr. Ved Prakash Chaudary, Ph.D. This move is particularly important given that any donation/money/ jewellery/munnat /hundi to the temples which are under state control means the revenues flow to the Government which in states ruled by the Congress and Communists is being used for Minority programs like the Wakf, Haj and in the case of the center for diverting development funds to specific religious communities. This is practically subsidization of Islam and Christianity by the funds generated by Hindu Temples.

Offstumped Bottomline: While religious politics goes against the secular constitution of India so does political control of religion and state interference. The Government has no business controlling religious institutions. Movements like the UHDS must be started not from a top down dharmacharya level but bottoms up from the local communities in Tirumala, Sabarimala to take over the ownership and management of these shrines. They must be freed from government control and political parties which swear by secularism on the one hand and enjoy temple revenues on the other hand.

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OffStumped For All Things Right of Center, Bringing a Right of Centre Reality Check to Indian Politics, News Media Reporting and Opinion through Blogs and Podcasts.

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posted by Yossarin at 11:07 AM  

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