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Tuesday, October 4, 2022

“Closing temples leads to peace”, Judge’s remark invites criticism

A Madras High Court judge has commented that it is a paradox that the closure of temples leads to peace. He was ‘anguished’ that courts are flooded with cases of ego clashes between two groups of Hindus and remarked that temples have become causes for law and order problems.

Justice Anand Venkatesh made these comments regarding a petition that sought protection to offer worship and conduct festivals at the Sri Madurai Veeran, Karupparayan and Kannimar temple at Kullur in Modakurichi Taluk of Erode district. The petition was filed in 2015 and when the judge wanted to know the current status during the hearing, he was told that clashes erupted again when efforts were made to conduct a festival.

Live Law reported that he wrote, “This Court is flooded with Writ Petitions of this nature and the Police and Revenue authorities are made to spend their time in resolving the dispute between the parties. A Temple must create an environment to subside the ego of a person and on the contrary it is becoming a breeding ground for clash of ego between persons and God is pushed to the back seat. In such cases, the best course of action will be to close down such Temples so that peace and normalcy is restored in the locality. It is a paradox that closure of a Temple actually leads to peace.”

The Tehsildar had filed a report saying that despite conducting meetings to bring peace between the two groups, no festival could be conducted at the temple due to repeated clashes. The report said that a decision was made to keep the temple closed till normalcy returns. Based on this report, the judge felt that it was necessary for the Hindu Religious and Endowment Board to appoint a fit person for the temple so that “no one feels superior to another” and gave a direction to that effect. It appears that a private temple has now been handed over to the government on a platter because of an egotistical clash. 

But does the judiciary have the authority to poke its nose into a private affair? It wouldn’t have till one of the parties went to it seeking a mediator. Clashes between two parties in religious places are not a new phenomenon or exclusive to temples. The Wakf Board and church also face such issues often but mostly resolve it on their own as their religious laws are superior to them. But Hindus, having given up or corrupted the traditional methods of solving disputes, are left to rap the doors of the court. Is it their fault that they respect the law of the land?

Let us see how abrahamics behave when it comes to managing their places of religion and the power tussle to control them. In August 2022, the same Madras High Court appointed an ex-judge to oversee the administration of Tamil Evangelical Lutheran Church and conduct its election following allegations of fraud in the bishop election.

In April 2022, a 75-year-old man and his 67-year-old sister were sentenced to life for murdering two men owing to a conflict in electing members of church administration in Kanyakumari. One of the victims was the woman’s husband.

In July 2021, 3 Catholic Christians were hacked with sickles in Kanyakumari as a result of conflicts in diocese elections.

In July 2021, the laity protested against the Church of South India administration for removing their names from the voters’ list for diocese elections. They alleged that a woman’s name was removed because she married a Roman Catholic man.

In June 2020, a pastor threatened another pastor with a pistol in Madurai. There was a ‘dispute’ between them on who gets to build a church on ‘government land’.

In 2016, Section 144 had to be imposed in a village in Villupuram district due to the conflict between ‘Dalit Christians living in the colony’ and others. ‘Dalit Christians’ had demanded that the chariot procession comes to their colony the previous year, which other Christians disagreed with. The following year police received intelligence that there might be law and order problems and imposed section 144 to stop the chariot procession.

It is not difficult to produce more such incidents for the reader’s perusal as there are plenty. One must understand that controlling the diocese elections gives one the power to control its assets. As a result, protests and violence are a norm during and in the aftermath of church elections. But they rarely go to court as they are resolved based on the Canon law. Recently, a laity group from Kerala went to the Supreme Court seeking to form legislation to aid in governing church assets democratically. It said that the Canon law is leading to the clergy’s authoritarianism.

It is very unlikely that justice Anand Venkatesh wasn’t aware of these details when he made such remarks. Justice Anand had ruled that the Thalaivetti Muniyappan deity in Salem is actually the statue of Buddha and directed the Archeological Survey of India(ASI) to take it over. He also ordered that Hindu rituals be stopped as it is a Buddhist temple. Following his judgment, there have been clashes between Hindu devotees and those who claim to be Buddhists in worshiping the deity.

The judge recently attended the convocation of Periyar Maniammai (Deemed to be) University, where a Dravidian idealogue with a fake Ph.D was bequeathed with an honorary doctorate. The institution is established and run by the Dravidar Kazhagam, the mother organisation of DMK. K Veeramani, a rabid Hindu hater, is this university’s Vice-Chancellor. He once said that Bhagwan Krishna was the first eve-teaser and that he was a forerunner to gang rapists. The judge’s association with such elements puts his decisions on Hindu issues under suspicion.

A few months ago, the Supreme Court ruled that Perarivalan, a convict of the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, could be released from prison. K Chandru, a retired judge leaning toward the Dravidian Movement, wrote an opinion piece in which he said, “When an offence has political overturns, it is political considerations rather than criminal jurisprudence that deals with the penalties for it”. He effectively meant that judgments could be overturned or influenced based on the party in power.

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