The DMK government in Tamil Nadu is trying to forcibly take over Ayodhya mandapam run by Sri Rama Samaj in Chennai. BJP and Hindu organizations staged a protest against the move as the Samaj has appealed against HRCE’s decision in the Madras High Court, and the matter is sub judice. While temple activists say that the court only told that the issue should be taken to an appropriate body, the media reported it as the court validating HRCE take over.
The Ayodhya Ashwamedha Maha Mandapam, built by the Sri Ram Samaj in 1954, serves as a place of worship in Chennai. The Samaj runs a school, a marriage hall, and another hall for Hindus to perform last rights. The mandapam serves mainly as a bhajan hall and has only the pictures of Shri Rama, Sita Devi, Lakshmana, Shri Krishna, and Radha. In 2014, a person sent a letter to the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Board alleging mismanagement of funds by the Samaj.
The person was reportedly disgruntled that the Samaj rejected his membership application. HRCE officials had served the notice to take over the mandapam on the same day the Supreme Court delivered the Chidambaram Nataraja temple verdict. The Samaj had filed a writ petition against the takeover in the Madras HC. As it is not a temple built based on Agama Shastras with murtis installed, the Samaj argued that HRCE has no jurisdiction to take it over.
The court recently dismissed the petition and said that ‘there was a dispute regarding the installation of idols and poojas conducted by the petitioner and whether the mandapam is a public temple or not.’ The judge observed that whether the mandapam is a temple or not cannot be decided in writ proceedings. The Samaj was told to challenge the decision of HRCE before an appropriate forum.
However, the media reported that the court upheld HRCE’s decision to take over the mandapam, and HRCE appointed Executive Officer came to take charge officially. But BJP and Hindu organizations staged a protest against this move, alleging it to be a witch hunt by the DMK government. Ayodhya Mandapam is located in West Mambalam, which falls under the ward where BJP candidate Uma Anandhan won. She is the sole BJP councilor in the Greater Chennai Corporation, which DMK swept in the recently held local body election.
Uma Anandhan is the Vice President of the Temple Worshippers Society and has been relentlessly fighting against government control of temples. She sat in protest in front of the mandapam opposing the takeover. Speaking to the media, she said that HRCE has no right to take over the mandapam against the Supreme Court verdict. She cited the Chidambaram temple verdict, which said that HRCE could take over a place of worship only if it finds the presence of evil and that it can manage it only till the issue is sorted out.
HRCE has appointed the EO of Bala Dhandayuthapani temple in Chennai to look after the mandapam. Uma informed that through an RTI application, it has come to be known that the department illegally appointed the EO. As Dravidianists had a meltdown over Uma’s win in the local body election, the DMK government’s move to take over the mandapam is seen as a deliberate attempt to push the threshold on temple freedom and harass Hindus who voted for Uma.
Governments have had their