1. Statement of Objects
1.1 ‘India, that is Bharat’, when framers of our constitution used those words in that sequence in its very first article, they were conscious of certain facts:
One, Bharat is just a new name of our country Bharat that is homeland of our millennia old civilisation that gave birth to four major religions – Hindu Dharma, Jainism, Buddhism and Sikhism – which primarily informed our ancient civilisational ethos and culture;
Two, the Bharat is the inheritor and trustee of our ancient civilisation;
Three, the preambular exhortation of ‘unity and integrity of the Nation’ has civilisational connotation as deep civilisational ties bound us spatially and inter-generationally spanning across yugas.
Thus they were cognizant of Bharat as a Civilisational Nation whose unity and integrity was primarily informed by Sanatana Dharma eons before they assembled to frame the constitution. Therefore, the moral obligation of the Constitution was largely to nurture our ancient civilisation and its values with a view to reintegrate our Nation and its people. For, bereft of those there will be no ‘India’ in India as mere geographical lump alone do not make a nation.
2.1 Temples and Mutts are life and soul of Hindu Dharma. The institutional capacity for self-correction and self-defence, sustenance of the priestly class, artistes and various service occupations and crafts has traditionally come from the perennial income generated by the temples and mutts. They helped organic growth of religious leadership, and of resource capacity to serve the needy and destitute Hindus in terms of education, hospitals, orphanages and old age homes.
2.2 A secular State by definition cannot control and manage religious institutions that too of only one religion. Article 26 of Constitution bestows fundamental right on all religions, irrespective of majority or minority, to establish and maintain institutions for religious and charitable purposes, to manage their own affairs, and to own, acquire and administer property thereof.
2.3 If there were allegations of mismanagement in certain temples, then government intervention could only be for a very limited period as per article 31A(1)(b) of Constitution to set things right in that temple.
2.4 Despite constitutional provisions, Hindu temples continue to be controlled and routinely taken over by the State Governments, whereas Mosques and Churches are allowed to be exclusively managed by the respective communities even though article 26 confers right equally upon all sections of citizens.
2.5 Moreover, the State control of temples is doubly disadvantageous for Hindus in that they have not only lost control of their temples to the Government but because of that very reason of temples being under the control of Government it becomes part of ‘the State’ as per article 12 of Constitution. As a result, the centuries-old religious customs, festivals and practices get challenged and interfered with selectively and unduly.
2.6 Evidently, with the denial of the right to manage their own temples, the ‘majority’ Hindus in Bharat fare no differently from minority dhimmis in certain theocratic countries. Deprived of resources and institutions, Hindu Dharma has been decaying. Clearly, the religious rights of Hindus count for nothing, and states can trample them at will. So much for religious freedom for majority Hindus!
2.7 In line with the aforesaid constitutional obligation and in pursuance of its objects and purposes, Hindu Charter Trust https://equalrightsforhindus.com is taking up the issue of liberation from the Govt control of Hindu Temples which have been fulcrum of our ancient civilisation and culture.
2.8 As it is not possible to take up this massive project simultaneously in all states, it is proposed to start it in Andhra Pradesh. The reasons for choosing Andhra Pradesh as the first state for this project are many including the incessant attacks on Hindu temples and deities which seem to have a pattern and a sinister design. As per the statement of Director General of Police, Andhra Pradesh there were 228 attacks on Hindu temples and deities in the 2020 alone in the state of AP.
To say that the situation is alarming is an understatement. Not only the culprits have not been identified and arrested but there have been concerted efforts to give political colour to deflect the public attention from the grave situation. Assuming that there was a political conspiracy by the some political parties to disturb peace and tranquility, then it is all the more important for the AP Govt to expose the conspiracy by detecting the crimes and arresting the conspirators and criminals. But that was not to be.
3. Govt kabja of Hindu temples in Andhra Pradesh
3.1 A total of 24,632 Hindu temples and religious institutions [details given in Table below] have been taken over by Govt under section 6 of the Andhra Pradesh Charitable and Hindu Religious Institutions and Endowments Act-1987 including 12 temples under TTD as section 95 read with 6 of the said Act. Temples and religious institutions are classified by various clauses of section 6 namely:
Section 6(a) institutions are whose annual income is above Rs. 25 lakhs;
Section 6(b) institutions are whose annual income is between Rs. 2 to 25 lakhs;
Section 6(c) institutions are whose annual income is below Rs. 2 lakhs;
Section 6(d) are Mutts irrespective of the income;
Section 6(e) are Dharmadayam irrespective of the income. [Dharmadayam means any amount charged or collected under whatever name, according to custom or usage of any business or trade or the agreement between the parties relating to any transaction or otherwise from any party to the said transactions, as being intend to be used for a charitable or a religious purpose.]
3.2 The AP Govt has so far taken over 24,632 no of Hindu temples and religious institutions along with FOUR LAKH ACRES of land and other properties worth more than a lakh of crores. Of which one lakh acres of land has been encroached. This speaks volumes about colossal loss caused by the Govt to Hindus.
3.3 This has completely crippled Hindu society and its institutional capacity and resource ability of to be self-sufficient and in presenting a unified front to address the religious problems both from within and outside.
3.4 Despite so much temple wealth and income, the living conditions of our archakas, pujaris and others who are associated with various services to the temples are pathetic as they live in penury.
3.5 Ruling parties of all hues have converted the Hindu temples to dole out political patronage in appointments of their party persons to the Temple Trust Boards, thereby serving the vested political interests rather than of the Hindu society and Hindu Dharma.
3.6 Further, the Government controlled temples have been turned into commercial enterprises whereby the devotees have to pay for darshan and every other activity in the temple. This is outrageous, and is nothing but religious tax or jaziya imposed on Hindus.
3.7 Proselytizers cite the Government imposed system to vilify Hindu Dharma by saying that Hindus have to pay money to visit their gods/temples and use that to lure Hindus to convert.
3.8 Government control of temples has also led to a lot of perversions in temple management including employment of non-Hindu staff and appointment of non-Hindus to Temple Trust Boards, misappropriation of temple lands and properties, interference in the age old rituals, customs, traditions etc.
4. Liberation of Hindu temples from Govt control & their democratic management by involving all sections of Hindu society without Govt role
4.1 A secular Govt has no business to take over and mange Hindu temples and their properties. Therefore, it is high time that Hindus fight peacefully to liberate temples from government control to save Hindu Dharma and Hindu civilisation from extinction.
4.2 The Hindu Charter Trust has drafted a Model Temple Management Bill which provides for:
(i) The access to the Hindu religious institutions of public character to all classes and sections of Hindus with due regard to the religious customs of each such institution;
(ii) The management of the Hindu religious institutions and administration of their properties through a body consisting of Hindu religious persons, and Hindu representatives of electoral colleges consisting of Hindus elected for the purpose for each such institution or for a group of such institutions, with the State exercising no control over the management or affairs of such institutions or administration of their properties;
(iii) The appropriation of the funds, properties and all resources of the Hindu religious institutions only for the purposes of maintenance, development and construction of the Hindu religious institutions; for the religious well-being of the Hindus and Hindu community; and for the preservation, promotion and propagation of Hindu Dharma;
(iv) The prohibition of non-Hindus from taking part in the management, administration or any other activity whatsoever, of the Hindu religious institutions and their properties;
(v) The protection by the State of all Hindu religious institutions and their properties from encroachment or illegal destruction;
(vi) The creation of national, state, regional, district and local level Hindu Dharma Sabhas consisting of both religious and elected representatives of Hindu religious institutions, for the purposes of guidance, preservation, promotion and propagation of Hindu Dharma.
5. Tentative action plan
5.1 No ruling political party would forego control over Hindu temples and their properties unless there is a mass movement forcing that. Though a tough task, it can be achieved with participation and support of all.
5.2 As already mentioned, it is proposed to take up the project in Andhra Pradesh through a formidable team comprising of prominent personalities & ground level Senior Activists under the guidance of Hindu Dharma gurus.
5.3 When temples are taken away by the Govt, Hindus not only have lost ownership of temples but also much of the emotional connect to them. Hence, it important to re-establish emotional connect of Hindu community with the temples as precursor to regaining their ownership of Hindu temples. Accordingly, it is proposed to form Bhakta Brindams for each of the 24,632 Hindu temples under Govt control.
5.4 Taking inspiration from the Westminster model of democracy, each Bhakta Brindam will select a Shadow Committee or CHAYA SAMITI consisting of 10-15 respectable persons of the local Hindu society. The Chaya Samitis will act as Hindu Civil Society Watch over management of temples.
5.5 The Chaya Samitis will assist the Archakas/Pujaris, temple staff and Govt authorities in proper maintenance of the temple and its properties. They will act as force multipliers for the police in providing safety and security of temples, deities and temple properties.
5.6 The Chaya Samitis will collect complete information about history, management, condition of archakas and other persons traditionally serving or dependent on the temple etc. This data will be compiled and published as reports to educate the public and for reference.
5.7 The Chaya Samitis will provide learning and training opportunity to members of Hindu society in management of temples which will enable smooth transition of control of temples and their properties from Govt to Hindu society as and when it happens.
5.8 The Chaya Samitis will be consolidated at Mandal/Tehsil/Taluka, District, State and National levels in a phased manner in order to articulate and voice the concerns of Hindu society in order to persuade the Govts to hand over temples to Hindu society to be managed democratically without any Govt interference.
5.9 It has been decided to launch the project on pilot basis in East Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh which will be completed within 6 months. During this 6 month period, efforts will be made simultaneously to do preliminary work in the remaining 12 districts for extending the project to the entire AP.
6. Appeal for contribution of funds
6.1 For the East Godavari district alone about 10 full time activists and about 80 part time activists along with few other personnel will be engaged to cover all the 1851 temples in the district under Govt control.
6.2 While the pilot project is in progress in East Godavari district, preparation of the ground work by engaging at least 10-15 full time activists per district will engaged for extending the project to rest 12 districts of AP will be taken up so that within one year all the 24632 temples under AP Govt control will covered.
6.3 An initial fund of about Rs. One crore is required for meeting the expenses towards payment of honorarium to full time and part time activists, their wayfare, office and other miscellaneous activities to run the project and associated awareness campaign.
6.4 Please support this initiative. In case of any queries, get in touch with me on my Twitter username @ratihegde
Trustee, Hindu Charter Trust
To donate for the cause, visit www.crowdkash.com/campaign/1025/supporthindutemples
(This article has been reproduced here with minor edits to conform to HinduPost style-guide.)
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