Shani Shingnapur is a popular place of worship in Maharashtra, which several Hindus visit every day. The presiding deity in Shani Shingnapur is Lord Shani. Now, the Maharashtra government plans to take over the place. Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis said, “In the state Assembly, we had promised a law for transparency in the temple trust management. It’s a popular religious destination in India, so it requires facilities and management of that level”. The Government wants to create a special legislation for Shani Shingnapur temple on the lines of the Mahalakshmi temple of Kolhapur, Maharashtra. Surprisingly spokesperson of Shani Shingnapur trust, Anil Darandale said they are not aware of any such proposal.
According to the proposal after the takeover of the temple Shani Shingnapur temple trust will have to report to the law and judiciary department of the state just like Siddhivinayak temple trust and the Shirdi Sai Sansthan trust. A chief officer will be also appointed to look into the daily administration of the temple. Staffs will be of the temple trust, chairperson, deputy chairperson and trustees will be appointed by the state government.
This is appalling, considering the fact how unfair temple control laws are. A secular state has no right to control religious institutions. But the twisted concept of Indian Secularism permits the state to selectively control Hindu Temples while allowing Mosques, Madrassas and Churches a completely free hand. Hindu temples are facing an assault from ‘secular’ state governments all across the country. These governments under various Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HRCE) Acts, control our temples. The HRCE departments are headed mostly by autonomous boards to which are often Marxist or non-believer academic appointments. Now state governments borrow money from these religious institutions, which are rich because people donate to them handsomely. The governments not only use temples money to finance themselves, they also use land owned by them without any payment to them.
Control of Hindu religious institution violates the following constitutional rights of Hindus:-
Article 14 — Equality before Law. The State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India.
Article 15 — Prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth.
Article 25 — Freedom of Religion.
(1) Subject to public order, morality, and health…, all persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right to freely profess, practice and propagate religion.
(2)(a) Nothing in this article shall… prevent the State from making any law regulating or restricting any economic, financial, political or other secular activity which may be associated with religious practice;
Article 26 — Freedom to Manage Religious Affairs. Subject to public order, morality and health, every religious denomination or any section thereof shall have the right
This move shows double-face of the BJP. The BJP included the point in its manifesto, promising for the Karnataka elections that it will usher in a historic reform by freeing Hindu temples from government control and interference. But in Maharashtra where they are in power they are trying to control autonomous temples. This shows the hypocrisy of the BJP. In the holy name of secularism, the governments took control of Hindu religious institutions. What the BJP at least can do is that if they don’t want to give up control on the temples, at least they can ensure that more temples do not go under the government control. These temple control laws are discriminatory in nature because they do not apply to places of worships of other religions. Maharashtra government should give up on these plans and it should allow institution autonomy to prevail.