In a very significant step, which will pave the way for Hindu temples to be ultimately freed from state control, the BJP-ruled state of Karnataka has prohibited the use of temple money for any non-Hindu purposes. Now, the finances of temples will be used for Hindu causes alone. In an order notified earlier this week, the government of Karnataka prohibited the use of funds of the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (Muzrai) department for causes other than that of temples. The order, dated July 26, bars the diversion of both the ‘tastik’ and the annual grant to 757 non-Hindu religious centres and 111 prayer centres, which were not Hindu in nature.
As per the order, this step was taken as members of the state and district Dharmic Parishads objected to the diversion of funds annually to other religious institutions. Even the Minister for Muzrai, Kota Srinivas Poojary had emphasised the need for other religious institutions of a non-Hindu character to be provided finances by either the concerned backward class or minority welfare department. Following such calls, the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (Muzrai) department notified the order barring any provision of funds to non-Hindu causes and institutions from either the ‘tastik‘ amount or the annual grants.
Following protests by various Hindu groups, Minister for Muzrai Kota Srinivas Poojary had directed that all acts of financial support for non-Hindu causes from the department be halted with immediate effect. However, Poojary had also said, “until our government came to power, ‘tastik’ amount meant for temples was also being provided to other religious institutions. Upon receiving this information, we have directed that all utilisation of funds for non-Hindu purposes be stopped immediately.”
Now, the order notified on July 26th instructs that such grants be given to the concerned non-Hindu institutions through the Department of Minority Welfare, Haj and Waqf. It is simply beyond all sanity for Hindu finances and temple revenue to be used not for Hindu purposes, but for financing the activities of minority religious institutions and paying the salaries of people involved in non-Hindu causes. The practice is rampant, particularly in South India, where governments control temples as though it is their own property. These governments then divert temple funds to minority religious institutions, while Hindu institutions continue to languish in the absence of adequate funds.
The BJP-ruled state of Karnataka has taken a landmark decision in the right direction. Now, the finances of Karnataka’s temples will be used solely for Hindu purposes. The government of Karnataka has set a precedent which all states must follow, but which they are most likely to ignore. Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh – these are all states ruled by ‘secular’ parties. While Tamil Nadu is currently ruled by the DMK and Kerala is controlled by the Left, in Andhra Pradesh – an explicitly pro-missionary chief minister is in power.
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Therefore, for the temples of such states to not have their revenue directed towards other religious institutions will be a herculean task. Yet, Hindus must make sure that their revenues do not get used for ‘secular’ purposes in any state.
In May last year, TFI had reported how the Tamil Nadu government asked 47 major temples of the state to cough up a total of 10 crore rupees as a ‘contribution’ to the CM’s relief fund, so as to aid in the fight against COVID-19. Meanwhile, Kerala’s Guruvayur Temple was made to ‘contribute’ Rs. 5 crores to the CM’s Relief Fund by the Communist government of the state, using its proxies in the Guruvayur Devaswom Board.
What is more disturbing is the fact that such loot of Hindu temples is permitted by the Constitution, while other religious communities enjoy absolute freedom from the government in their places of worship. The practice of the government being bestowed with powers to administrate temples dates its origins back to colonial India when the British thought it fit to assume control over temples whenever they so desired. The Madras Hindu Religious and Endowments Act 1927 was initially also supposed to include Muslims and Christians, however, following protests, they were dropped from the purview of the said regulation, making government control over temples applicable only to Hindus.
It is now time to kick the governments out of temples. Karnataka has taken a significant step in that direction, and Hindus must ensure that other states do as well.