If you ever cared to read the Preamble published at the beginning of your NCERT textbooks, you would know that the Constitution of India espouses equality of status and opportunity. This means the State cannot treat the various classes of citizens differently.
However, the ruling CPI (M) in Kerala seems to have one set of rules for Hindu temples, which it seems to describe as public property, and another set of rules for churches and mosques, which it seems to describe as private property.
The curious case of Mattannur Mahadeva Temple in Kannur
The Malabar Devaswom Board, a part of Kerala’s state government, has taken over the Mattannur Mahadeva Temple in Kannur notwithstanding stiff opposition from the locals.
Earlier, the Kerala High Court had asked the Malabar Devaswom Board chairman to mediate the matter and arrive at a decision. After the temple trust couldn’t prove its ownership, orders were issued for the government to take over the temple.
K Surendran, State President of Kerala BJP tweeted, “The Pinarayi Vijayan government has captured the renowned Mattannur Mahadeva Temple using the Kerala Police. A secular govt has nothing to do with temple administration. The godless party, CPI(M) Kerala, and the CM are trying to destroy the temples in Kerala. Highly condemnable.”
The @vijayanpinarayi government has captured the renowned Mattannur Mahadeva Temple using the @TheKeralaPolice. A secular govt has nothing to do with temple administration. The godless party @CPIMKerala and the CM are trying to destroy the temples in Kerala. Highly condemnable. pic.twitter.com/eUV6dtxzqF
— K Surendran (@surendranbjp) October 14, 2021
The officials of the Malabar Devaswom Board reportedly entered the premises of Mattannur Mahadeva temple in Kerala’s Kannur on Wednesday. They also took over the temple under police protection.
Devotees upset with the move
The Malabar Devaswom Board officials were stopped by protesters. In fact, they had to break open the lock to enter the temple premises. A few protesting devotees were so upset that they attempted self-immolation. However, the police forcibly removed them from the premises.
As per Times Now, the local Hindus have accused the government of eyeing privately managed temples due to their large earnings. They said, “The last monarchy in Kerala used to protect these temples until the British took them, and after independence, they were never returned to the worshippers.”
Temples public, mosques and churches private
When the local devotees are so upset with the move, why should the state government insist on taking over the temple? Malabar Devaswom Board President MR Murali, a former municipality chairperson and CPI(M) district committee member seems to offer a strange explanation.
Murali said that the Mattannur Mahadeva temple is not a private temple and that it belongs to the government. Fair enough. But why are only temples being taken over? As per Times Now, Murali said that mosques and churches are private, not public properties. The Malabar Devaswom Board chairperson argued that the temple belongs to the government as kings built it.
The government ought to act reasonably and treat all religious places of worship equally. At the end of the day, everyone has an equal right to worship and freedom of religion. There is no good explanation behind a policy to treat temples as public properties while other religious places of worship are described as private properties.