Conversions, Missing the Wood for the Trees

Two, One of the  reasons why the Hindu community does not have the resources to take  on the formidable Church is because Hindu temples are under  government control and in some states hundi collections are  used for secular causes.

Indic scholar and Regents  Professor of Computer Science Oklahoma State University Subhash Kak  gave a background to current laws, “The state governments have  based their policy on the recommendation of the Hindu Religious  Endowments Commission headed by C P Ramaswamy Aiyer in 1960 that  Hindu temples and maths be considered as belonging to the  public. The government entered into the religious sphere when the Indian  government was very aggressively pushing state control over all  aspects of Indian life.

Here are a few examples  of how temples are managed across the country.

According to TR Ramesh,  President, Temple Worshippers Society Chennai “in Tamil Nadu  temples have over 478,000 plus acres of land, 2.44 cr sq feet of  property for which the TN HR & CE department gets only Rs 58 crs  p.a. In reality income from all temples, mutts would, on a  conservative basis generate Rs 6,000 crs p.a.”

In Kerala there are three  Devasom Boards namely Malabar, Travancore and Cochin. Every board has  nominees appointed by the Government. When the Marxists are in power  they appoint one from CPI (M), CPI and coalition partner. When the  Congress comes to power, they “balance it between Nairs, Ezhavas  and a third community based on vote banks”. So technically the  Government has no say in the management of temples but in effect  controls through government appointed nominees.

Hundi collections, (eg  Guruvayur approx Rs 100 crs p.a., Sabrimalai approx Rs 150 crs), are  not spent on promoting Hindu culture/religion; benefit poor Hindus or  opening hospitals/orphanages. Instead money is spent on what is  called Construction and Development (widely believed to be a source  of corruption).

In Karnataka hundi  collections become income of the State government. Amount spent on  temple upkeep and priest salaries are negligible.

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar  said, “There are as many as 2,07,000 temples in Karnataka and the  total income of these temples amounts to Rs 72 crore only a sum of  Rs. 6 crores is being spent by the Government for their upkeep. On  the other hand, the Government spent a phenomenal amount of Rs.50  crores for the madrasas and Rs.10 crores for the churches, and for  the Hindu temples only a partly sum of Rs.6 crores is being spent.  (Arsha Vidya Newsletter of Dec 2003).

This India Today report  tells you of how poorly paid temple priests are, some as low Rs  349/ per month.

The newly elected TDP  government in Andhra  Pradesh passed an order nullifying all  temple committees in the state. As per past practice temple  committees were changed every time there was a change in government.  However, the High Court nullified the government order.

In most Southern states  there are full-fledged ministries to manage temples. Should not the  Government focus on poverty alleviation instead!

Take Mumbai’s  Siddhivinayak Mandir. According to a report on NDTV dated 3/2/2004,  USD 190,000 was transferred from temple trust to Dada Undalkar Smarak  Samiti run by a politician. As per information  collected under the RTI Act the  trust donated Rs 10 lakhs for a Christian school at Shiroda in  Sindhudurg district.

The Shri Mata Vaishnodevi  Shrine Board has done a commendable job in building infrastructure at  Vaishnodeviji. Why must its Chief Executive Officer be an IAS  officer? Can it not be a non-government Hindu management professional  instead?

Are Hindus competent to  manage their temples? This is an offensive question because a similar  question is not posed to other communities. Hindus have successfully  managed their temples for hundreds of years. A contemporary example  would be the privately run Women Sabarmalai Temple Attukal Temole  where 25 lakhs women devotees collect every year.

Hindus should be allowed  to spend temple income to conserve their culture, language, script,  pay adequate salaries to priests, propagate Dharma, and  maintain places of worship of all communities covered by The Hindu  Marriage Act (i.e. Hindus, Buddhist, Jains and Sikhs i.e. HBJS) the  last three of whom were not considered as minorities when the  constitution was first adopted in 1950. However, Hindu charitable  hospitals and schools would, like other communities, be open to all.

The law should provide  that members of the Hindu community would manage their temples and  use income for the preservation and promotion of HBJS Dharma. This  includes imparting religious instruction in their schools. Temples  would be subject to the same rules for funding and degree of  government interference as is applicable to mosques and churches.

Since temples would be  managed by Trusts they are answerable to the Charity Commissioner  Office as is the case currently. The Courts can intervene in case of  corruption charges filed by any Hindu.

Hindus seek only Equality  before Law as provided for under Article 14 and Freedom to  religious denominations to manage their own affairs in religion,  establish institutions, acquire and administer such properties  according to Article 26 of the Indian Constitution. Right to manage  temples has to be an integral part of HBJS religions. The community  is dynamic enough to uplift the lower sections of society when  provided with a level playing field.

The Government could  assist by creating a legal framework guaranteeing autonomy with  checks and balances to ensure good management i.e. applicable to all.

Congress leader from  Maharashtra and constitutional expert Dr. Shrikant Jitchkar wrote,  “Church was the biggest landlord in the country and all of them get  protected because of the Societies Registration Act of 1860, which  was enacted by the British only for the purpose of protecting the  church.” (Arsha Vidya Newsletter, Dec. 2003).

There are legal cobwebs,  different across States, which must be unraveled to allow the Hindu  community equal Human Rights.

Three, is caste.

Caste is a Spanish word  which has no relevance to India. The Indian equivalent is Jati, which  means family or clan lineage. Gandhian Dharampal wrote, “For the  British, as perhaps for some others before them, caste has been a  great obstacle, in fact, an unmitigated evil not because the British  believed in casteless ness or subscribed to non-hierarchical system  but because it stood in the way of their breaking Indian society, hindered  the process of atomization, and made the task of conquest and  governance more difficult”.

An example of how  successful the British were is that the Jats of Punjab are more  concerned about their Sikh identity than uplifting poor SC Sikhs who  have always been targeted by missionaries. They forget that it was to  counter missionary activity that Swami Dayananda Saraswati, founder  of Arya Samaj, left Gujarat for Punjab around 1877.

Hindu society needs a  social revolution across the country that focuses on treating all  varnas as equal, upliftment of the poorer sections of society,  opening of adequate numbers of schools and health centres in every  district. Indians must become more compassionate and share a large %  of their wealth for the benefit of the poor.

This could be spearheaded  by the Prime Minister as he has a rare capacity to motivate citizens  into action, as evidenced by the manner in which the Swachh Bharat  has become the fastest mass movement since independence.

Four, lack of  economic growth, employment opportunities and poor governance. A  hungry person will do anything to survive, even convert.

The Government, business  and services communities must focus on increasing employment and  growth rates. In times of natural calamities the Government must  provide prompt and continuous support to affected people.

Let each one of us  support those who want to acquire a skill e.g. my neighbor has  started Sponsor a Driver Scheme where lift and watch men in  our society who want to learn driving receive 50% of driving school  fees from him. This way monthly income increases from say Rs 5,000/  to Rs 8-15,000/. Saroj availed of the scheme and has become a role  model for others.

Socialism should be  replaced by the new mantras of Compassion and Good Governance.

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