The Malabar Devaswom Board and the trustees of the Sree Muthappan Temple at Parassinikkadavu are at loggerheads over the constitution of the temple advisory committee, which the trustees allege is used by the Communist Party of India (Marxist) to control the administration of the temple.
At the centre of the controversy is the 11-member advisory committee constituted by the Malabar Devaswom Board (MDB), including the temple 'Madayan' (chief priest) and trustee and manager P.M. Mukundan, three other representatives of the Parassini Madappura family, representatives of the MDB and devotees. The Madayan is the chairman of the committee and MDB Assistant Commissioner its secretary. The row over the committee began when the trustees alleged that the committee was being used as a shield for the local CPI(M) to 'take over' the temple administration. The allegation is that six members of the family are fellow travellers of the CPI(M).
The MDB authorities, however, say that the trustees are raising the bogey of the CPI(M) bid to take over the temple administration to forestall any action against alleged illegal appointment of five family members as employees in the temple. The four representatives of the Madappura family, including the Madayan abstained from the meeting of the committee held on April 12.
“Actually, none of the devotees represented in the committee are workers of the CPI(M) or even active political workers”, MDB president K. Gopalakrishnan said. The panel was constituted for protecting the interests of the temple as per the High Court order, he said, adding that the trustee was misleading and distorting the facts.
Though the decision to constitute the advisory committee was taken by the MDB on October 22, 2009, the committee was formed on December 10, 2009. The MDB authorities trace the appointment to the High Court orders including the verdict on a writ petition (26237/2005) filed by then Madayan P.M. Bhaskaran questioning the appointment of a special officer in 2005 following allegations of funds misappropriation and lack of proper accounting of income and expenditure in the temple. The petitioner (Madayan) had argued that the temple was a family temple and therefore he was entitled to manage the temple without any interference from the HR & CE Commissioner.
The HC order had upheld the earlier court order that the temple was a public temple under the then Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR & CE) Act and the Temple Entry Authorisation Act, Mr. Gopalakrishnan said. The court also directed then that the commissioner could interfere under section 20 of the HR & CE Act to conduct an inquiry and take appropriate steps since the Madayan had refused to account the income and expenditure, he said. The HC had directed the HR & CE commissioner to appoint another officer, since the one already appointed had retired from service so that the income and expenditure were accounted and arrangements made for proper and fair management of the temple, he said adding that the court had clearly said in the judgement that if the commissioner might also constitute a committee consisting of Madayan, representatives of the family, or devotees, the HR & CE Department and other respectable persons of the locality for overseeing the management of the temple in a fair and reasonable manner and for counting hundi collections in the temple.
The MDB president also referred to another HC order in respect of a writ petition (30799/2009) filed by the Parassini Muthappan Seva Sanghom, a society of Muthappan devotees, questioning the alleged illegal appointment of the five people in the temple. Dismissing the petition on March 12, 2010, the court directed that the question regarding requirements of the employees in the temple was to be decided by the committee consisting of the representatives of the trustees and the MDB and devotees. Mr. Gopalakrishnan said that the court had also directed that if there was any procedural irregularity in the matter of the appointment of the five people, the matter could be brought to the attention of the MDB. It was on the basis of this judgment that the committee had decided to meet on April 12, he said adding that the trustees had abstained from the meeting in a bid to forestall any action on the appointment of the five people.
Meanwhile, the issue is all set to assume a political dimension. Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) district leadership here has made it clear that the party will strongly resist any move to bring the temple administration under the control of the CPI(M). BJP district president K. Ranjith has stated that the advisory committee was constituted in defiance of a High Court stay on the formation of the committee.
Keywords: Malabar Devaswom Board