The Bihar government has amended the Bodh Gaya Temple Act of 1949, allowing for a non-Hindu to head the temple committee.

As per Section 3 (3) of the Act, the district magistrate (DM) is the ex-officio chairman of the temple committee and has to be a Hindu. If the DM is a non-Hindu, the Act requires the government “to nominate a Hindu as Chairman of the committee for the period during which the DM is a non-Hindu.”

However, on Tuesday, the State Assembly passed the Bodh Gaya Temple (Amendment) Bill 2013. “A secular State is the hallmark of the Indian Constitution and the said section goes against the spirit of the Constitution,” the proposal to amend the act, said.

Championing the Bill in the Assembly, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar said, “The DM is a representative of the government’s secular credentials.”

The BJP vehemently opposed the Bill as an unnecessary move.

The change invoked mixed responses from the Bodh Gaya Temple Management Committee (BTMC). “We welcome it since ours is a secular State. A mistake has been corrected,” an authoritative source told The Hindu. BTMC member secretary Nangzey Dorjee, on the other hand, refused to comment on the issue saying it was a policy matter.

Upset with the amendment, Bhante Pragyadeep of the All India Bhiku Sangha termed the move as “vote bank politics.” “The amendment makes no sense. It is not even beneficial in any way. Our demand was to amend the 1949 Act, increase the number of Buddhists on the Committee and give the management of the temple to the Buddhists. That demand has still not been addressed. You do not have a Buddhist DM. As an official position the move is right in its place, but this is a question of faith,” Bhante Pragyadeep told The Hindu.

As per the Act, out of the eight members on the committee, four shall be Buddhists and four Hindus. The temple has been demanding an increase in the number of Buddhists on the body.

CISF cover

Meanwhile, Mr. Kumar has renewed his plea to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for approving the Central Industrial Security Force to guard the Mahabodhi Temple, as a special case.

“We have urged the Centre that this is a special case. You cannot compare the Mahabodhi Temple to other temples. It is the centre of faith for the Buddhist world. The State is prepared to bear the cost of providing CISF cover,” he said.