The article, “Freeing temples from state control” (Jan. 20), presented a true reflection of the anxiety that prevails in the minds of thousands of devotees about the maladministration of many Hindu temples by the government. For that matter, it is difficult to understand why only Hindu temples are sought to be brought under state control. There are disputes over non-Hindu religious institutions as well; why does not the secular government show any interest or courage to demand control over such properties too?
The government should govern, not run, religious bodies. It is shocking to learn that a mere Rs. 36 crore is earned from 4.7 lakh acres of agricultural land and 2.6 crore square feet of urban temple sites. These buildings and lands must be liberated from the hands of politicians’ kith and kin.
While I concur with Subramanian Swamy on his broad opinion on the maladministration of religious institutions by the state, the “obvious question” he points out is perhaps misleading. Dr. Swamy, with his legal acumen, knows more than anyone that Article 26 grants the fundamental right to every religious denomination to administer such property in accordance with law. Therefore, government interference is a function of lawful management and need not connote prejudice against any particular religious disposition. However, the rank insensitivity of government officials towards our priceless heritage, as alleged by Dr. Swamy, if true, is indeed appalling.
The freedom to practise one’s religion is a non-discriminatory and non-discretional constitutional provision which applies universally. This religious freedom extends to the right to administer one’s place of worship. True secularism means requires the government to view all religions with equal dispassion.
Keywords: Sri Sabhanayagar Temple, Chidambaram Natarajar Temple, Subramanian Swamy, Podu Dikshitars, Hindu Religious & Charitable Endowments Department, HR&CE, Hindu temples, temple management, Dravidian parties, priests salary, temple lands, temple funds