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Opposition to temple takeover gains steam

Special Correspondent
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Hindu Munnani volunteers and traders staging a demonstration in front of the Vellore Fort on Wednesday.— Photo: C.Venkatachalapathy
Hindu Munnani volunteers and traders staging a demonstration in front of the Vellore Fort on Wednesday.— Photo: C.Venkatachalapathy

The opposition to the Hindu Religious & Charitable Endowments Department move to take over the administration of Sri Jalakanteswarar Temple has gained momentum. The Hindu Munnani has announced a week-long agitation from Wednesday, culminating in a bandh on next Tuesday.

A panel called Sri Jalakanteswarar Temple Protection Committee has been formed for conducting the agitation and taking steps to retain the temple under the administration of the Sri Jalakanteswarar Dharma Sthabanam.

Volunteers of the Hindu Munnani, members of Sri Jalakanteswarar Dharma Sthabanam (which is currently performing religious affairs of the temple) and local traders staged a demonstration before the entrance to the fort here on Wednesday, urging the government to direct the HR & CE Department withdraw the order. Those who spoke at the protest wondered what the government was doing when the temple was not in worship before local devotees carried on a sustained campaign, culminating in the re-installation of presiding deity (which was kept under protection in a temple in Sathuvachari for nearly four centuries) and revival of worship on March 16, 1981.

Local devotees were responsible for the resurgence leading to revival of worship and the subsequent maintenance and the day-to-day administration of the temple since that day.

S. Vellaiyappan, Tamil Nadu State secretary of the Hindu Munnani said that the track record of the HR & CE Department in maintaining Hindu temples was poor. An instance of “poor maintenance” was the failure of the department to repair the dilapidated car of Sri Tharakeswarar Temple in Thottapalayam, Vellore, for the last 15 years.

The department has not also been able to protect the lands belonging to thousands of Hindu temples under its administration owing to encroachments. Regular pujas were being carried on in the temple by the Dharma Sthabanam for the last 32 years after revival of worship. It has not constructed a compound wall for the Veerabadraswamy Temple behind the Selliamman Temple near the New Bus Stand, while the Selliamman Temple itself is languishing after its take over by the department.

Mr. Vellaiyappan said that more than 10,000 telegrams would be sent to Chief Minister Jayalalithaa on Thursday, urging her to direct the HR & CE Department to withdraw its order. On Friday, 1,000 lamps would be lit in the temple and in the houses of devotees to express their feelings on maintenance of the temple. Hindus would display black flags in their vehicles and wear black badges on Saturday, while street propaganda would be carried out in all 60 wards of Vellore highlighting the need to make the HR & CE Department give up its move. Joint prayers would be offered in the temple on Monday. If the department’s decision is not withdrawn, a bandh would be observed by traders in Vellore on Tuesday.

A. Varadarajan, State general secretary of the Janata Party, said that the government move has come at a time when two petitions filed by party president Subramanian Swamy in the Supreme Court pleading for entrusting all Hindu temples to the Hindus, and entrusting Sri Natarajar Temple in Chidambaram to the Hindus were still pending.

K. Mahesh, Vellore district president of the Hindu Munnani, said that while the government allowed contributions from devotees in places of worship belonging to other religions to be used for the development of places of worship and propagation of religion, the government interfered only in the administration of Hindu temples and spent the ‘hundial’ collections for government schemes.

Earlier, volunteers raised slogans demanding the government to give up its move to take over the administration of the temple.

‘Track record of the HR & CE Department in maintaining Hindu temples is very poor’

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