July 09, 2023

TN: Securing Temple Governance: Combating RSS & Sangh Parivar's Privatisation Push

G Udayakumar

IN Tamil Nadu, reactionary forces like RSS and Sangh Parivar are seeking private control over Hindu temple management. Currently, most temples are administered by the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Department of the Tamil Nadu government. However, RSS elements aim to privatise these temples, raising concerns about the potential loot of temple funds and assets.

Recently Annamalai, the Tamil Nadu BJP leader, stated his intention to remove the HR and CE department from the Hindu temple administration if his party comes to power. However, such power is unlikely to be granted by the people of Tamil Nadu to the BJP. Jaggi Vasudev, a prominent supporter of these reactionary forces, has also advocated for the privatisation of Hindu temples, which means transferring administration to Sangh Parivar-affiliated organisations.

The Tamil Nadu Platform for People's Unity recently organised a conference in Madurai to address the crucial issue of protecting temples currently under the administration of the HR and CE department of the Tamil Nadu government, which witnessed the participation of hundreds of people. Resolutions proposed by Vijayarajan and Ponnuthai include rejecting the demands of reactionary forces and ensuring the continued protection of Hindu temples by the HR and CE department, prohibiting Sangh Parivar programmes within temple premises, promoting inclusivity in the appointment of archakas from all castes and using the Tamil language for ordination, preventing Sanskritisation in village temples, retracting the misleading speech on Vallalar by the governor, and taking steps to isolate communal forces causing disturbances at the Palani temple.

The conference featured notable speakers including SR Sekar Babu, the HR and CE minister of Tamil Nadu, Kalaiyarasi Natarajan, a Hindu spiritual leader, Su Venkatesan MP, Arunan (coordinator of TNPPU), Madukkoor Ramalingam (editor of Theekkathir daily), Ko. Thalapathy and Boominathan, MLAs of MDMK. Greetings were extended by Ramaraj and Guhasila Rooban. Jayachandran, the coordinator of Madurai town district, presided over the conference, while Uma Mageswaran, the coordinator of Madurai rural district, welcomed the gathering.

SR Sekar Babu, voiced support for the six resolutions proposed by TNPPU. He emphasised the government's dedication to protecting Hindu temples, citing initiatives like the recent consecration at Thiruvottar temple after 200 years of neglect. The government has consecrated 850 temples and appointed priests from all castes. Ordination in Tamil, rather than Sanskrit, has been mandated for all temples. Over 1800 temples have been renovated, with a fund of Rs. 2 lakhs allocated for Poojas in 10,000 temples. The government has allocated 100 crores for the construction of a Vallalar International Centre, set to be inaugurated soon. Additionally, the government has instructed the celebration of Vallalar's 200th birth anniversary throughout the year, incorporating free kitchens for the poor and Jyothidharisanam.

Regarding the resolution to protect the Palani temple from RSS and Sangh Parivar groups, Babu assured that political interference would not be tolerated while the current government is in power. He highlighted the recent consecration at the Palani temple, conducted in Tamil despite objections from, right-wing elements, advocating for Sanskrit ordination. The government has allocated 129 crores for the welfare of financially challenged temples and provided a monthly stipend of Rs 1000 to 10,000 economically disadvantaged archakas. Moreover, the present state government has granted substantial subsidies to temples, an unprecedented level of support since 1959.

Kalaiyarasi Natarajan spoke about the BJP's hatred and obsession with the charity sector. BJP believes that planting a sceptre in the recently opened national parliament building will ensure their hold on power. She criticised BJP leader Annamalai for spreading falsehoods and accused Prime Minister Modi of neglecting the Manipur riots and misrepresenting Indian democracy during his visit to the United States. She asserted that the BJP opposes spirituality.

Su Venkatesan, the member of parliament from Madurai, raised a thought-provoking questions for the Sangh Parivar groups and BJP. He questioned the handover of temples from government control, expressing concerns about entrusting them to Mutt heads. He criticised the RSS and Sangh Parivar for their efforts to dismantle the social justice system in Tamil Nadu. He highlighted their preference for appointing only brahmins as archakas, while the government promoted inclusivity and social harmony by appointing archakas from all castes.

While addressing gathering, Arunan, the coordinator of TNPPU, highlighted the historical context of Hindu temples in Tamil Nadu. He noted that prior to 1927, the temples were controlled by private parties, with little intervention from the British government. These temple trustees often exploited temple wealth for personal gain. Arunan emphasized the historical significance of these temples, many of which were constructed by Tamil Nadu's rajas. Therefore, he argued that the government has the responsibility to supervise and protect these temples. He shared personal experiences of witnessing child marriages arranged by the Chidambaram Deekshidars during his time at Chidambaram Annamalai University. He criticised the RSS and Sangh Parivar for demanding the government hand over temple control to private parties, suggesting their intention is to exploit the temples' valuable assets. Arunan urged the state government not to entertain such demands. He expressed concern over the RSS causing disturbances at the Palani temple, disrupting the previously allowed access for people of different religious backgrounds to the hilltop temple. He called on the audience to prevent further incidents of this nature.

Madhukkoor Ramalingam, the editor of Theekkathir, questioned the BJP leader Annamalai about his connection to the temples. He dismissed Annamalai's statement about dismantling the HR and CE department, emphasizing its unlikely realization. He mentioned the historical context of the temple entry movement. He praised former chief minister K Kamaraj for appointing a dalit leader as the HR&CE minister, promoting inclusivity and social justice. The governments of Kerala and Tamil Nadu have issued orders to appoint individuals from all castes as archakas in temples.

Implementing such orders becomes challenging if the temples are under the control of private parties. He highlighted BJP leader H Raja's opinion that the Tamil ordination at Palani temple defiled it, necessitating a reconsecration in Sanskrit. He criticised the Tamil Nadu governor for supporting child marriages in Chidambaram, contrary to Vallalar's teachings, and accused the governor of spreading falsehoods.

Vivekanandan, in his vote of thanks, expressed gratitude to all participants and speakers for their valuable contributions at the conference.