‘Freeing Hindu Temples From Government Control’ — A Talk by J Sai Deepak

J. Sai Deepak delivered a talk at the Press Club of India. The talk was organized by the Srijan Foundation on the topic: Freeing Hindu temples from government control.

First of all I would like to thank Srijan Foundation and therefore I will have to thank Abhinav Prakash Singh and Rahul Deewan, Alok Govil and Piyush Jain for actually giving me this opportunity. He has already given a bit of my introduction and lawyers tend to speak a lot about themselves so I will try not to do that, I will try and get on the topic straight.

I would like to build from where he has actually left the introduction just to say that its ironic that the majority is actually discriminated against, I don’t think its ironic in this country at all. I don’t find it surprising nor I don’t see a bit of irony in it at all and I don’t think that I am alone in sharing the sentiment. Fortunately a good number of people in this country, they have woken up, they have started paying attention to the things around them. I think the average middle class person who has being paying attention to his livelihood has also woken up but if he focuses exclusively on livelihood, survival will become an issue after some point of time.

There is something that I would like to start with before I get into the meat of the topic. There are any number of articles that are available if one we have to just google with respect to the number of temples that have been encroached upon, the number of temple properties that have been alienated, the number of jewels that have been stolen and the kind of meagre amounts that temples make with respect to the properties that they have leased out on, there is so much of information.

It’s not as if  I need to say something new but  it does exist already in the public domain then why is it that there is a lack of action with respect to these issues? Why is it that there is a certain lack of activism with respect to these issues? Why is it that people are not as troubled as  they are supposed to be with respect to what is happening around them?

I think it goes back to central issues which I think more or less in most situations. Attitude, knowledge and initiative these are the only three things. I don’t see anything else being responsible for the current state of affairs. Apathy, I think it’s central for whatever is happening and I think the consequences of apathy become very very clear if one we have to just take a look at the legislations that control some of these temples in some of the states. Even for a person who is not legally trained who has absolutely no skills when it comes to interpretation of the law or statures or so on so forth. These legislations are crying to be toned down. These legislations are crying to be struck down.

It’s just surprising, in fact I started writing on these issues only, around I think December 2015 onwards and before that I was doing a bit of reading and when I read these legislations, the first question that I asked myself is, why has it taken so many years for these legislations to be challenged before the court? Some of these legislations date back to 1927 then 1951 and 1954. The 1954 legislation that currently applies to Tamil Nadu goes back to the 1927 legislation which was repealed and then came out in the 1951 legislation.

The supreme court struck it down for the first time in the Shirur Mutt case of 1954 and if somebody were to see the legislation that was struck down in 1954 and compare it to the legislation that came subsequently, they will ask themselves what is the difference? No difference at all. Nobody has bothered to undertake even a textual comparison of what was struck out? What was struck down and what is enforced today to ask themselves how did the state legislature have the guts, the gall, the gumption and the audacity to bring something back into force which the supreme court of the country has struck down as fundamentally unconstitutional and this goes back to specific I think perhaps socio-political reasons before I get into what is it that we can do about it? Why is it that we need to do something about it?

Pardon me for saying this but the cause of the temple has unfortunately become the cause of a single caste. It has become associated with a certain community, a certain group or a certain caste which I think is fundamentally wrong perception , it needs to go, it needs to be thrown out of the window. A temple belongs to every caste, every sector, every community within the Hindu fold, let there be no two ways about it. Let there be no allusions about it. Therefore, when a temple is affected, it doesn’t matter whether it is run by a certain group or a certain subset or a certain set of followers. What happens to them and what affects them is bound to affect you because the very same actions will be extrapolated and extended to your institutions, there is no escaping this. There is absolutely no escaping this.

Therefore, the first thing that we need to do is to shake off a bit of inertia and ask ourselves why is it that this inertia has lasted for so long and I think it’s simply because we have a very philosophical approach to most of these world issues. (sanatan dharm hai to sanatan hi rahega) it will continue, it has continued. It has withstood the ravages of time and history and therefore it will continue to withstand the ravages of time and history and it will not be lost in the mists and sand of time, that’s more or less our justification. I think perhaps our own cowardice, inertia, weakness, lack of collective action, lack of cohesive action, lack of concerted action.  And I think this is the first step, this is the first thing that needs to be addressed.

Now, let me just read out something which I have been dying to read out to an audience because this more or less is symptomatic of what’s happening. I think this more or less tells us why we are where we are today. So, I am just quoting from a decision of the supreme court of 1966 with respect to the AP legislation that was challenged and the supreme court was given a certain argument as to why is it that these legislations are exclusively applicable to Hindus?

Why is it that these legislations are exclusively applicable to Hindu institutions? What was so peculiar about it? So, let’s put it this way , lets say that Rahul is the Principal or lets say the teacher in the classroom. He has the power to slap everyone equally or he has the power to show everyone (inaudible) but Rahul chooses to do this eclusively with respect to one student or  respect to one student which means there is a power that has been given to him institutionally in order for him to exercise this equally across classes, across communities, across groups.

But Rahul chooses to focus his energy exclusively on one community and this gives rise to two or three conclusions. One, he believes that is the only community or that is the only section of students who deserve special attention either because they are weak or they are fundamentally flawed in their character and therefore, their character needs some kind of intervention. That is the assumption and that is the message that Rahul sends out. Secondly, treating different people or equall people differently is inequality, I would say unequal application of power is also inequality.

If you choose not to apply the power or enforce your power or exercise your power with respect to x number of communities and you choose to make one community the target of your power to exercise your power. This for me is the textbook definition of    what discrimination is, there’s no two ways about it. You don’t need to be an expert in law, you don’t need to be an expert in constitution law, you don’t need to be an expert in jurisprudence for this simple point to be understood and convinced.

Let’s see what supreme court has said :

Now, I will just read this out and this is the classic argument that’s been given with respect to a lot interventions in the Hindu society. Bear with me for a few minutes while I will just read this out because this more or less will tell you what is the attitude of not just the executive or the government arm of the state but equally of the judiciary with respect to Hindu institutions. Now, it’s up to us to see if this sentiment or this attitude of 1966 has carried on to 2016 these years down the line. Let’s just pay attention to this and this is very very important.

So, this is the argument that is presented on behalf of the petitioners who are challenging the legislation, the Andhra Pradesh legislation with respect to it’s constitutionality. It says ‘The main thrust of the arguments of the learned council for the petitioners is that Articles 25 and 26 guarantee freedom to manage religious affairs and right to freely profess practice and propagate the religion to all citizens alike. Hindus constitute majority population. Hindu religion is the major religion in the country, equally Muslim, Christian and Parsi citizens are entitled to the same constitution rights under Articles 25 and 26 without touching the administration and governance of charitable or religious institutions or endowments founded or maintained by Muslims, Christians or Parsi’s making law, regulating the administration of Hindu religious institutions and above endowments offends articles 14 and 15 which deal with equality’ , this is the argument that was made.

It is also contended that when a denomination which is a part of the major religion is protected by article 26. The major religions themselves as genus are equally entitled to protection under article 26 which is to say, if Vaishnavites are entitled to protection  under a certain provision of the constitution,  Hindus as a whole are equally entitled to same protection because Vaishnavites form part of Hindus.  Institutions belonging to them cannot therefore be regulated under the law offending their right to religious practice. This is the argument that was , in essence , made.

Lets see what the Supreme Court says and this will remind you of certain arguments that have been made with respect to other aspects of the Constitution. The first question is whether it is necessary that the legislature should make law uniformally applicable to all religious or charitable or public institutions and endowments established or maintained by people professing all religions, now here comes the secular narrative. In a pluralist society like India in which people have faith in their respective religions, beliefs or tenets propounded by different religions or their offshoots ,  the founding fathers while making the constitution were confronted with problems to unify and integrate people of India, professing different faiths, different caste, so on and so forth. The directive principles of the constitution themselves visualise diversity and attempted to foster uniformity among people of different faith. A uniform law though is highly desirable, enactment there off in one go perhaps may be counter productive to unity and integrity of the nation.

In a democracy governed by rule of law, gradual progressive change in order should be brought about, you see some sentiments are more important than others. Making law or amendment to a law is a slow process and the legislature attempts to remedy where the need is felt most acute , so , the judiciary feels that remedy is most imperative when it comes to Hindu institutions, you see , that is the logic, that is how we interpret pluralism, that is how we interpret Secularism, that’s how we enforce constitutional mandates and values in this country.

The point that we have to understand is this, this question which was addressed in 1966 continues to be relevant in 2016 and the one question that we are entitled to ask, is that are you saying that in the last 50 years other societies and other communities have not become amenable to application of similar legislations, it’s been 50 years this was in 1966, we are in 2016. Understood that in 1966 after 19 years of independence you are saying that I think Hindu institutions need most interventions, are you saying post 50 years of the judgement that the situation still says it’s only Hindus who need this.

People must read the report of the Justice Chalakondaya Commission which is the parent document which forms the basis of the 1987 legislation which applies to Hindu religious institutions. That document, I am sorry to say , offends all sense of fairness, all sense of reasonableness and takes for granted the patience of the majority community and takes for granted the dignity of the majority community , because that document categorically says , that Hindu institutions and Hindu temples and Hindu religious endowments are where the one where corruption abounds or there are instances of corruption and since it relates to 80% of the population, if you remedy 80% of population in a society the rest 20% will fall in the place, this is the beautiful logic that is given.

I don’t see how this is different from the logic that was applied by West Pakistan with respect to East Pakistan. Wipe out 3 million people the rest of them will listen to you, that’s more or less the logic that they gave , those with the instructions of the General Khan. So, the point I am trying to make is this attitude needs to be questioned. Now, how do you question it? What do you do? And first of all before why do you do it? How do you do it? Let’s ask one question.

Why is it , the topic is Freeing Hindu institutions from State Control , let me just qualify it a bit , as a Lawyer I need to refine it a bit more , because as a lawyer we re-visit Drafts over and over again so , let me do this. You are not asking for the state to do anything that is unconstitutional, lets be clear. Second, what we are asking for is not something that needs a constitutional amendment as well it can be done well within the four corners of the constitution as it exists today.

There is no need for a random revolutionary upheavel as far as the constitution is concerned. Lets be very clear about that. Two, we are saying this , either interfere with everyone equally or don’t interfere with anyone at all. And should you choose to interfere with us, start with everyone and after that you are only entitled to do that which the constitution permits , therefore you need to know what the constitution permits , but again before I go to my comfort zone which is the law, I need to go to something else.

We need to understand the reason why Hindu institutions are in dire need of this kind of intervention. Look at the status of our temples, look at the state of affairs of our temples, look at the state of affairs of all the communities that are dependent on temples, its not just about the priest. Let’s be very clear about that , it goes much beyond that. Is there anyone here who is from Kerala? So, there is a group of castes called the Ambalavasis. Ambalavasis are basically the warriors and the, I think you have totally `        18 castes which fall under this. Each of these castes have been designated based on the profession or their vocation within the temple. Ambalam means the temple, pardon me if I am wrong , I think that’s the case and people whose profession or vocation relates to the temple, this is Ambalavasis. At least 8 castes derive their livelihoods from the temple. What does this tell you? Temple, as far as the Hindu society is concerned has not just been a centre of religious importance  it plays a social function, it plays a religious function, it plays a economic function, that’s very very important. You see all the beautiful architecture of the Dravidian Temples, I am sorry the South Indian Temples (inaudible).

There is a specific way for the Architecture ,  there are principles to be observed and the people who do this they are not (inaudible), they actually come from a different community altogether, Vishwakarmas, Sthapatis. These are the people who are responsible for this. This is a dying breed today. We don’t have people who understand how do you play around with that piece of Stone, they have genders for Stones. This is a female stone, this is a male stone, they identify stones down to that level. They know what they do. That is the dying breed in this country because a good number of vocations and professions (inaudible) because the temple institution as an institution itself is on the verge of extinction because it’s being uprooted from it’s traditional roots, systematically this has happened over the years.

When the Britishers did it at least they had no reason to feel any sense of attachment as far as Indian institutions are concerned. They don’t belong to this country and they never belonged to this country but if the same policy has continued post 1947. Either we believe that the britishers were right or we have always remained colonial slaves mentally. This needs to change and the reason that this also needs to change is this , for the average Hindu regardless of which part of the country he resides in the temple is the place that he still goes for spiritual solace. He doesn’t go to ashrams, all these babas and ashrams, they come secondary as far as he is concerned. In fact for the average Hindu in any part of the country he is intimated by million dollar ashrams.

He will not step into that place for simple reason , that the grandeur of the place , the scale of the place would perhaps scare him. He doesn’t feel at home as far as those institutions are concerned. Therefore, he looks towards the temple as far as spiritual solace is concerned. Therefore, if you want Hinduism to survive , then the astha has to survive in the average Hindu and for that those institutions to which he can relate to they must be resuscitated , they must be revived.

We also in most of our debates, discussions post  dinner katha kalakshepams as I call it, we are want to say these things Philanthrophy as a concept is fundamentally alien to you see  Hindu institutions and Hindu society, that’s a very fashionable statement to make. They make these points. ( hum sirf kamana jante hai hum daan karna nahi janate hain) The word “Daan” has such a significance as far as Hindu tradition and Hindu literature is concerned. Gyaan Daan or any kind of Daan has immense importance. We worship Heroes for being Daanveers, that is the tradition of this country. Now, why is it that Hindu institutions are not in a position to involve themselves in charitable activities. If the Church next to you, or the mosque next to you, or the Gurudwara next to you is in a position to spend x number of rupees or x number of dollars for whatever they think is important and for the causes they relate to. Why are Hindu institutions unable to do so? Most of us arrive at the simplistic and ignorant conclusion that because (dene ki neeyat hi nahi hai) or that we are not interested in giving, that is wrong, unfortunately our hands are tight, this is something that we need to understand.

Hindu institutions are under state control, therefore they do not have the kind of Freedom that other institutions have or other communities have in dealing with their own property, in dealing with their own traditions, in spending on their own traditions, in spending on their own community. A Padre Or a Pastor can at least speak with someone who is immediately higher up in the hierarchy and invest in what he calls congregation, his sheep, his flock, whoever it is, that’s what he can do.

Can a priest, you ask yourself, have you asked yourself in any temple that you have been to, can a priest do anything for the devotees or the followers? He can’t. The temple administration is entirely in the hands of the state. If we do not recognise the fact that administration of Hindu institutions have been completely eviscerated , emasculated , disembowelled , devotees or Hindu’s have no role to play in their own institutions. I think we are hurtling towards the extinction of our own traditions and our own way of life. Let us see how this happens without getting too much into the legalies, let me try and give you a broad framework as to how these legislations functions.

Whenever possible, thanks to google and thanks to open databases these days, anybody can read any judgement relating to any aspect of the law. It’s not difficult at all. You don’t need a lawyer to do this at all. I just need to give you some details and you will be able to pull it out yourself. So, there is a decision of 1954 Supreme Court which goes by the name Shirur Mutt decision. This relates to a Mutt that was located in Udupi in South Kannada and this institution was put through such excruciating litigation that if I were to be the Mathadipadi of the particular institution at the end of the litigation I would ask myself, I think it is time that we should proclaim that being born as a Hindu is a sin.

For the simple reason that the legislation functions on this premise, let me tell you how it works. So, this is the state, the state draws his power from articles 25 and 26 in so far as religious freedoms are concerned. 25 broadly relates to individual religious freedoms and 26 relates to religious freedoms of religious denominations and therefore it speaks of institutions and there is an inter-play between 25 and 26. There is an inter-play between the two. Under 25 there is a beautiful provision. 25 2(a) of the constitution which specifically says that in so far as secular, economic, political or such activities concerned the state shall have the power to make laws and all of these activities are meant to have some kind of access with a religious practice. What is the purpose behind this legislation in first place, let’s understand this, which means Ashish is a good friend. Let’s say he chooses to write away his property in the name of a temple and he calls that this is my endowment to this particular temple. I have decide to donate this. Ashish has always wanted that the property be used only for the benefit of that particular temple and only in the interest of the particular temple , for the purposes of the temple, in relation to the temple, with respect to the temple, in reference to the temple, nothing else. This is what he has always wanted. Should somebody within the temple administration choose to divert the resource and put it for a different use altogether and diverts the very purpose of the endowment. 25 2(A) is the provision that can be exercised by the law and say, I want a legislation in place which ensures that the temple administrators do not have the power or the wherewithal to divert resources from the actual  purpose for which was endowned to the institution, that is the actual purpose. Meaning thereby, the money and the resources are meant for investment in the community, they are meant for investment in the institution, they are meant for the furtherance of   the cause of the particular institution and the community. So, any attempt to deviate from that particular path is what 25 2(A) basically is meant to stop and prevent.

Let’s see how we have actually interpreted it, this is where the lawyers, it’s a bag of tricks, they come into play. What the judiciary has effectively done is to basically say, so , previously I said it relates to secular activities connected to religious practice meaning thereby financing for a religious practice that nexus must never be broken. The umbilical cord is sacrosanct. The judiciary has said that you know what let’s break this altogether and put secular activities in one basket, religious activities in another basket and create this distinction, why? You see I respect your right to religion because I will not touch this basket, that’s entirely your prerogative but in so far as this basket is concerned, it is secular and therefore the state has the right and the power under the constitution to interfere with it.

Why this distinction is fundamentally flawed ? I will tell you why. Can you perform a pooja without having the resources for the pooja ? Can you conduct an event within the premises of the temple without having the necessary resources for it? Ann daan karna hai paisa kahan se aayega. Pooja karna hai kaise aayega? Akhand bhajan karna hai paisa kahan se aayega? Naam sankeertan karna hai paisa kahan se aayega? Where will the money come for the performance of the religious activities? From the secular box , but who controls the secular box? The state. Meaning thereby, if the religious activity were to be the puppet, all the secular strings are to be in the hands of the master puppeteer, which is the state.

So, who is going to dance according to whose tunes? The religious practice and the religious traditions and the customs and the rituals now dance to the whims and fancies of the state, which is the master, which is the puppeteer, which is the superpower in this case. This distinction was evolved to protect religious rights and to assert control over secular rights whether intentionally or unintentionally this has worked to the determinant of the Hindu community and there is no running away from this conclusion.

Every activity however religious it will have a secular angle to it. because paisa kahin na kahin hoga. There will be a non-religious aspect for the particular activity and if every non-religious aspect is entirely within the domain of the state control, you have encircled the religious activity with state control. Consequently, what you are left with is an academic paper right called as religious right, which can give you nothing.

What does this result in? How many people are aware of this famous instance where Ram Krishna Mission rushed to the state saying I want to be the minority institution, this is what, this is the reason. majority banne ka agar koi fayda nahi hai to minority ban jao, aur majority banne ke liye agar aapko ye sab jhelna padta hai then you have to try and jump into the other bandwagon where the Sun is rising. Human tendency what  else do you do ? Why do you think conversion happen? This is the basic reason, this is the basic psychological reason and we have to understand, today we talk of whenever we say conversions bura hai aur conversions may not be wrong forced conversions are wrong, we have to do something about it. This fashionable elitist , wine tasting section of the society will tell you , you Hindus have never bothered, you                  have never bothered to invest in the other classes of the society and today when they are converting you have a problem with it? Their church does something for them, their mosque does something for them, is your temple doing something for them? Are bhai karne do to karenge ,  humare haath to puri tarah se bandhe huye hain.

My fundamental belief is that, if anybody is interested in a cohesive Hindu identity and I don’t mean this in a confrontational sense at all, not because we need to face someone else or not because we have to create the other or face the other. Simply, so that all of us can feel a sense of bonding with each other, without caste, gander, religion, language anything coming between us. It starts only with the reform of the temple. It starts only with the democratization of the temple.

I am not saying that every tradition from the past is necessarily right, somethings we may not agree with , but who gets to ask this question? Who gets to do this introspection? It is us. If every other community has been given 50-60 years gradually progress and evolve, why shouldn’t Hindus be given the same rights and the same freedom. This is community that has put up with the Hindu , code which has put up with all kinds of interventions in it’s ways of life. Consequently, why don’t you put faith in this introspecting community to find it’s own solution for it’s own internal challenges?

But this will not happen as long as the nerve centre of the Hindu identity is in the hands of the state. Once in a while I actually think that we are living in a Hindu state. There is a good reason.  Arey agar state ko hindu issues mein itna lagav hai to aap hindu state hi to ho, humne nahi managa hindu rashtra aapne bana diya na , we never asked for this, you did this yourself. Please take out the manner in which funds from the endowments department in the state of Karnataka have been put to use and you will ask yourself how is this constitutional by any yardstick, any benchmark, any definition. There are details for it and I will circulate it.

Money from the Hindu endowments board has been used to fund two things. The Holy land pilgrimage for Christians and Haj subsidies. So, Hindu money is being used for doing this. I would actually say if I were a Christian or a muslim , I would be offended ki humare paas paisa nahi hai kya that’s the first question they will ask no? Why do we need this khairat? That will be the first question they will ask. Importantly, let’s give this a constitutional view , this activity fundamentally militates, violates, contravenes, article 27 of the constitution. Article 27 of the constitution very clearly says , taxes or any proceeds therefrom or thereof  from public funds can never be used by the state for the promotion of any particular religion. 27 specifically separates the state from the temple or the church or the mosque. Therefore, when you divert these funds form the Hindus endowment board, it is on paper, it is on record, it’s not an inference that anybody has had to draw, they have admitted this, if that is the case you have violated article 27, these are the people who preach constitutional values to us.

The state of Maharashtra has admitted before the Bombay high court as to how much of revenues from Siddhivinayak temple are used for purposes other than temple related purposes. Who has to take that call ? The temple people has to take that call. Therefore, they say temple has taken the call. But who is sitting inside the temple as the temple administrator? Your own appointee. So, is this consent free consent? This is not exercise of free will, this is not a voluntary contribution.

A state appointee sits within institution and he acts as the interface between the institution and the state and he nods to everything that the state says. How is this voluntary by any definition, students of law, contract law, sections 14-19 , where is free consent here? It doesn’t exist. It doesn’t even exist even on paper. I will read something out just for the sake of illustration so that you see the horrendous extent to which legislations such as these have been used to strip Hindu institutions of every ounce of control. I will read this out for you.

For me this document, I would say is the master template of what is wrong with all the    HRCE legislations, the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments legislations across the country. I will tell you the background of this document and then we will proceed. So, there is an infamous section in the Tamil Nad act, which is section 45 which deals with appointment of executive officers by the state to Hindu institutions, who will be the incharge of the administration of that particular place.

In 1965, supreme court came out with the decision again in relation to a Tamil Nadu institution and that state has a peculiar history, how it manages temple, how it treats temples. Specifically saying that under no circumstances will the state encroach upon the administration entirely, why is this? Because article 25 2 (A) from which the state draws it’s power, specifically refers to only regulation or restriction of secular activities, not entire control, not administration. Iska matlab ye hai that you will give a framework for a specific objective, for a specific purpose to           curb mischief or mismanagement and you will let the community choose it’s own appointees who can implement that framework but you will not impose yourself into that framework nor will you let your state appointee entrench himself in that framework because that would result in complete takeover of the administration.

The supreme court in the judgement categorically strikes a distinction between supervision and takeover of administration. In 2015, the supreme court comes out with another decision, sorry, 6th of December 2014, 2014 the supreme court comes out with another decision where Mr. Subramanian Swami was actually representing the cause of the Thillai Nataraja Temple , famously known as the Chidambaram Temple where the supreme court categorically interprets section 45 and the general scheme of these legislations to say, the state if it has to respect the rights of religious denominations in the article 26 to manage their own institutions in accordance with law, should not impose itself entirely into the institutions and it says you are limited to regulation and restriction but not takeover of administration, it has categorically said so, what was this judgement passed in the context of ? From 1954 to 2014 until the day of the judgement , executive officers were appointed across the state in the state of Tamil Nadu with respect to every temple including those temples which have let’s say revenue less than a lakh or ten thousand , so on and so forth, they were appointed, they were all being taken over but no reasons or no speaking order has been passed as to why the temple deserved to suffer the presence of an executive officer in the first place.

If you appoint an executive officer with respect to a certain temple, (aapke mann mein itna to hona chahiye ki daal mein kuch kala hai) and that must reflect on paper and you must give reasons, this is the basic principle of natural justice. When a state chooses to interfere with the administration of a private institution, tell us the reason why you think it is your right to walk into this place. Not a single reason was offered, no evidence was placed before supreme court as to why so many executive officers were appointed across the state of Tamil Nadu and importantly , when an executive officer is appointed , he can stay in that place only as long as the mischief exists.

Once the mischief is rectified or corrected, he has no business sitting in the place, he has to get out. There is no other option, he has to be necked out of the place. All these orders are indefinite in so far as time is concerned, that means ( ek baar baith gaye to baith gaye) there is no way he will get out of the place. So, the supreme court says all your appointments under section 45, if they are in violation of two conditions meaning you have not identified the mischief nor have you set a time period, they are all violative of the constitution and article 26, that’s what supreme court says.

So, the babus in the state department of Tamil Nadu, they come out with a new set of rules because under section 45 they should have actually prescribed rules for appointment of executive officers, rules hi nahi the November 2015 tak aur sabko appoint kar diya. The appointment should have happened on the rules, rules did not exist, so they came out with the rules. If the supreme court tells you, you have violated the law and all your past appointments are wrong, it can’t be your case ( ki naye rule mein aap ye kahenge jo kuch bhi maine piche kiya tha wo legal hai). That is not the Gangotri where you get to wash all your sins, that’s what they did in this document.

They are basically saying (aap maan lijiye ki jitney bhi appointments huye the wo saare legal the, chalo maan liya) Is this a game being played in a high school ? You have chosen to walk into institutions of a certain community under the garb of a certain provision that says, rule ought to have been formulated for the appointment of an executive officer and there must be an identification of mischief or mismanagement in order for you to step into that place, you don’t have rules nor are you showing the reasons why you have entered the place and when the supreme court says come out with rules for future appointment, aapne past mistakes ko bhi saaf kar diya. This is nothing but laundering of your mistakes. What else are you doing ? Black to White. And this thing , you just have to read this.

I will just read out certain portions and this will be stark. I will just try to be as slow as possible. Where the commissioner either suo moto or upon the report received from the joint commissioner or the deputy commissioner having so and so forth considers it necessary. Now, it starts , now actually the game begins, that in the interest of an ensuring better, proper and efficient administration and management of any religious institution, he will appoint an executive officer. Itna lamba chauda broad clause.

You can do whatever in the name of this. Second, that he has reason to believe that there is persistent default in administering affairs of any religious institution, fine, I am fine with this. Now, that there is irregularity, there is malpractice, that there is misappropriation and here comes the tenth beauty , for any other reason , iska mtlb ye hua ki agar ye boxing match hota, I would say belt k neeche war nahi hoga and my next tool will be kahin bhi maar sakte ho, isko kehte hain legal fiction, this is legal gimmicry. I give a six set of rules and identify those parts of the body which are not supposed to be attacked and then I come out of the final rule saying, its no holds barred , jo karna hai kar lo for any other reason, this is the beauty.

Therefore, as far as I am concerned, this is nothing infact these rules alone and Mr. Ramesh is here, he is working with me or rather I am working with him, he is my client in these petitions. He represents the temple worshippers society, both of us each time we read , I would like to introduce him.

He is the man, the brain behind all these actions and I challenge you there is not a single lawyer in this country who knows the provisions of each of these legislations better than him. I have sat at his feet to learn all of this. The kind of facts and the kind of data, if he walks into a temple Tamil Nadu today, they shiver, they tremble, the administrators know here comes trouble. So, why I am saying this is , everything that is wrong with these legislations I can prove only with this document, if I need to blow to smithereens each of these legislations, I only need to read out these rules in the court, that’s all I need to do. I don’t need to support it with case law or nothing.

It shakes the conscience of any reasonable objective person. How can you say that you will appoint anyone in Hindu religious institutions for any other reason, give the reasons, they are meant to be specific, it has to be a time period and here is the thing. The commissioner may after holding such inquiry consider it expedient of interest for such period or periods as may be specified by the commissioner not exceeding 5 periods, 5 years. To pehli baar appoint karenge 5 saal , phir renew karenge dusre 5 saal , ye chalta jayega , so , how do you overcome or circumvent the rule which says  specific period do , specific period dunga lekin usko infinetly mein renew karta jaunga. This is like a top up where you don’t have to pay money, it goes on. It violates the first law of thermodynamics. It’s a self-perpetuating machine, it lives on it’s own. It doesn’t need anything. So, if you read these provisions, it is a slap on the face of the Hindu community and I think this community deserves it , I’m sorry to say this because you have been taking it lying down for too long.

If I were a lawyer in Tamil Nadu or if I had access to these legislations, I would ask myself what better case do I need to drag the state over hot coals in the court. We are so bothered about encroachment of free speech by the state because that’s the fundamental right. This is equally a fundamental right because this comes under part 3 of the constitution. Had this been any other community whose rights were being steam rolled like this, I think the reactions would have been strakling different and certainly not constitutional. I will just read out one more thing and these are things that I want to read out, bear with me for few more minutes.

It says, ya, the executive officer shall be responsible for the proper administration of the religious institutions, so, he shall be responsible for the proper administration of the religious institutions not the trustee, not the management, not the board of the trustee and the directions he may issue maybe lawfully carried out and here is the thing. All the staff and servants shall work under the immediate control and superintendents of the executive officer. Every appointee in the institution will now be sub – serveint to the state appointee. Now, you see how this basket works , maine to religious ko nahi chua na,I have touched only the secular , so, what is your problem ? Because now , you have ensured that the person who is supposed to perform the religious practice will have to listen to the executive officer who is in control of everyone I am supposed to be working with in the institution and this is the insidious manner in which these legislations function.

Just one more thing and I will show how they wash all their sins. Nothing contained in these rules shall adversely affect the powers of the executive officer who has been holding the post immediately before the date of these rules. Ye hai aapka ganda ab saare paap dhul gaye yahin pe. This is not with just respect to Tamil Nadu, there are provisions of the Andhra Pradesh Legislation which have given the executive officer the power to ensure ki regulary bhajan keertan ho , Mandir ke andar he has the power to decide, he will ensure that there is bhajan keertan on a regular basis. Aapko iska thektedaar kab kisney bana diya bhai.

On one hand we are saying I have the right to be an atheist, on the other hand it           given the right through it’s executive officer to force us to sit and do bhajan keertan iske haath mein manjeera uske haath mein dholak, this is effectively how it functions. Am I wrong sir? There is a provision such as this. We were aghast when we read this out and in a meeting we were reading this. I don’t know whether to laugh or to cry, really. Half of my face would be laughing and half of it would be crying. The point is these instances abound in several such legislations. You must have read the news reports of the Maharashtra government asking Siddhivinayak temple to part with their 50% of money for construction of hospitals. Noble intentions are infested in this path to hell.

It is not wrong to use the money for construction of a hospital. Will you give credit for this? That will never be forthcoming. Hindu institutions and Hindu Godmen so to speak are meant to be cesspools of corruption, stereotype that we will perpetuate. They are the cesspools of sleaze , they are the cesspools of pilfering the public money and they are the cesspools of superstition, while this stereotype will constantly be perpetuated.

You will never give credit for the fact that Hindus have been silent and tolerant when each of their institutions have been consistently taken over by the state. Please understand this is only with respect to secular activities. Religion is being interfered with, tomorrow I don’t think I can even celebrate rakhi , next year I don’t know , pata nahi uske liye kaunsi red bindi gang will come shouting, this is against this, this is against that, you don’t know. Tomorrow a woman walking behind a man as part of saptpadi will be against feminism, ab ulta karenge, clock wise ho raha tha ab anti clock wise bhi karenge, sab kuch ulta karenge.

Systematically, while there is assault on secular aspects of our insitutions, there is equally an assault on religious aspects, yahan pe interference ka mtlb ye hai that secular is different from religious, therefore I will sit on this, I will preside over this. Now, what is your justification for sitting on religious issues ? Free speech, equality, discrimination, superstition. You have created every kind of tool necessary to interfere with the Hindu way of life. Period. How do you address this?

My humble request is and I don’t want anybody to judge me for saying this or even if you judge that’s okay. Do not put faith in any political entity because any political entity will do what is expedeint and necessary for it’s own survival. Put faith in your own collective alliance, put you faith in your ability to come together as a group to represent your communities’ interests. You are not fighting with any other community. You are only asking the state to back off. You are only asking the state to stay within it’s constitutional limits. You are asking the state to observe the rules of the constitution. You are asking the state to uphold the rule of law. I don’t see how this is unreasonable. I don’t see how this is communal. I don’t see how this is fundamentalist. I don’t see how this makes us a Hindu Taliban.

You are asking for the upholding of the constitution of the democratic republic of India and you are asking the state ki tum apne daire mein raho. Do not enter and violate our spaces. The one thing we as a fraternity must learn and perhaps learn from others, let’s say all these so called free speech groups. Is that they have realised the value of sustained advocacy and pressure. You don’t need to get down to the streets. You don’t need to incite anyone into commiting any offence. You don’t  need to do anything that is violent or unconstitutional. Put faith in the constitution and exercise your right under the constitution and explore all the means available in the constitution with their fullest possible extent. How is this wrong ?

It maybe politically incorrect for a lot of people but is this wrong, that is the question. If it’s not wrong, I think we should do this. I think as part of an initiative the one thing that we are hoping to do is to come out with the crowd sourced database with respect to all these activities and we are hoping to translate this into a Nation wide campaign and         to go after every government. I say so , in public, it thinks it’s okay to walk into the rights of Hindu institutions. You don’t get a god given right, a march – in right as far as Hindu institutions are concerned just because we happen to be unfortunate Hindus. This cannot happen.

Today, you have access to information like no other generation at least in the past, future mein ho sakta hai lekin past mein to nahi tha. You have enough people with the resources to invest in this. It doesn’t take too much actually, this is not commercial litigation , although for them it’s commercial litigation, for us it’s not commercial litigation. All it takes is sustained action. All it takes it for a bunch of people to do this. And we hope to do this in the future. One of the questions that I keep getting asked whenever we speak on this issue or write on this issue is ye sab to thik hai but if you remove and uproot this mechanism which exists today what is your alternative? What do you do?

A known devil is better than an unknown angel, nonsense. And I will give you a straight answer why ? The continued existence of an illegality is no reason for it to continue just because you don’t have a legal alternative. You can’t say that woman can continue to be ill treated nearly because there is no law which addresses a certain form of ill treatment. Will you accept that an answer in that case? If you cannot accept an answer in that case, how can you accept this an answer in this case? For me , I am not a religious person, I am a cultural person , I certainly believe that there are certain aspects of culture that have flown from religion, I am cognizant of that fact. Therefore, that religion has to be kept alive because cultural offshoots must continue to live.

Ask any intellectual property lawyer. One of the aspects of intellectual property is traditional knowledge, traditional medicine, traditional farming or whatever you call it. How will you have anything traditional if you wipe out tradition? I don’t understand. Nothing that comes from the traditional way of life can be divorced from that way of life and you can’t protect them in silos , aisa nahi hai ki us ped mein se active ingredient ko separate kiya aur usko alag kar denge , not possible. Ye ped ka ek ansh hai to ped ko rehna padega. How can this happen ?

You want to talk about tribal rights ? You want to talk about Adivasi rights ? You want to talk about right of communities which are artisans and weavers ? These are all people that have survived and who have flourished , who have thrived and who have lived because of traditional ways of life. Weavers have gone out fashion because they used to be dependent on the temple at some point. Sculptors have to beg that traditions are dying because the primary source was sculptures and temples, that’s gone.

Flower sellers. Imagine you go to any south Indian temple and you will be amazed that the level of economic activity that surrounds the temple, that is how it functions. We are absolutely fine dealing with Laxmi while being in temple. We welcome it inside and even outside. There are people who survive on it. Let’s be very very real about this. Wherever this a lot of footfall , somebody would want to take advantage of it because he thrives on that footfall. Therefore, anybody who is interested in protecting traditional ways of life has an equal interest or must have some kind of a say as far as survival of these temples are concerned.

The other question that is also asked is. How do you ensure that again temples don’t revert to their brahmanical hegemony structure ? There are mechanisms in the constitution. There are already enough judgements enough to prevent that and lets not assume anything as far as Hindus are concerned revolves only around one caste. It’s not the case. There are enough temples where its not the brahmins who are priest. In South India, you have a separate community called the Pandaras who come from the community of  Shaiva Pillais who are supposed to be greater devotees of Lord Shiva than any Brahmin Shaivaite sect. They don’t even eat garlic , they are more strict when it comes to the dietary restriction than brahmins.

Therefore, let’s be clear. This is not first of all a Brahminical cause, this is a Hindu cause and there is nothing wrong being it in a Hindu cause. Two, all we lack is the information and the initiative and we as part of our campaign are going to give everyone who is interested , the skills or the tools that he needs to challenge these legislations as and when he sees an infraction of the rights of the temple. We are going to do this. We are going to come out with booklets across the country. We are going to get in touch with a lot of lawyers for this. We are going to make sure that everything which is necessary for keeping sustained pressure on this particular issue will be done. Because if this is not done, we are in 2016, we don’t need another 10 years , only 5 more years and we could see a good chunk of a tradition being wiped out and pushed into extinction and oblivion. All it takes, at the pace at which things are changing it’s just a period of 5 years because I think today the definition of a generation is almost 5-6 years , that’s how it’s become.

So , as far as I am concerned , we are committed to the cause , I know for a fact that gentleman like Mr. Ramesh and likeminded people have invested their heart , soul and their resources into this and we are going to throw our weight behind it. We would welcome any kind of support that we can get from anyone, not that this need to be much of a financial support. All we need at some point of time is information for us to take action and people to be aware of their rights and importantly, you have enough arguments to speak for yourself as a community in law, under the constitution. So, when somebody asks you a question, speak up. Stand up for yourself, stand up for yourself as community, it’s not at all wrong. We are not asking for anything that comes at the expense of any other community. We are not asking for anything that is extra. No special treatment. Constitutional treatment. That’s it.

Thank you.

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