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. Here is the Part -2 of the full transcript of speech.
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.