Why Tamil Nadu Government's Takeover Of 'Ayodhya Mandapam' Is A Case Of Disturbing Overreach

by Swarajya Staff - Apr 12, 2022 08:14 PM +05:30 IST
Why Tamil Nadu Government's Takeover Of 'Ayodhya Mandapam' Is A Case Of Disturbing OverreachAyodhya Mandapam

What happened?

The Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR&CE) Department of Tamil Nadu government on Monday (Apr 11) took over the administration of an institution popularly known as the ‘Ayodhya Mandapam’ (Ayodhya Ashwamedha Maha Mandapam) in Chennai.

  • The official takeover was preceded by protests in the areas. BJP leaders and cadres along with a section of local residents protested against the move. Local councilor Uma Anandan of BJP claimed that the move to takeover the temple was politically motivated.

  • State BJP chief Annamalai strongly condemned the incident and alleged that DMK government took over Mandapam to make sure that no bhajans or satsangs happened there.

What is the Ayodhya Mandapam?

Located in West Mambalam area of the city, 'Ayodhya Mandapam’ is a devotional centre that regularly conducts religious discourses, Radha Kalyanams and homams.

Then why not just call it a public temple?

Because once it gets identified as a ‘temple’ it can be taken over by the government under the HR&CE Act.

What is that?

The HR&CE Act empowers the government of Tamil Nadu to be in charge of the administration of over 44,000 temples and over 50 mutts along with their temples. Essentially, while churches and mosques and madrassas in Tamil Nadu are run by the members of the respective communities of believers and followers, Hindu temples are run by the state government.

So if it’s not a temple how did the government take over?

This report says that sources in the HR&CE department held that the Ayodhya Mandapam was a public temple. ‘Idols were kept there and regular pujas conducted and general public participated in the pujas. The Samaj had been receiving huge amount and was collecting money through hundi’. The report also adds that a ‘number of complaints had been received about the mismanagement of the Samaj and when an assistant commissioner, HR&CE, made a spot inspection, idols were found installed’.

Chief Minister MK Stalin claimed on the floor of Tamil Assembly that the decision to take over the temple was taken ‘after continuous complaints of mismanagement in Ayodhya Mandapam’.

What are the protestors saying?

The protestors are either saying that the place was not a temple, or they are protesting the takeover over legal details.

Sri Ram Samaj is said to have filed an appeal in Madras High Court seeking judicial remedy. However the Madras High Court had earlier dismissed a plea to quash an order of the HR&CE Department to take over Ayodhya Mandapam managed by Sri Ram Samaj.

Bottomline

The protestors do not seem to have much of a case until the HR&CE Act is in force in Tamil Nadu. While the Act has been challenged in its entirety in the Madras High Court, a favourable decision does not appear anywhere close.

What the Ayodhya Mandapam takeover can then be used for, is to educate the public about the unfair and ridiculous situation where only the Hindu community is NOT allowed to manage its public temples.

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