In yet another instance of the disturbing trend of state usurping the constitutionally accorded freedom to places of worship, Karnataka government is initiating measures to bring Hindu mutts temples and religious institutions under the control of the Department of Murzai,. The move has evoked fierce opposition from the religious leaders and a section of civil society who have pointed out to not only the unconstitutional nature of the move but the brazenly discriminatory regime that provides complete autonomy to masjid, dargahs and churches.
The places of worship, which includes Jain temples as well as many prestigious mutts across the state, is planned to be brought under the Muzrai ambit based on a proposed Act, the draft report of which is expected to be submitted to the government next month (March).
Basavamurthy Madara Chenniah Swamiji from Madara Guru Peetha, Chitradurga, said they did not welcome this proposal. He said, until recently, when the mutts were given grants by the state, these temples were under the Muzrai department. Otherwise, the mutts were supported by devotees, he said, adding, the mutts also provide education and meals.
He said the government should also take over churches and mosques too, to be fair.
A Bharatiya Janata Party leader urged Chief Minister Siddaramaiah to suspend the process of bringing mutts and temples under government control. Leader of opposition in the assembly, Jagadish Shettar, said: “The move will force revered seers to stand in queue in front of the department with petitions.”
Describing the initiative as an “anti-Hindu policy”, he challenged Siddaramaiah to take over masjid, dargahs and churches.
Muzrai Department Minister Rudrappa Manappa Lamani said they were only following court orders. “It is not that we want to have a direct hold on all mutts. Whenever there is a dispute in a mutt, we will intervene.”
The Muzrai Act proposal came about following a commissioning of a study for the inclusion of mutts and other worship places, when the committee in charge met with stakeholders, including priests and officials to analyse the pros and cons of inclusion.
Muzrai department sources said the Karnataka High Court had in 2012 struck down the Karnataka Religious Institutions and Charitable Endowments (Amendment) Act, 2011 calling exclusion of mutts, Jains, Sikhs and Buddhists from the purview of the Act as discriminatory and advised a uniform law for all Hindu religious institutions in the state.
In the light of the court’s observation, the department has issued public notification at all the temples inviting public to give their feedback and suggestions for inclusion of these places under their act ambit.
The draft committee is expected to submit the draft legislation to the Law Ministry within two months.
In Karnataka, there are 34,559 temples under the Muzrai Department. Of these, 175 temples are Class A (annual revenue is above Rs 25 lakh), 163 are Class B (annual income is between Rs 5 lakh and Rs 25 lakh) and the remaining are Class C temples (with annual income less than Rs 5 lakh). According to a senior official from Muzrai Department, there are more than 1.2 lakh priests working at these temples.
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