BJP Asks Sonia Gandhi To Take Action Against Tamil Nadu Congress Leader For Illegally Occupying Lands Of Two Temples Near Kanchipuram

BJP Asks Sonia Gandhi To Take Action Against Tamil Nadu Congress Leader For Illegally Occupying Lands Of Two Temples Near KanchipuramThe entrance of the Kasi Viswanathar Temple at Pappanchatram near Kanchipuram
Snapshot
  • These two temples, inside a single premise, have a total land holding of 177.7 acres but still struggle.

Concerned over the way temples in Tamil Nadu are being administered by the State Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HRCE) Department, the state unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has decided to tackle the issue from a different perspective.

As part of the strategy, the party has written a letter to Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Tamil Nadu Congress Committee President K S Alagiri to take action against a Congress leader for illegally occupying temple lands.

One of BJP’s spokespersons, S G Suryah, in the letter addressed to Gandhi and Alagiri, asked them to order Tamil Nadu Youth Congress General Secretary Amritharaj Selvaraj and his family to vacate the lands of Kasi Viswanathar (Shiva) Temple and Sri Venugopala Swamy (Vishnu) Temple near Kanchipuram.

The lands of the temples, on the Chennai-Benguluru National Highway, were taken on lease by late “Oorvasi” D Selvaraj, Amirtharaj's father, in 1991 for "farming activities".

Selvaraj had represented Congress from the Srivaikuntam constituency in Thoothukudi district in the Tamil Nadu Assembly in 2006. He did not complete his assembly term as he died of a heart attack in 2009.

Selvaraj had headed the Congress South Chennai unit as vice-president from 1990-97. He quit the party to join the Tamil Maanila Congress floated by the late G K Moopanar before rejoining Congress.

After taking the temples lands on lease for “farming activities”, Selvaraj and his family converted it to an entertainment theme park called Queensland Amusement Park.

In 2008, a local court upheld an HRCE eviction notice to Queensland for indulging in commercial activities. An appeal in 2013 was also dismissed by the court.

The BJP pointed out that the Congress leader was occupying the temples lands despite the local court order upholding the eviction order.

It said that Selvaraj’s wife Nalini, part of the theme park’s administrators, was a prominent Christian evangelist and runs a missionary, End Time Revival Ministries.

The BJP’s contention is that the temples’ lands should be vacated so that they look for an alternative source of income, particularly when both are in ruins and lacking funds for day-to-day functioning such as poojas.

In November 2018, Doraiswamy Gurukkal, priest for the Kasi Viswanathar Temple since 1974, told Swarajya that Queensland as well as St John’s International School, which has also taken the temples lands on lease, have not paid a single rupee as lease rental after 1992.

They had paid the lease rental to seek income tax exemption but since then they have starved the temple of the much-needed funds. These two temples, inside a single premise, have a total land holding of 177.7 acres but still struggle.

Critics of the HRCE Department functioning say that Queensland and the school have got away since the department’s officials looked the other way despite the problems faced by these temples.

They are also worried over the ruling All-India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) government’s indifference to the plight of temples and illegal occupation of their lands.

The AIADMK government, led by Edappadi K Palaniswami, had tried to regularise the squatting of temple lands in August last year but the Madras High Court stayed it.

The state government has justified its move, saying the temple lands were “unwanted lands” and the court should allow regularisation of “non-objectionable encroachments”.

The BJP’s strategy of taking up the issue is in line with a section of its leadership thinking that taking up the temples causes could be the best way forward for the party to gain a firm foothold in the state.

M.R. Subramani is Executive Editor, Swarajya. He tweets @mrsubramani

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