Tamil Nadu Government ‘Takes Over’ Shiva Temple Land For ‘Pittance’ To Construct Collectorate, Activists Irked Over ‘Illegal’ Attempt

Tamil Nadu Government ‘Takes Over’ Shiva Temple Land For ‘Pittance’ To Construct Collectorate, Activists Irked Over ‘Illegal’ AttemptSri Nareeswarar Temple.
Snapshot
  • The Edappadi government is trying to take over the Sri Nareeswarar Temple land for a meagre amount of Rs 1.98 crore when its actual cost is around Rs 90 crore.

    What has irked the people is that the HR&CE Department instead of renovating the temple that is in ruins, is trying to hand over its land for a meagre amount to the state government.

A controversy has broken out over the Tamil Nadu government taking over 14.09 hectares of dryland belonging to the Sri Nareeswarar Temple at Veeracholapuram in the state’s Kallakurichi district, to build a collectorate.

The issue has taken a serious turn since Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami (EPS) laid the foundation stone for the collectorate on 23 October even before the State Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowment (HR&CE) Department could come forward to hand it over to the government.

Kallakurichi district was carved out of Tamil Nadu’s Villupuram district last year and it came into existence in November.

Second, some temple activists allege that the Tamil Nadu government is trying to take over the land for a meagre amount of Rs 1.98 crore when its actual cost is around Rs 90 crore.

One of the key temple activists in Tamil Nadu Rangarajan Narasimhan in a video message said attempt is being made to alienate the temple “for a pittance” when the actual cost is far higher.

“The attempt is illegal as per section 34 of HR&CE Act. The temple is dilapidated and in shambles,” said Narasimhan, who has been taking up cases in courts against various temple properties in Tamil Nadu being illegally taken over or occupied.

Section 34 of HR&CE Act says the commissioner will have to sanction the sale, lease or mortgage land for over five years. The commissioner is required to publish the intention of selling, leasing or transferring the land and seek public opinion before a decision is made.

According to Narasimhan, activities for the construction of the collectorate are in full swing while the HR&CE is slated to hear the public views today (29 October).

This means that a decision has been taken to alienate the land even before the public could be heard on the development.

The HR&CE notified its intention to sell the temple land in Deccan Herald on 26 October. On social media, objections were also raised against the move to sell the land for Rs 1.98 crore when its actual value is some 45 times more.

Local media reported that the district superintendent of police office, court premises and a playground are all set up to come up on the lands of the temple.

Lord Shiva is the presiding deity at the Sri Nareeswarar Temple, built about 1,500 years ago. History says the temple was constructed by Rajendra Chola, son of Rajaraja Chola, who built the famous Brihadeeswara temple in Thanjavur. It was brought under the Tamil Nadu HR&CE Department in the 1990s.

The temple owns vast stretches of lands in and around Veeracholapuram and income from these lands helps it to conduct many festivals and pujas.

In 2018, the temple was in the news after a lawyer complained to the Tamil Nadu Crime Branch CID Idol Wing police that panchaloha idols of its deities had been stolen. They are suspected to have been stolen at least five decades ago.

After that 13 of the temple idols were kept safely at a place in Villupuram under the supervision of the Idol Wing police.

The issue of land sale is expected to be decided by the HR&CE after the public hearing but activists such as Narasimhan have already knocked the doors of the court to nullify the sale.

Hundreds of emails have been sent to the HR&CE Department opposing the alienation of the temple lands cheaply.

What has irked the people is that the HR&CE Department instead of renovating the temple from the current ruins is trying to hand over its land for a meagre amount to the state government, which is not legal as per the HR&CE Act.

The Hindu Munnani has also taken up the issue and has begun staging protests against the decision.

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

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