The Tamil Nadu government has ordered 47 temples in the state to donate Rs 10 crore to the CM Relief Fund whereas the state government had on 16 April ordered 5,450 tonnes of free rice to be distributed to 2,895 mosques in the month of Ramzan in the service of fasting Muslims.
At a time when the struggle to free the temple administration from the clutches of the government is intensifying, the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowment Department (HR and CE) of the Tamil Nadu government has set aside 47 temples to raise an additional Rs 10 crore has been directed to the CM Relief Fund.
Meanwhile, BJP’s Tamil Nadu unit president L Murugan had on Saturday urged the AIADMK government to resume Annadanam (serving food to the hungry) in temples maintained by the Hindu religious and charitable endowment department in the state to provide food to the poor and sadhus.
Murugan said this, drawing a parallel with the state government’s grant to the Islamic community by way of donating free rice to the believers during Ramzan.
Mosques and churches not ordered to donate
The Tamil Nadu government directive to donate to the CM Relief Fund does not apply to churches, mosques or other Christian and Muslim hubs and institutions, which receive government grants annually. Yet, in its own wisdom, the Madras High Court had earlier rejected a petition, refusing to interfere with the Tamil Nadu government’s order to distribute free rice to mosques in the month of Ramzan.
The bench had cited the Supreme Court’s statement in which the apex court had said that the government was not opposed to the idea of facilitating pilgrimage of any community. For example, the government had mentioned the cost of Kumbh and helping Indian citizens in their Mansarovar pilgrimage.
However, the bench did not mention how the temples could pay at a time of lockdown when no devotee is offering donations.
How HR and CE exploit Hindus to appease Muslims
HR and CE Principal Secretary K Panindra Reddy directed all the officials working under him in 47 temples including those in Madurai, Palani, Thiruchendur, Tirutani, Tiruvannamalai, Rameswaram and Mayilapur to feed the poor during the lockdown by contributing Rs 35 lakh from the “surplus” fund.
Other temples have been directed to pay sums in the range of Rs 15 lakh to Rs 25 lakh.
All 47 temples have to transfer a surplus fund of Rs 10 crore to CM Relief Fund to fight the coronavirus epidemic. This, even as Tamil Nadu is among the most successful states in putting up a fight against the contagion, where the graph of infection has flattened, which means there should be no urgency to extract money from additional sources like temples.
The policy is curious even in terms of politics. According to 2011 Census of India figures, 87.58% of Tamil Nadu’s population are Hindus, 6.12% are Christians, 5.86% are Muslims, 0.12% are Jains, 0.02% are Buddhists and 0.01% are Sikhs. This means there should be no politically compelling reason to pander to Muslims — if not it is under an obligation to serve some foreign Islamic powers.
The HR and CE manage 36,612 temples in Tamil Nadu. These endowed temples are protected, renewed or restored by their surplus funds. Millions of priests depend entirely on donations from devotees for their sustenance. They are now stranded and facing starvation due to the COVID epidemic and the nationwide shutdown.
The Tamil Nadu state government, instead of helping them, has targeted the property of Hindu temples to pursue its appeasement politics.
At the beginning of the festival of Ramadan among Muslims, the Tamil Nadu state government announced a major benefit to Muslims. It was started by the then chief minister, the late J Jayalalithaa, to win the hearts and votes of the Muslims.
The Tamil Nadu government had announced that 5,450-tonne rice would be given to 2,895 mosques this year for preparing porridge, which according to a simple calculation comes out to be a cost of Rs 21,80,00,000 whereas no similar help or plan is given to prepare offerings to the village deities of Hindus during the Chitra and Anadi months.
The festivities in the temples have been cancelled due to the lockdown, and yet Muslims would be appeased at the cost of Hindu temple money!
The policy of the present Tamil Nadu government suggests that it is trying to completely squeeze out Hindu temples of their resources. The state government collects more than Rs 3,000 crore per year from Hindu temples from hundi collections, offerings, various darshan tickets, special program fees, etc while only between Rs 4 crore and Rs 6 crore is given back for maintenance of these Hindu places of worship. The remaining Rs 2,995 crore remain with the government.
‘Refund our money,’ demand mutt heads
Srivilliputhur Vaishnavit Math chief Sadgopa Ramanuj Jiyar has urged the Tamil Nadu government to spend the temple money to save priests and dasas from dying of poverty and starvation.
Krishnaswamy, the head of Puthia Tamizhagam, has appealed to the chief minister to refund the amount of Rs 10 crore received from the temples.