In a development that would warm the cockles of the collective Hindu heart, land spread across 143 ac, which once belonged entirely to Lord Lingaraj Temple Trust but had in the course of history taken over by local administrations (tehsils), have been returned to the temple trust. The plots were in different mouzas in Bhubaneswar and on the outskirts of the capital of Odisha.
GVV Sarma, a member of the Board of Revenue, directed the authority on 29 September to return the land to the temple trust after the final hearing of the case.
The acreage land of Sri Lingaraj was scattered across the mouzas of Kapilaprasad, Bhimapur, Sundarpada, Bhubaneswar, Goutam Nagar, Badagada and Rajarani under the Bhubaneswar tehsil.
In Bangladesh, Pakistan and parts of India, a mouza or mauza is a type of administrative district, corresponding to a specific land area within which there may be one or more settlements. Before the 20th century, the term referred to a revenue collection unit in a pargana or revenue district.
The land had been usurped by the state, in a style typical of rhe British Empire, under the Orissa Estates Abolition (Amendment) Act, 1974.
Then CEO of Lord Lingaraj Temple Trust, Jitendra Patnaik had filed a case before the Endowment Commissioner in 1991.
The case was later referred to the court of the aforementioned member of the Board of Revenue in the Bhubaneswar tehsil of the Government of Odisha.
Free temple movement so far
An increasingly vocal section of Hindus has been raising the demand of freeing all Hindu temples of state control, pointing out that the places of worship of other communities are not run by the union or state governments and, therefore, the Indian state is being unfair to the majority community.
Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev was once a leading voice of the "free temples" movement. J Sai Deepak Iyer, a lawyer and author, has been raising the issue on various forums.
Karnataka BJP had once promised in its manifesto that it would free temples situated in the state if voted to power, but the legislative assembly election of 2018 was followed by the formation of a coalition government of the INC and JDS. When the coalition fell, BS Yediyurappa-led BJP took over. Subsequently, Basavaraj Bommai became the chief minister, but the promise has not been fulfilled yet.
In northern India, temples that were free in Uttarakhand were brought under state control for the Char Dham project.
In Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, the YSR Congress and DMK governments respectively are accused of diverting funds from the temples to purposes that include sustaining secular departments as well as ecosystems hostile to Hindus.
In July 2020, the Supreme Court set aside a high court verdict on the status of the ‘Ruler of Travancore’, upholding the right of the Travancore royal family to manage the property of deity at Sree Padmanabha Swamy Temple in Thiruvananthapuram. The court said that, as per customary law, the shebait rights (right to manage the financial affairs of the deity) survived with the members of the family even after the death of the last ruler. The verdict ended the legal battle the temple and members of the royal family had fought with the government for decades over the control of one of the richest temples in the world.