By Arun Pratap Singh
Dehradun, 9 Apr: As was being expected ever since Tirath Singh Rawat took over as the Chief Minister of Uttarakhand, he has finally overturned a highly unpopular decision of his predecessor, Trivendra Singh Rawat, to bring 51 temples of the state including the Char Dham under government control by constituting the Uttarakhand Devasthanam Board.
This was indicated today by Chief Minister Tirath Singh Rawat while addressing a meeting of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad at the Central Auditorium of Akhand Param Dham Ashram in Bhupatwala, Haridwar.
It may be recalled that the Trivendra Singh Rawat Government had constituted the Uttarakhand Devasthanam Board and had wrested control and management of 51 major temples in Uttarakhand, including the Char Dham shrines.
Tirath Singh Rawat also stated that the government would seriously reconsider the decision of the previous government to constitute a Devasthanam Board and bring it under direct government control by appointing a bureaucrat as its chief executive officer. He also announced a complete ban on liquor sales in Kumbhanagri area.
The CM further stated that he would soon hold a meeting of the pilgrimage priests of the Char Dham shrines and emphasised that government would not take away their traditional rights and authority in respect of management of the temples. He added that the traditional practices in management of these temples, established since the ancient times by Adi Shankaracharya, would be implemented in earnest and not diluted. No one’s traditional rights would be curtailed or tampered with in any manner by the government.
It may be recalled that the decision of the Trivendra Singh Rawat government had angered a lot of people in Uttarakhand and beyond, besides the priests working in these temples. He had claimed that the Devasthanam Board would manage the affairs of the temples on the lines of Vaishno Devi Board in Jammu & Kashmir and would improve the facilities, connectivity and infrastructure of the temples. Trivendra Singh Rawat had also claimed that the temples were not being managed properly and there was pilferage of the donations received at the temples. This claim had enraged the priests who had gone on strike and had been protesting ever since against the decision. Several leading Hindu seers had also opposed the decision to wrest control of the temples! Even some senior RSS leaders and in particular some senior VHP leaders were learnt to be unhappy with the decision of the then government according to the sources in the Sangh.
In fact, BJP MP and Hindu activist Dr Subramanian Swamy had filed a case in the Uttarakhand High Court against the Devasthanam Board but, strangely, the High Court had dismissed his petition and had justified the decision of the government to take control of the Char Dham shrines and other temples despite the fact that several court decisions in the country had overturned the decision of state governments to wrest control of temples. However, Swamy had challenged the High Court decision in the Supreme Court where the hearing is still pending. The Supreme Court had issued notices to the state government but no hearing had taken place so far.
Once Tirath Singh Rawat took over as CM, there were indications that his government would reconsider the decision on the Devasthanam Board. Today, Tirath Singh Rawat stated in no uncertain terms that the government would free the 51 temples from the control of the Devasthanam Board.