Why Stalin is wrong on state control of temples – R. Jagannathan

M.K. Stalin

R. JagannathanStalin and the Tamil Nadu government are foxes in charge of the henhouse of Hindu interests. They are doing huge damage to Hinduism—and Hinduism alone. – R. Jagannathan

The DMK chief minister, M.K. Stalin, has said that temples—of which more than 46,000 are under state control in Tamil Nadu—are meant for the public, and cannot be treated as personal property.

He is quoted as saying: “Whether it is monarchy or democracy, temples are for people only. They are for the public only, irrespective of any kind of rule. Shrines are not the personal property of someone. This (HR&CE) Department was created during Justice Party rule only to change that situation (of temples being in individuals’ control).”

First off, before we come to the core of the argument, the question is why are only temples public property, and not churches and mosques?

If the answer is that Hinduism discriminates on the basis of caste, and hence the need for state intervention, we need to ask another question: how is this assertion in consonance with the freedoms promised under Articles 25 and 26?

Article 25 promises every citizen “Freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion”.

When the state runs temples, it can claim that it is allowing people to “practice” their religion. But “propagation” means a temple’s resources must be used to spread the message of Hindu religion.

Can the state show how it is doing that, and with demonstrable results?

How is it preventing the conversion of Hindus to other religions using temple resources? Shouldn’t propagation mean at least an attempt to stem conversions away from Hinduism?

Second, Article 26 says that, subject to public order, morality and health, “every religious denomination or any section thereof shall have the right (a) to establish and maintain institutions for religious and charitable purposes; (b) to manage its own affairs in matters of religion; (c) to own and acquire movable and immovable property; and (d) to administer such property in accordance with law…”.

So, two questions arise: giving each “denomination” the right to manage its own religious affairs, including its properties, implies non-state involvement in temples.

So why is the state running only temples?

Secondly, if each denomination is free to do its own thing, for the state to intervene in temple practices—except to prevent them from barring particular types of devotees from entering temples or aspiring to become temple managers—is a negation of this right.

Prescribing the same norms for all temples under state administration is effectively an effort to make temples a part of state policy, not religious freedom.

Lastly, one must also challenge the assumption that temples are generic public spaces in the same way public parks or state-run museums are.

No, temples are not meant to offer a free run for everyone, never mind if their only intention is to desecrate it, as some “liberals” tried to do in Sabarimala.

Every temple has a heritage to protect, and barring egregious violations of human rights, they can follow their own practices and traditions.

In claiming that the temple is just a public institution, Stalin is effectively saying that only believers in Christianity, Islam, Sikhism, Buddhism or Jainism have religious autonomy, not Hindu temples and institutions.

This is what allows missionary religions to grow at the cost of Dharmic ones.

Stalin and the Tamil Nadu government are foxes in charge of the henhouse of Hindu interests.

They cannot go unchallenged. They are doing huge damage to Hinduism—and Hinduism alone. – Swarajya, 6 December 2022

R. Jagannathan is a senior journalist and the editorial director of Swarajya Magazine.

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