India is a diverse country with people of numerous religions residing here. All of them profess different religions. They worship different Gods and Goddesses and visit their own respective religious places. India can also be regarded as a religious country in such perspective as people residing here not only follow different religions but are also very religious in their conduct. Some of them even renounce their world leaving all the worldly desires aside and pave the way of finding God.
Religious freedom is provided in India by virtue of its constitution itself. Freedom of Religion is a fundamental right in itself. Article 25 – 28 of the Constitution of India deal with the fundamental right of Freedom of Religion. Even the Preamble to the Constitution of India, from its very inception, proclaimed that its purpose is to secure to all its citizens, ‘Liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship’. The 42nd Amendment of the Constitution of India tried to make the fundamental right of freedom of religion even more explicit by adding the word ‘secular’ in the Preamble. ‘Secularism’ means that the State shall observe an attitude of neutrality and impartiality towards all religions. A secular State does not mean an irreligious State, it only means that it is neutral in the matters of religion, the State can have no religion of its own, and the State protects all religions but interferes with none. In a secular State, the State is only concerned with the relation between man and man; it is not concerned with the relation of man with God. It is left to the individual’s conscience. Respect of all manners of thought, belief and worship is ingrained. Even without the constitutional guarantees the minority religions would have enjoyed full freedom. This is in contrast to our neighbours Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan and the middle east Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, etc. which being a Muslim majority country have declared themselves as Islamic Republic or Kingdom and have by law and practice denied religious freedom to Hindus.
In India the ethos is Hindu. The Hindus constitute the majority in India. The word ‘Hindu” came into vogue with the advent of Greeks who called the inhabitants of the Indus valley as indoi and later on this designation was extended to include all persons who lived beyond the Indus valley. Temples are an important part in the Hinduism religion. The followers of Hindu religion do visit the temples and offer their prayers. Visiting temples is an important activity in the Hindu religion.
There exist several prominent temples in India which are of great significance to the Hindu religion. The followers of Hindu religion never want to miss any chance of going to these prominent temples and worship there. Some people even offer their prayers in the form of donations which range from huge cash amounts to gold, silver and other ornamental jewellery. But it is a sad fact that these days, these temples are being sold in an illegal manner. There are several Acts as well which have been passed to govern the temples. One of which is the Pandharpur Temples Act, which provides doe the abolition of all the hereditary rights, privileges of the ministrants and priestly classes functioning in the temples of Vithhal and Rukmini at Pandharpur; for the acquisition of such rights and privileges and for the vesting thereof in a committee established for the purpose; for the payment of amounts for such acquisitions for providing for better administration and governance of these temples, their endowments and the amalgamation of the trusts and for matters connected with the purposes aforesaid.
There have been several instances whereby the government has taken the temples under its control. One of such incidents is the incident of ring fencing of about 2000 acres of temple land in Thiruporur. In this case, the ring-fencing about 2000 acres of temple land along the Old Mahabalipuram Road and the East Coast road near the city, valued at about Rs 6000 crore, against sale or lease by fraud was being taken. The Madras High Court had basically restrained the Thirupuror sub-registrar from creating any encumbrance on these properties. The land parcels were mostly owned by the Arumigu Thirupuror Kandaswamy Temple and Arumilgu Thiru Alavandan Temple in Thirupuror. Another such incident is the temple land worth Rs 100 crores in the heart of Chennai being sold with forged documents. In this case, the HR & CE department failed to stop the tide. This was a scandal involving temple land belonging to Kandaswamy Temple in Chennai’s Parry suburb whereby the temple land worth Rs 100 Crores was sold with forged documents.
The consequences of such incidents is that the religious sentiments of the people worshipping in such temples get hurt. Temples are the source of devotion for the people belonging to the Hindu religion. Visiting temples is a part of their religious pursuit and if such temples will be sold like this then the religious sentiments of people worshiping in such temples will automatically get hurt. This might even lead to resentment by the people to save their respected temples. It is further notable that acquisition of temples is not today’s stance as it roots back to the times of Mohd. Ghajini whereby the prominent Somnath Temple was acquired and literally looted.
It should be ensured that the religious sentiments of the people should in no case get hurt as it can cause huge resentment and can even lead to a situation like riots. The Government should do the needful by passing such legislation which it deems fit to be helpful in stopping such activities.