Andhra – Another Temple Land Grab in the making?

Andhra – Another Temple Land Grab in the making?

The state administration is using endowment money to abuse endowment wealth. Politicians and Govt Officials are repeatedly breaching the law

Andhra – Another Temple Land Grab in the making?
Andhra – Another Temple Land Grab in the making?

The Christian Ruler of Andhra Shri Y. S. Jagan Mohan Reddy must start by reclaiming the government lands on which churches are operating illegally

The Andhra Administration actively looking at auctioning Several Hindu temple lands across the state. Allegedly there is an order from Dr. Manmohan Singh, IAS, Special Chief Secretary to the government Instructing all District Collectors to survey and submit records of the endowment lands along with other non-endowment lands. It is also stated in the letter that the Andhra government wants to give away 25 lakh plots under the house to poor people scheme. This letter also cited several other Government orders related to Land Pooling in Andhra Pradesh.

Temple land loot in plain sight

There is no debate on helping the poor, they must be helped. Hindu temples across India are helping the poor by various Charity activities. It is the responsibility of the government to help the poor, and they have enough funds and lands and other resources to that effect.  The onus of helping poor is not only on Hindus, but it is the responsibility of all Religions collectively.  Already thousands of acres of Temple lands were looted by the politicians and or their friends.  When it comes to helping the poor, the government is only looking at Hindu Temple lands ignoring the other religions raises suspicions. Does the administration think that Christian and WAQF lands and their wealth are not suitable to help the poor? What Andhra government is doing to get funds or lands from AICC or WAQF? The above letter seems to be an attempt to rob only Hindu temples of their wealth and lands.

Andhra government has enough land to provide housing to the poor. The below government order G. O. RT. No. 774 indicates that approximately 149 acres of the DKT land is about to be given away for an Information Technology (IT) park. This is a good example indicating the land resources of the government. It would be a lie if the Andhra administration says that they don’t have enough government land to provide housing to the poor.

After the Government of India, Church is the next largest owner of Lands in India. By using the Land Acquisition Act 1894 and subsequent amendments the British government gave a lot of land on lease to many churches[1]. Many of these lease terms have expired now. Technically these lands belong to all the people of India, especially the poor people. Moreover, these lands are in Prime locations and in expensive areas. There are also several other lands grabbed by the church across India – one such example is the church occupying Defense land in Bengaluru [2]. Andhra government can enquire and acquire these lands easily because these belong to the government and subsequently the government can donate the lands to the poor.

Devotees land grants being abused

The temple lands were donated by the Hindu devotees towards the maintenance of the temple.  Most of these lands were donated several decades ago, in some cases several centuries ago by Hindu devotees. The present-day market value of these lands will be in thousands of crores of rupees. If these lands are lost, then it will never be possible to regain as they are in prime localities in several cities. Above all Hindu endowment department is making thousands of crores of rupees every year; this money alone is enough to look after the total State’s endowment establishment.

No more land grabbing

Charity begins at home. The Christian Ruler of Andhra Shri Y. S. Jagan Mohan Reddy must start by reclaiming the government lands on which churches are operating illegally. As per the High Court Judgment in June 2018, before using temple land the government must demonstrate that auctioning the land is to help the endowment. This is clearly not the case, as said earlier Andhra temples are making Huge sums of money, which is more than enough to look after all the temples of Andhra and there is no need to sell temple lands for funds. Unless the rulers of Andhra have other intentions to strip the temples off their wealth and slowly make the temples disappear.

In the past several times Andhra Administration was reminded of their limits in controlling endowment wealth. Yet they choose to ignore these reminders most of the times.  Andhra Government order G.O.MS.No. 298 dated Dated: 18-08-2015 says the following.

“Hindu temples and their properties are not Government properties. These temples have never been constructed by the Government with taxpayer’s money. They were built only by Hindu Philanthropists, Mutts, Peetams, Zamindars etc since ancient times. The Government is only acting as a sacred trustee of temple property and has brought the Endowment Act permitting itself to administer the Hindu temples for the benefit of Hindu society. Hence, under no circumstances, Hindu temples can be treated as Government property”.

In a recent judgment in June 2018 between AP Social Welfare and the Endowment Department, the learned High court of Andhra Pradesh said,

“You have wrongly learned that all endowment lands, be it temple land or waqf land, are government lands. You have to unlearn it first. Remember the order of this high court issued a decade ago making it compulsory for the state to obtain the nod of the high court to alienate endowment lands. Endowments commissioner has to accord permission for such alienation, and it should be done only by way of a public auction and it should be done only if it helps the endowment”[3].

Is Endowment Administration being arm-twisted?

There is a huge possibility of endowment administration giving up the land to the government under political pressure. There is also a possibility of false reports be submitted to the government by the corrupt. To maintain the transparency the courts must intervene and make sure that the audit findings are put in the public domain for further questioning and scrutiny by the Hindus. If not, then great injustice is being meted out to Hindus and they will end up losing their rights on these lands.

The state administration is using endowment money to abuse endowment wealth. Politicians and Govt Officials are repeatedly breaching the law. At an individual level, it is highly  time and money consuming to fight against this abuse in courts. Despite the court giving directions repeatedly to the government, there is no change in its attitude. This is due to no action being taken either on officials or politicians. It is high time politicians and officials are held accountable for their actions. The courts must consider these illegalities in temple matters as criminal proceedings and/ or must punish the individuals of wrongdoing with jail term or of other legal consequences. Otherwise, this daylight robbery and abuse of Hindu temple wealth will continue.

References:

[1] Land Acquisition Act: Narendra Modi is treading a political minefield Feb 18, 2015 – India Facts

[2] Bengaluru: Defence Ministry Stakes Claim On Disputed Church Land Set To Be Part Of Metro Project Aug 07, 2019 – Swarajya

[3] Andhra-Temple Lands-High court Judgement-Times of IndiaJune 26, 2018 – The Times of India

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