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Church grabbing temple lands in Tamilnadu

Graveyard in the premises of Manimoortheeswaram Uchishta Ganapathy temple in Tirunelveli

Degressing from the real teachings of Jesus and demonstrating unchristian acts, lands are being grabbed by Church in Tamil Nadu and across the Dakshin Bharat. ‘In the Name of God’, Ishwar is being strategically pushed out from His abode

  • Statistics reveal that the extent of temple properties have reduced from 5.25 lakh acres to 4.78 acres in the last five years with nearly 50,000 acres lying with encroachers and land grabbers.
  • As per the Patta documents, the Sanga Rameswaram temple in Tuticorin Sthala Purana, it had 2,500 acres of land which has now been reduced to nearly 71 acres.

Tamil Nadu (TN) is the land of temples and religious mutts, and trusts. Erstwhile rulers Chola, Maratha, Chera, Pandiya, Pallav kings and philanthropists donated lands for construction of temples, for agricultural purposes and for the accommodation of temple staff.

Tahsildar (Tirupur North) S. Murugadoss and HR and CE Assistant Commissioner S. V. Harshini retrieved 6.72 acres belonging to Bhagawati Amman Temple at Mannarai in Tirupur

The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), an offspring of iconoclast Periyar or EVR’s Dravidar Kazhagam. DMK too followed its parent body’s ideologies like acting against Hindu gods, Hindus and mocking their customs, traditions. The temple hereditary trustee system was given a go-bye and replaced with its own cadres as Executive officers, and Fit Persons, trustees to manage the temple and its properties. Temple lands, properties were identified and released to its party leader, members or their benamies.

Slowly, these people, it is alleged, grabbed them by altering documents with the connivance of government officials. The lands and properties were given for a long lease (99 years) for a paltry sum of Rs 10, 25, 50 as monthly rentals. The lessees did not even pay them regularly but cleverly partitioned the leased properties illegally. Vast tracts of lands and several properties are in possession of politicians, their benamies and of course with Christians and Muslims. They closed the Veda pathshalas, cow shelters, and schools. Six-Time poojas have been reduced to one in some temple and nil in others. Without spending anything for consecration of Temples, festivals, temple officials keep the funds in Banks. They cook up accounts to swindle money.

Retrieving the Temple Land

To retrieve huge tracts of temple lands that had been either grabbed or under encroachment and to prevent further alienation of such immovable properties, the Madras High Court in last February issued a slew of directions to the State Government as well as the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR & CE) department.

Justice R Mahadevan ordered that public notices be issued forthwith informing land grabbers across the State to surrender the properties voluntarily to avoid penal action under Section 79B of the HR&CE Act of 1959. Failure to do so should be followed up with the prosecution against them.

Stating that a recent statistics revealed that the extent of temple properties had reduced from 5.25 lakh acres to 4.78 acres in the last five years with nearly 50,000 acres lying with encroachers and land grabbers, the judge said: “The custodians of temple properties, be it the trustees or the HR&CE department, must bear in mind the object behind such donations to the temple. Passing orders on another writ petition related to many lessees of temple lands squatting over the properties without paying mounting arrears of rent, the judge ordered that public notices must be issued directing them to pay the arrears within four weeks or face prosecution under Section 34B of the HR&CE Act.

Only those who agree to pay the enhanced rent should be allowed to be in occupation of temple properties. Noting that nearly 50,000 acres of temple land in Tamil Nadu has been encroached upon in the last few years, the Madras High Court today directed authorities to take steps to retrieve the properties illegally alienated or leased. He also directed the HR and CE commissioner to constitute committees that would visit all the temples and identify lands belonging to them and encroached lands. A report should be filed within six weeks specifying the details of the temple lands for which ‘patta’ (land deeds) had been granted to third parties/encroachers, he said.

In this report, we could touch only the tip of the iceberg as concerted efforts have never been made to record them in proper form. Some came to surface due to diligent efforts being taken by some good-hearted, god- fearing bold humans. In this, the role of Sangh Parivar could be appreciable. Without their active and dedicated fearless role, nothing would have seen the light at the end of the tunnel. Notable among them are Hindu Munnani, Temple worshippers’ movement, Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) leader H Raaja’s Temple properties retrieval outfit, Hindu Makkal Katchi.

Graveyard in the premises of Manimoortheeswaram Uchishta Ganapathy temple in Tirunelveli

Some Temples and their Stories

On Chennai-Trichy National Highway, a 1500 year old Pasupatheeswarar Siva temple atop a hill Vajaragiri (95 km from Chennai 700 feet from ground level), is now accessible to Hindu devotees. The Christians had encroached the hill by putting a cross and taken control of the entire area. Even the steps to the temple have been blocked. They constructed an arch saying way to a Mazhai Malai Madha Arul sthalam besides installing cement statues depicting bible stories.

Similary, near Madurai, in Tiruparangundram Lord Murugan Temple, one of the six abodes of Lord Muruga is situated. In Sannadhi Street, in the land belonging to the temple; a Christian convent is being run. One of the temple trustees was forced to convert to Christianity, and through him they grabbed the land. The Salome Metric school is being run in a dilapidated building without any ventilation throwing safety norms to winds. No government officials, despite complaints, acted on the complaint. Paster Vedamani is the person behind forced conversion in this area, says a local.

A complaint has been filed with District Collector about the encroachment of land belonging to Ayyanar Temple in Panruti, by AIADMK MLA’s husband. H Raaja had visited the Vedaranyam temple in Nagapattinam district and found out of 28,000 acres of temple land, 15,000 acres are in possession of salt pan owners. He petitioned the government to retrieve the land from them and get revenue patterns in the name of the temple.

Church Grabbing the Lands

In the case, Roman Catholic Mission Vs. State of Madras and another, a five-member Constitution bench of SC observed that over 50 acres of land belonging to Sri Meenakshi Sundareswarar Amman Temple was declared to be the land of Temple in January 14, 1966. Even after the order, the land is yet to be recovered from the Catholic mission.

In Mylapore, Vinayagar temple at the Kesava Perumal Koil street and its piece of land were thwarted at right time by Hindu Temple retrieval movement from being grabbed. Despite complaints from the public, vast tracts of land belonging to Ottapidaram Viswanathaswamy temple in Tuticorin district are in illegal possession of Suzlon wind energy firm.

Hindu Munnani which identifies itself as Hindu Jagran Manch of TN had protested against the police and revenue department officials for inaction against the church management that failed to follow the court orders in a village called Serndamangalam in Tirunelveli.

The Hindu temple Sarveswaran Kovil, which the locals and Hindu activists claim to be of the 11th century, has been encroached by a Roman Catholic Church for St Peter and Paul. The temple and its Rs 100 crore worth properties were encroached by the church during British rule. Hindus were supposedly being ‘allowed’ to worship, perform pujas and hold festivals until as recently as 2012. After that a PIL was filed in the Madurai bench of Madras HC seeking a direction to the Archaeology Department to declare Sarveswaran Temple in the village as an ancient monument and protect it from destruction, to stop the church from trying to damage the temple and erase the evidence of its existence. The court instructed the church management not to disturb the temple structure during its renovation work as per Hindu Munnani’s claim.

TN unit of Shiv Sena had held a protest near Chepauk Visitors bungalow in Chennai demanding Tamil Nadu Government to hand over the administration of temples to Hindus. As per the report, many Hindu organisations have been united to protest against various culpabilities of TN Govt in connection with misuse of Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR&CE) provisions in different temple trusts. They demanded that the State Government should hand over the administration of all Hindu temples in TN to Hindus. It should be handed over to a committee comprising Hindu spiritual leaders, saints, and Hindu management body.

Manimoortheeswaram Uchishta Ganapathy temple in Tirunelveli Christian fundamentalists and evangelical organisation are building a cemetery right in front of the temple, on temple land captured by fraud. This rare temple with 5 tier Rajagopuram is massive in size with huge compound walls. It is over 1000 years old. The specialty of this temple is that the deity Uchistha Ganapathy is a very powerful Tantric Deity and this temple is one of its kinds in Bharat. This temple is managed and maintained by HR &CE department of the Government of Tamil Nadu. Properties of the Manimoortheeswara Uchistha Ganapathy Temple in Thirunelveli are huge. However, in 1985 the temple lands were given illegally by VAO (Village Administrative Officer) & Revenue Inspector to Christian Missionaries. There were protests in the village for many years against this.

Irrespective of our democratic

Institutions’ apathy towards plight of Hindus, ordinary Hindu men and women in Tamil Nadu are still fighting against the highhandedness of the Church emboldened by its Dravidian and pseudo secular political connections. Days are not far away, when we will be told to stop breathing as it might cause communal riots, since minorities have final say and more right on anything that is rightfully ours!

-TS Venkatesan, Chennai

Courtesy: Organiser