Hindu temples: now golden goose, now street dog – II
by Radha Rajan on 05 Dec 2010 7 Comments

Between the devil and the deep sea

Tamil Nadu’s Karunanidhi and Karnataka’s Yediyurappa are on a temple demolishing spree even as this column is being written. But they are not the first in this asuric demonstration of political power; Jayalalithaa in 2005 and Narendra Modi in 2006 and then again in 2008 had already shown them how, and were thus leaders by example.


In February 2005, a division bench in the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court comprising two Christian judges, Justices Ashok Kumar and Dinakaran, over-stepping their brief and transgressing the scope of a small case that was before them, ordered the Madurai corporation and all local municipal authorities and panchayats to demolish and remove all encroachments. Considering what we know about these two judges today, it may not be far-fetched to suppose that the judges knew exactly what they were doing and why.


Moving swiftly to fulfill the orders of the Madurai Bench, Jayalalithaa’s men went on the rampage, bulldozing everything in their path – homes, shops and Hindu temples. Over 250 temples were demolished in Madurai, Tiruchy and Kanyakumari, including temples that had stood for twenty, thirty and even fifty years. Some of the temples and other revered structures threatened with demolition were over a hundred years old! The samadhi of Muthuswami Dikshitar of revered memory and one of the three Mummurtis or saints of Carnatic Music, the hoary Bhoothalingaswamy temple believed to have been consecrated by Maharishi Patanjali and the dearly loved, famous Madurai landmark Ganesha-under-the-banyan-tree were three such ‘illegal encroachments on public land’ facing Jayalalithaa’s guillotine.


In this asuric orgy of destruction, only one church and one dargah were demolished and even that was done probably to prove Jayalalithaa’s secular credentials if some foolish individual had dared to challenge her in court at that time; in 2005, lest we forget, Jayalalithaa’s Tamil Nadu was virtually a police state. Five years have gone by, the DMK is ruling the state but not a single temple demolished in 2005 has been re-built again; instead, Karunanidhi, like Jayalalithaa and Modi before him, has embarked on a temple-demolishing mission. Justices Ashok Kumar and Dinakaran and Jayalalithaa had accomplished what they had set out to do.


The year 2006 was testing time for both the Gujarat High Court and Narendra Modi who had been pushed into a corner by Teesta Setalvad and an activist Supreme Court. In 2006, the country’s secularists had pinned the halo of messiah of justice around Ms. Setalvad’s head; such was the larger-than-life motivated projection of the lady’s power to sway high institutions that not only did the Supreme Court express its lack of confidence in the Gujarat High Court, (simply on the say-so of Ms. Setalvad) by transferring some of the post-Godhra riot cases outside the state to Maharashtra, but even the Bombay High Court was so overawed by the lady that it set the most unhealthy precedent of allowing her to choose the Public Prosecutor from a list of names that the Bombay High Court itself provided the lady.  


The Gujarat High Court was thus under tremendous pressure to prove its anti-Hindu secular credentials. The Times of India provided the Gujarat High Court with the context to do so. On May 2, 2006, the Times of India Ahmedabad Edition carried a report of how nearly 1200 Hindu temples and 260 Islamic religious structures were standing on public spaces in Gujarat. Taking suo motu notice of the newspaper report, the Gujarat High Court at Ahmedabad on the same day took suo motu action against the 14 persons/authorities arrayed before it as Respondents and ordered them to remove all places of worship and religious structures “without favoring any religion” and to submit a report of compliance before the court.


Hardly had the judges closed their mouth, than Narendra Modi’s demolition squad descended the streets of Gujarat and razed Hindu temples and Hindu deities to the ground in frenzied zeal. The country’s arch secularists – the Gujarat High Court, the Supreme Court, the UPA government, BJP leadership, idiot Hindus, the print and electronic media - remained silent and appreciative spectators as Modi set about demonstrating to the world his newly acquired secular identity and his high respect for the Gujarat High Court’s anti-Hindu order.


All was well in this secular anti-Hindu paradise until the demolition squad razed a Muslim dargah to the ground in Vadodara; a dargah, not a mosque, and all secular hell broke loose. The Muslim community which in sharp contrast to craven Hindus is always in a state of total preparedness for organized riot and mayhem, came on to the streets in a trice and Gujarat was once again in the grip of Muslim violence euphemistically called communal violence.


It is not within the ambit of this column to detail the riots in Vadodara or how the UPA government and its minion Teesta Setalvad and the human rights industry saw in the riots yet another opportunity to harangue Modi and the Gujarat police, but it is certainly the theme of this column to look at our courts, their judgments and the long-term consequences of these judgments on Hindu dharma and Hindus. Sonia Gandhi who had beamed approvingly at Jayalalithaa in 2005 when she demolished over 250 temples, and did not turn a hair when Narendra Modi was demolishing Hindu temples, however in the first moment after the dargah was demolished in Vadodara, jumped into Gujarat affairs, fingers to nose and both feet first.


The then Additional Solicitor General Gopal Subramaniam was dispatched speedily to the Supreme Court with a Special Leave Petition to obtain a stay on the Gujarat High Court order; and the Supreme Court, still in the thrall of Teesta Setalvad, was only too pleased to stay the order considering it was Muslim sensibilities that it was called upon to assuage and protect.


The Chennai Corporation and the Madras High Court cited an order of the Supreme Court to legitimize the demoniac bulldozing of Hindu temples when the writer challenged the demolition in the Madras High Court in October 2010. Dear dear dearie me, if this wasn’t the order from the same case that came up before the Apex Court in connection with the demolition of the dargah in Vadodara in 2006! We do not know the tortuous path that the Vadodara dargah case took in the Supreme Court, but the end result was that it was behind this order that Karunanidhi is taking shelter as he goes about demolishing Hindu street temples.


The writer does not know the sequence of events in the Supreme Court leading up to this order and we may never know it unless we seek this information under the Right to Information Act, but what we do know is that the UPA government (read Sonia Gandhi) tactically used the Gujarat High Court Order to manipulate the course of events through the agency of the Supreme Court to bring down street temples in every state in the country. Let us look at the timeline –


-        May 2, 2006Times of India Ahmedabad edition carries report of encroachment on public spaces by 1200 temples and 260 Islamic structures

-        May 2, 2006 – On the same day the Gujarat High Court takes suo motu notice of the TOI report and suo motu orders removal of all Hindu temples and Islamic structures

-        Scores of Hindu temples and one dargah in Vadodara are demolished

-        May 4, 2006 – The Supreme Court issues notice on the Special Leave Petition moved by the central government through the Additional Solicitor General and stays the impugned Gujarat High Court Order

-        March 25, 2008 – Another news report in Times of India Ahmedabad Edition (The writer does not know the details of this news report yet)

-        March 25, 2008 – Supreme Court takes suo motu notice of this report and as the writer understands from the interim order in the case issued by the Supreme Court on 29 September 2009, summoned the Additional Solicitor General to the court on March 25, 2008, the same day as the report appears in the Times of India. The ASG, to quote from the Supreme Court Order of 29 September, 2009, is reported to have told the Supreme Court that the Central Government would convene “a meeting of all the concerned Secretaries of the respective States and would try to take a consensual decision to deal with the problems such as in the present case all over the country and seeks time for this purpose”

-        July 1, 2009 – Subsequent to the ASG’s assurance that the central government would consult all Secretaries of the States, Gopal Subramaniam, now Solicitor General, told the Supreme Court, “Union of India submits that the entire matter is being carefully scrutinized at the highest level and a consensus is being built among all the States

-        July 1, 2009 – The Supreme Court issues the order to the Solicitor General to take instructions on behalf of the central government “and file an affidavit that henceforth no church, mosque or gurdwara etc shall be permitted on the public street/public space. Let this affidavit be filed by a senior officer, preferably a Secretary to the Government of India within eight weeks”

-        29 September, 2009 – The Solicitor General Gopal Subramaniam submits two letters to the Supreme Court written by Home Secretary to the Solicitor General dated 19 and 23 September 2009 to the effect that the Home Secretary “had taken a meeting with the Chief Secretaries of the States on 17. 09. 2009 with a view to evolve consensus on the problem of encroachment of public spaces by religious structures” and the following consensus was arrived at: namely that no new place of worship will be allowed to come up on public spaces and “in respect of unauthorized constructions of any religious nature which has taken place in the past, the State Governments would review the same on a case by case basis and take appropriate steps. This will be done as expeditiously as possible”


Converting the submission of the Home Secretary into an interim order the Supreme Court ordered the States and Union territories to file their replies within four weeks and “granted liberty” to the Union of India to file a rejoinder “within two weeks thereafter”, and ordering the case to be listed for the next hearing on 7 December 2009.


The following points rise to the surface –


-        When High Courts and the Supreme Court want to, they take suo motu notice of newspaper reports and even newspaper columns

-        How many times altogether in the last twenty years have the Supreme Court and High Courts taken suo motu notice and suo motu action?

-        Of these instances, how many concerned minority human rights issues, how many concerned religious sensibilities of Muslims and Christians, how many on environment, how many on corruption?

-        Have our courts taken suo motu notice or action on even one occasion in the interest of Hindu temples or Hindu sensibilities?

-        Why did the Madras High Court and the Supreme Court not take suo motu note when Jayalalithaa destroyed over 250 Hindu temples some of them very old and much revered?

-        In fact, the Madras High Court upheld the order of the Madurai division bench thus reinforcing the need to make the process of appointing judges to High Courts and Supreme Court transparent

-        Why is it that every time our courts decide an important case which concerns Muslims of this country we have allowed the entrenchment of a nasty practice that such issues will always come up before a division bench and the bench will have one Muslim judge on it?

-        Do we follow the same practice when the issues concern women, scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and homosexuals?


These points apart, when two important issues in the Directive Principles of the Indian Constitution, namely banning cow slaughter and putting in place a uniform civil code still lie unfulfilled, why is it that our courts, including the Supreme Court, will not get proactive and take suo motu note of the Indian constitution on these two issues, but will become activist when it comes to secularism, minority rights and minority sensibilities? Intentional failure (impossible to prove but Hindus know it is there) to take suo motu note of Hindu issues can rightly be labelled bias.


We know the ways of Nehruvian secularism in polity and administration, but what about Narendra Modi? Modi could have given this case an entirely different angle if he had had the political vision and the will when the Gujarat High Court issued its untenable order on May 2, 2006. In the process Modi would not only have underscored the meaning and place of street temples, but would also have made the telling point that our courts should not intrude into the domain of the Executive and should step in only as an agency of last resort.


There was a time when Tamil Nadu’s Hindus, the writer included, saw in Jayalalithaa the Hindu face of polity; the dream lasted until the day the lady launched her murderous attack on the Sri Kanchi Matham and its revered mathathipathis. Jayalalithaa, had she wanted to, could have challenged the Madurai Bench order and refused to destroy Hindu temples. Narendra Modi too could have challenged the Gujarat High Court order as pointed out earlier if he had had the political vision of the Hindu nation, and if he had understood the politics of public spaces. But Jayalalithaa was swayed by the church, while Modi was swayed by liberal Christian political objectives like secularism, constitutionalism and development.


There can be no half-way house Hindutva. As Solzhenitsyn put it - Incomplete liberation from modish dogmas imposed by others is always punished by intermittent failures of vision and overhasty formulations. (As Breathing and Consciousness return, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Iz Pod Glub or From Under the Rubble, Regnery Gateway, Washington DC, 1974)  


(To be continued… )

The author is editor, www.vigilonline.com

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