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Give up intransigence over Devasthanam Act or face action: U'kd priests to CM

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Press Trust of India Dehradun
The teerth-purohits (priests) in Uttarakhand on Wednesday criticised Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat's intransigent stand over the Devasthanam Management Act which hands over the control of over 50 temples in the state, including the Chardham, to the government.
The Act, passed by the state assembly in December last year, permits a government-headed panel to take over the management of temples in the state, including Chardham, whose affairs have traditionally been run by priests or "haq and hakukdharis".
"The chief minister has adopted an intransigent stand on the issue which is not good for him. He must realise that we are not going to budge on our demand for abrogation of the Act," Ashok Semwal, a priest who earlier headed the Gangotri Mandir Samiti, told PTI.
He said the entire teerth-purohit community feels insulted as they were not taken into confidence prior to the introduction of the Devasthanam Management legislation in the state assembly and its subsequent passage by the House.
Semwal said the community's main grouse is that they were completely ignored by the government before taking such a major decision which was going to impact them directly.
He also threatened that ignoring the interest of teerth-purohits "do not augur well for Trivevdra Singh Rawat's government or the Chardham yatra which is the lifeline of Uttarakhand's economy".
Semwal, who was president of Gangotri Mandir Samiti from 1998 to 2000, said senior BJP leader Subramanian Swamy's PIL in the Uttarakhand HighCourt against the Act was a result of the collective efforts of teerth-purohits.
He is currently Uttaranchal Daivi Aapda Pidit Samiti's Maneri president besides being the convenor ofMukhwaa Markanday Puri's Ganga Saptami programme.
The teerth-purohits associated with the Chardham are also planning to go to court separately against the constitution of the government panel under the Act to run the affairs of over 50 temples dotting the state, Semwal said.
He said they may also seek the intervention of the Narendra Modi government at the Centre to ensure abrogation of the Act which is a "direct assault on the interest of teerth-purohits".
On the chief minister's repeated reassurances that the Act is meant only for better management of the temples and teerth-purohits had nothing to worry, Semwal said the temple committees which had been running the affairs of these places of worship for decades were doing a good job and there was no need to constitute a state panel for the purpose.
The Uttarakhand High Court had on Tuesday sent a notice to the state government seeking its response within three weeks on the PIL filed by Swamy challenging the constitutionality of the Act.
The Act permits a government-headed panel to take over the management of51 prominent temples of the state, including the four famous Himalayan shrines of Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri and Yamunotri.
The legislation has not gone down well with the teerth purohits who claim to be the traditional 'haq-hakookdharis' of the temples.
Swamy filed the PIL on Monday stating that the decision of the Uttarakhand government to claim authority over the management affairs of Chardham is legally incorrect and therefore, the Devasthanam Act should be revoked.
The petition said no such authority could be retained permanently by the government as per the directions of the Supreme Court in a similar case earlier.

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First Published: Feb 26 2020 | 4:00 PM IST

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