Monday, June 27, 2022
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Pooja at ASI Protected Temple:How far was LG’s Participation advisable?

B L Saraf

A week ago LG , Manoj Sinha participated in a prayer meeting known as Navagraha Ashatmanglam pooja held in the ruins of 8th Century Martand Sun Temple ,Mattan . Well , there is nothing unusual about holding a prayer meeting in a temple or a shrine but this time the venue chosen for the prayers has raised some legal and political issues . The place –Sun Temple – is a protected monument which is a tagged by the Archaeological Survey Of India (ASI ) , a statutory body of the central government engaged in protection and management of the ancient monuments.
Presence of the L G at Sun Temple has evoked reactions among the political and social circles . Broadly, there are two reasons which ,some observers argue , ought to have weighed with the L G before ensuring his participation . One , that the Temple- the place of the prayer - is a protected monument wherein all activities ,other than those concerned with the upkeep and management of the monument ,are prohibited by law . Religious or cultural activities ,however , can be performed provided a prior permission is obtained. As per the media reports , the ASI has taken serious objection to the prayer meeting held in the Sun Temple and has conveyed its “displeasure” to the state authorities . Media further informs us that the officers concerned “ have deemed this pooja as violation of ASI Rules .” In such a circumstance could LG’s presence be desirable ? LG’s office issued a press note after the event took place , which said that pooja at Martand Temple was held in presence of saints and locals but gave no indication of a prior permission having been sought for the same .
The L G holds a high constitutional post in J &K therefore it will have to be seen whether he could publicly take part in a professedly religious function associated with a particular faith , particularly , when the State adheres to the ‘Secularism ‘ as a ruling creed . Situation could be different if such a participation is permitted or required by a law .
The L G has made a commitment to protect and develop ancient sites of culture and spiritual significance , in J &K . Well this is s reassuring statement ; especially for the displaced Pandit community whose spiritual sign posts stand vandalized in the Valley . Valuable assets of most of them have been misappropriated by the very persons who claim to be their custodians . Since 1986 ,the displaced Kashmiri Hindus have been crying for a law which would ensure a democratic and transparent management of its temples and shrines , and have been pleading the case before successive governments ,in J &K and at Delhi . But their pleadings have fallen on deaf ears . Experience tells us that unless there is a statutory mechanism to protect and mange the spiritual sites by the locals , LG’s intentions , howsoever pious they may be , will remain on paper only .
Most of the Sadhus or pujaries from the mainland have often been instrumental in plundering the assets of the temples and shrines in Kashmir .
Restoration of spiritual sites in the Valley is surely a good move as it would result in attracting large number of devotees from the mainland and add to the economic power of the state .But it has to be a devotee’s pilgrimage to the a holy place ,undertaken for salutation of sorts and not a ‘conqueror’s march to the “ vanquished land ” : as these kind of Yatras , in the past , posed so and gave an impression of triumphalism . We witnessed it in the aftermath of the unfortunate Amaranth land row of 2008 . The polarizing effects of the tumultuous period continue to unfold every passing day – not only in J &K but across the country . The high decibel chants raised en route the Cave had apparently religious over tones but even to an ordinary soul who saw the menacing arms wave of the pilgrims that accompanied the chanting the undertones of political adventurism couldn’t be lost .At times such a procession looked more a march of conquerors than a solemn congregations of devotees advancing ahead for the spiritual salvation .
The Central government could do well to recall that the political message the misguided adventurism of the pilgrims carried after 2008 episode evoked strong and violent reaction among the locals which got manifested in the mass uprising of 2010 and 2017 - the year marked Burhan Wani agitation . Thanks to the unimaginative and polarizing policies of the present central government ,today’s security scene , more or less , resembles that of 1990s when the gun ruled supreme and target killing was order of the day . The latest killing of a young Pandit employee in Budgam and some of those that preceded could be a hint . BJP’s hyped march to unfurl the lotus flag on the unfriendly terrain ,without a popular base but with tacit support of the administration , will sooner that latter boomerang with undesired results all over . Indications are loud and clear.

(The author is a Former Principal District & Sessions Judge. Feedback- [email protected])

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