Bill on taking over 'mismanaged' mutts antagonises seers

Bill on taking over 'mismanaged' mutts antagonises seers
The tabling of an amendment bill that empowers the government to take over “mismanaged” mutts has not gone down well with heads of religious institutions and mutts. They have threatened to launch a Statewide protest against it, accusing the government of targeting them.

The Siddaramaiah government introduced the Karnataka Hindu Religious Institutions and Charitable Endowments (Amendment) Bill, 2014, in the Assembly during the recently concluded winter session of the Legislature held in Belagavi. The bill seeks to empower the government to take over mutts in case of mismanagement or if there is dispute over succession or if the successor is a minor.

The bill, tabled on the last day of the session, states that the Endowment Commissioner can issue a show-cause notice to a mutt, asking for reasons as to why it should not be taken over if the devotees of the mutt or those interested complain that it is being mismanaged and the official is convinced by their complaint. The government can take over such mutts for a maximum of five years by appointing an administrator, the bill says. However, the bill is yet to be approved by the Legislature.

Murugharajendra Swami of Murugha Mutt, Chitradurga, said all religious institutions and mutts should take up cudgels against the government. If the bill comes into effect, it will deal a death blow to mutts that are doing social service. It will lead to chaos in society, he warned.

It is wrong to assume that all mutts have political affiliations. Some may be openly supporting certain political parties, but a majority of them have maintained their secular identity and are serving the society.

“Instead of unnecessarily harassing mutts like this, the government should try to help them in their service. If not, it (the government) should at least learn to keep quiet,” he stated. 

M A Hanchinaala of Basava Kendra, Gadag, accused Chief Minister Siddaramaiah of conspiring to finish off the mutts. It is easy to target a mutt if the amendment bill is approved. The government can take over a mutt and appoint an administrator based on a complaint. This provision can be misused to target any mutt. It has exposed the ill-intention of the government, he added.

“The government is playing with the sentiments of devotees. People will never approve of the move. It is ridiculous that the government wants to give more power to the Muzrai department which is already neck-deep in corruption. It has to be noted that the amendment applies only to Hindu institutions,” he said. Vishveshateertha Swami of Pejawar Mutt said any government that is secular treats all religions equally.

“This government has included only Hindu institutions in the amendment bill, leaving out others. Targeting Hinduism is not secularism. This is unfair and we will oppose it,” he added.

A number of mutts, including Suttur Mutt, Hukkerihire mutt, Taralabalu Mutt and Madara Gurupeetha have opposed the bill and have warned of a protest. These mutts are said to be planning to take a delegation to Delhi to submit a memorandum to Congress president Sonia Gandhi.
CM defends govt’s move

Chief Minister Siddaramaiah on Monday defended his government’s move to take over mutts if they are mismanaged, saying that they had taken the step based on a Supreme Court direction.

Speaking to reporters after releasing a book on Tipu Sultan at his home office Krishna, he said that the government had no intention to interfere in the functioning of mutts. Based on the court direction, the government drafted an amendment bill, he added.

Earlier, he announced that the government will organise the Jayanti (birth anniversary) of Tipu Sultan, following a request made by Information Minister Roshan Baig in this regard. “Tipu Sultan was a secular ruler. He was a model king in the entire country. A section of people criticise him out of prejudice,” he added.

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