Uttarakhand Char Dham priests to launch state wide protest against shrine board

Published on Aug 10, 2021 07:05 PM IST
At the Kedarnath shrine, agitation of teerth purohits against Devasthanam Board continued on the 58th consecutive day with over twenty local priests associated with the BJP giving up their membership of the party.
The protesting priests in Uttarakhand will also oppose all local leaders who favour the Char Dham Devasthanam Board. (HT FILE PHOTO -)
The protesting priests in Uttarakhand will also oppose all local leaders who favour the Char Dham Devasthanam Board. (HT FILE PHOTO -)

Priest and temple committees of Uttarakhand Char Dham shrines and 47 other temples have announced a state wide agitation from August 17 to protest the alleged delay in scrapping the Char Dham Devasthanam Board (CDDB), constituted by the state government in 2019.

Along with the ongoing agitation on the issue being held at shrines of Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri and Yamunotri, the priest community will also stage protests in other district headquarters and state capital Dehradun as part of the state wide agitation.

The protesting group has also decided to oppose all local public representatives who favour the continuance of the Char Dham Devasthanam Board, enacted in June 2020 by the then chief minister Trivendra Singh Rawat led government.

“New chief minister Pushkar Singh Dhami is also dilly-dallying by saying a high-powered committee will look into the situation arising after the formation of the CDDB and related legal aspects. State government is misleading us and is not serious about concerns of the priest community..,” said Krishan Kant Kothiyal, president of the Char Dham Teerth Purohit Hak-Hakookdhari Mahapanchayat, the flag-bearing organisation against the constitution of the board.

Krishan Kant Kothiyal suggested that the constitution of the board was tantamount to unfair interference.

“Only priests, teerth purohits, pandas and stakeholders of Char Dham shrines and forty- seven other temples are being targeted and brought under this Char Dham Devasthanam Act. Why are we being targeted when the tradition of managing the Char Dhams by local priests and stakeholders has been going on for decades,” said Kothiyal.

The Mahapanchayat office-bearers also claimed they had support from Jyotish-Dwarka-Sharda Peeth Shankaracharya Swami Swaroopanand Saraswati, who currently holds religious seat of Shankaracharya of Shri Badrinath Dham as well as Dwarka Dham.

Meanwhile, at the Kedarnath shrine, agitation of teerth purohits against Devasthanam Board continued on the 58th consecutive day with over twenty local priests associated with the BJP giving up their membership of the party.

Kedar Sabha president Vinod Shukla said all teerth purohits will give up anything to ensure the board gets abolished.

“We were not also consulted by the government and party office bearers which shows the side-lining of the teerth purohits by the BJP, so we don’t feel right to be associated with such a party,” said Mukesh Shukla, a Teerth purohit.

In April, the then chief minister Tirath Singh Rawat had announced that the state government will review the formation of the board following protests by several Hindu akhadas, seers, priests of Char Dham and Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leaders looking to safeguard the interest of local priests, who have been traditionally managing these shrines.

The Char Dham Devasthanam Management Board Bill was passed by Uttarakhand government in December 2019 to create a governing body for the famous holy Hindu shrines of Badrinath, Kedarnath, Yamunotri and Gangotri, known as Char Dham, and nearly 50 other temples in the state. The priests associated with these temples have protested against the board alleging it was a ploy to take over control of the shrines.

A SC ruling in response to a 2020 public interest litigation challenging the constitutional validity of the Uttarakhand Char Dham Devasthanam Management Act, 2019 had clarified that the ownership of the temple properties would vest in Char Dham shrines and power of the board will be confined only to the administration and management of the properties.

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