Locals vs outsiders’ row hits Jejuri Temple
The former trustees on the ‘Shri Martand Dev Sansthan Temple Trust’ completed their tenure in December last year after which the process of appointment of new trustees was started
As a majority of the newly-appointed trustees on the Jejuri Temple Trust are not residents of Jejuri village, the locals have come out in strong protest against the decision claiming that it is politically motivated and that these ‘outsiders’ do not know anything about the traditions, rituals, yatras and events of the temple. The locals have submitted a letter to the authorities, threatening to escalate the agitation and undertake an indefinite hunger strike if the newly-constituted trust is not dissolved and reconstituted.
The former trustees on the ‘Shri Martand Dev Sansthan Temple Trust’ completed their tenure in December last year after which the process of appointment of new trustees was started. Over 500 applications were received out of which, 95 applications were rejected while 350 candidates were interviewed. The list was whittled down to seven successful candidates who were appointed as trustees of the Jejuri Temple on May 19. The newly-formed trust comprises five members who do not reside in Jejuri, which is about 50 kilometres from Pune; one member who resides nine kilometres away from Jejuri; and only one who resides in Jejuri.
That most of the trustees are not from Jejuri has irked the villagers of Jejuri, who have been protesting for the past five days against the decision taken by the joint charity commissioner of Pune, Sudhir Bukke. The villagers of Jejuri want a majority of the trustees to be ‘informed’ locals. On Tuesday, the villagers and several other religious organisations met Pune district collector Rajesh Deshmukh and Bukke demanding that the decision be revoked and that the newly-constituted trust be dissolved and reconstituted.
The locals submitted a letter to the authorities which reads, “The outsiders are not aware of the rituals, traditions, yatras and events of the temple. In case of untoward incidents or emergency situations, they will not be able to reach on time. The villagers are furious over the decision and if the trust is not dissolved and reconstituted, it will result in an escalation of the protest where locals plan to undertake an indefinite hunger strike.”
On his part, Bukke said that the decision taken by the charity commissioners is unbiased and clearly without any political interference and that they will stay firm on the decision. “All the trustees have met the required eligibility criteria for appointment as trustee of the temple. All the trustees are from different educational backgrounds and communities. The decision was taken as per the constitution of the trust and it’s the first time such a transparent process was followed,” Bukke said. Whereas Deshmukh was not available for comment.
As per the constitution of the Jejuri Temple Trust, any individual resident of Maharashtra who is a Hindu and a devotee of Lord Khandoba is eligible for appointment as a trustee of the temple. A resident of Jejuri, Hemant Sonawane, said that before selection of the trustees, the locals had requested the charity commissioner to appoint at least five people from Jejuri village as trustees and they were assured that a majority of the trustees would be locals. “But later, only one local trustee was elected and the remaining six members are outsiders belonging to some political party,” said Sonawane.
Adv Shivraj Kadam, trustee of Shrimati Laxmibai Dagduseth Halwai Datta Mandir Trust, said, as long as the trustees fulfill the eligibility criteria and do their duty there should not be any problem if the Trustees are not local.
“The religious daily work has already been decided for years. The functions and Yatras are done as per the yearly calendar. There is no problem when it comes to religious programs. The administration and fund management and social arrangements for special events is done by the trustees. When it comes to the festivals and Yatras, the locals always have an upper hand. The daily worship work, prayers and other arrangements are done by the local people,” he said.
While reacting to the development, Deepak Jade, President of Shaneshwar Seva Trust, Chinchwad, said, local people have to be there in the Trust board as they are the ones who are aware about the local problems in the area. The number of local Trustees around 30 to 40 percent is enough for smooth functioning of the temple trust. “Most important thing the Trustees have to come on board for genuine reasons and help in growth of the Temple trust and serve people. The intention should not be to gain fame or privilege at the Temple. Many times people just want to be a Trustee for a name. Trustee who are not local lack giving time and taking efforts for the growth of temple trust,” he said.
The presiding deity of the Jejuri Temple is Lord Khandoba, revered across Maharashtra, and the villagers claim that non-informed trustees are unaware of the traditions and rituals and the planning of fairs and yatras of the Khandoba Temple.
BOX: Names of the newly-appointed trustees
Dr Rajendra Khedekar
Mangesh Ghone (Jejuri)
Popat Khomane (Kolvihire village which is nine km away from Jejuri)