10 days on, Kedarnath priest protests bare-chested against Char Dham Board
Priests at all Char Dham shrines in Uttarakahand will soon start protests against the state government’s decision to set up the Char Dham Devasthanam Management Board, the Devbhoomi Tirtha Purohit Haqhakudhari Mahapanchayat, an association of priests of all the four shrines said Monday.
A priest from the Kedarnath shrine already began a solo protest 10 days ago, sitting bare-chested in cold conditions outside the shrine.
The Char Dham Devasthanam Management Board was formed last December to manage 51 temples including the Char Dham shrines. The priest community had opposed the move and alleged that they were kept in the dark about the law. They alleged that the government took such a step to sideline them and ensure full government control of temple related issues.
In December last year, the Uttarakhand state assembly had passed the Char Dham Shrine Management Board Bill with a small change in its name by replacing the word ‘Shrine’ with ‘Devasthanam’ on the last day of the winter session.
Santosh Trivedi, the priest sits outside the Kedarnath temple and meditates as a sign of protest, demanding that the Board should be suspended. The portals of the shrine opened on April 29 this year. The priest community in the state feels that the state government is only eyeing the funds generated by the temples.
Vinod Shukla, president of Kedarnath Tirtha Purohit Mahasabha, a priests’ body of the shrine said, “Santosh Trivedi, the tirtha purohit of Kedarnath has been protesting since June 12 against the formation of the Char Dham Devasthanam Management Board. As a sign of protest, Trivedi meditates thrice a day outside the shrine when prayers are being offered.”
Prayers are offered thrice at the shrine which takes approximately four hours.
Brijesh Sati, spokesperson of Devbhoomi Tirtha Purohit Haqhakudhari Mahapanchayat, a priests’ body of all the Char Dham shrines said protests against the board will soon start at other shrines also.
“The priests of shrines like Gangotri, Yamunotri and Badrinath are discussing on how to step up the protests and soon they will start at those shrines also,” said Sati.
The priests have not accepted the formation of the Board and have been protesting since November before it was formed.
Ravinath Raman, chief executive officer (CEO) of the Char Dham Devasthanam Management Board said the priests can protest, but the Board is a government body formed through an Act.
“It is their democratic right to protest, so we cannot say anything about this. The Board is a government body made through an Act, so we cannot comment.” said Raman.