Appoint Hindu priest in Datta Peeta shrine: Karnataka high court directs govt

The Karnataka high court quashed the state government order dated March 19, 2018, in which it permitted only a Mujawar (Muslim priest) appointed by Shah Khadri to enter the sanctum of the Sri Guru Dattathreya Swamy Peeta cave and to distribute ‘teertha’ or holy water to both Hindus and Muslims.
The Karnataka high said that the order by BJP-led state government was unsustainable in law because it was contrary to the Supreme Court’s order that the state cabinet would take a decision in Datta Peeta case. (HT File)
The Karnataka high said that the order by BJP-led state government was unsustainable in law because it was contrary to the Supreme Court’s order that the state cabinet would take a decision in Datta Peeta case. (HT File)
Published on Sep 29, 2021 12:52 AM IST
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By, Bengaluru

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) lauded the Karnataka high court order on Tuesday wherein it directed the state government to appoint a Hindu priest at Datta Peeta, a cave shrine in Chikmagalur’s Baba Budangiri mountains.

BJPs national general secretary and legislator from Chikmagalur, CT Ravi took to Twitter to express his happiness over the verdict and chide the Siddaramaiah-led Congress government for the injustice it had meted during its rule in the state.

“Huge victory for Hindus. Karnataka high court orders the government to appoint hindu priests in Datta Peeta. I welcome the decision of the high court in rejecting the biased report of Justice Nagmohan Das committee,” the BJP leader said in a post on Twitter.

Ravi said that it was Siddaramaiah who had weaved a web of lies to instate a Muslim maulvi as the priest of the shrine that dates back several centuries with conflicting accounts of its history.

The court quashed the state government order dated March 19, 2018, in which it permitted only a Mujawar (Muslim priest) appointed by Shah Khadri to enter the sanctum of the “Sri Guru Dattathreya Swamy Peeta” otherwise known as “Sree Gurudattathreya Bababudnaswamy Dargha” cave and to distribute ‘teertha’ or holy water to both Hindus and Muslims.

The shrine is on the Chandra Drona Range, some of the highest ranges between the Himalayas and the Nilgiris, and history has it that it was a sufi Saint Baba Budan who first brought coffee seeds from Yemen that were introduced in these mountain ranges for the first time.

The controversy is around the Peetha which, according to court documents, was a major Muzarai temple under the Mysore Religious and Charitable Institutions Act, 1927, but was taken over by the state Wakf board on April 6, 1973, just before Emergency was declared in the country. This was contested in 1978.

The shrine is known as “Sri Guru Dattathreya Swamy Peeta” and “Sree Gurudattathreya Bababudnaswamy Dargha”, depending on who you ask, that has been a bone of contention between the right wing and the Congress, who both accuse each other of twisting history to appease their respective vote banks.

The HC order also stated that as per the annual report of the Mysuru Archeological Department, 1932, Shri Guru Dattatreya Swami Peetha is a small cave in Baba Budangiri, which is sacred to both Hindus and Mohammadans. The order stated that the Endowment commissioner’s report had rightly recorded that Shri Dattatreya is well known as son of Sage Athri by his virtuous wife Anasuya and embodiment of Hindu trinity, the gods, Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva.

The commissioner had recorded that 1,861 acres of land was granted to Shri Dattatreya Devaru and 111.25 acres to Shri Baba Budan Dharga separately by the then Maharaja of Mysore.

The Endowment commissioners report was submitted on March 10, 2010, before the Supreme Court, suggesting that a Hindu archak or priest be appointed by the management committee of the shrine.

The issue had gained traction in the run up to the 2018 assembly elections in Karnataka with the BJP accusing Siddaramaiah of pandering to the minorities vote bank.

The Karnataka HC said that the order by the state government was unsustainable in law because it was contrary to the Supreme Court’s order that the state cabinet would take a decision in this regard considering the pros and cons of the matter but instead delegated it to a high level committee.

The HC also listed five other reasons which included that the high level committee was not free from bias.

In its sixth reason, the HC said that the 2018 order “infringes the right of both communities guaranteed under Article 25 of the Constitution by preventing Hindus from performing puja as per their faith and compelling the Mujawar to offer puja contrary to his faith.”

“We have already issued orders to form a committee, take its recommendations and appoint a Hindu archak,” V Sunil Kumar, Karnataka’s minister for power, Kannada and Culture said.

At least two senior Congress leaders could not be reached for comment.

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Monday, January 17, 2022