Uttarakhand withdraws Char Dham Act ahead of polls
The Uttarakhand government analysed the report before taking the decision as per a Cabinet subcommittee’s recommendations.
Ahead of assembly elections next year, the Uttarakhand government on Tuesday announced the withdrawal of the contentious Char Dham Devasthanam Management Act, which brought four Hindu shrines of Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri, Yamunotri and 49 other temples under the purview of a board, and against which several priests and religious organisations have been protesting since last year.
Also Read | My decision, says Dhami on scrapping Char Dham law. Then makes a promise
The law, which was introduced by the previous Trivendra Singh Rawat-led government in 2019, allowed the board to act as the highest governing body, to look after the shrines while framing policies and sanctioning expenditure.
Priests of the Chardham — Kedarnath, Badrinath, Gangotri and Yamunotri — opposed the board, saying it was an infringement upon their traditional rights over the Himalayan temples.
“Our government has taken a decision to take back the Char Dham Devasthanam Management Board Act,” chief minister Pushkar Singh Dhami said.
“The decision to abolish the Devasthanam Board is taken on the basis of the feedback received by Teerth Purohit, Haq Hookdhari (stakeholders), people’s representative and report of a high-level committee,” he added.
In 2019, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government, under the leadership of Rawat, passed the Uttarakhand Char Dham Shrine Management Bill, 2019. In July, chief minister Dhami formed a five-member committee to look into the matter amid continuous protests by the priests. Based on the recommendations of the panel which submitted its report last week, the state government decided to repeal the Act.
“The government will speak to all parties concerned now and take appropriate action on improving the facilities for the pilgrims. The repeal of the law would soon be approved by the Cabinet before bringing a bill on the same in the assembly,” Dhami said.
Welcoming the move, Char Dham Haq Haqooq Dhari Tirth Purohit Mahapanchayat president K K Kothiyal said: “We are happy that the government has decided to repeal the Act. We are thankful that they have supported the truth and (taken cognisance) of our struggle of two years. We have no grudges against anyone now.”
State Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) chief Madan Kaushik also thanked the government for its decision.
“In a democracy, no decision taken by any government is final. There is always a margin to change it according to the sentiments of the people like in the case of Char Dham Devasthanam Management Act. The government has rolled back the decision while respecting the sentiments of the priests’ community,” he said.
The Congress, however, claimed that fears of losing the upcoming assembly elections prompted the government to resort to such a move.
“The government faced a loss of votes. This decision is purely out of that fear. But this will not benefit them in the upcoming polls,” Congress leader and former chief minister Harish Rawat said.
Political commentator Jai Singh Rawat said: “The BJP was fearing vote loss due to the law (Char Dham Devasthanam Management Act) in the assembly elections. Now, much will depend on how both the BJP and Congress use the issue in the polls.”