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Hindu groups object to Maharashtra govt’s takeover of Shani temple in Shingnapur

The move is to gain control of the huge donations, say Hindu outfits; state says mismanagement by temple’s trust members forced it to do so.

mumbai Updated: Jun 22, 2018 15:18 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times
Mumbai,Maharashtra,Shani temple in Shingnapur
The Shani temple is a popular religious destination.(HT File Photo)

Several Hindu outfits in Maharashtra have opposed the state government’s move to take control of the Shri Shaneshwar Devasthan at Shingnapur in Ahmednagar district.

These outfits allege that the move is “anti-Hindu” and aimed at getting control over the huge donations given by devotees.

“Why should a secular government manage Hindu temples? They should fix the shortcomings in the management of these temples and hand them back to the communities,” said Sunil Ghanvat, organiser of Hindu Janajagruti Samiti, Maharashtra. “In fact, government committees indulge in large-scale corruption and misuse devotees’ donations.”

The Shani temple is a popular religious destination, and many people who visit the Shirdi Saibaba temple in Nashik visit it too, as it is just two hours from there. Once the state government takes it over, it will have the power to appoint trustees. Ruling parties usually appoint their party members to these trusts, as has been the case at Mumbai’s Siddhivinayak temple and Shirdi’s Saibaba temple. At Siddhivinayak, the trust is headed by Sena leader Adesh Bandekar, while at Shirdi, it’s BJP member Suresh Haware.

Panun Kashmir, an outfit working for the cause of Kashmiri Hindus, called this selective discrimination against Hindus. “Why does the government never take over religious places that belong to minority communities,” asked Rahul Kaul, national coordinator, Panun Kashmir. “Devotees donate money for propagation and preservation of religion and culture, but government trusts divert it to their favoured issues.”

The state government has defended the takeover, saying that it was forced to do so owing to mismanagement by the temple’s trust members, and that the takeover would lead to better facilities for devotees. “There were some incidents that created a law-and-order situation. Therefore, it has been decided to reconstitute the existing public trust and bring Shaneshwar Devasthan under the control of state government under the new Act,” a statement said. “There is a need to provide better amenities and facilities keeping in mind the growing number visitors to the Shaneshwar temple.”

The temple was in news recently after the trust finally allowed women to enter the inner sanctum that is dedicated to Shani, or Saturn, after having barred them for centuries.

First Published: Jun 22, 2018 15:18 IST