Flaming Controversy over Opening of Temples in Kerala

Thiruvananthapuram: The Kerala Government’s decision to open temples in the State has kicked up a flaming controversy. The Left Democratic Front (LDF) Government’s move came in the wake of the Centre’s direction that places of worship can be opened from June 8.

While Hindu, Muslim and Christian organisations have, by and large, decided against the opening of places of worship, the Devaswom Board has decided to open temples under its control. Most of the Hindu organisations including the ‘Hindu Aikya Vedi’ and the Nair Service Society, have strongly opposed the Board’s decision. Opening of temples at this juncture when the State is witnessing an alarming increase in Covid cases, they felt, would be a recipe for disaster.

The State BJP leaders who remained tight-lipped over the decision in the beginning, suddenly opposed it.  The Government is deliberately allowing the Devaswom Board to open the temples, and playing politics, they alleged. While the Government readily accepted the decision of the Christian and Muslim organisations not to open places of worship, it has sought to score political brownie points by permitting the Devaswom Board to open temples under its control. The BJP leaders allege that the Government is doing this because its coffers are empty and is badly in need of funds.  The Devaswom Board, they say, is headed by ‘communist leaders’ and hence its move to implement the LDF Government’s decision in the matter.

The Government has defended its decision by pointing out that the decision to open places of worship has been taken by the Modi Government, and that it is only implementing its directive in the matter. If the BJP leaders have any objections, they should take up the issue with the Centre instead of criticizing the Kerala Government. The Hindu organisations’ plan to create a Sabarimala agitation-type situation won’t succeed, LDF leaders point out.

The principal opposition party in the State, Congress, seems to be in favour of the move to open temples.  While the Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) is yet to react officially, party spokespersons have made a strong pitch, in TV channel debates, for allowing devotees to visit temples, adhering strictly to the guidelines governing the opening up of places of worship like social distancing and wearing of masks.

The LDF Government would be wise to handle the sensitive issue carefully in view of the strong opposition of the Hindu organisations if it is not to repeat the mistake it made while tackling the Sabarimala agitation. It should then have then allowed the Devaswom Board to take its own decision in the matter. It failed to do that, and had to pay a heavy price in the Lok Sabha elections. The LDF managed to win only one seat in the LS polls with the UDF winning 19. Meanwhile, the priest of the Sabarimala Temple has exhorted the Devaswom Board to not throw open the shrine for devotees yet.

Cover Image: For representational purposes only

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