Taliban like coup operation, Stalin led DMK government has forcibly thrown out traditional Brahmin archakars ( priest)without following due process to enable its non- This is against the SC directions. Meanwhile, the HC has given an interim stay and allowed the existing arachakars to continue.
“ it is nothing but taking forward the idea of former CM Karunanidhi’s, who wanted to break caste barriers on all fronts” said Ranganathan, government Archakars’ association, reportedly backed by atheist and iconoclast Dravidar Kazhagam. Ranganathan is among the 206 people who passed the one-year junior course in 2007-08. He and others posed before iconoclast Periyar statue would tell their eagerness to become priests.
After a long wait of more than a decade, over a third of the 200-odd people from all castes, who underwent training for temple priesthood in 2007-08, have become ineligible for recruitment to the posts of priests as the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR&CE) Department has an age ceiling of 35. Non-Brahmin priests trained at six patasaalas during the erstwhile regime of former Chief Minister Karunanidhi are looking to Chief Minister M.K. Stalin for relaxation in the age criterion to help them realize their dreams of performing pujas in HR&CE Department-administered temples. Karunanidhi brought about reformation by allowing people from all castes to become priests in HR&CE Department-run temples. Their hopes were revived when the DMK government, after getting re-elected, expressed its intention of appointing non-Brahmins as priests in temples.
“ Trained non-Brahmin priests would be appointed in temples managed by the department before the completion of the DMK government’s first 100 days in power” T N HR and CE Minister Sekar Babu said two months back. Following furors it was kept in back burners. HR and CE Commissioner J Kumaragurubaran said 58 priests have been appointed and 29 of them belong to the OBC communities, 16 to the BC classes, 8 to MBC and 5 to the SC castes. Reacting to his Ranganathan said “ social justice is achieved.
“Their appointment is a great event in the history of India. Karunanidhi removed the thorn in the heart of Periyar who longed to see people from all castes becoming temple priests. I wanted to end the discrimination inside the temples. I agree with Periyar, Kalaignar, and Ambedkar’s fight against caste discrimination. But I believe in the existence of God,””.
On Monday, like a military type coup operations, the newly appointed priests were allowed to take over the job and the existing Brahmin priests were orally asked to hand over the key and others. They were not given due relieving orders or arrears of salaries for more than 15 to 20 years and other dues. The visibly upset, teary eyed, choked with emotion, a couple of peace-loving and dedicated priests circulated audio files in social media. They were the hereditary priests working with meagre salary. Things moved in a jet set speed.
The aggrieved All India Adi Saiva Sivachariargal Seva Sangam moved the Madras High Court seeking stay on the TN government’s order appointing new priests. Justice Anita Sumanth in her order has stayed the operation of the Advertisement dated 06-07-2021 issued by the respondents ( state of Tamil Nadu, the Commissioner HR and CE and others) ( in WMP no.17241/2021) pending disposal of the above WP 16287/2021.
Ramkumar of Chennai says “ in various temples of TN ( temples are closed for three days of the week ) the traditional archakas are being removed and new appointments based on reservations are being made. Traditional archakars have no-where to go and many might even commit suicide. Anyway they won’t burn buses and block highways. And people who complain that archakars are asking for dakshina can stop complaining because the new archakars will do everything for free as they will get a fat salary!!.
“No government will call them for talks because they are electorally insignificant as a group. Every political party that is very careful to glorify Ambedkar has no time for this destruction of a culture !! This is Talibanisation executed by the secular state”. Saying further he said “People who think Hindu dharma can’t be destroyed need to rethink . When you can close temples for the entire month of Adi ( Shravana) month and stop all sacred rituals from happening and there is not even a whimper and to think Dharma can survive is simply not possible because democracy and demography decide who has to rule and when the state has that control over the places of worship, be ready to face the Talibanisation !!”.No voices mfor such reservations and social justice in Churches and Mosques. That is Dravidian culture.
Hindu devotees point out as per HR and CE act is to confined only to manage the temple. But its past record in managing the temples speaks a lot to be desired. Nataraja Sastri said in TN only 25 percent are Brahmin priests.
Political commentator Sriram Seshadri said that the crux of the judgment by the Constitution Bench of the SC was “In the course of a very lengthy discourse and after considering the works of learned scholars in the field; the law laid down by this Court in respect of Articles 25 and 26 till date and particularly the efficacy of the Agamas the Constitution Bench came to the following conclusion”. “Any State action which permits the defilement or pollution of the image by the touch of an Archakar not authorized by the Agamas would violently interfere with the religious faith and practices of the Hindu worshipper in a vital respect, and would, therefore, be prima facie invalid under Article 25(1) of the Constitution”, he said .
Throwing more light on this, Sriram said “ as per the original Amendment in 1971 No person shall be entitled to appointment to any vacancy referred to in sub-section (1) merely on the ground that he is next in the line of succession to the last holder of office.” In 14th July 2006 an ordinance was brought by TN government to include subsection 2 to Section 55, the new ordinance Section 55 is as follows “No person shall be entitled to appointment to any vacancy referred to in sub-section (1) merely on the ground that he is next in the line of succession to the last holder of office.” (2) “or on the ground of any custom or usage”.
Adi Saiva Sivachariyargal belonging to Madurai Meenakshi Temple and Association of Archakas filed a writ petition challenging the amendment and subsequent GO 118 on 23.05.2006 (Before the ordinance was issued.
SC bench (not a constitution bench) , comprising Justices Ranjan Gogoi and NV Ramana dismissed the writ because in the same year Amendment Act (Tamil Nadu Act No 15 of 2006) was introduced in the Assembly to amend the HR&CE Act which did include the original amendment in the ordinance and hence the writ challenging the GO based on the ordinance doesn’t hold good.
It also held “Consequently and in the light of the aforesaid discussion, we dispose of all the writ petitions in terms of our findings, observations and directions above reiterating that as held in Seshammal (supra) appointments of Archakas will have to be made in accordance with the Agamas, subject to their due identification as well as their conformity with the Constitutional mandates and principles as discussed above”.
Sriram said “ At present there are around 44,000 Hindu temples under HR&CE control, of this around 4000 (give or take) follow the Siva Agama or Vaishanava Agama rituals. Nearly 40,000 temples have priests of various castes including women, but as upheld by the Supreme Court Constitutional Bench in 1971, these 4,000 plus temples government can’t interfere through the trustee to appoint anyone other than the denomination/group/sect prescribed by the agamas”.
He points out “ unless the constitutional amendment to Article 25 and 26 are made to remove the protection given the religious belief and practices, the current practices cannot be altered by Tamil Nadu government.”
TR Ramesh, president of Indic Collective and TN temple worshippers forum said “ one should not confuse oneself with Temple Entry Movement with violation of Agamic worship and changing the religious character of Temples. The traditional pooja rights of Priests belonging to various castes including Dalits are inviolable.
“ It is not a sophisticate and lucrative job that all communities want to grab. Government is not paying them any salary and their income come from devotee’s offerings only. The government takes all the income derived from temples and its properties. But not interested in its maintenance, upkeep and paying servitors” says advocate Aswathaman.
He said “The government wants to destroy the basics of family deity Temple worshiping. It is not only against Brahmins but all communities. The government can take over any temple under HR and CE act and appoint priest from the other community. This will create an unrest. But court rulings are not in favour of government efforts. Even Abrahamic people can be appointed saying they have completed courses ”.
Late Cho Ramaswamy , editor of Tahuglak, once said “if all communities became priests, they can offer non-vegetarian food as Prasad to God. They may objects attire of priests ( in Tamil Nadu they are bare chested) as sexy and ban it and bring a new dress code. it is very difficult for all to get trained for priests. They should have innate passion for this job. It is not like throwing some flowers on statues, idols and murmur something. He should have proficiency in Sanskrit and knows the meanings for stotras or hymns or mantras”.
In a related development HR and CE has taken over the Sri Adi Kesavaperumal at Mylapore which houses sannadhi of sri Peyyalwar , one of the 12 Vaishanva Saints.