A Positive Development from Andhra Pradesh – ‘Hindus only’ rule kicks up row

via http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2011-11-02/hyderabad/30349910_1_hindus-endowments-vacant-sites published on November 4, 2011

HYDERABAD: In a move that could potentially stir a hornet’s nest and be seen as highly discriminatory, the state endowments department issued a circular stating that non-Hindus cannot be leased out any endowments property or land since it disturbs the “religious atmosphere and sentiments of Hindu devotees”.

Issued in August this year, the two-page circular first defines that a temple is a place of public religious worship, “used as a right by the Hindu community or any section thereof” but then goes on to bar those not practising Hinduism from taking on lease or participating in the tendering process for shops, buildings, vacant sites “around the premises of religious institutions”. “The executive authorities should obtain an undertaking before entering into lease deeds with the highest bidders/sitting tenants that they are professing Hindu religion and having faith in the religion,” the circular states.

Making it clear that the department wants all non-Hindus shunted out, the circular even states that the existing tenants who do not practise the faith and belong to other religions will not be given lease extensions for their shops/buildings/vacant sites. It has also stated that the restrictions apply to all movable and immovable properties of religious institutions.

The circular, signed by commissioner G Balaramaiah, states that it was issued because several instances of people of other faiths participating in the auctions conducted by the department had been noticed.

Defending the move, joint commissioner, endowments, Krishna Veni said, “Ours is a Hindu religious and endowments department and the circular was issued based on that. This clause (of not allowing non-Hindus on temple land) has been there from the beginning. We are only reinforcing it.” She added that the rule was in any case being adhered to in totality.

However, members of other faiths expressed strong objection to the circular. Bhaskar Benny of Christian Front said, “If it is a private Hindu organization then they can decide what they want to do with the property but a government department can’t do that. There is a discrimination of caste, creed, religion (in the move) and is in violation of constitutional rights. In Abids, a lot of properties belong to Christians but have been given out to Hindus for their commercial activities. If this law is to be taken seriously then even Christian properties should not be given to Hindus.

Bashiruddin Babukhan, former MP, said if there are such rules in place, there is little the community can do. “As far as Wakf properties are concerned, they are given on lease to people irrespective of their religion,” he said.

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