Sabarimala – Hindu Community in the Southern States Form Common Forum

via Udayor News Letter published on November 14, 2005

Special Correspondent

SabarimalaThe Ayyappa temple at Sabarimala which draws millions of pilgrims from the peninsular states of Kerala, Tamilnadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh has always been given a step motherly treatment by the successive Governments in Kerala. The recent episode where the Devaswom Board, apex body in charge of the Hindu temples in Kerala constituted in the British times, was made to pay for land required for pilgrim facilities at Sabarimala was yet another incident in the long chain. What has prompted the Hindu Aikya Vedi, Ayyappa Seva Sanghom and several other organizations to launch a major campaign in the four southern states. According to Kummnam Rajasekharan, Chief of the Hindu Aikya Vedi, this initiative is to bring together the Ayyappa devotees, the Hindu community in peninsular India on one platform. Combined action plans shall be implemented in the four states thereafter.

Talking at a Dharna in front of the Secretariat at Thiruvananthapuram on October 27 2005 Kummanam demanded that the Rs. 7 crores taken as compensation for forest land allotted to Sabarimala temple be returned to the Devaswom Board immediately. The Poonkavanam of the Sabarimala temple, comprising 18 forest hills now in the Periyar Tiger Reserves, should also be restored to the care of Sabarimala temple according to him. This was taken over during the period of British rule. The Pampa Action Plan, which was meant to clean up and conserve the holy river Pampa sanctioned by the Central Governmnet under AB Vajpayeee has been sabotaged by the A K Antony and Ommen Chandy governments in Kerala. Out of the 230 crores sanctioned not even 2 percent was spend so far, obviously this is to make the sanctioned amount go waste. The government in Kerala has also not tabled the Justice Chandrasekharan Menon Commission of Enquiry Report on Sabarimala till date, a gross violation of the statutes.

The Dharna was preceded by a meeting of pilgrim representatives from the four southern states at Pathnamthitta earlier which chalked out the modalities of a common agenda. The need to bring together the Hindu community in the four southern states was stressed by the Meeting. The Meeting at Pathanamthitta has passed several resolutions regarding Sabarimala. The major resolutions are, i. demand to return the money taken as cost of forest land, ii. implementation of the Pampa Action Plan, iii. tabling of the Justice Chandrasekhara Menon Commission of enquiry report about the accident in 1999 where pilgrims from Andhra Pradesh were affected most, iv. providing relief to the tribal population living within the Sabarimala forests, v. declaring Sabarimala as a National Pilgrim Centre, vi. canceling the contract given by Kerala government to a private tourism company, ‘Eco Smart’ to ‘develop’ Sabarimala, that bypassing the Devaswom Board, vii. restoring the permission to Hindu organizations to do ‘annadanam’ now stopped by the government, vi. developing roads and creating pilgrim shelters enroute to sabarimala, vii. stopping the levying of exorbitant charges for electricity, water etc. for Sabarimala temple by the government, viii. providing adequate facilities at Erumeli for pilgrims.

Members participating in the meetings expressed shock about the way pilgrims and even state transport buses from Tamilnadu are being attacked in Kerala. The recent burning of a Tamilnadu State Transport bus at Kalamassery by radical Islamic groups after its being taken captive, passengers vacated at gun point, was a case. This was as retaliation for judicial action taken in Tamilnadu against the Coimbatore Bomb Blats accused Abdul Nasser Madani from Kerala. The minority controlled government in Kerala did not take such incidents in to serious consideration. It is routine that Sabarimala pilgrims from other states are attacked in Kerala by minority groups with no action taken. These are alarming trends in the minority controlled state where the neighbouring states are taken as enemies and can in future become subversive to India’s national identity. It is felt necessary that a composite Hindu consolidation be formed in the southern states to pre-empt such provocative actions. The ‘Save Sabarimala Campaign’ has also asked willing persons to register as volunteers in all four states ( Save Sabarimala Campaign, C/o Hindu Aikya Vedi, Samanvaya Bhavan, Fort PO, Thiruvananthapuram 695023 Phone: 0471-2572400 Email: [email protected] )

The statement issued at the venue expressed anguish about the state of Hindu places of worship in the region, especially in Kerala now ruled by a Christian Muslim coalition. As the speakers pointed out the Hindu temples and other institutions are under severe pressure and the meager revenues generated are being siphoned off by the governments for non-Hindu purposes. This is also happening in Tirupati and many other temples. From the donations made by the devotees in Guruvayoor Krishna temple Rs. 24 crores was taken out for non-religious purposes like providing drinking water to the adjoining panchayats. The payment of Rs. 7 crores from the Devaswom Board funds for Sabarimala, mentioned above, has jeopardized the administration of thousands of temples in Kerala. This when the Christian and Muslim communities in Kerala are flush with international funds and there is a mushrooming of their institutions. Side by side the Kerala government is also starving the Hindu community as they levy exorbitant charges for electricity, water etc from the temples. The Sabarimala temple is paying Rs. 16 per unit, instead of the normal Rs. Rs. 4, to the Kerala State Electricity Board. The Hindu ashrams struggling to survive are required to pay commercial rates of payments to government agencies in Kerala and Tamilnadu.

Sabarimala SwamiesThere are also recurring attacks on Hindu ashrams and places of worship many of which go unpunished. Among others the gold ornaments of the idol stolen from Guruvayoor 20 years back remains untraced even today. There are recurring attacks on Hindu ashrams latest being the one at Panmana, at the Vidyadhiraja Ashram. Cases pending against those attacking Hindu community organizations are cleverly delayed or neutralized. In the circumstances there is no other way than seeking justice through collective action. The joint action plan from the Hindu communities in the southern states thus assumes significance. As it is, what is happening is a kind of neo-colonisation, worse than that under the British. There are gross violations and the land allotted at Nilakkal, for providing basic facilities for Sabarimala pilgrims at a cost of Rs. 7 crores is actually not even forest land. It was under plantations but categorized as forests for the payment, using a Supreme Court judgement which stipulates compensatory afforestation when forests are taken for non-forest uses. This has to be seen in the background of an effort by the Christian lobby, now ruling Kerala, which tried to put a cross at the place in 1983 and claimed possession of the land. A strategy they have perfected through decades capturing thousands of square kilometers of rain forests in the western ghats. Starting with the British and increasing later. It has to be remembered that the Sabarimala forests and the 18 holy hills were taken over by the British resident in Travancore Col. Munro. The planting of cross at Nilakkal lead to massive Hindu agitations. This was later removed , what is linked to the present episode.

The story of Pampa Action Plan is still more bizarre. River Pampa, considered holy here, becomes severely polluted during the Sabarimala season with the corers of pilgrims using it. The Action Plan and the necessary funds were sanctioned by the government of India. But after three years not even two percent of this has been utilized. Reason given is the beurocratic hurdles. But government funds meant for Hindu sectors, like the SC/ST populations, also Hindu regions are routinely sabotaged. The Dutch government initiated support for Kallada river was sabotaged by the then Minister T M Jacob, efforts made to divert it to a Christian area, the plan later falling through. There are violations galore in Sabarimala like the recent effort by the government to bring in a corporate tourism agency called ‘Eco-smart’ without the knowledge of even the Devaswom Board. This agency reportedly from Mumbai had made public statements that they are to open public issues to develop Sabarimala. No Hindus in Kerala knew about this. Lot of public money was also spend. The eagerness of the government to stop an old practice of ‘annadanam’ in Sabarimala, refusal to provide pilgrim shelters are all part of the game plan. This when the crores of pilgrims reaching Kerala as pilgrims provide fabulous incomes to the state worth several crores.

From Udayor newsletter, November 2005

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