Subversion of Govt order to reclaim temple lands in Kerala

By Courtesy:Janmabhumi published on November 27, 2015

orderKochi: The Court directive calling for recovery of the thousands of acres of land belonging to Malabar Devaswom Board which has illegally been encroached into by private parties and institutions, has been subverted. According to reports, as many as 25000 acres of temple land has been illegally encroached into in Malabar alone.

Recently the High Court had ordered formation of a tribunal based on Munnar Tribunal specifically towards recovery of illegally encroached land belonging to temples. This has been hailed as a welcome move by Hindu Aikya Vedi. “The government must move in this direction. The Court directive comes following government negligence for over several years. The revenue board should take steps to measure and demarcate the areas that have illegally been encroached into. Also there should be no more transactions or giving temple land in lease till the tribunal is formed,” said Kummanam Rajashekharan, general secretary of Hindu Aikya Vedi.

It has been alleged that the directive issued by secretary of revenue department KR Jyothilal, on 12 September 2014 following numerous Court orders, has willfully been sabotaged by the state government. According to sources, notices issued to district collectors have sought reclamation of land, as specified in the Land reforms bill of 1957, asserting that temple land and properties which have widely been encroached into must be recovered.

The notice issued specifies that “land which has thus been trespassed into must be recovered with a fine that mounts upto three times the land value to be slapped on perpetrators. Orders have been issued by district collectors to sub collectors, tahsildars and deputy collectors with regard to the same. A copy of the same has been issued to the Devaswom Board Commissioner as well”.

However, in spite of the order having been issued, no action has ever been taken, even after the lapse of an entire year. Recently the High Court had ordered formation of a tribunal based on Munnar Tribunal specifically towards recovery of illegally encroached land belonging to temples. The Court directive came up during the hearing of a case related to illegal encroachment to land belonging to Chottanikkara Temple,which comes under Cochin Devaswom Board. The state government has been directed to submit its stand regarding the matter in a time frame of three months.

Temples in Malabar came under the jurisdiction of Hindu Religous and Charitable Endowment department till 2008, until the formation of Malabar Devaswom Board. The department  had only nominal rights regarding conservation of temple land, which was altered after formation of Malabar Devaswom Board by including land conservation rights. Following this, state government assumed direct responsibility over temple land. However, the new set of regulations were not taken in due earnestness by the government.

Meanwhile in 2014, the board submitted affidavits in HC holding the state government responsible for the numerous encroachments. As part of saving its own face, the government entrusted the job of issuing official notices to Jyothilal. But that seemed to conclude matters on the part of the government, as it began maintaining a convenient stoic silence of the issue, in spite of the numerous reminders sent by the Court.

It is clear that the state government and Devaswom Board are in the deliberate game of playing hide and seek, to hoodwink the Hindus. There are sores of cases lying before the Court, where judgement and justice are awaited. However, the matter is being unduly drawn long as part of evasive tactics by the government. Standing in support is the Devaswom Board.

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