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Controversy unwarranted: Kerala Devaswom minister justifies circular banning RSS activities on temple premises

Thiruvananthapuram: Kerala Devaswom minister K Radhakrishnan on Thursday justified a recent circular issued by the Travancore Devaswom Board banning the activities of the RSS on the premises of the temples under its control, saying that it was not to keep anyone away from shrines but to maintain a peaceful atmosphere there.

The circular, issued by the Devaswom Commissioner last week, was not intended to prevent anyone from entering the temples, and a controversy over that was totally unwarranted, he told reporters here.

The minister’s reaction came in the wake of widespread criticism and raging debate on right-wing social media groups against the TDB’s circular, alleging that it was a move by the Left government to keep the Sangh Parivar away from shrines in the state.

The TDB is the apex temple body that manages major shrines in Kerala’s Travancore region.

“Places of worship should always be the centres of peace… There should be an atmosphere where all devotees can come and offer their prayers in a peaceful manner,” Radhakrishnan said.

It doesn’t mean that anyone would be checked from entering the shrines, the minister said.

He also appealed to everyone to withdraw from such controversies.

The TDB issued a new circular last week banning the activities of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh on temple premises and its properties.

According to the circular issued by the Devaswom Commissioner, the ‘namajapa protests’ (protests by chanting mantras) have also been banned inside the premises of shrines managed by the temple body.

It said all the activities of the RSS and outfits with ‘extreme ideologies,’ without the permission of the TDB, have been prohibited.

The circular, dated October 20, directed the Devaswom Vigilance Wing to carry out surprise raids to find out whether the RSS or other outfits were running ‘shakhas’ (branches), mass drills, or arms training on temple properties.

It directed employees and priests of respective temples to inform the TDB management about the presence of such outfits and their operations, if any. Those who failed to inform the same would face disciplinary action, it said.

The circular also made it clear that photos, flags and flex boards of those who have no relation to the temples should not be kept on their premises.

Any failure to follow the directives would be treated as a violation of high court verdict in this regard, it added.

Last month, the Kerala High Court said that no mass drill or weapons training shall be permitted on the premises of Sarkara Devi Temple in Thiruvananthapuram district, which is under TDB’s management.

The direction came while disposing of a plea filed by two devotees seeking an order to prevent ‘illegal use and unauthorised occupancy’ of the temple premises by the RSS and its members.

(Published 26 October 2023, 06:47 IST)

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