The Uttarakhand Assembly passed the controversial Char Dham Shrine Board Bill on the last day of the winter session on Tuesday despite tough opposition from the opposition Congress party in the House and by teerath purohits and priests associated with various Hindu temples in Uttarakhand outside.
The bill aims to take control of the various Hindu temples on the lines of Vaishno Devi Shrine Board and Tirupati Balaji Shrine Board.
The teerath purohits and priests have decided to intensify their agitation and approach the High Court against the state government’s move. The Congress party has also announced that it will repeal the law if it comes to power in the next Assembly elections.
Hundreds of teerath purohits and priests associated with 51 Hindu temples across the state are agitated following the proposal of the state government to bring Char Dham Shrine Board Bill.
During the winter session of the state Legislative Assembly, twice they held protest demonstrations against the passage of the bill. They held a demonstration on Monday which was also supported by the Congress party.
The teerath purohits and priests are sore that the state government did not take them into confidence before tabling the bill in the state Assembly. Suresh Semwal, president of the Gangotri Mandir Samiti and general secretary of the Maha Panchayat of the teerath purohits of 51 temples of the state said that it was dictatorial on the part of the BJP state government to ignore the teerath purohits and priests who had been involved with the upkeep and running of these revered temple since time immemorial.
“Each temple has its uniqueness and traditions, and we are part and parcel of the system. The state government cannot ignore us while taking such a step. We only demanded that there should be a dialogue but the BJP state government which professes to be ‘Hindutva’ government decided to ignore us,” he said.
On the other hand, Uttarakhand Tourism minister Satpal Maharaj who moved the bill argued that it would be necessary to have a shrine board to provide better facilities to the pilgrims visiting the Char Dham temples comprising Kedarnath, Badrinath, Gangotri and Yamunotri.
The Bill proposes that the board will be headed by the Chief Minister and run by a Chief Executive Officer who would be an IAS officer. The teerath purohits and priests were also assured that their interests would be taken care of.
“We stalled the house when the bill was introduced and opposed it demanding that the bill be sent to a select committee but the government was adamant not to listen to any reason and got it passed. We will repeal the act if we came to power in the next assembly elections,” announced Pritam Singh, Uttarakhand Congress Chief and legislator from Chakrata.
Suryakant Dhasmana, senior vice president of Uttarakhand Congress announced that his party will continue to support teerath purohits in their demands and participate in the agitation against the state government.
Meanwhile, Leader of Opposition and Congress leader Indira Hridayesh said that such a bill was also planned during the tenure of former chief minister N.D. Tiwari but was withdrawn following opposition from locals.