Kerala govt-led temple board issues new circular banning RSS activities on temple premises

The move comes shortly after a recent High Court verdict banned mass drills and weapons practices in the premises of the Sree Sarkara Devi Temple

Kerala's Travancore Devaswom Board restricts RSS activities in temples, citing encroachment concerns. (representative image) (photo: National Herald archives)
Kerala's Travancore Devaswom Board restricts RSS activities in temples, citing encroachment concerns. (representative image) (photo: National Herald archives)

NH Political Bureau

After a recent High Court verdict, the Kerala government-run Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) has issued a new circular banning the activities of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and other organisations with ‘extreme ideologies’ from temple premises and other properties administered by the board.

According to a circular issued by the Devaswom Commissioner, namajapa protests (with demonstrators chanting mantras) have also been banned on the premises of temples managed by the board. The circular noted that all the activities of the RSS and outfits with 'extreme ideologies' are prohibited, without due permission of the TDB.

The board, which controls 1,200-odd temples in Kerala, including the hill shrine of Sabarimala, issued a circular on 20 October directing 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.

Reportedly, there have been complaints that the RSS and other groups have encroached on the premises of many temples and are 'working against the sanctity' of the temples and the interests of devotees. Under the cover of night, these organisations are conducting weapons training and mass drills, the board announced.

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

Any failure to follow the directives would be treated as a violation of the High Court verdict in this regard, the board added.

In addition, photos of persons not related to the temples and single-coloured flags 'which resemble those of any political or (other) religious organisations' (a warning seen as directed at the RSS, which uses saffron flags) will not be allowed on the temple premises, noted the circular.

The TDB order has several other clauses which derive from a High Court order from last month, pertaining to the Sree Sarkara Devi temple in Varkala. Based on a petition from two devotees, the division bench of the court had directed that the TDB manage properties and affairs at the temple. “No mass drill or weaponry practices shall be permitted in the premises of the said temple,” the court had said.

The RSS has come out against the board’s directive, which it claims is part of a CPI(M) bid to take control of the day-to-day affairs of temples in Kerala. RSS prantha karyavahak (state general secretary) PN Eswaran said the circular banning the RSS in temples is politically motivated.

“The CPI(M) wants to take control over the temples in Kerala. In the past also, the TDB had issued circulars to restrain the RSS at temples. But this time, the order is harsh, covering more activities. Even a photo cannot be placed on the temple premises. This directive is not going to stop RSS activities in Kerala,” he said.

Eswaran said that officials at temples have so far not acted against the RSS based on this circular. “RSS members are engaged in the daily affairs of temples, so it is not that easy to keep our workers away from temple affairs,” he added.

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