Traditional temple

Behind Bihar Government Temple Fencing Push, Nitish Tightrope Between Secular Image, BJP Hindutva

The government of Bihar led by Nitish Kumar has recently decided to make compulsory the registration of all public temples, pooches, dharamshalas and their trusts in the state with the Bihar State Religious Trust Council (BSRTC) under the provisions of Bihar Hindu Religious Trust Act, 1950. , state justice minister Pramod Kumar claiming that Bihar became the first state to do so.

To extend its current decision to fence temples – on cemetery fence lines – to avoid encroachments and confrontations, the Bihar government has also decided to conduct a survey of all registered temples that see attendance of a number large number of devotees.

There are 2,499 registered temples and mutts with a total of 18,456 acres of land across the state. The government surveyed them to determine, among other things, how many should be closed based on public participation and apprehensions of any issues or disputes.

So far, the government’s BSRTC has closed 205 temples while another 94 are in the process of being closed. It was done as part of Chief Minister and Supremo Janata Dal (United) Nitish’s attempt to “respond to the Hindutva posturing of its main BJP ally while retaining its secular credentials”, JD(U) sources said. .

In a veiled attack on Nitish, Bihar BJP Chairman Sanjay Jaiswal recently expressed concern over “growing terrorist threats” in the state. Significantly, Nitish also owns the portfolio of houses.

Neeraj Kumar, member of BSRTC and JD(U)MLC, told The Indian Express: “Our government has always worked for social cohesion and camaraderie. There has not been a major community incident under the NDA government led by Nitish Kumar since November 2005,” adding that “just as our government had fenced around 8,000 cemeteries over the past decade, we have also fenced off temples to prevent encroachment. or confrontation.

BSRTC said it has so far identified 355 temples in 26 of Bihar’s 38 districts for fencing, adding that “peak fencing demands” came from districts like Gopalganj, Nalanda, Jehanabad, Rohtas, Gaya and Madhepura. “We have already fenced off 205 temples and the closing of another 96 temples is in progress… To go further, the trust will inspect more temples. As CM Nitish Kumar also clarified that temples where there are notable gatherings and prayers are offered, fencing would be considered there,” Neeraj said.

The Nitish government also took another initiative to prevent illegal possession of land belonging to temples or mutts by their individual trustees. “The BSRTC recently wrote to all DMs that no temple or mutt land should be registered in the name of any individual, but only in the name of their trusts… This is done to prevent illegal transfer of such temples or mutt land to an individual,” he said.

There are 2,512 unregistered public temples and curs with a total of 4,321 acres of land across the state, which must be compulsorily registered now, after which there would be a survey to determine their fencing needs based on the same parameters followed in the cases of the temples and pooches recorded.

Dispensation Nitish Kumar introduced the temple fencing proposal during CM Nitish’s third term (2015-2020) to counterbalance his previous decision to provide fencing for cemeteries. He has now decided to extend it for two reasons – to ‘prevent land encroachment from temples and mutts’ and to ‘give a response to the BJP on its accusations of appeasement of Muslims’, sources said.

The main national spokesperson for the RJD opposition, Subodh Kumar Mehta, told the Express: “Appeasement of either community will not work in times of development politics. Little is being done for job creation and the creation of centers of excellence in education. It’s time to relieve the drought rather than consider closing over 2,400 temples. These things may make political headlines but cannot be called development initiatives”.

BJP State Spokesperson Nikhil Anand, however, said, “We appreciate the decision of the NDA Government of Bihar to investigate and close down the pooches and temples. We seriously believe that it is necessary to protect Hindu religious premises. Many historic, ancient and traditional religious centers are overrun, occupied and destroyed for lack of protection. Land disputes on any of these sites must be resolved.