Temple architecture

Temples Protection Bill Reaches Parliament – Jammu and Kashmir Latest News | Tourism

BL Saraf
Vivek Tankha, a member of the Rajya Sabha and a Kashmiri Pandit now installed in MP, introduced a Private Member’s Bill No. XV111 of 2022 in the Rajya Sabha titled Kashmiri Pandits (Recourse, Restitution, Rehabilitation And Resettlement) Bill, 2022. The bill is intended to do justice to the cause of internally displaced Pandits who have been living as refugees in their own country since 1990. Although not everything the displaced KPs want is covered by the bill law (now Bill No. XV111), it nevertheless provides for many things that are essential to their physical and spiritual existence. The object of the bill is; “to provide for the social, political and economic rehabilitation of the Kashmiri Pandits, protection of their property, restoration of their cultural heritage, ensuring their safety and security, providing them with a program of rehabilitation and resettlement and for matters relating thereto are related or incidental”.
Draft Law No. XV111 intends to address some important issues facing KPs that require detailed comment, but time and space will not permit this here. The matter is left to the other day. Nevertheless, an important provision emerges about which the entire displaced Kashmiri Hindu community is on one page. The community calls for a law for the protection of temples in Kashmir. It therefore requires a mention. Chapter V of the Bill contains a provision relating to the restoration of temples and heritage sites in Kashmir, and clause 7 of sub-clause (7) provides for the establishment of the Kashmir Hindu Shrine Board on the model of Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Council and Shri Council of Amarnath Shrine. By desire or pleasant coincidence, the chapter originated in what the Supreme Court and some Constitutional Courts across the country have asked the Indian government and state governments to do. LG Manoj Sinha also thought along the same lines
In 2021, the LG administration, after realizing that several J&K religious and historical landmarks are “fighting for their existence and identity”, issued instructions for the preparation of action plans under the “Rebirth Scheme , restoration, preservation and maintenance of architecture and heritage”. Similar instructions were issued regarding the “Traditional and Cultural Festivals Promotion Programme”.
The phraseology used echoed the sum and substance of the aims and objects of Bill No. 11/2009, introduced in the Legislative Assembly in March 2009, which unfortunately failed to become law. The government thus emphasized the need for the bill; “…..There are complaints that the properties of these shrines have been encroached upon and most of them are in a deteriorated condition. Many associations and community organizations have expressed concern in this regard.
The Supreme Court stated in WP No 649/2018 Mrinalni VS U OI of 08 06 2018 “There is no doubt that the proper management of significant pilgrimage centers is a matter of public interest. These centers are of unquestionable religious, social, historical and architectural importance, representing the cultural heritage of the country. Millions of people visit these places not only for tourism but also to seek inspiration for righteous values ​​and for their well-being. They make huge offerings and donations for the advancement of these values.
Instructions have been given to the Union Home Ministry to collect information on places of worship in the country so that management practices can be scrutinized.
For the implementation of the programme, the government has formed an executive committee headed by the chief secretary and the district-level coordination committees – cum – implementation, headed by the local district development commissioner. See Government Decree No. 863 JK (JAD) of September 8, 2021). The Committee has a specific mandate. It will carry out a census and survey of shrines, temples and other historical monuments and undertake renovations, repairs, etc.
What the displaced people of Kashmir have been saying for 35 years, in reference to their places of worship, is now recognized by the Government. Certainly, government intervention is necessary to recover the lost and usurped properties of these shrines and to carry out repairs, renovations, etc. But these religious places need continuous care and management to ensure “the protection and longevity” that can only be provided by devotees. in the community on a permanent basis. Therefore, the management must be in the hands of a particular community and to ensure that this happens in a transparent and democratic way, a statutory guarantee is necessary.
The State High Court has also taken cognizance of the assault on these religious places. Orders were passed in written petition OWP 785/2008 titled Ghulam Nabi Khan against the State of J&K, for the protection of Mandir properties and a ban on their sale in the valley. But unfortunately they were not implemented. The bill is welcome. But more is needed.
Chapter V of Bill XV111 is a one-clause measure that does not constitute a complete law on the subject. No mention is made of how a democratic and transparent management of these temples and shrines could be ensured. However, it is an appreciable effort by respected member Rajya Sabah, as it would lay the groundwork on which, in the future, a well-structured state law, covering vital aspects, can be founded. Other than that, it will give all political parties/people – in power or in opposition – a chance to redeem themselves and fulfill their promises made to the displaced community and give PKs a view to see true friends. The timely passage of Bill XV111 into law will be a big CB M for the displaced Kashmiri Hindus.
(The author is the former Senior District and Sessions Judge)