After Months of Priests' Protest at Pilgrimage Sites, Uttarakhand Gov't Dissolves Shrine Board

CC0 / / The Chief Minister of Uttarakhand, Shri Trivendra Singh Rawat
The Chief Minister of Uttarakhand, Shri Trivendra Singh Rawat  - Sputnik International, 1920, 30.11.2021
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The Uttarakhand Char Dham Devasthanam Board, a state board of Hindu shrines, was established under the Uttarakhand Char Dham Devasthanam Management Act of 2019. The priest community in India's Uttarakhand state has been opposing it since 2019.
The Uttarakhand Government on Tuesday decided to dissolve Uttarakhand Char Dham Devasthanam Board, which was tasked with managing temples in the state, a year after establishing it.
The decision to scrap the shrine board comes as priests, who accused the state authorities of appointing government officials for religious positions through the board, have been protesting for months.
The board was constituted as the highest governing body for the management of the temples and was given several powers such as framing of policies, executive actions, budget formulation, and sanction expenditure, among others.
A total of 53 temples including the four famous pilgrimage centres of India – Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri and Yamunotri – were overseen by the board.
Announcing the decision to dissolve the board, Uttarakhand State Chief Pushkar Singh Dhami tweeted in Hindi:
“Considering the sentiments and interests of people, honour of priests and stakeholders and others associated with Char Dham and on the basis of the report of a high-level committee constituted under Manohar Kant Dhyani, the government has decided to repeal Devasthanam Board Act.”
Truth Prevails: priests
The priests welcomed the BJP government's decision and said that it is the “victory of truth."
Talking to Sputnik, Krishna Kant Kothiyal, the head of the Chardham Teerthpurohit Haq Hakukdhari Mahapanchayat Samiti – the flag-bearing organisation opposing the Boardsaid: “We are really happy that the government has agreed to our long-standing demand to scrap the board."
"The priest community has been protesting since 2019. Today marks the day of victory of truth.”
Asked if the government has taken the decision in view of the 2022 legislative polls, Kothiyal said: “The government turned fearful after we announced that we will contest assembly elections on 15 assembly seats."
"The government feared that they might suffer a defeat in the assembly elections where we will field our candidates. That is why it has decided to scrap the board,” he said.
Meanwhile, Hindu organisation Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) also hailed the decision of the Uttarakhand government to scrap the shrine board.
VHP's Working President Alok Kumar in a statement said that the decision is in accordance with the Hindu sentiments and the spirit of the Indian Constitution, mandating that the governments shall not interfere in religious affairs.
Reacting to the decision of the state government, former state chief and senior Congress politician Harish Rawat said in Hindi:
"The BJP government decided to scrap the Devasthanam board because it is afraid of defeat in the upcoming state elections. This is the victory of priests, Congress and people of Uttarakhand."
The State's opposition party Congress also supported the priests, who were protesting the formation of the Devasthanam Board, while calling the BJP government “anti-religious."
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