Hindu Group on a Quest to End Graft in Maharashtra Temples

Published: 25th January 2015 06:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 25th January 2015 12:45 AM   |  A+A-

MUMBAI: Hindu Vidhidnya Parishad (HVP), a union of Mumbai-based lawyers that works for right-wing organisations, has set quite an unusual goal for itself. It is working towards unearthing scams in several big Hindu temples in Maharashtra. So far, it has achieved some amount of success in its mission with two temples in Maharashtra.

The HVP also helps organisations such as Hindu Janjagruti Samiti (HJS) and Sri Ram Sene (SRS) in legal matters without charging any fees. The group says they have come together with an aim “to establish a Hindu nation”.

HVP president Virendra Ichalkaranjikar, a lawyer who practices at the Bombay High Court, is clear on what the organisation has set out to do. “What we are doing will benefit the Hindus only. There is  need for cleaning from inside. We are the whistleblowers. It is the society’s responsibility to take the work forward,” he said.

Their mission took shape after several organisations from Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh complained of financial mismanagement in temples in their respective states. HVP started its work after it received complaints that there was a massive land scam at the Pandharpur temple, which is among the most popular religious sites in Maharashtra.

Temple land had been encroached upon and the temple claimed to be unaware of the matter. Ichalkaranjikar and his team filed several queries under the Right to Information (RTI) Act seeking details of the financial transactions of the temple trust. The replies to his queries revealed that the temple trust claimed to be in the dark regarding possession of 300 acres of its land. Ichalkaranjikar took up the matter with the government and the land was handed back to the temple.

“There is much hue and cry over lack of infrastructure like toilets and guest houses as well as hygiene facilities at Pandharpur. Now that the land is back in the temple trust’s possession, it would be possible to create the necessary infrastructure,” he points out.

The success in Pandharpur prompted HVP to take up the issue of financial mismanagement in another popular temple—that of Mahalakshmi in Kolhapur.

After one-and-a-half years of research, they found financial mismanagement not only in the Kolhapur temple but in around 3,000 temples in three districts of Sangli, Kolhapur and Sindhudurg controlled by the Devsthan Vyavasthapan Samiti (DVS). The members on this committee are appointed by the state government.

“Mining activities have been going on in the Bauxite rich lands owned by DVS since 1985. We found that six private companies duped the state government of crores of rupees by not paying royalty for the mining on time. We are going to take out a march against the DVS on February 2 on this issue,” Ichalkaranjikar said.

The DVS claimed it tried its best to recover the mining royalty from the companies. “The matter is pending with the High Court. Now, it will depend on the HC how and what royalty should be recovered,” said a DVS spokesperson.

Arvind Pansare, spokesperson for the HJS that was recently in news for protesting against the Aamir Khan starrer PK, praised HVP’s work.

“They are not commenting on the Gods or the way of worship. They are fighting against corruption perpetuated in name of the God. In a way, they are serving Hinduism by erasing evil practices. We are also trying to wipe out wrong practices such as use of loud speakers during the Navratri,” Pansare said.

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