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Mainstream, VOL LIII No 25 New Delhi June 13, 2015

Somnath Temple Entry

Saturday 13 June 2015, by P.B. Sawant

The management of the Somnath Temple has issued an order that non-Hindus will have to take its permission to enter the temple premises. The order may be legal under Article 26 of the Constitution, but is ludicrous on the face of it. The fact that the present holder of the office of the Prime Minister is a Trustee of the temple makes it ominous, The reasons given for issuing the order are self-defeating. One reason is that the sanctity of the temple will be polluted, and the other is that the safety of the temple has to be protected.

All religions, including, I believe, the Hindu religion, affirm that all human beings are the children of God. Hindu religion, in particular, believes that God lives in every human being. Unless a Hindu God, in whatever temple he is installed as a deity, confines his existence and therefore his blessings, to a limited number of humans, say, only the followers of Hindu religion or of any of its sects, his purity and sanctity cannot be damaged by other religionists or even by non-believers. A god, who is not for all humans, is not a god but only a sectarian hero or idol. Humanism is the essence of religion and a religion, which has no place for it, is no religion. It is contended by some misguided followers of the Hindu religion that their religion does not believe in expansion and has never tried and does not try to expand. No Hindu scripture supports this contention. The incapability of its followers to expand or restriction imposed by some on its expansion for their own selfish or other inscrutable reasons cannot be held out as injunctions or restraints. In fact, the self-centred attitude of the top crust of the Hindu society, coupled with the inhuman and degrading institutions like the caste system, untouchability, sati, and shameful treatment of women and lower castes have always repelled others from embracing the Hindu religion. The ban on entry into the temple is consistent with its tenets and practices so far.

 The mosques, churches, gurudwaras, stupas welcome all, believers or non-believers, and accordingly are appealing in their own way. They are neither afraid of pollution nor of conversion. They believe in the strength and soundness of their faith, philosophy, preachings and practices. Though in minority, they do not fear either decimation or destruction. But the majority-religionists do, and that is the tragedy.

 The second reason given for the unintelligible order, namely, the safety of the temple, is all the more ridiculous. Is it suggested that the non-Hindus will raid the temple or destroy it, as the Muslims did it in the past? What is the basis for this fear today? The looters in the past aimed at the wealth of the temple and not at its deity. They succeeded as did others, because the majority-religionists were not only divided and subdivided by the caste system, but also enfeebled and weakened by it. A good many of them were indifferent since they had, in any case, no entry in it. Even today many of them, including women of all castes, have no entry in the temples.

Is it hinted that the past will repeat, and the present government of Bharat is unable to afford protection to the temple? In fact, today it is the places of worships of other religionists which are under organised attacks. Assuming that the temple needs safety, why is it feared that the attacks will“come only from other religionists? There are non-believers among the Hindus as well. There are terrorists and criminals in all religions, there are the hungry, needy, unemployed and desperate, crossing all sections of the society. And pray, how are you going to distinguish one religionist from the other? All visitors, a great majority of whom will be Hindus, will have to be subjected to search, and to declare every time that they are harmless. Those who want to harm, can always do so by using many subterfuges.

Can the problem of safety be not resolved by installing gates at the appropriate places with detecting electronic gadgets? It will be unfair to suggest that the management personnel had not applied their mind to this simple safety-device. Then what exactly is the object of the order?

A former judge of the Supreme Court of India, Justice Sawant is the ersthite chairman, Press Council of India.