Since June, the priests at Kedarnath Dham are protesting against the formation of Char Dham Devasthanam Management Board. On Thursday, the Uttarakhand government has banned protests within 200 meters of the temple. The administration alleged that the Yatris were “feeling uncomfortable” because of the protests.
Orders passed after complaints by Yatris
Rudraprayag district administration issued a statement on Thursday in which they said that orders had been passed that prohibit any sit-in demonstrations in the 200-meter radius of the shrine and the main access road from the Valley Bridge. The orders were passed under section 15 (5) (6) of the Devasthanam Management Act.
Ravinath Raman, chief executive officer of Char Dham Devasthanam Management Board, said that yatris complained about the protesting priests outside the shrine. The decision was taken based on their complaint. He added that if the priests do not comply, the administration may launch criminal proceedings against them.
He said, “We got a few complaints from yatris that priests are sitting outside the shrine bare chested and protesting, making the yatris feel uncomfortable. We had also learned that the priests tried to convince yatris to join their protest. Representatives from the Board have tried talking to the priests along with attempts from the district administration also, but they are not budging. Now, we have said that they are free to carry out their protests, but not in the temple premises.”
Kedarnath Tirtha Purohit Mahasabha called orders against their rights
President of Kedarnath Tirtha Purohit Mahasabha, Vinod Shukla, said that they have been protesting for months. The government is not listening to their demands. They said that the orders passed by the government is against their rights. “We have been holding a peaceful protest. Now, our protest will continue, and we will intensify it with support from people of the whole Kedarnath valley, and we will not move till the chief minister comes to talk to us,” he added. Shukla denied any attempts made by the Board to initiate a discussion with the priests.
Santosh Trivedi, a priest from Kedarnath, was protesting since 12th June outside the temple. He had warned the government that he would leave his religion if they do not listen to his demands. After his condition worsened on 7th September, the administration airlifted him to AIIMS, Rishikesh. The Priests had written a letter to the state government on 5th September to mark their displeasure on the formation of the board.
About the Char Dham Devasthanam board
Uttarakhand Char Dhaam Devasthanam Board was formed in January 2020 to manage temples in the state. In June 2020, the Uttrakhand High Court dismissed the PIL filed by Subramanian Swamy against the formation of the board as it allowed the government to take over control of Char Dham and 51 other shrines. The court said that the board will only handle the administration and management of the properties.
Hindu activists have opposed the move of the Uttarakhand government saying that this is an attempt by the government to take over temples while Hindus have been fighting to free temples from government control.