The Uttar Pradesh government Friday said it will take over the management of Vindhyavasini Devi temple in Mirzapur district. A proposal in this regard, floated a year ago, was dropped following opposition by the temple priests as they set to lose unaccounted amounts in earnings from the devotees.
The government, which had revived revived its shelved plan a month ago, made the announcement a day after a priest at the temple shot dead two of his colleagues and injured another allegedly over “poaching” of devotees.
“After Thursday’s incident in which two persons lost their lives, there is nothing left to hold discussions with the priests at the temple. Now, government will take over the Vindhyavasini temple under its control. There is no point left in considering the opposition by the priests when things have reached this extent,” Vijay Mishra, UP Minister for Religious Affairs told The Indian Express.
Mishra said the proposal has been cleared at his ministry’s end and only Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav’s consent is required. “We had sent the file to CM’s office nearly one week back. There were some deliberations held on it earlier but the consent was delayed due to some reasons. But now after the Thursday incident, I think it will be cleared soon by the CM,” Mishra said.
Rajan Pathak, who heads the Vindhya Panda Parishad, however, is still opposed to the proposal. “We have 1,100 card holder priests. We take action on any complaint of fleecing of devotees. Akhilesh government is bent upon taking away our livelihood,” Pathak said.
He claimed that the double murder was a fallout of personal enmity and not due to poaching of devotees. “We condemn it strongly but it cannot be taken as a precedent for taking over the reins of the temple,” Pathak added.
In June 2013, the Akhilesh Yadav government had floated the proposal for taking over the reins of the Vindhyavasini temple, one of the Shaktipeeths that attracts over 20,000 devotees everyday. However, the priests of the temple united against the move and met then minister for Religious Affairs Raja Anand Singh and the proposal was dropped.
The proposal was revived nearly one month back after government got reports of devotees being fleeced by the priests. The government, however, remained apprehensive on giving consent fearing opposition from the priests. “Now, with murders at the temple there is no point in delaying the proposal. It will be done very soon,” Mishra added.
Once state government takes control of the Vindhyavasini temple, the priests will become government employees on fixed salary. They will have no right on offerings made by the devotees and would also not be able to fleece them for payment.
“Once the government gets control, a new trust will be formed to ensure better facilities and security for devotees, both, inside and outside the temple. The approach to the temple will be improved and timings for visit (darshan) would be regularised,” the minister said.
Local district administration will manage the affairs of the temple and set up its office in the complex similar to Tirupati Balaji temple in Andhra Pradesh. Presently, only Kashi Vishwanath Temple in Varanasi is under government control.
Presently, the Vindhyavasini temple is managed by Vindhya Vikas Parishad, a trust headed by District Magistrate with Superintendent of Police as its vice-chairman. Two donation boxes are kept at the temple —- local priests take the offerings in the box kept inside the temple while the administration is responsible for the one kept outside. Over 1000 families of priests and local shopkeepers are dependent on the temple for their livelihood.