Updated: January 10, 2022 9:19:46 pm
The Uttarakhand government, criticised for a previous move to form a shrine Board, on Sunday announced that a reconstituted Badrinath-Kedarnath Temple Committee (BKTC) will be in charge of managing the two Himalayan shrines.
The two temples – Kedarnath and Badrinath – will once again be managed by the BKTC; this time under a new head.
The decision comes weeks after the state government disbanded the Uttarakhand Char Dham Devasthanam Management Board to manage 51 temples, including the four shrines in the Char Dham pilgrimage, in Uttarakhand.
The Char Dham yatra includes Kedarnath, Badrinath, Gangotri and Yamnotri temples.
A notification issued by culture secretary HC Semwal on Monday appointed BJP leader Ajendra Ajay as president of the 15-member committee and party colleague Kishor Panwar its vice-president.
The priests of the four shrines were opposed to the formation of the Board, introduced in 2019 by the Trivendra Singh Rawat government, and alleged that their traditional rights over the temples were being usurped.
In November last year, the priests displayed black flags to Trivendra Singh Rawat – who was not the Chief Minister at the time — as he was on a visit to Kedarnath to check preparations ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the state.
The Board was disbanded in December 2021 after the protesting priests formed a Hak Hakookdhari Mahapanchayat Samiti and announced that they will field their own candidates for 15 Vidhan Sabha seats in Uttarakhand and campaign against the BJP. The plan was dropped after the Board was abolished.
President of the Mahapanchayat Samiti Krishna Kant Kothiyal told The Indian Express that the priests welcome the government’s decision. “We welcome the decision. However, there is one objection that those appointed are mainly people from outside. But still it is a welcome decision,” he said.
Before the constitution of the Board, the Shri Badrinath-Shri Kedarnath Act, 1939, was in place for the management of the Badrinath and Kedarnath shrines.
In 2019, the state government led by former CM Rawat tabled the Uttarakhand Char Dham Shrine Management Bill, 2019, in the state Assembly with the aim to being all Char Dham shrines and 49 other temples under the purview of a proposed shrine Board. The Board was formed in January 2020 after the Act was passed.
Uttarakhand is among the five states that go to assembly elections next month.
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