Updated: December 1, 2021 3:45:54 am
Faced with stiff resistance over the Char Dham Devasthanam Board and months ahead of the Assembly elections, the Uttarakhand government on Tuesday announced that the Uttarakhand Char Dham Devasthanam Management Act, under which the Board was set up, would be withdrawn.
Announcing the decision, Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami tweeted, “Considering the sentiments and interests of people, honour of priests and stakeholders and others associated with Char Dham…the government has decided to repeal the Devasthanam Board Act.”
“In recent days, we spoke to various social organisations, priests, stakeholders, pandas and public representatives regarding the Devasthanam Board. They gave their suggestions and opinion… Will speak to everyone. But at the moment, we are withdrawing this Act,” Dhami added.
The Bill, aimed at bringing the ‘Char Dham’ or the four shrines of Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri and Yamunotri, besides 49 other temples, under the purview of a proposed shrine Board, was passed by the Assembly in December 2019, amid protests inside and outside the House. On January 15, 2020, the BJP government led by then CM Trivendra Singh Rawat constituted the Board.
The shrine board is the highest governing body for the management of the 53 temples and has powers to frame policies, formulate the budget and sanction expenditure, among others. The board may also give directions for the safe custody, prevention and management of funds, valuable securities, jewellery and properties vested in the temples.
With priests, pandas, and those who run dharamshalas and shops at the Char Dham shrines protesting in Dehradun against the Board, the Opposition Congress had extended its support to the protesters and called the BJP government “dharma virodhi (against religion)”.
A meeting of the VHP’s Kendriya Margdarshak Mandal in Haridwar earlier this year had asked then CM Tirath Singh Rawat, who was present at the meeting, to immediately announce the abolition of the Board.
Earlier this year, the Dhami-led government had constituted a high-level committee to review the Board. Committee chairperson Manohar Kant Dhyani submitted his report to the CM on Sunday. The next day, Minister for Religious Affairs Satpal Maharaj submitted a report of a Cabinet Sub-Committee on the same Board, to the Chief Minister.
On Tuesday, the Uttarakhand Congress called the government’s decision a success of the party’s fight against the Act. Senior Congress leader and former CM Harish Rawat said, “The way farmers got the Central government to bow down (on the farm laws), the Opposition and priests succeeded against the Uttarakhand government on the Devasthanam Board issue.”
Rawat added that the government’s move to change its decision has proved that the BJP can clearly see its defeat in the upcoming elections.
The Congress and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) had both promised to repeal the Act if voted to power in 2022.
On November 1, former CM Trivendra Singh Rawat had faced protests when he visited Kedarnath, with priests showing him black flags and forcing him to return without offering prayers.
Two days later, Chief Minister Dhami had traveled to Kedarnath ahead of PM Narendra Modi’s visit to the shrine, and assured the priests that the issue would be resolved by November 30. The priests had then postponed their agitation.
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