T.N. opposes Centre's scheme on Tiruvannamalai temple
source: The Hindu, May 1 2004
NEW DELHI, APRIL 30. The Tamil Nadu Government today assailed in the Supreme Court the scheme framed by the Union Ministry of Culture and Tourism for the protection and conservation of the Arunachaleswarar temple in Tiruvannamalai in Tamil Nadu, dedicated to Lord Shiva, as a national heritage monument.
A Bench of Justice Y.K. Sabharwal and Justice S.B. Sinha before whom the State submitted its proposals opposing the scheme asked the Centre to file its rejoinder, if any, and also asked the parties to put the scheme and the objections in a tabular form.
The Centre's scheme states: "The intention of the Archaeological Survey of India is not to disrupt the existing religious practices, rituals, but create an opportunity for its conservation, restoration and preservation through direct investment of the Government of India."
Describing the Centre's scheme as "ill-conceived and unsuitable," the State Government said the proposal attempted to highlight the temple and the town as a tourist centre forgetting the religious aspects involved.
It said the temple was being governed by the provisions of the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Act, which was a complete code not only for the administration and management and preservation of such temples but also for preservation of their properties.
The Centre's contention that the scheme had been framed on the lines of the Vaishno Devi scheme was totally misplaced. If the ancient nature of the temple as well as the crowded manner in which the town had developed were the reasons for the Archaeological Survey of India to lend its protective cover, then many temples in India ought to have come under the ASI.
The scheme did not reflect the true status obtaining in the Tiruvannamalai temple.
Regarding encroachments, the Government said it was minimal and could be removed by the district administration and the local body and it did not require Central intervention. Further, the assessment of the conditions along the Giri Pradakshna Road was also misleading.
The dismal picture attempted to be shown in the scheme was "absolutely false and fictitious." After the renovation of the temple was completed in June 2002 for Rs. 4.5 crores, the temple "looks clean and beautiful" and the Central protection was uncalled for and unwanted in these circumstances.
The larger interest of devotees was more important than the tourism aspect, which had been projected in the scheme, the Government said and prayed that the court might permit the Government to carry out the desired improvements.
In its response, the Tiruvannamalai temple wanted the court to reject the scheme as its implementation would lead to discontent among the devotees as the religious practices of the temple as well as the Mutts along the Girivalam path would be affected.