The Karnataka government on Wednesday, March 23, told the state Assembly that as per rules non-Hindus cannot do business around annual festivals, and only Hindus can participate in the auctioning of stalls and setting up of shops. Others cannot conduct business on properties belonging to temples. This came amidst reports of temples in coastal Karnataka not allowing non-Hindus to do business at temple fairs.
When the matter of discrimination came up in the Assembly, the ruling BJP sought to distance itself from it, citing rules. Law Minister JC Madhuswamy said the rules, under the 2002 rules of the Hindu Religious Institutions and Charitable Endowments Act, were framed under the Congress government when SM Krishna was the Chief Minister.
In the state Assembly, responding to a question raised by opposition members on incidents in Udupi and Dakshina Kannada, Madhuswamy said, "While framing rules to Karnataka Hindu Religious Institutions and Charitable Endowments Act in 2002, Rule 12 states that no property including land, building or site situated near the institution shall be leased to non-Hindus. Citing these rules, posters and banners have been put up."
Observing that it is being alleged street vendors are stopped from engaging in trade, he said, "if any obstruction is being caused to them, outside the premise of a religious place, it will be rectified and action will be taken. If things are happening (other community vendors trading) within the premises, they will have to follow the rules," he said.
He said that under the rule, non-Hindus are not allowed to do business in and around the premises but if it is beyond the Hindu religious area, the government will initiate action against those putting up banners and posters. He added that rules state that shops, buildings, and vacant sites located near temples should not be auctioned to non-Hindus and that there will be “no compromise” in implementing the rules.
The HRCE rule 31(12) states: “Land, building, site near to the temple/institutions and any other asset of the temple/institutions should not be given on lease to non-Hindus.” The section pertains to the terms of lease of immovable property of a notified institution and renewal.
The matter came up during the Zero Hour in the Assembly, when Congress Deputy Leader UT Khader and MLA Rizwan Arshad questioned why temple committees were preventing non-Hindus from doing business in and around temples in coastal Karnataka. They had an objection to posters and banners that had been put up declaring that Muslim traders are not allowed to put up stalls at jatres. The Congress said that such incidents disturb communal harmony, and that the government must come down on those people who try to divide society on religious lines.
Intervening, Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai said areas near religious places during temple fairs are leased out and those who take on lease will give sublease to traders. "These decisions are by those who have taken lease, we will look into what the rules say and what has happened there on the ground," he said.
After the Assembly session, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad said it would be writing to Minister for Muzarai, Haj & Wakf Shashikala Jolle for all endowment temples to enforce the rule. “The closure of shops and business establishments by members of a community over the hijab verdict has prompted people to take this step,” claimed VHP leader Sharan Pumpwell.
Prakash Kukkehalli of the Hindu Jagarana Vedike said the Maari Puje in Kaup town is a very big festival in Udupi district in which a large number of Muslim traders do business. "Those who have no respect for our Gods, our religious places and follow a different faith should not do business during our religious festivals. This was the appeal by the Hindu community to the Marigudi temple management," he said.
Ahead of the Assembly session, the Maari Gudi temple management at Kaup town in Udupi district of coastal Karnataka decided not to allow 'people from other faith' to do business on its land during the annual temple festival on the request of certain pro-Hindu organisations.
The Udupi District Street Vendors and Traders Association has urged the district administration to allow Muslim street vendors to carry out business during Hindu festivals and annual temple fairs.
With PTI inputs