In a significant order related to the decades-old Guru Dattatreya Peetha-Baba Budangiri Dargah dispute in Chikkamagaluru district, the High Court of Karnataka on Tuesday quashed a state government order allowing only a Mujawar (Muslim priest) to offer flowers and light the 'Nanda Deepa' of Dattatreya Swami as it ran counter to the Muslim belief system. The High Court said the order is in "flagrant violation of rights of both communities (Hindus and Muslims) guaranteed by Article 25 of the Constitution of India." The appointment was made by the Congress government headed by Siddaramaiah.
Justice PS Dinesh Kumar noted that the government order permitted only a Mujawar, to be appointed by Shah Khadri, to enter the sanctum of the cave and to distribute 'Teertha' (Charanamrit) to both Hindus and Muslims. It also took note of the order that the Mujawar is also required to offer flowers to the idol and light the 'Nanda Deepa' (lamp).
"On the face of it, this portion of the order runs counter to the practices adopted by the Muslim community because idol worship is not recognised by them," Justice Kumar observed. Noting that Article 25 of the Constitution guarantees freedom of conscience and free possession, practice and propagation of religion, the judge pointed out that the state has "infringed upon the rights of Hindu community to have the Pooja (rituals) and Archana (prayers) done in the manner as per their faith."
The judge also said in his order that the state government has imposed upon the Mujawar to perform 'Paduka Pooja' and to light 'Nanda Deepa' contrary to his faith. "Both these acts amount to flagrant violation of rights of both communities (Hindus and Muslims) guaranteed by Article 25 of the Constitution of India," the bench noted.
The court also explained that the Supreme Court had directed the cabinet to consider the pros and cons and take a decision but the government, contrary to the apex court order, delegated the matter to a high-level committee. Guru Dattatreya Peetha and Baba Budangiri are worshipped and visited by both Hindus and Muslims. However, a dispute rose following the claim that the place was exclusive to a community.
On March 19, 2018, the Endowment Commissioner had passed an order appointing a Maulvi, Syed Ghaus Mohiddin, to perform pooja. Now the High Court has quashed the order, he said in a statement. Welcoming the order, BJP national general secretary CT Ravi tweeted saying, "Huge victory for Hindus. Karnataka High Court orders the government to appoint Hindu priests in Datta Peeta. I welcome the decision of the High Court in rejecting the biased report of Justice Nagmohan Das committee." BJP state chief Nalin Kumar Kateel termed the order a "victory of truth".
Read: What is the Bababudangiri/Dattatreya Peeta dispute all about?