Kerala HC stops RSS mass drills, weapons training on Sarkara Devi temple premises in response to plea filed by devotees

The plea sought an order to prevent the "illegal use and unauthorised occupancy" of the temple premises by the RSS and its members.

BySouth First Desk

Published Sep 12, 2023 | 12:27 PMUpdatedSep 12, 2023 | 12:27 PM

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Responding to the plea filed by two devotees, the Kerala High Court has said that no mass drill or weapons training shall be permitted on the premises of Sarkara Devi Temple in Thiruvananthapuram district.

The plea sought an order to prevent the “illegal use and unauthorised occupancy” of the temple premises by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and its members.

Speaking with South First earlier, Advocate Nikhil Sankar, who appeared for the petitioners had said, “Despite the Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) issuing two circulars against such activities, the issue persists.”

Court order

The court directed the police to provide necessary assistance for the strict compliance of an earlier TDB order banning RSS “shakhas” (branches) and mass drills at the shrines managed by the board.

“No mass drill or weaponry practices (sic) shall be permitted on the premises of the said temple, which is under the management of the Travancore Devaswom Board. The Station House Officer of Chirayinkeezhu Police Station shall render necessary assistance to the Administrative Officer to ensure strict compliance of the prohibition…,” Justices Anil K Narendran and P G Ajithkumar said in a recent order.

The temple is under the management of the TDB — a statutory and autonomous body that manages around 1,200 temples, including the Sabarimala Sree Dharma Sastha Temple, in Kerala.

Related: Kerala HC issues notice to RSS members over arms training in temple

Previous circulars of TDB

The TDB had, on 18 May, issued a circular asking officials to strictly follow its earlier order banning RSS “shakhas” (branches) or mass drills in the shrines under it.

In that circular, the TDB had said that stern action would be taken against the officials who refuse to follow its 2021 order in the same regard.

TDB, in March 2021, had asked its officials to prohibit the RSS from holding drills at temples under the board. The board directed its officials to ensure that armed or unarmed drills did not take place on temple premises.

It also advised the officials against providing temple resources to third-party groups.

Even earlier, the TDB had in 2016 issued a circular banning all types of arms training in the temple complexes by the RSS. Later, on 30 March, 2021, the board reissued the circular asking the officials to take action in this regard.

In 2016, the then Devaswom Minister, Kadakampally Surendran, had alleged that the RSS was trying to turn temples into storehouses of arms in Kerala and that the government had been receiving a large number of complaints in this regard.

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RSS in Kerala

Despite the BJP’s inability to make an impact on electoral politics in Kerala, the RSS, the party’s ideological parent, has made significant inroads in the state.

According to RSS Joint General Secretary Krishna Gopal, in 2020, the RSS had 4,500 shakhas spread across the state, the highest for any state in the country.

The RSS started its operations in Kerala in Kozhikode in 1942. The saffron outfit’s initial focus remained the Malabar region of the state.

In 1951, it launched its mouthpiece, Kesari Malayalam Weekly, in Kozhikode.

(With PTI inputs)