Kerala: Travancore Devaswom Board issues fresh circular banning RSS activities on shrine premises

According to the circular, the namajapa protests have also been banned inside the premises of shrines managed by the temple body.

BySouth First Desk

Published Oct 25, 2023 | 12:32 PMUpdatedOct 25, 2023 | 12:32 PM

The Travancore Devaswom Board issued two circulars, directing its officials to strictly prohibit the RSS from holding shakhas on temple premises. (Representational pic/Wikimedia Commons)

The apex temple body which manages the major shrines in the Travancore region of Kerala, the Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB), issued yet another circular banning the activities of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) on temple premises and its properties.

According to the circular issued by the Devaswom Commissioner, the namajapa protests (protests by chanting mantras) have also been banned inside the premises of shrines managed by the temple body.

It said all the activities of the RSS and outfits with “extreme ideologies”, without the permission of the TDB, have been prohibited.

Related: HC stops RSS mass drills, weapons training on Sarkara Devi temple

To carry out surprise raids

The circular, which is dated 20 October, directed the Devaswom Vigilance Wing to carry out surprise raids to find out whether the RSS or other outfits were running shakhas (branches), mass drills, or arms training on temple properties.

It directed employees and priests of respective temples to inform the TDB management about the presence of such outfits and their operations, if any. Those who failed to inform the same would face disciplinary action, it said.

The circular also made it clear that photos, flags and flex boards of those who have no relation to the temples should not be kept on their premises.

Any failure to follow the directives would be treated as a violation of high court verdicts in this regard, it added.

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

‘Politically motivated’

Meanwhile, the RSS leadership in the state termed the move a politically motivated decision and is planning to explore all options, including legal remedies.

RSS pranta karyavahak PN Eswaran said: “The new directive is part of a decision to strictly implement TDB’s earlier directives in this regard. The CPI(M) has been trying to take over the running of temples under the TDB through its nominees. Naturally, there will be resistance from Hindu organisations. That’s why such a politically motivated decision has been taken. As an organisation, we will take a decision on the future course of action after discussing with legal experts.”

Last month, the Kerala High Court had said that no mass drill or weapons training shall be permitted on the premises of Sarkara Devi Temple in Thiruvananthapuram district, which is under TDB’s management.

The court was responding to the plea filed by two devotees.

Also read: Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan trains his guns on RSS

‘Illegal, unauthorised entry’

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

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

The court directed the police to provide necessary assistance for the strict compliance of an earlier TDB order banning RSS shakhas 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 with the prohibition…,” Justices Anil K Narendran and PG 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.

Interview: ‘Church leaders giving foothold to BJP-RSS hate politics in Kerala’

Previous circulars of TDB

The TDB had, on 18 May, issued a circular asking officials to strictly follow its earlier order banning RSS 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.

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)