A day after the Himachal Pradesh Cabinet cleared a proposal handing over the control of the historic Lord Raghunathji temple in Kullu to the state government, Kullu MLA Maheshwar Singh, who is the chief caretaker of the temple, filed a petition in the Himachal Pradesh High Court challenging the state government’s decision to take over the shrine.
Singh said: “How can government take over a temple that is part of my property that I have inherited from my ancestors? The government has no locus standi, and I will fight it out.”
Singh is also the “scion” of the Raja of Kullu. Meanwhile, on Tuesday, the state government’s department of Language, Art and Culture issued a formal notification under the HP Hindu Public Religious Institutions and Charitable Endowment Act 1984, proposing to take control of the temple.
After the notification was issued on July 26, the Kullu Deputy Commissioner had given seven days to Singh to hand over the records of the temple located in Sultanpur Palace Maintaining that the decision to take over the temple was “unconstitutional and arbitrary”, Maheshwar Singh pleaded for the stay of the government notification during pendency of his petition.
The court will take up the matter on August 1.
In his petition, the Himachal Lokhit Party chief and former BJP leader contended that the 17th century temple was currently being managed by him, the descendant of the erstwhile royal family of Kullu, adding that it has been under his family’s management since its establishment. He described the temple as a “private” property and contended that the government could not bring it under the ambit of the Himachal Pradesh Religious and Charitable Endowment Act without initiating a proper inquiry and providing an opportunity to the petitioner to present his arguments.
Chief Minister Virbharda Singh and his son Vikramaditya, who is also the chief of Himachal Pradesh Youth Congress, have maintained that the temple had been taken over on public demand and it was not a private property anymore. The government has clarified that the takeover would not have any effect on offering prayers and only the management, security and accounts of income and expenditure would be handled by the temple trust. A former BJP leader, who had earlier represented Mandi Parliamentary three times, once even defeating Pratibha Singh (CM’s wife), Maheshwar Singh had quit the BJP in 2012 ahead of the Assembly polls and formed Himachal Lokhit Party. He is the lone HLP MLA in the House .
Initially, he had been backing Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh and Congress in the Vidhan Sabha but his growing closeness with the Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) and speculation about his return to the parent party seems to have triggered trouble for him. Local Sanatan Dharam Sabha held a meeting in kullu and submitted a memorandum to Deputy Commissioner Hans Raj Chauhan, threatening mass protest if any attempt was made to enter the temple complex and property.
By – Dhriti Sharma