10/26/2012, 00.00
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Kerala: only (very religious) men to manage 3,000 Hindu temples

by Nirmala Carvalho
Chief minister's announcement sparks controversy. Hindu temples are run by boards whose members are picked by the state government. The spokesman of the Syro-Malabar Synod says religion and politics should not mix, approves the idea of women board members.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) - The Kerala government has decided to reserve posts on Devaswom (literally God's property) boards only to Hindu legislators who believe in god. Devaswom boards are trusts that manage the state's 3,000 temples. The decision has come under attack for violating the constitution on religious and gender ground.

The decision was announced by Chief Minister Oommen Chandy. It specifies that Hindu legislators who believe in god will be eligible for appointment on Devaswom Boards. The latter run Hindu temples and ensure they operate properly.

Usually, community leaders and government officials are appointed to these boards, but the four largest Devaswom that exist in Kerala-Guruvayur, Travancore (the most important), Malabar and Cochin-are under direct government control.

According to Fr Paul Thelakat, spokesman for the Syro-Malabar Synod and editor of Sathyadeepam (Light of Truth), the problem is not reserving seats on temple boards to Hindus alone, but rather "the contradictions that stem from mixing religion and politics."

"I believe that religion should be separated from politics and government," Fr Thelakat said. "Religions should rule themselves. Here the Devaswom system interferes with the Hindu religion because of its huge wealth and assets."

"Still, I do believe that the 3,000 temples should be managed by people who truly believe." At the same time, "the presence of women on the boards would be something positive."

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