Bihar priests protest move to declare 30,000 acres of temple land as public


Following the Bihar government’s announcement last week that ownership of land of temples and monasteries registered or affiliated with the Bihar State Religious Trust Board will lie with the deities of the shrines and that 30,000 acres of such temple and Math land will be declared public property, an association of priests on Saturday threatened to take to the streets if the decision was not rescinded, arguing that these lands should be managed by the priests of the shrines.

Out of the thousands of temples and Maths in the state, only 4,200 are learnt to have been registered to the religious trust board.

Law minister Pramod Kumar said the move was meant to remove illegal encroachment and sale of these lands. “The Religious Trust Board got to know that the temples and Maths located in 36 districts have more than 30,000 acres of land. A significant part of these land were occupied illegally. In some cases, the lands of temple and Maths were already sold,” Kumar said.

He added that there were several cases of cheating gullible buyers, who do not know that the land of temples and Maths can’t be sold by any individual. By the time buyers learn the truth, the sellers disappear from the scene, he added.

“This is why it has been made clear that lands of temples and Maths are owned by the deity of the shrine and that it should be declared public land and any transaction of sale and purchase of such land by any individual is illegal,” he said.

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Besides, there’s an effort to get all other temples and Maths under the purview of the Religious Trust Board, the law minister added.

The association of priests said they will not accept government control on the land of the shrines. “The decision to declare it as public land is not in good taste. Priests of the shrines should be given the responsibility to manage it,” the association said. The association includes priests from Kabir Math, Parbatta ( Khagaria), Udasin Akhara , Phulwarisharif, state capital based Baba Bhikham Das Thakurbari and Ayodhyadas Thakurbari, Kabir Math of Rajgir, and Bihar Sanskritik Vidyapeeth.

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