The Shri Ram Janambhoomi Teerth Kshetra Trust has announced to set up an oxygen plant at a cost of Rs 55 lakh. The plant will be set up at Dasharatha Medical College, Ayodhya. This charitable decision has been appreciated by most sections of Hindus. However, it has also invited criticism by many Hindus on social media. The list of those criticizing it included former CBI Joint Director and interim Director Sh. M. Nageshwar Rao.
Pl stop it @ShriRamTeerth, as Hindus gave money for construction of RJB Mandir & their religious welfare.
Being a trustee of Hindu money you canNOT WASTE it for secular purposes for which Hindus pay lot of taxes.
— M. Nageswara Rao IPS(R) (@MNageswarRaoIPS) April 22, 2021
According to critics, there are two major reasons for opposing the move by the trust. One, that the purpose of the donation was exclusively for the construction of the temple. However, even before the temple is constructed, the trust has donated for a “secular” purpose. Thus this is in contravention to the purpose of the trust. This is largely a legal argument.
Secondly, the critics say that this this is betrayal of the Hindus who donated to the trust for construction of the temple. The provision of oxygen for the hospital is the responsibility of the government and temple funds should not be used for it. This argument questions the morality of the action by the trust.
A corollary of the second argument assumes that this was done on behest of government. It says that temples under government control have thousands of crores of property. If the government needed money, it could have used that money and not force a private trust to spend money for making the government look good.
The truth of the matter
It is important to address these arguments and examine whether the trust’s actions are justified or not.
The legal position is that the trust deed authorises the trust “to construct and maintain appropriate amenities like huge parking facilities, ……….Sarais and all other amenities for the pilgrims and general public visiting Ayodhya from all over the world.” Thus the action does not contravene the purpose of the trust. Let us take an example. What if any of the pujaris, teerthyatris or workers at the Ram Janmabhoomi temple get ill? Where shall they go except the local CoVID facility? It so happens that the only Level three facility for CoVID, having Oxygen and ICU beds, in Ayodhya district is ASMC, otherwise called the Dasharatha Medical College.
It must also be kept in mind that unlike the division of religious and secular actions in Christianity, our tradition blends secular and religious into one whole Dharma. Thus, apart from offering food/water to needy, which is part of religious rituals in most religions, we also see punya in building hospitals, night shelters, schools and even planting trees. Indeed, our old temples were centers of social life with attached annakshetras, hospitals, schools, community halls and even banks. It can certainly be argued that first the trust has to construct the temple and then run its own hospital controlled by the trust, but this is an emergency and Sanatan Dharma does have a concept of Apad Dharma where many actions which are normally impermissible, become permissible.
In fact, during this very crisis, we have precedent of govt controlled as well as privately controlled Hindu temples donating to the PMCARES, CMNRF and to the district collectors etc. This list is from March 2020 and since then, much more would certainly have been donated by various temple bodies. In recent times, many Hindu religious bodies have given their premises for establishment of huge CoVID care centers. For an example, Radha Saomis provided their premises in Indore and Delhi. Swaminarayan sect in Gujarat, Jagannath Temple in Odisha, Pawandham Temple in Mumbai, and other temples all across the country have made similar arrangements.
It could be said that only Hindus make these kind of arrangements for general public and no other religion does that. Even if true, this only shows the greatness of our Dharma and our commitment to the philosophy of “sarve santu niramayah“. However, one must remember that the whole model of spread of Christianity in Bharat rests on providing health and educational services. At least in one case that the author is aware of, Christian church donated their land permanently for the secular public good. The Vikram Sarabhai Space Center stands even today on that land. It is another matter that in return, ISRO built two churches for the local community.
This might be called strategy of the Christian missionaries to encourage people to convert to their religion in lieu of material benefits. However, these kind of activities is what makes the Church so successful as it provides a moral authority to it in the minds of general public. Many major Hindu temples are currently controlled by the state government and whenever they are given back, these are the activities we should focus on.
Not only are the actions of the trust completely in line with Dharma, they are also practical steps to tide over the current crisis and will go a long way in generating goodwill in the minds of local residents and pilgrims the world over.
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