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Court stays melting ornaments of Shri Tulja Bhavani Devi

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A hard slap to those indulging in corrupt practices even in Devi’s temple

Unmesh Gujarathi
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The Aurangabad Bench of Mumbai High Court passed a stay order to keep on hold the process of melting gold-silver ornaments of Shri Tulja Bhavani Devi, ‘Kulaswamini’ of Maharashtra. Owing to the Government managing this temple, there was misappropriation in the auction of gold-silver ornaments, precious diamonds donated by devotees, and the cash of more than Rs 8.50 crore offered by devotees in the temple. This amount can be the tip of an iceberg. It may be noted that no action has been taken so far against any of the guilty people.

There was a likelihood of covering up the earlier corruption by melting gold-silver ornaments to show less weight. Recently, it was found that Devi’s gold crown weighing more than 0.75 kg, and Mangalsutra have gone missing. Ms Priyanka Lone, the Coordinator of Hindu Janajagruti Samiti (HJS) and the petitioner in the case stated that the present verdict of the Court is significant as it will curb future corrupt practices and help in keeping transparency in all transactions. She also said that HJS would fight till the guilty were punished and every misappropriated dime of the Deity’s money was recovered while appealing to devotees to extend their support. A senior advocate Sanjiv Deshpande, H.H. (Adv.) Suresh Kulkarni of ‘Hindu Vidhidnya Parishad (HVP)’, and advocate Umesh Bhadakaokar also expressed their views.

HJS has been fighting against corruption in managing temples through the medium of HVP since 2015, by filing PIL. The first inquiry committee set up in the matter had found 15 individuals guilty and advised filing criminal cases against them. A second inquiry committee was then set up, which changed the report of the first inquiry committee, giving clean chit to all the guilty individuals by the first committee. The Government formed by all the parties is not interested in taking action against the guilty in this case; in fact, it is unfortunate that they are trying to support the corrupt people and paying no heed to devotees’ sentiments.

The case of misappropriation in the treasure chest of Shri Tulja Bhavani Devi, the ancient, historical gold-silver and other valuable ornaments, besides old coins, is Sub judice. The matter involves the missing of 71 historical ancient coins donated by the earlier Kings, two pairs of silver ‘Khadawa’ of Devi and ruby. No action has been taken against the people found guilty. A Mahant, 3 officers working at that time, and two managers were found guilty in the case of 71 missing ancient coins. Mr Dixit, one of the then managers, died in 2001.

After his death, all officers started bringing keys from their houses and handling the treasure chest. These illegal transactions took place between 2001 and 2005. Devotees donate valuable things to the Shri Tulja Bhavani Temple with immense faith. It is necessary to properly account for every ornament they donated and keep correct records. By melting the gold-silver ornaments, the misappropriation could have been covered up by claiming weight reduction; therefore, it was demanded through the petition that the gold-silver ornaments belonging to the temple should not be melted till the final verdict is passed by the Court.

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