India’s Karnataka State Retracts COVID Relief to Muslim Clerics After Hindu Organisation Objects

Earlier this month, Karnataka state government announced one-off financial aid of INR3,000 ($42) to all priests, irrespective of religion, in view of COVID-19 induced hardship. The government led by the BJP’s BS Yediyurappa has also announced other measures such as relief for various sectors of society who faced tough times from lockdown curbs.

The State government of Karnataka in southern India has revoked its previous measure of providing financial help to all priests, including Muslims.

The decision was made after a prominent Hindu organisation – Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) or Universal Hindu Council – linked to the state’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), objected to the decision. The VHP was opposed to the idea of using funds drawn from donations to Hindu temples to give financial assistance to non-Hindus. 

The VHP is well-known for being outspoken over the religious and political rights of Hindus.  

The financial help for Muslim and Hindu priests had been announced by Karnataka State Chief and BJP leader Bookanakere Siddalingappa Yediyurappa under the Muzrai (Hindu religious endowment department) Department.

The VHP has argued that COVID-19 relief should not be given to the 41 Muslim clerics out of the department’s funds.

“The money received from Hindu temples should be spent on the temples and the welfare of the Hindu community,” the VHP said in a letter written to State Muzrai Minister Kota Srinivas Poojary. 

“Government is free to announce relief packages to anyone. But it is unfair to give money to Muslim clerics from the revenue collected from Hindu temples,” VHP Divisional Secretary Sharan Pumpwell told Sputnik on Friday.

“If the government wants to give allowances to Muslims, they should distribute the money from the Karnataka Muslim Board,” he added. 

Congress party, which is the main opposition party in Karnataka state, criticised the government for being swayed by the objections of Sangh Parivar, a group of Hindu-inclined organisations including VHP, Bajrang Dal and Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS). 

Congress politician Rizwan Arshad said: “The current government has become a puppet in the hands of Sangh Parivar. No one is giving funds from any private organisation’s pocket. The money is the taxpayers’ and it is being used to provide relief to various communities of the society irrespective of religion.” 

Arshad also said that the state government “should not overturn its decision even after interference by some private organisation”. 

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