PATNA: A non-Hindu DM of Gaya can now become ex officio chairperson of the Bodh Gaya Temple Management Committee (BTMC). The state assembly on Tuesday passed the amendments to the Act of 1949 which struck off the provision of the state government nominating a Hindu as chairperson of the committee in case of the DM being a non-Hindu.
It changed the 63 years old provision in the Act amended to end dispute between the Hindus and the Buddhists.
Replying to the debate, chief minister Nitish Kumar said in a secular framework, it was not justified to mention the religion of a DM in the Act. “An official is a secular government representative. He does not represent any religion,” Nitish said. He clarified that the amendment was not aimed at interfering in the religious affairs of the Buddhists. He accused the BJP of unnecessarily giving it a controversial colour and comparing it with other religious trusts and boards.
The CM referred to the discussion the chairman of National Minorities Commission, Wajahat Habibullah, had with him over this issue. He said it had been demanded time and again for full Buddhists control over the Bodh Gaya shrine and the Act was amended to settle that issue. There is provision of four Buddhists and equal number of Hindus in the committee with ex officio chairman as its ninth member. At least two cases on the issue are pending in the Supreme Court, he said.
The Supreme Court had also been informed through an affidavit that necessary amendments were being made to the Act. “This has nothing to do with the serial blasts in Bodh Gaya,” the CM clarified, adding that preparations for the amendment had been started in April and nothing has been decided in a haste.
The walkout by the BJP provoked Nitish who said they did not have the courage to listen to others. “They are scared because their hollow objections will fall flat and their own people will not believe them. That is why they ran away,” he said and added, “Secularism is rooted deep in Bihar and the attempts by the BJP to create suspicion and hatred will not succeed.”
Earlier, leader of opposition in the assembly, Nand Kishore Yadav, opposed the amendment saying there had never been a dispute over the Hindu DM and wondered how a non-Hindu DM could manage the temple management. He referred to Hindu Religious Board and Wakf Board saying there is provision that only a Hindu or a Muslim can be on their respective boards. He also suggested that amendment could be made to remove the DM from the chairperson post.
RJD’s Abdul Bari Siddiqui favoured that the shrine of any religion should be handed over to that religion and places of worship should not be made controversial. He referred to Babri Masjid in this connection and said it would be better if a Buddhist scholar was nominated as the committee chairman.
Sadanand Singh of the Congress and Awadhesh Kumar Rai of the CPI favoured the government amendment.