Such acts will only further deepen the divide between Hindus and other religions say Mumbaikars and spiritual leaders.
Mumbaikars are unhappy with the restriction being imposed on the entry of non-Hindus in Somnath temple. According to them, it is not right to discriminate people on the basis on religious grounds and people should be allowed to enter the temple. They also said that when Hindus can visit Haji Ali dargah and Mount Mary why should non-Hindus seek permission for entry into the Somnath temple. Such decision will only divide the country on the basis of religion and it is necessary to maintain communal harmony today. Some of them said that there is a possibility that decision might have been taken by leaders to derive some political mileage out of it.
Spiritual leader, Swami Balendu Maharaj said, “Anybody anywhere in the world should be allowed to enter temples, mosques, churches. Thankfully, the tourists are allowed to enter these temples to study and appreciate the architecture. Many orthodox temples want people to be born as a Hindu and forbid the entry of non-Hindus which I don’t support. Shudras are denied entry in certain temples like Jagannath Puri and Kashi Vishwanath. Hindus are prohibited from entering Mecca.”
Uday Dhuri spokesman of Hindu Janajagruti Samithi said, “There have been many attacks on this temple by Islamic Fundamentalists. Certain temples follow strict security norms. Only Hindus are permitted to enter Guruvayur Temple and Jagannath Temple.”
Sanjay Shinde of Sanatan Sanstha said, “This temple has been attacked in the past so it is necessary to beef up the security. Two years back, a terrorist organisation had stated that they would attack the temple like Mahmud of Ghazni had done in the past. However, you can seek permission from the authorities citing reasons for your entry and you will be allowed to enter the temple.”
Union Food and Consumer Affairs Minister, Ramvilas Paswan said, “Why is the entry of non-Hindus restricted to Somnath temple. Do only non-Hindus attack temples? The temple trust has taken a wrong decision and they should review it”
Saurabh Gupta, a Kandivali resident said, “I am not pleased with this decision and it will only deepen the line of differences between different faiths. The officials are citing security reasons, but can Hindus not be a security threat to the temple.”
Subroto Das a Borivali resident said, “Have Christians and Muslims imposed restrictions on entering churches and mosque? There is some political motive behind this decision. Such acts will only further deepen the divide between Hindus and other religions.”
Authorities cited security concerns and protection of ’sanctity’ of a religious place for the restriction, saying other religions do not allow non-followers to enter their sacred places.
“Shree Somnath Jyotirling is a pilgrimage for Hindus. Non-Hindus will have to obtain permission from General Manager’s Office (of the temple) to enter the sacred pilgrim-place,” said a notice put up by temple authorities at the main entrance gate.
The notice was put up outside the main entrance-gate of the temple last Monday. Daily thousands of devotees from across the country visit the temple, which is very heavily protected by police.
The famous Shiva temple, located near Veraval town of Gir-Somnath district, is governed by a trustee board headed by former Gujarat Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel, while Prime Minister Narendra Modi and senior BJP leader L.K. Advani are other trustees.
“The decision was taken by the Somnath Trust’s secretary (P.K. Lahiri) two to three days ago and we put a notice accordingly,” Vijaysinh Chavda, Deputy Manager of Somnath trust said.
Trustee Secretary of Somanth Temple and former IAS officer P K Lahiri said,“Notice was put up after some people represented that entry needs to be regulated. I have put up that notice.”
“Locals have noticed that non-Hindus are trying to enter and there were some issues from security-guards whether they should be allowed or not. We have decided to regulate it as per our old tradition,” he said.
“Security reasons are always there. Somebody said a woman with Burqa (veil worn by Muslim women) was allowed while she was trying to enter. That raised the suspicion on whether non-Hindus should be checked whether they should be allowed to go and whether something will happen,” he said.
The secretary further said that permission will be granted on the spot if the trust finds the reason of visit genuine. “To get a permission, a non-Hindu visitor will have to give his name and address and we will maintain a record. Earlier, we did not use to maintain such records,” said Laheri.
Somnath temple enshrines the first of 12 jyoritlings of Lord Shiva in the country and is considered sacred by Hindus. In the mediaeval era, the temple was a great place of worship and wealth. It was also considered a symbol of pride of the Hindus.