An agreement with Maldives to permit its residents to stay on in India without a visa for 90 days has been proving to be a headache for investigating agencies especially in Kerala. Very recently Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh spoke about the challenges the two countries faced in fighting a common enemy called as terrorism.

Post 26/11, every attempt was made by Pakistan based militant groups to float more modules in Maldives and the message was clear that attacks would be more sea borne in future. Off late Intelligence Bureau reports show that there is a lot of influx of Maldives based terror operatives and they have been frequenting states such as Kerala.

The fact that the Lashkar-e-Tayiba has been setting up modules in Maldives to launch terror attacks is nothing new. However the state in India that they would depend on the most would be Kerala according to reports put out by security agencies. Groups such as the Lashkar have been tapping the modules in Kerala to keep their Maldivian operations afloat. Signs of a Kerala-Maldives link began to show in the year 2007 itself with the arrest of a key operative by the name Asif Ibrahim.

Till date the Lashkar has been using the modules in Kerala to carry out operations in the Maldives, but soon it could be vice versa when the outfit decides to target India. There is a steady growth of the Maldivian modules according to Intelligence reports. Not only are these groups strong ideologically, but they have the capabilities of launching sea borne attacks as well which is probably the toughest form of terror which India can fight.

The Male Sultan park blast was the first time that the India-Maldives terror link cropped up. Executed by an Islamic cell connected with the Lashkar, this attack made Indian agencies sit up and take notice of what was going on.

In this case the police managed to gather a lot of information through the interrogation of Asif Ibrahim who was also connected with the attack. This man who is a Maldivian national was arrested in Kerala and during his interrogation spoke in great detail about the links between the state and the groups in Maldives. The two regions are directly bound by the finance factor and most of the operations that are carried out in Maldives are funded through the modules in Kerala which are hawala experts.

During his interrogation he also goes on to say that they have launched a shadow outfit called the Jammat-e-Muslimeen which is a cover for the Lashkar. All operations connecting Maldives and Kerala are carried out in the name of this outfit. The Kerala police point out that this is nothing but a shadow outfit for the Lashkar and in the name of the JeM a lot of activites have been carried out. The problem is serious and under the guise of a 90 day no visa policy many operatives have managed to come in and go with no problem what so ever. Although there is this glitch, the police say they are taking all efforts to verify the details of those who come into Kerala from Maldives.

However Ibrahim’s interrogation went on to prove that the police were caught napping. They managed to procure arms and also funds with much ease from Kerala when compared to Maldives. Due to various factors in Kerala, the Lashkar has found it easier to stock weapons and also cash in Kerala and have also managed to smuggle it out with much ease, once again using the sea route.

The last of the operations connecting these two modules was the Sultan park bombing. The JeM which is still very much active has remained to remain low key for the moment. Although there has been no major incident, there is still a lot of activity that goes on and hence it becomes extremely important to monitor movements into Kerala, the police feel.

The other interesting aspect is the visit made by another man called Inas Moosa to Kerala before the Sultan Park bombing. His visit is part of the record in Indian circles, but there is no trace of the man today. All the police know through their investigations is that Moosa had come down to Thiruvananthapuram and met with a couple of operatives before the attack.

Although India, Maldives and Pakistan have been speaking of curbing terror activities in Maldives, it does not appear that the Lashkar has let go easily. They have roped their best operatives including the D Gang to carry out operations in the Maldives. The D Gang has in fact set up three front companies in Maldives through which operations go on.

The IB says that all eyes are on Thiruvananthapuram where the JeM is headquartered. This front is a direct link to the Maldives operation. There is an attempt that is being made by the Lashkar to move out of Pakistan and make Maldives a big base and there is a lot of dependancy on the Indian modules for the same.

Apart from records available even the interrogations of various other operatives would show that Maldives is becoming a major hub for the Lashkar. Sarfaraz Nawaz, Sabahuddin among others have spoken about the Lashkar’s plans for Maldives. Nawaz even goes on to say that apart from Kerala they were also planning on linking the Tamil Nadu based modules for operations in Maldives.

Why Kerala temple money can’t be used for public purpose

Golden idol of Mahavishnu at Sri Padmanabhaswamy temple. Photo courtesy:

The Supreme Court today appointed a curator to look after the wealth at the Sri Padmanabhaswamy temple in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala. The treasure has been estimated at Rs 90,000 crore and there is a raging debate on what is to be done with all this wealth. Should it remain in the temple or be put to good use is the question.

The law in such cases is very interesting. Going strictly by the law and the various judgments of the Supreme Court it becomes clear that no one except the diety has a right over this wealth.

A diety in any temple in India as per the law is considered to be a juristic person. A juristic or a legal person is entitled to the wealth that has been given and can also fight a legal battle in case of any problem.

In the instant case all the wealth that has been found has been given to the diety and hence the diety usurps the ownership right over it, thus making it clear that no one else can use this wealth other than the diety.

Advocate General of Karnataka, Ashok Harnahalli explains. All this wealth belongs to the diety since it has been given in the name of the idol. There is a point being made that this wealth should be used for public purpose. However as per the law this is not possible. If ornaments and other treasure has been given to the temple then it is in the name of the diety and hence only the idol has the right over it. The other question is what happens if cash has been given. Here too the money can be used only for the development of the temple and not for any other use. In case the temple administration does decide to realize all these assets into cash, then again the money can be used only for the development of the temple in which the diety is placed.

As per the law and what has been laid by the Supreme Court of India, a diety is a juristic person. It has a legal jurisdiction and is capable of ownership of property. If anyone stakes a claim on this wealth which rightfully belongs to the diety, then it can fight a legal battle seeking its rights. However a diety is always represented by a guardian who would ideally be a member of the trust or the temple.

Take the famous Ayodhya verdict which was pronounced a year back. The legal battle was fought between two parites and one of the litigants was Ram Lalla. In any litigation concerning a temple, it is always the diety which is one of the litigants. The title deed of any temple in India is in the name of the diety and hence it becomes party to the suit.

The Supreme Court of India has clearly stated that a diety is a juristic person. It says that they are beings both real and imaginary to whom the law attributes a personality by way of fiction when there is none in fact. The Supreme Court further adds that a legal person or a juristic person is any entity other than human beings to which the law attributes a personality. The words ‘juristic person’ connote the recognition of an entity to be a person in law which otherwise it is not. In other words, it is not a natural person but an artificially created person which is to be recognised in law as such.

The Supreme Court also added that a juristic person is a holder of rights and duties and can own and dispose of property, can receive gifts, and it can sue and be sued in its name. Idols have been recognised to be juristic persons in Hindu law, which personifies the deity as a legal person. A Hindu idol is recognised by courts as a juristic entity having a judicial status, and its interests are attended to by a person who is in charge of the deity and who under law is its guardian or manager.

When this being the legal position it becomes clear that all talk of using the wealth at the Kerala temple for any other purpose other than the benefit of the temple is not a possibility. Hence if the state government wants to use this wealth for public purpose as is being sought by a few, it would need to go before the Supreme Court and challenge the existing set of laws regarding the ownership rights of a diety.

Will terrorists target temples for wealth?

Will the revelation that Rs 90,000 crore lies at the Sri Padnamanabhaswamy temple in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala given birth to more Ghaznis and Ghoris? History would show at that point of time these emperors looted temples since they were cash rich.

Now it has been pointed out by a couple of experts that making public such large amounts of wealth stashed away in temples would only attract terrorists. While this is one view, the Intelligence Bureau and the Research and Analysis Wing says that terrorists would attack temples not with an intention of taking away its wealth but only to create a social divide.

Among all the targets that are in place in India, intelligence agencies still rate places of religious worship high on the list. There have been many instances in the past to show that temples are terror targets and the Akshardham and Varanasi attacks are only proof of that. In addition to this the revealations by David Headley also reveal that he had surveyed a couple of temples which the Lashkar-e-Tayiba wanted to attack.

The question now is whether terrorists would attack places of religious worship for the money stashed in there or would it be to create a divide in society. C D Sahay, former chief of the Research and Analysis Wing says, “ I don’t think money would be criteria for terrorists in such cases. Temples are very high on the radar of these terrorist groups and every second ploy of theirs would involve a place of religious worship in it.”

I know that some people are claiming that revealing such wealth could attract terrorist groups. Although we need to be careful, I think it would be a bit far fetched to say that terrorist groups would try to do away with the money in our temples. Research and the pattern with which these groups have been working have shown that their intention is more to create a religious divide and hence they chose to attack temples. They can also stage an attack to create havoc and this again would be on the context of creating a religious divide and not to escape with the wealth. It would be very difficult for them to do so.

Another point I would make over here is which terrorist group today is short of cash? They have enough and more and once they are in the limelight the funds continue to pour in. Take for instance the London blasts and it has been revealed that the attack was carried out with 7000 pounds. This is not big money for these terrorist organizations and they can arrange this in no time. I would not walk that far to say that terrorist groups would attack temples for the money, but their one and only goal would be to cause destruction and a divide.

Sources in the Intelligence Bureau point out that guarding of temples is extremely difficult for security agencies. Devotees throng these places in large numbers and find it to be irritating to be frisked and checked at all times. A majority of our temples have bad security due to this reason and this attracts terrorist groups as it makes it an easy target. Moreover we have seen in the past that there has been a religious divide once a place of worship is attacked and these terror groups thrive on such situations. There is a need for the managements of these places to come forward and understand the grave threat there is to these places. More often than not, they are not too cooperative where security measures are concerned which only makes the job of security agencies even more difficult.

Sahay adds that terrorist groups have never believed in religious sanctity. However more importantly it is for the management to realize the importance of safeguarding the wealth which is national treasure. When this news regarding the finding of wealth came out, it worried me a great deal. The money is lying dead and this is a national wastage. I am not saying that this money should be taken out and used right away. It is all contributed by the kings and instead the trust would do well to create assets. The artefacts that have been found should be put out on display in order to display our national heritage so that people would get a better idea of what our civilization would be. Our temples not only represent our religion but also our national heritage.

While terror threats to the temples in Indian continue to loom large the biggest issue that we continue to face is that of bad security. Take the case when an intelligence alert was put out regarding the Madurai Meenakshi temple in Tamil Nadu. The security agencies found it extremely difficult to beef up security since the department for Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments was not too forthcoming and providing details regarding the security. Security experts point out this aspect and say that there is a tussle on since the department believes that it would cause a problem for the devotees who come to temples to worship and they would not want a security guard standing in between them and God.