Old video of priests arguing with govt officials in Karnataka temple shared with misleading claim

A video of priests embroiled in a verbal altercation and toppling the donation box in a temple has been shared on social media. Twitter user @TapasNiyama linked the video to the Ram Mandir Bhumi Pujan held on August 5 and how the event has brought about a wave “change”. He wrote, “In Karnataka when the govt servants came to collect the hundi money they demanded them to get the donations from Church & Masjid.” This tweet has 9,000 likes and over 5,000 retweets as of this writing.

Author Advaita Kala also shared the video and wrote, “यदि भक्तों का पैसा हिंदुओं के लिए प्रयोग नहीं हो तो दान पेटी क्यों? (If the money of worshippers is not being utilised by Hindus, what is the use of the donation box?)” wrote author Advaita Kala allegedly quoting the priests. She claimed that they were protesting “government control” of temples. Her tweet drew close to 4,000 retweets.

Twitter user Gaurav Pradhan and @bellhampi also shared the video. So did the Facebook page ‘Pushpendra Kulshrestha Fans Club’.

 

कर्नाटक के पुजारियों ने मंदिर से दान पेटी हटाना शुरू कर दी है। कहा यदि भक्तों का पैसा हिंदुओं के लिए प्रयोग नहीं होना तो दान पेटी क्यों।

Posted by Pushpendra Kulshrestha Fans Club on Friday, 7 August 2020

Fact-check

In a reply to Advaita Kala, a user wrote that the clip was shot at Kolaramna Temple in 2015. Based on this, we performed a keyword search on Facebook and found that several users had shared the video in 2015

A Twitter user also shared a screenshot of an article on Kannada daily Prajavani published on October 31, 2015. According to the report, “Priests disrupted worship services in the famous Kolarmma Temple on Friday. On the order of the High Court, District Collector Dr KV Trilokachandra and Muzrai Department officials had arrived at the temple in the afternoon. Priests engaged in worship at the temple had an argument with the authorities.”

In Karnataka, as many as 34,559 temples come under the ambit of the Muzrai Department, according to a report in The Indian Express from July 26, 2020.

Prajavani reported that the priests had removed a hundi placed by the government in the Kolaramna temple eight years ago for collecting donations. Such donations are taxed by the state. The priests had appealed in the High Court to get the hundi removed but they lost the case and the district administration reinstalled the hundi. The priests had an argument when government officials visited the temple to place the hundi. “We have eight priests who rely upon this profession. What should we do to maintain our lives if the authorities set up a hundi? How do we raise children?” the priests were quoted by Prajavani.

Therefore, video from 2015 where priests had an argument with government officials placing a hundi was revived on social media. The incident was shared as recent. While most linked the incident to Ram Mandir Bhumi Pujan and claimed that the priests asked officials to collect money from mosques and churches, author Advaita Kala exaggerated the false claim. She claimed that the priests were objecting as the money donated by “Hindu devotees” was not being utilised for the welfare of Hindus.

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