The Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) has issued a new circular warning its officials of strict action if they did not prevent the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) from conducting the functioning of its shakhas — or branches — on its temple premises.

The circular was issued following complaints from devotees that its earlier order to the same effect was not implemented.

In the order issued on 18 May, the TDB directed its officials to ban RSS activities on temple premises.

TDB president K Ananthagopan confirmed the issuing of the fresh order and added that the governing body wanted to address the believers’ complaints peacefully.

Divine space

“The order was initially issued in 2021. A few temples have been facing issues due to the functioning of the RSS shakhas,” Ananthagopan told South First.

“Temples are a pure and divine space and they should remain that way,” he further said.

“When you conduct such activities on temple premises, people with opposing views and beliefs would naturally object to it. There have been complaints against RSS activities at temples. We are objecting only to its activities in temple premises,” he added.

He said there had been no direct communication between the board and the RSS regarding the matter.

“This is the directive to the officials. They will resolve the issue amicably. We are reminding the officials yet again since many of them did not comply with the earlier directive,” he said.

No to RSS drills

A copy of the order accessed by South First stated that in March 2021, the TDB had asked its officials to prohibit the RSS from holding drills at temples under the board.

The board directed its officials to ensure that armed or unarmed drills did not take place on temple premises.

It also advised the officials against providing temple resources to third-party groups.

“But it has come to the notice of the board that the said order is not being properly followed. Strict disciplinary action will be taken against the officers who do not comply with the order,” the board stated in the fresh directive.

The RSS in Kerala

Despite the BJP’s inability to make an impact on electoral politics in Kerala, the RSS, the party’s ideological parent, has made significant inroads in the state.

According to RSS Joint General Secretary Krishna Gopal, in 2020, the RSS had 4,500 shakhas spread across the state, the highest for any state in the country.

The RSS started its operations in Kerala in Kozhikode in the year 1942. The saffron outfit’s initial focus remained the Malabar region of the state.

In 1951, it launched its mouth piece, Kesari Malayalam Weekly, in Kozhikode.

In 2018-2019, the RSS spearheaded a movement against the Supreme Court order allowing entry of women into Sabarimala temple in Kerala, also a temple under the Travancore Devaswom Board.

The RSS fiercly criticised the “hasty implementation” of the Supreme Court order by the Pinarayi Vijayan-led LDF government.

Since its inception, the Left parties, especially the CPI(M), has been the biggest rival of the RSS, and each year many of cadres from both sides die of political conflicts…