Atanu Dey On India's Development

Private Property

AP reports that a man from New York was fined Rs 209 and “kicked out” of the Puri Jagannath Temple for being a non-Hindu.

What I would be interested in learning is whether a piece of property is private or public. If the property is private, then the owners are free to impose whatever conditions they wish on who is allowed to enter it. If they clearly post that you cannot enter the private property, and yet you do, then you are subject to whatever is the posted penalty for violating someone’s private property rights. So for example, my house is my private property and if someone who I did not invite in were to enter without my permission, I have the right to impose reasonable penalty for the violation.

If the property is public, then anyone can enter subject to the usual conditions such as that visitors will conduct themselves appropriately, maintain decorum, etc. If the property is semi-private, then the private owners of the property often reserve the right to refuse admission. So a restaurant owner has the right to stop drunken people from entering.

Is the Puri Jagannath temple private, public, or semi-private?

I think if we — Indians, Americans, Martians — learn to respect private property, we would have made progress.

  • Harsh Gupta

    “So for example, my house is my private property and if someone who I did not invite in were to enter without my permission, I have the right to impose reasonable penalty for the violation.”

    You do NOT exactly have the right to impose “reasonable” penalty (because “reasonable” is subjective), but you certainly have the right to expect that the state will impose an appropriate penalty for infringing on your private property (when the infringer was clearly warned about the property being private)

    Let us say that I am a Muslim and I enter your private temple which says “Hindus only”. Let us say I feel like irritating you by not listening to your demand/request of leaving the temple. Whether you can ask your security guards to physically push me and beat me out of the temple falls into ambiguous territory. If your four security guard neatly and safely just carry me out and then lock the door, cool. But if I am strong enough for such a “no-injury” solution to not work out that crisply, can you shove me/slap me etc or should you call the police??

    But I do agree that respecting private property in general (and more importantly the right to create private property, again in general) is an absolute must for Indians and Martians to race ahead towards prosperity.

  • http://chanakya2006.blogspot.com AG

    I read somewhere that the Jagannath Puri temple is Private Property — owend by the Trust.

    Fortunately, that Trust still has suzerainty over the temple and has not been usurped by some Marxist/Christist government — as has happened in Kerala.

    Also remember that the Temple is not a meeting place — it is the *Home* of the deities of Puri (a temple is different from a mosque in that the deity is “viraajmaan” in the temple).

    Those wishing to defile the deities home can and should be ejected. I wont be suprised if that man was a missionary on a conversion agenda.

  • CCS

    While I cannot disagree with the concept of private property and what is the owner’s right to enforce etc, what still irks me is that in most places in India (I don’t know if this temple is an exception or not), these rules are never clearly stated or displayed anywhere and all enforcement is essentially entrapment of unsuspecting people with penalties levied at the discretion of anyone in any kind of authority.

    On a different note, I wonder if they allow people who are Hindu but border on the agnostic to atheistic end of the belief spectrum.

  • http://sudiptachatterjee.blogspot.com Sudipta Chatterjee

    What I can’t understand in these episodes is, apart from the discussion that is going on above: how can the entry of one man (or a thousand for that matter) defile the purity of something that has been the purest of the pure for more than a thousand years and of a thousand million devotees? More so if they don’t do anything out of the ordinary — they follow the rituals and customs that everyone else does?

    Atanu’s response: I see it very simply as a case of private property. It is not a matter of defilement or impurity. If I were to come to your home uninvited, regardless of my intention, you must have the right to refuse me entry and not have to justify your decision to anybody. The sanctity of private property is supreme if we have to have a stable society.

  • http://www.captainjohann.blogspot.com captainjohann, BANGALORE, INDIA

    Dear Shri Atanu,
    It is not a question of private or public.It is a question of faith.A hindu temple is historically owned by the state if they are very wealthy like the thirupathi balaji temple, but some are owned by trusts like the Kanchi temple by kanchi kamkotipeetham, while Palani temple is owned by the State while Madurai temple is owned by meenakshi trust.Most of the newly constructed north indian temples are owned by the Birlas and they are called normally “Birla mandirs”.But it is recognised by every hindu that the entry to temples are restricted by historical traditions. dalits are normally not allowed in most of the temples as also the non Hindus.But the sheer size of population makes it immpossible to enforce but enforced only on white skinned christians and known rulers like Rajiv and Indira whoa re refused entry into kathmandu temple and puri temple because they are parsees or married to a parsee.
    Ayyappa temple doesnot allow woman.

    Atanu’s response: No, captainjohann, whether something is private property or not is precisely the question. If it is private, the owner has the right to refuse entry to whomever he or she deems undesireable. If it is not private property, that is, if it is public commons, then people can be excluded only by public policy. Public policy cannot, and must not, impose any restrictions on the rights of private property owners.

  • http://apunkadesh.blogspot.com/ Apun Ka Desh

    I have never seen a better justification been attempted at what is basically a perverted practice. A place of worship not open to outsiders – what does it tell about us?

    Indians raise such a hue and cry at the slightest real/perceived mistreatment abroad… and here we are!

    Atanu’s response: You misunderstand me. I am not justifying discrimination. I am explaining a principle which says that private property is sacrosanct. I do not support the discrimination that certain people make but I cannot deny them the right for them to do so. There is a disctinction between recognizing the right to be able to do so, even while simultaneously disapproving of actions that follow from exercising the right. I was in Kathmandu some years ago on a visit and went to the famous Pashupathinath temple over there. Over the entrance it said, “Only Hindus Allowed.” I am a Hindu. I decided that I really did not wish to enter that temple. I exercised my right to go in or not, just as the temple management exercised their right to decide who they wish to allow in.

    Apun ka desh, I value freedom over most other things. People have to be free. And that means that they have the right to do what they wish — as long as they don’t stop others from exercising their own similar freedoms. You may disapprove of the Jagannath temple not allowing non-Hindus but you have to defend their right to do so. It is not dissimilar to my defending your right to disallow raving economists from entering your house even though it effectively blocks me from being your guest.

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  • http://www.tangled-up-in-views.blogspot.com Meraj

    Very well made point and I completely agree with you.

    Any private property is sacrosanct. But any reaction to somebody violating it should be handled in the civilized manner befitting a democracy/humanity. Later if things become bad, the role of law enforcing organization comes into the picture. I guess thats what you meant by the usage ‘reasonable penalty’ Atanu.

  • http://gudem.blogspot.com Chandra

    I am fairly sure I saw a picture of Puri temple that has a clear sign that says that only Hindus can go into the temple.

    In any case, the temple website clearly states:

    “Important Notice
    Only Hindus are allowed to enter in the Temple.”

    http://www.purionline.com/puri/temple_information.htm

    With regards to private/public spaces nothing in India is so clear cut. But if a temple supported by Orissa state government has such a sign, should that be illegal? I don’t think so as long as it’s clearly stated.

  • Guru Gulab Khatri

    Well an interesting point is when i was asked to cover my hair when going to a sikh temple.
    I could have argued freedom of showing my hair, but it was their property and their rule.
    PS if you want to come to my house, you have to be naked.

  • Sanjay

    Atanu, for once I disagree with you.

    Can I use my private property to indulge in an act in violation of the law of the land? Say for a rave party? The answer is, no. So, what is so special about Puri temple? Why should it be allowed to violate the law that says caste based discrimination to entry in temples is illegal? OK. I agree, it was not exactly a case of caste based discrimination, but a case of religion based discrimination. Nonetheless, the point stands that my private property rights are sacrosanct only to the extent they are not repugnant to law.

    Atanu’s response: Yes, you can have a rave party, provided those living around your property don’t hear it or have trash thrown on their property by your guests.

    Nothing special about the Puri temple. If it is private property, they have a right to throw out anyone they don’t want on the premises. I am not sure how this simple principle is so hard to understand.

    Discriminating on the basis of a dimension that is relevant is very important. If I am hiring a female doctor for a specific purpose, I must discriminate against male doctor applicants; if I am hiring a priest for a Parsee temple, I must discriminate against non-Parsees; if I am looking for someone to design my house, I will have to discriminate against non-architects, etc. There are entirely reasonable grounds for discriminating along religious lines if that dimension is relevant. So if I am looking for an accountant, I may be wrong to discriminate on religious grounds but when I am looking for a pujari for a Ganesh temple, I better discriminate on the basis of religion.

    I think we need to distinguish cases where religion is relevant, where private property is important, and so on. Let’s think about it a little longer.

  • Rajeev Kartha

    I read the above comments by various individuals. As far as i understand God made man, and man made religion so what is the fuss about….
    Temple is a place of worship, so it cannot be called as private. Above all private places cannot be used for gaining revenue, and gods are not a private to a specific individual. Gods are public property and every individual in a democratic country should have the right to visit places of worship of any religion

    Atanu’s response: Do you have a little prayer room at home or do you know of anyone who had a little prayer room in their homes? Now does that make that space public property? Can I barge into your home saying that I am going to pray in the puja room?

    How do you know that god created man? How do you arrive at the conclusion that god is public property? How did you arrive at the conclusion that in a democratic (whatever that means) society everyone should be allowed to do enter other people’s private property?

  • http://valluvar.blogspot.com shiv

    The real solution is to burn the damn temple down. Then it is an arson issue and not discriminatory. I can always claim that puri jaggananth appeared in a dream and asked me to. After all if you can accept the rest of the crap any relegion feeds you why not mine ? Except for the historical value i dont see any reason for any place of worship to exist. Private or otherwise. Though the concept of a state owned temple is mind boggling. However as someone said ‘ I despise your views on the subject but will fight to the death to allow you to express it’.

  • Desi

    So… by Atanu’s argument… a private property can have Rave Party’s and can even be turned into a Brothel… and that would be alright, as long as it was in middle of a jungle!

    Khatri Sir, it is OK to ask people to remove shoes or cover their heads before coming to place of worship. But not ok to ask them to come naked, or get lost.

    Even so, How can a Panda fine anyone? Can ordinary citizens start fining each other? All folks with their pyjamas on entering house will be fined by Mr Guru Gulab Khatri.

  • Sanjay

    Atanu’s response: Do you have a little prayer room at home or do you know of anyone who had a little prayer room in their homes? Now does that make that space public property? Can I barge into your home saying that I am going to pray in the puja room?

    Certainly not.

    However, if you advertized in public that everyone can enter the temple in my house except dalits, you would violate the law of the land. This very stance was taken by Naathdwara temple in denying entry rights to dalits. The high court ruled that by allowing ‘people in general’, temple administration had implicitly made it a public place of worship and therefore practicing caste based discrimination was illegal.

    No one can be above the law – neither Puri temple nor Atanu.

    Atanu’s response: Let’s all calm down and look at the issue. I did not say that the Puri temple was private property. If you read what I have been writing, you will note that I claim that the owners of private property have the right to deny entry to whomever they wish. Period. The rest is details. If Puri temple is public property, then different rules apply.

  • Sanjay

    Atanu’s response: Let’s all calm down and look at the issue. I did not say that the Puri temple was private property. If you read what I have been writing, you will note that I claim that the owners of private property have the right to deny entry to whomever they wish. Period. The rest is details. If Puri temple is public property, then different rules apply.

    OK, I have calmed down.

    But the logic above is still incorrect.

    It is the use of a hindu temple that determines its character, not the ownership. Regardless of its ownership, Puri temple is subject to public policy, if it is being used as a public place of worship.

  • Abhijit

    This is very interesting. I agree with Sanjay. As far as I know, there are several restrictions on what you can and cannot do on a your piece of private property. In Delhi, for instance, opening a shop or setting up a factory in an exclusively residential area is illegal. There is also the matter of modifying or renovating your house which requires authorization from competitive authorities. In such cases,your activities are bound to affect your immediate environment and safety of others. Ergo, I feel restrictions on private space are to some extent actually needed.

    Methinks the bigger question is, do such orthodox and discriminatory practices have a place in the “modern” democratic cliche’ ? Religious reforms anyone ?

  • santosh ku. swain

    we are a 10 membered group and completely agree with you.we have searched on this a lot and came to know that There is some evidence that this came into force following a series of invasions by foreigners into the temple and surrounding area.If there is realy any justified reason then we want to know that.