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Kedarnath Temple 'Gold Scam': Did Over Rs 1 Bn Worth of Gold Really Disappear?

Trivedi alleges that the ₹125 crore worth of gold used to layer the walls have been replaced by brass.

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On 16 June, Pahadi Khabarnama News, an Uttarakhand news website, published a video of Santosh Trivedi, a senior priest at the Kedarnath Temple in the state, making accusations that a massive scam has taken place in the temple.

In the video, he alleges that the ₹125 crore worth of gold used to layer the walls of the sanctum sanctorum in the Kedarnath Temple has been replaced by brass.

"... [the sanctum sanctorum] was studded with gold months back, but when I entered [the temple] today, the gold had been switched with brass! ... ₹125 crores worth of gold is gone! This is fraud!"
Santosh Trivedi (Translated from Hindi to English)

Trivedi also stated in the recording that he believed a member of the Badrinath-Kedarnath Temple Committee (BKTC) – the committee that oversees both major temples in the area – was liable for the missing gold.

He declared that if 'action was not taken against the accused, a protest would be launched to drive them away from the temple'.

But how much truth is there to the accusations? How did they begin, and what does the BKTC have to say? Here's what we know.

Kedarnath Temple 'Gold Scam': Did Over Rs 1 Bn Worth of Gold Really Disappear?

  1. 1. What Are the Allegations & How Much Evidence Exists?

    Around the time that Trivedi's accusations gained traction, multiple videos began to surface on Twitter of what looked like workers inside the temple's sanctum sanctorum holding bottles of polish labelled 'gold wash'.

    One of these videos was posted by ex-Kedarnath Congress MLA Manoj Rawat. In the caption, he said that an attempt was made to 'cover up the brass with gold polish while the temple was closed at night', which is what Trivedi claimed had happened as well.

    Following the contention, Uttarakhand tourism minister Satpal Maharaj told The Times of India in an interview on Monday, 19 June, that an inquiry was underway to find the truth.

    "I've spoken to chief secretary SS Sandhu, Rudraprayag district magistrate Mayur Dixit, and religious affairs secretary Harish Chand Semwal and directed them to conduct a high-level probe into the matter. We want to know the truth, and on the basis of the findings, further action will be taken."
    Satpal Maharaj
    Expand
  2. 2. What Does the BKTC Have To Say?

    The BKTC quickly addressed the allegations, calling it a 'hoax' and describing the assertions as nothing more than 'petty and political'.

    In a press release, they clarified that 23,777.8 g of gold was used to decorate the sanctum sanctorum with the help of a donor. This, according to the current market rate, would be valued at ₹14.38 crores – nowhere near the amount that Trivedi had claimed. 

    They also mentioned that a majority of the decoration was done using 1,001 kg of copper, valued at ₹29 lakh. This would indicate that the amount they received from their donor, an anonymous businessman from Maharashtra (according to Ajay Ajendra, the chairman of the BKTC), was much less than what was propounded.

    Trivedi alleges that the ₹125 crore worth of gold used to layer the walls have been replaced by brass.

    A copy of the press release sent out by the BKTC.

    In a statement to ANI, Ajendra said that the 'conspiracy' was created by individuals that were unhappy with the rising number of devotees visiting the Kedarnath Temple following improved facilities implemented under the leadership of Narendra Modi. 

    "If donors' feelings continue to be insulted like this, then no one will come forward for donation cooperation and infrastructure development in pilgrimages. I want to ask these anti-Hindu Congress leaders ... why do they never question the wealth in mosques and madrassas? The Congress has always tried to play with the sentiments of Hindus and Hindu temples."
    Ajay Ajendra to ANI on 18 June

    The BKTC asserted that legal action has and will be initiated against anyone found to be 'peddling fake news'.

    Expand

What Are the Allegations & How Much Evidence Exists?

Around the time that Trivedi's accusations gained traction, multiple videos began to surface on Twitter of what looked like workers inside the temple's sanctum sanctorum holding bottles of polish labelled 'gold wash'.

One of these videos was posted by ex-Kedarnath Congress MLA Manoj Rawat. In the caption, he said that an attempt was made to 'cover up the brass with gold polish while the temple was closed at night', which is what Trivedi claimed had happened as well.

Following the contention, Uttarakhand tourism minister Satpal Maharaj told The Times of India in an interview on Monday, 19 June, that an inquiry was underway to find the truth.

"I've spoken to chief secretary SS Sandhu, Rudraprayag district magistrate Mayur Dixit, and religious affairs secretary Harish Chand Semwal and directed them to conduct a high-level probe into the matter. We want to know the truth, and on the basis of the findings, further action will be taken."
Satpal Maharaj
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What Does the BKTC Have To Say?

The BKTC quickly addressed the allegations, calling it a 'hoax' and describing the assertions as nothing more than 'petty and political'.

In a press release, they clarified that 23,777.8 g of gold was used to decorate the sanctum sanctorum with the help of a donor. This, according to the current market rate, would be valued at ₹14.38 crores – nowhere near the amount that Trivedi had claimed. 

They also mentioned that a majority of the decoration was done using 1,001 kg of copper, valued at ₹29 lakh. This would indicate that the amount they received from their donor, an anonymous businessman from Maharashtra (according to Ajay Ajendra, the chairman of the BKTC), was much less than what was propounded.

Trivedi alleges that the ₹125 crore worth of gold used to layer the walls have been replaced by brass.

A copy of the press release sent out by the BKTC.

In a statement to ANI, Ajendra said that the 'conspiracy' was created by individuals that were unhappy with the rising number of devotees visiting the Kedarnath Temple following improved facilities implemented under the leadership of Narendra Modi. 

"If donors' feelings continue to be insulted like this, then no one will come forward for donation cooperation and infrastructure development in pilgrimages. I want to ask these anti-Hindu Congress leaders ... why do they never question the wealth in mosques and madrassas? The Congress has always tried to play with the sentiments of Hindus and Hindu temples."
Ajay Ajendra to ANI on 18 June

The BKTC asserted that legal action has and will be initiated against anyone found to be 'peddling fake news'.

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It further reported that the work on the sanctum sanctorum was carried out by a team directed by six experts from the Central Building Research Institute, IIT-Roorkee, and the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).

However, Trivedi, in an interview with The Times of India on Monday, claimed that there was an inconsistency in the BKTC's statements, pointing out that when the gold plating was done last year, the amount of gold used was approximated to be 230 kg – not 23 kg – like the BKTC just announced.

Trivedi alleges that the ₹125 crore worth of gold used to layer the walls have been replaced by brass.

The Kedarnath shrine. 

(Photo: PTI)

It is difficult to comment on the veracity of the assertions made by Trivedi and various other politicians, as we do not yet know the authenticity of the videos circulating on social media or the basis of Trivedi's claims.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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Topics:  Twitter   Uttarakhand   Scam 

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