Two priests at the Guruvayoorappan (Sri Krishna) temple on the Eastern Express highway at the foot of the Sion Fort have alleged that the police picked them up without a formal complaint, hours before they were to offer pooja on October 8, the first evening of Navratri.
The priests, senior priest Venu Namboodiri, 60, and junior priest Prashob Namboodiri, 30, alleged that the police, under pressure from a builder, detained them for hours without an arrest warrant.
The Ramanugraha Trust that runs the temple has requested the governor to intervene.
The land was bought by Omkar Builders three months ago. Kaushik More, partner in Omkar Builders, said they want to negotiate with the trust and run the temple. Asked if he had lodged a complaint against the priests, More told the Hindustan Times: “I think some complaint has been filed. I do not know what the charges are.’’
The land was a vacant land tenancy plot whose rights were held by an air conditioner distributor, Gopa Gopakumar, who has decided to shift to Chennai.
The temple trust, which has been paying the previous owner rent, denied that the builder approached it for negotiations.
“Nearly 40 days ago, More told us the temple would be demolished overnight,” Anand Nair, chief patron of the trust, alleged. “We saved it by posting our security guards. The case comes up in the court on Monday.’’ The priests alleged when the police failed to make a case of trespassing against them, they were put through a breath analyser test on the grounds that they were drunk and creating a ruckus in the temple at noon on Friday.
Tulsiram Nagre, senior police inspector of Sion police station, dismissed these allegations. Nagre claimed that on Friday the temple authorities had posted private security dressed like priests. “We detained only the security personnel as preventive action. We did not detain any priest,” Nagre said.
Prashob alleged that the police abused them and kept them hungry for more than seven hours. “The older priest was not allowed even his medicines,” he alleged, adding that the Sion police refused to register their complaint of intimidation by the builders’ men. Sanjeev Dayal, police commissioner, said: “I am not aware of the issue.” Sanjay Baviskar, deputy commissioner of police (zone IV), was not available for comment because he is on leave.
Vinit Agarwal, additional commissioner of police (central region) said: “I do not know if a case has been registered.”
Nagre said the trust had hired security guards although the builder had given the municipal corporation a written assurance that he would only use the space for parking. “We had told the builder and the trust to remove the security and that we will station a van there to avert any clashes,” Nagre said.