Tension prevailed at the Durgiana Temple complex after the Amritsar Improvement Trust (AIT), as part of its beautification drive in the area, conducted an early morning demolition drive on Wednesday, with some local residents opposing the operation, which lasted several hours.
Armed with heavy police security and equipped with JCB machines, the AIT officials arrived at the spot at around 5 am to acquire four kanals and 15 marlas of land in the third phase of the beautification scheme.
The demolition squad razed around 47 structures, including those that had come up around the Durgiana Temple and two ancient temples in its vicinity.
A parking lot and a plaza are proposed to be built in the area under the beautification scheme, said the AIT officials.
The trouble arose when the demolition squad approached the two adjacent temples. The residents and occupants of the two temples put up a stiff resistance, fearing that the squad would demolish these temples as well.
The protestors reportedly sat in front of the earth movers in a bid to prevent the demolition squad from going ahead with its work. The police, however, managed to chase them away. A few of the protestors were rounded up by the police, only to be let off later.
"Seeing the sensitivity of the situation, we refrained from touching the two temples and only razed the constructions that had come up outside them. The demolition was undertaken as part of the Durgiana Temple beautification plan," said Sandeep Rishi, chairman, AIT.
"We have only removed the extensions of these two temples, comprising rooms and have not touched the temples at all," said Rishi. He maintained that the acquisition in the first two phases of the project had already been undertaken previously and the third phase too had been set in motion on Wednesday.
Rishi said that the shopkeepers, who had been given evacuation notices earlier, had already been rehabilitated elsewhere. Rishi said in the first phase of the beautification drive, an underground parking would be erected at a an estimated cost of `20 crore. This would be followed by a commercial plaza.
He added that the second phase entailed the construction of a 'joda ghar' (place meant for keeping shoes), an auditorium and an open-air theatre while the third phase was all about the beautification of the area for which the demolition was being undertaken.
"The aim of the drive is to remove the too many structures making the area highly congested. Now, the Durgiana Temple would be visible to all from a distance," Rishi said.