Demolition drive near Jagannath temple comes to halt after protest by seers
The demolition drive of mutts (Hindu monasteries) around 75 metre perimeter of 12th century Jagannath temple would be halted for a couple of days after several seers protested against the razing of 600-year-old Bada Akhada mutt.
As excavators lined up before the Bada Akhada mutt, one of the 70-odd surviving Hindu monasteries in the temple town on Tuesday morning, several devotees and mahant of the mutt Hari Narayan Das sat inside the premises protesting against its demolition. The officials and police then entered the mutt and forcibly took Das away.
The stand-off continued till evening as 10 platoons of police cordoned off the mutt while the mahant and devotees asked the Odisha government to show the demolition approval since they said the building is marked as a heritage structure by Archaological Survey of India (ASI).
In the evening, a meeting was convened In which with Puri MLA Jayant Sarangi, members of Jagannath temple management committee, lawyers association and chief of several mutts decided to hold discussions with Puri district administration about the ongoing demolition drive.
“The Bada Akhada mutt was never a danger zone and neither have Endowment Commissioner or ASI mentioned anything about this. The administration should have a face to face meeting with senior mahants,” said Das, alleging that the district administration pressured him to sign documents mentioning that the mutt is a danger zone.
The Bada Akhada mutt is home to Ramanandi Naga sadhus who tried to protect the temple from the barbaric Afghan general Kalapahad in 1568.
The chiefs of other mutts around Jagannath temple who have received notice for demolition said the Supreme Court should have stayed illegal demolition as the Places of Worship (Special Provision) Act, 1991 protected rights of mutts.
The mahant of Sanachhata mutt said it was mutt of Ramanandi cult of Vaisnavism and should be preserved. Lord Rama is worshipped here with Goddess Sita and Laxman before Rath yatra, he said.
Puri district collector Balwant Singh said he would hold discussions with the mahants on Wednesday to chalk out a roadmap on the demolition drive.
Singh said as per the relief and rehabilitation package announced by the state government on September 2 under Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acqusition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013, anyone whose residential house has been razed would get an immediate assistance of Rs 50,000 for transportation and allied expenses. Similarly, those who have lost their shops to demolition drive, will get monthly rent till they are given shops in various market complexes of Puri.
The demolition of the mutts around the Jagannath temple for its security has come in for severe criticism from several quarters, including former BJD leaders. Former BJD MP Tathagat Satpathy said nobody has any right to demolish the historic structures of the state while Congress MLA Suresh Routray said the curse of the mutts would ruin the BJD government.