Demolition drive resumes in Puri as mutt seers write to CJI seeking stay
Excavators on Thursday tore through the remnants of the 900-year-old Emar Mutt around the boundary wall of the 12th-century Jagannath Temple in Odisha’s Puri as the district administration’s demolition drive resumed.
The demolition restarted a day after seers of several such mutts or Hindu monasteries wrote an open letter to the Supreme Court seeking a stay on the razing of the mutts around the temple.
The demolition of Emar Mutt, one of the oldest Hindu monasteries of Puri, was halted last week after its mahant Rajgopal Ramanuj Das refused to come out of the half-demolished structure protesting the government move of clearing the area around the 75metre perimeter of the Jagannath Temple.
Excavators on Thursday also demolished some of the commercial structures around the monastery even though Emar Mutt’s Das continued to remain inside.
Old structures around the Jagannath Temple are being razed since August 27 after a committee headed by a retired judge of Orissa High Court BP Das recommended the removal of such buildings early this year.
Also read: Discontent grows against demolition spree near Odisha’s Jagannath temple
The seers have said in their letter on Wednesday to the Chief Justice of India against the “unjustified and uncalled for the destruction of heritage structures”.
“Last week, we heard the advocate general of Odisha make a false claim before the bench headed by justice Arun Misra that the mahants of the mutts have given their assent for this dastardly act of destroying centuries-old mutts. We have certainly not given consent for destruction or demolition of our Mutts. We are being forced by the district administration to consent to demolition now,” the letter said.
The mahants have said the interlocutory application by Chennai-based organisation Indic Collective trust for a stay on the demolition was dismissed by the top court’s bench without a due hearing based on the statement of Odisha’s attorney general Ashok Parija.
“The SC asked the Amicus Curiae Ranjit Kumar and Solicitor General Tushar Mehta to visit Puri and file a report on the status. But the state government is not even waiting for the visit of the Amicus,” the Mahants alleged in their letter. “They are hell-bent on destroying the heritage structure as quickly as possible without even a formal study or plan and certainly without our consent,” said.
Ranjit Kumar and Tushar Mehta are scheduled to visit Puri no Friday to inquire into the allegations of unauthorised eviction drive.
“These mutts are also heritage structures which are centuries old. Great acharyas like Ramanujacharya, Nimbark Acharya, Madhwa Acharya, Dasanami, Ramananda Acharya, Bishnu Swami, Ballabhacharya established these mutts. They have both material and spiritual significance,” the letter said.
The letter was written on the same as talks between Puri’s district collector Balwant Singh and a 15-member team representing various stakeholders over the ongoing demolition ended without any result on Wednesday.
“The demolition of commercial structures will continue near Srimandir and we are consulting on minimising the inconveniences of people. Focus is being given on safety and security of devotees and a complete blueprint of the demolition work has been prepared,” said Singh.
Since last week, the Puri district administration demolished the historic Languli Mutt and semi-demolished the Emar Mutt, drawing ire of the seers including Puri Shankaracharya Swami Nischalananda Saraswati as well as political parties.
The Bada Akhada Mutt, a 600-year-old monastery, was about to come under bulldozers on Tuesday when several seers including its mahant Hari Narayan Das vehemently protested, resulting in its postponement.
Officials have said around 18 such mutts out of 70-odd are likely to be razed in the ongoing demolition drive.
The ongoing demolition drive of mutts and other commercial structures has been criticised by the Shankaracharya of Govardhan Peeth Swami Nischalananda Saraswati and the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), who have slammed the Biju Janata Dal government for the decision.
Senior BJP leader Bijoy Mohapatra has come out strongly against the demolition drive, saying in the last seven days Srikhetra, as Puri is called popularly, has turned into a Kurukshetra (a battlefield).
“The government doesn’t have any constitutional or legal rights to demolish the heritage structures. A few people have claimed that the move has been implemented based on a report of the BP Das Commission,” Mohapatra said on Wednesday.
“It’s an interim report. And even before the final report was produced, the Commission’s tenure ended. Neither the report has been tabled in the Assembly, nor have the details come to light,” he added.
Mohapatra alleged that the state government is clueless and has not revealed what exactly it has aimed to do after this eviction.
“During Nabakalebara in 2015, the government spent close to Rs 500 crores for development in Puri. However, the details of the expenditure weren’t shared. People now are being asked to sacrifice their land for Lord Jagannath so that the government will loot everything. This is unacceptable,” he said.