Still waiting for hearing on Isha Foundation’s illegal construction in TN: Activists
Activists fighting the alleged illegal constructions by Isha Foundation of spiritual guru Jaggi Vasudev in an environmentally sensitive area in Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu have said the delay in the hearing of the litigation seeking their demolition is frustrating.
M Puruthothaman, lawyer for the Vellingiri Hill Tribal Protection Society that filed the public interest litigation against unauthorised structures on the wet lands at Ikkarai Poluvampatti, told the Hindustan Times they are “still waiting for the matter to come up for hearing” in the Madras high court after filing the PIL in March.
A few days before the PIL was filed, Prime Minister Narendra Modi unveiled a 112-feet bust of Lord Shiva on Mahasivaratri at the Isha Yoga Centre in Coimbatore on February 24. Activists asked Modi not to preside over the unveiling of the statue alleging a violation of environmental norms by the Isha Foundation.
The Foundation has been embroiled in a controversial legal battle over its compound in Coimbatore since 2012 and has even received demolition notices from the state government in the past.
Besides the PIL filed by the society, another application claimed before the southern bench of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) it is located in Velliangiri foothills, which is a man-animal conflict area.
Purushothaman said the deputy director of town and country planning of the Coimbatore region also admitted the Foundation built structures without any permission in a counter affidavit filed in the Madras high court.
The villages, where the Isha Foundation’s centre has come up, are located within the jurisdiction of Hill Area Conservation Authority (HACA) from where it must get clearances for erecting any structures.
Activists have also questioned Coimbatore’s district collector decision to allow Isha Foundation to carry out the constructions after objections were raised by the district forest officer and allowed the foundation to construct in six acres of wet lands.
Isha Foundation denied all the allegations and said it had the necessary permissions.
“Isha Foundation has not grabbed any forest land as was being alleged. Forest officials have surveyed the area and inspected the entire area. They are in the process of submitting a report to the Madras high court, clearly stating this. The forest officials are also pointing out to the presence of fruit bearing trees, some over 30 years old, in the region to prove that it was not forest land, but agricultural land,” Swami Rahul told the Hindustan Times.
The forest department report will also puncture the allegations that the Isha Foundation structures are in the elephant corridor, Swami Rahul said adding “some temporary structures were constructed for the Mahashivaratri celebrations, which we are now in the process of demolition.”
The dismantling of the temporary structures was to be completed last month, but the rain came in the way. “We will soon complete the dismantling of temporary structures,” Swami Rahul said.
“We have been time and again instructed by Sadguru to abide by the law of the land,” he added.