Friday, December 4, 2020
Home Government and Policy The Demolition Drive at Puri : Perspectives of all stakeholders

The Demolition Drive at Puri : Perspectives of all stakeholders

The mathadheesh of already demolished Emar Matha, Rajagopal Das puts it bluntly. "Only during the reigns of Islamic tyrants, Hindu religious institutions were destroyed in such manner".

Last month, the Odisha government led by Naveen Patnaik announced a slew of infrastructure projects to develop Puri into a world heritage city, amounting to 500 crore rupees and a result of that, a demolition drive is being carried out in Puri that has resulted in a massive controversy.

This includes restoring two rivers – Musa and Mangala – the creation of riverfront and a pilgrimage centre at Jagannatha Ballava. The NH 316 connecting Bhubaneswar-Puri will also get a cloverleaf exchange at Satapada bypass. There has also been a plan of a cable-stayed bridge at the same spot. Yesterday, the government took a massive beach cleaning exercise, involving 10,000 volunteers, touted as World’s largest beach cleaning exercise.

The state government seems to be on mission mode to renovate Puri and remodel the city into a world heritage city. As part of this, on 16th August, the state cabinet had approved a proposal to remove all the structures within the 75-metre radius of Shri Jagannatha temple to ensure safety and security of the 12th-century shrine.

The Demolition Drive at Puri, Odisha

Following the cabinet order, the demolition drive started on the 27th of August. So far mathas, around 300 dwelling units and a few hundred commercial establishments have been demolished. Among the mathas that have been demolished is Languli matha, Emar matha, Bada Akhada matha. Next on the radar are both Mangu and Punjabi mathas which hold special significance among Sikhs. Punjab CM Capt Amrinder Singh has written a letter to Naveen Patnaik requesting to stay the demolition of these 2 mathas as tens of thousands of Sikhs who visit Shri Jagannatha Temple every year also visit these mathas.

After Capt Singh’s letter, the Odisha government has given assurance that these two mathas will not be harmed. As many as 14 other small and big mathas are still on the list to be demolished. Radha Ballabha, Balaramakotaand Uttara Parswa Mathaare some of the significant mathas among others.

Demolition drive in Puri, Odisha

The Odisha Government’s stand on the demolition drive

The rationale for this ongoing demolition drive that the government has provided, is the safety and security of the temple which stems its root from Justice BP Das Commission report which has not been made public for reasons best known to the government.

“Terrorism has arisen as a major danger for the whole world. Terrorism has no religion. They target the holy places of various religions. It is therefore very essential to implement the recommendations that have come to ensure Srimandir’s security,” said CM Naveen Patnaik while briefing the media on the ongoing demolition drive.

“There are homes, commercial establishments and mathas immediately surrounding the temple. We are helpless if someone throws hazardous materials inside the temple by standing outside the boundary wall” quips a senior police official.

“We want this area cleared of all buildings, many of which are illegal, to facilitate strict vigil and prevent a terror attack. Since there are many structures adjacent to the main temple, it would have been very easy for terrorists to launch an attack on the temple,” said Puri district collector Balwant Singh.

There are of course structures built right next to Meghanad Pracheri, the 24 feet boundary wall surrounding the temple, some of which actually are built with the support of the wall itself and of course pose a threat to the physical structure. Most of the houses and commercial establishments around this area are illegal too and have been built on the temple land. However, the terrorism threat seems a bit out of place. If at all, it’s unlikely that the mathas also pose a similar threat.

What the Honourable Supreme Court has said so far

Two PILs were filed in SC to put a stay on the demolition drive. Odisha state advocate general pleading for the government submitted that the unsafe structures were being demolished with the consent of stakeholders to create a heritage corridor around Meghanad Pracheribefore the upcoming Nagarjuna Besha in 2020, which is happening after 25 years and may attract upwards of 15 lakhs people.

After several Mathadheesh wrote to SC to stop the demolition of the Mathas, SC sent amicus curiae Ranjit Kumar to make a field visit and file a report. Ranjit Kumar along with SG Tushar Mehta, went to the temple to have darshan after arriving in the city. Thereafter, he held meetings with SJTA (Shri Jagannatha Temple Administration) chief administrator Krishan Kumar, collector Balwant Singh, DIG Ashish Singh, SP Umashankar Dash. He also had closed-door meetings with various mathadheesh, chief servitor of Puri temple, chairman of the temple body, king of Puri Gajapati Dibyasingh Deb and also with Puri Shankaracharya Swamy Nischalananda Saraswati in Gobardhan Peeth.

He physically verified the ongoing demolition and beautification work. The report he submitted to SC suggests that there is no forcible displacement and the drive conducted by government is needed to transform Puri into a heritage corridor as well as necessary for the safety of the shrine. Everything is done as per law and temple stakeholders are cooperating. Following Ranjit Kumar’s report, SC has given a go ahead with the demolition drive.

What the Mathadheeshs and Seers are saying

The mathadheesh of already demolished Emar Matha, Rajagopal Das puts it bluntly. “Only during the reigns of Islamic tyrants, Hindu religious institutions were destroyed in such manner”. Puri Shankaracharya Swamy Nischalananda Saraswati of the Gobardhan Peeth is equally scathing in his attack. He says, “The demolitions have a larger and more sinister motive and are a conspiracy against Sanatana Dharma”. He terms Justice BP Das commission report illegal as it has been prepared without consulting all stakeholders and presents one side of the view. Also, it has neither been made public nor tabled on the floor of the house.

What the Cultural Experts and Archaeologists have to say

Apart from the safety and security of the 12th-century shrine, another argument the government is putting forward is, many of the building being demolished is very old and not safe anymore. However, experts argue that such structures should have been strengthened and not demolished right away. Many of the buildings, including the roof of Bada Emar Matha, have been used as the viewing gallery for the annual Ratha Jatra, by VVIPs including ministers, judges and senior bureaucrats. They would not climb upto an unsafe building to watch Ratha Jatra, argues conservationist Anil Dhir. Dhir goes a step ahead and equates the current demolition drive to the destruction of Bamiyan Buddha by the Taliban. Amiya Bhusan Tripathy, state convenor of INTACH says, “Demolishing mathas which are integral to the niti kanti (daily ritual) of the temple is sacrilegious. The government should have preserved the heritage”.

The mathas not only have a deep association with the niti kanti (a daily ritual) of the temple, some of them also play an important part during various festivals of the Lord including the annual Ratha Jatra. Some of the mathas have in fact been set up by Guru Nanak and Ramanujacharya Themselves.

The Emar matha prepares Chamara and Canopy seva, Chandrikamade of the flower are supplied daily. Uttara Parswa matha offers daily Mohan Bhoga. Trimali matha (Which remains in the list) offers bhoga (Prasad)during annual Chandana Jatra. Radha Ballabha matha does the Alata and Chamar seva so does the Mangu matha. A detailed list can be accessed here on the government of Odisha website.

The mathas have not only played a religious role but a social role as well as it sheltered and provided great support to many freedom fighters during the British rule. The mathas also opened their granaries to the general public during the great famine of 1866.

The mathas, as cultural centres, have also been imparting cultural and religious training. They used to run schools and feed the poor. They have also been helping with lodging for poor pilgrims.

Rehabilitation after the demolition drive

After the huge outcry, the government has announced a mega rehabilitation plan. Dwelling units those have been affected would get Rs. 50,000 relocation allowance and Rs. 10,000 assistance per month till they are handed over a residential unit or one-time assistance of Rs. 30 lakh. If the family opts for former, they will be allotted a residential unit having a size of 520 square feet built-up area within 1.5 KM of the temple. If the family agrees to move further, they will get a 1000 square feet resettlement plot.

Shops and commercial establishments such as lodges and hotels will be provided rental assistance as per their size till handing over shopping units to be built by the government. Lodges will also be paid income assistance of Rs 25 per square feet per month till acquisition of property which will be 2000 square feet. Besides, they will also be provided with construction assistance.

Mathas will get special package considering the heritage, cultural and social value associated with them. Apart from providing adequate land to these religious institutions, the deities and gaadis in the affected mathas will be preserved. The redevelopment plan of each matha will include various components, have adequate rooms, dwelling units, parking places. The construction of all such mathas will focus on heritage architecture and the plan will be prepared along with all the stakeholders.

Conclusion

Anybody who has been to Puri temple will agree that the place needed an uplift. Areas in and around the temple highly encroached, ultra-dense and not to mention the absolute filth the houses and commercial establishments created alongside the temple. If you go to Koili Baikuntha and look on the other side of Meghanad Pracheri, you would realise that the place needed to be cleaned up. People literally dumped their household trash near Temple boundary. Puri is a heritage city of utmost importance. Other temple towns of equal importance like Tirupati, Rameswaram, Dwarka have done well to preserve the sanctity. However, Puri has failed to do so. As we say, cleanliness is next to Godliness and that very fact was missing right in front of Singha Dwar (Lion’s Gate), the main entrance of the Temple.

Apart from the safety, security and general hygiene of the temple, it also created traffic nuisance. A customary look at the road from Bada Danda (Grand Road) to Swarga Dwara and beach via Bali Sahi will tell you the level of encroachment that had happened over years (And this is just a small sample).

Picture Showing Encroachment on The Swargadwar Road from Sri Mandira to Sea beach via Bali Sahi

This was supposed to be a major thoroughfare and the connection between the Temple and the Sea beach. Today, residents of these areas can’t even access basic ambulance service as ambulances can’t enter the bylanes which are heavily encroached. These needed to go. And those who have been to the temple and especially the Khaja Patiarea, the below photo will come as a fresh breath of air.

Khaja Pati, Bali Sahi, Puri

However, the government should have been more careful while dealing with religious institutions. These are not just Brick and Mortar structures. If Jagannatha Temple is the heart of Hindu culture, these are the arteries supplying life substance to the shrine. These are our heritage. Once they are gone, they are gone forever. You can’t recreate them. Even if one were to believe Justice BP Das commission report, should the government not tell us, what steps it took to preserve the heritage institutes failing which it decided to raze them to the ground. And, now the government is saying that the mathadheesh have been taken into account while drawing up the rehabilitation plan for the mathas. Why it was not done before ordering the demolition. That would not have created an unpleasant situation as it has now. Why not get rid of the houses and commercial establishments only and have the mathas and other religious institutions intact.

These could have been termed as the outer periphery of the temple as they are part of the temple itself, as per government’s own manuscripts. The area inside Meghanad Prachericould has been termed as inner periphery. Were there enough deliberations done before deciding on razing everything to the ground? This smacks of high handedness as the decision was taken unilaterally.

In the end, we hope the government’s rehabilitation plan is not just on papers but actually made to work on the ground. We hope the mathas are provided adequate land and the heritage structures are built with all its past glory which will enable the mathas to function in its full fervour discharging their religious, cultural and social responsibilities. Because, not only the Hindus but as we say in Odia, “Chaka aakhi sabu dekhuchi” – The One with round eyes is watching it all.

  Support Us  

Whether NDTV or 'The Wire', they never have to worry about funds. In name of saving democracy, they get money from various sources. We need your support to fight them. Please contribute whatever you can afford

Related Articles

Trending now

WSJ drags Brahmins in domestic policy subject, American Hindu Group demands immediate withdrawal of article: All you need to know

The CoHNA demanded that WSJ remove 'Brahmin' from the OpEd and an apology be issued to the global Hindu Community.

How a teacher from Solapur, Ranjitsinh Disale, won the coveted Global Teacher Prize and $1 million: Here is his story

32-year-old teacher Ranjitsinh Disale won the Global Teacher prize and prize money of $1 million for his extensive work in the field of the girl child education

From surveilling Chinese students in the US to running spy rings in top US universities: All you need to know about CCP infiltration

Lately, it has been revealed how the Communist Party of China has funnelled a massive amount of money into ivy league US universities including Stanford, Harvard in an effort to infiltrate into these research institutes.

World’s first Muslim Hijabi model, Halima Aden, quits modelling, says fashion industry compromised her Islamic faith: Read details

Halima Aden, the first-ever Muslim Hijabi model, has decided to give up her modelling career to embrace her faith, Islam

Petition filed in HC wants Kangana Ranaut’s Twitter account deleted, mentions that she called Uddhav Thackeray govt ‘Pappu Sena’

The petition claimed that Kangana Ranaut had disrespected judiciary by posting a tweet in which she referred to Maharashtra govt as Pappu Sena.

‘If anything happens to him, CM will be responsible’: Expelled BJD MLA picked up by Odisha officials, wife says he is now untraceable

Expelled BJD leader Pradeep Panigrahi was picked up by EOW of the Crime Branch from his residence in Odisha as wife cries foul

Recently Popular

From supporting Khalistanis to hurting religious sentiments of Sikhs: A brief intro of the new liberal favourite, Diljit Dosanjh

Singer Diljit Dosanjh has become the new blue-eyed boy of the left-liberal gang after he supported ongoing farmers protest

Exposing hypocrisy of Congress, CPIM, Bharatiya Kisan Union and even Justin Trudeau over the Farm Bills 2020, point by point

The industry scale hypocrisy surrounding the protests around Farm Laws is staggering

Kangana Ranaut vs Diljit Dosanjh fight turns ugly, she calls him Karan Johar’s pet dog

Days after Kangana mistook an elderly lady in Punjab farmers' protest for Bilkis Bano of Shaheen Bagh 'protests', Punjabi singer-actor Diljit Dosanjh got into a war of words with her on Twitter.

Mirzapur: Three Brahmin boys found dead, family says they were murdered with eyes gouged out, police deny

The three cousins: 14-year-old Sudhanshu Tiwari, 14-year-old Shivam Tiwari and Hariom Tiwari were mysteriously found dead in a pond in the Lalganj police station area, Mirzapur.

MDH Masala owner Mahashay Dharampal Gulati passes away at 97

Mahashay Dharampal Gulati, the owner of the spices brand 'MDH' passed away on Thursday morning following a cardiac arrest.

Even pandering doesn’t get India Today a free pass: Here is why ‘liberals’ are today cancelling Rajdeep and Rahul Kanwal

'Liberals' are cancelling India Today, Rajdeep Sardesai and Rahul Kanwal over their coverage of the allegations against Shehla Rashid

After Youth Congress preached about respecting women, its Punjab unit uses misogynistic hashtag to target Kangana Ranaut

A tweet was posted from the official Twitter handle of Punjab Youth Congress using a highly vulgar hashtag to target Kangana Ranaut.

Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina delivers a resounding jolt to Pakistan during meeting with envoy, says can’t forget 1971 atrocities

The sharp response by Bangladesh Prime Minister to Pakistan reminding them of the atrocities during the Bangladesh liberation war of 1971 comes at a time when pro-Pakistan Islamist organisations are opposing the statue of her father Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

After ‘saving Aarey’, Shiv Sena led BMC gives permission to cut 454 and transplant 550 trees for Mumbai Trans-Harbour Link

Initially the proposal was for removing 1172 Link trees for the Mumbai Trans-Harbour but the number was later reduced to 1,004

Kapil Mishra writes a letter to the President, says Delhi residents are repeatedly being held hostage by politically motivated protests

Kapil Mishra, in his letter, has alleged that Delhi residents have been deprived of their fundamental rights as scores of political activists have been holding the city hostage to get their demands fulfilled

Assam’s AIUDF owned NGO Ajmal Foundation receiving crores of rupees from foreign organisations known for terror funding: Report

Legal Rights Observatory has stated that Ajmal Foundation has committed FCRA violations by diverting foreign funds received in the name of education to Badruddin's political party.

India summons Canadian High Commissioner after comments by Justin Trudeau on farmers’ protest: Here is what India told Canada

On the 1st of Dec, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his ministers had expressed concerns over ongoing farmers’ protest in India

COVID vaccine will be ready in the next few weeks, elders and frontline health workers to get it first: Big takeaways from PM Modi’s...

PM Modi said that India is better equipped for vaccine distribution as the country has vast expertise and experience of vaccination programs

WSJ drags Brahmins in domestic policy subject, American Hindu Group demands immediate withdrawal of article: All you need to know

The CoHNA demanded that WSJ remove 'Brahmin' from the OpEd and an apology be issued to the global Hindu Community.

Delhi HC grants bail to journalist Rajeev Sharma, who used to write for Chinese papers, The Quint, etc, and was arrested for spying for...

Delhi High Court granted bail to journalist Rajeev Sharma, who was arrested after it was revealed that he was spying for China.

Confusion over ballot marking: Telangana HC orders counting of ballots with ‘Swastik’ mark only in GHMC elections

Telangana HC set aside a circular by state election commission that any mark on the ballot will be acceptable for counting GHMC polls

Connect with us

245,563FansLike
492,795FollowersFollow
20,300SubscribersSubscribe