The demolition of a Hindu temple in Karnataka’s Mysuru district has sparked a controversy pitting the state government against the district administration.
After the video of the demolition went viral on social media several politicians including Mysuru-Kodagu BJP MP Pratap Simha and several Hindu organizations registered their protest against the overnight destruction ordered by a tehsildar.
Sharing the video of the demolition, Simha Tweeted asking if the temple was causing any trouble to anyone.
ಯಾರಿಗೆ ತೊಂದರೆ ಕೊಡುತಿತ್ತು ಈ ದೇವಸ್ಥಾನ? pic.twitter.com/lDYoCAH0Zm— Pratap Simha (@mepratap) September 9, 2021
However, reacting to the criticism the district administration claimed that they were simply following the orders sent for demolishing illegal religious structures across the state. An official further stated that the temple was not on Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) maps and was only 12 years old as opposed to the claims of it being 800 years old.
What was in the order?
In August, State Chief Secretary P. Ravikumar had asked the district administrators for a follow-up report on the pending demolition drive based on the Supreme Court and High Court rulings and the reasons behind the delay in implementing the order.
The Chief Secretary in a letter to Deputy Commissioners on July 1, 2021, stated that Karnataka has 6,395 unauthorized religious structures in public places. As of September 29, 2009, the number of such structures was 5,688, however in 12 years, the state was able to demolish, relocate and regulate only 2,887 of them.
Reportedly, as per the instructions, the district administrations were asked to demolish at least one illegal religious structure per taluk and per division every week. Thus began the demolition drive and many roadside structures were razed in pre-dawn operations.
‘Mysuru District administration misread the order‘
BJP MP Simha, who has warned of launching a ‘Save Temples’, movement claimed that the Mysuru district officials had misread the Supreme Court order and were selectively targeting temples.
“The Supreme Court has said that only those structures that have come up in public places after 2009 will fall under its order. That too the Court said the structures should be demolished only if relocation or regularisation is not possible. Officers have to examine each case individually,” he said.
Simha further alleged that certain over-enthusiastic officers chose to target only temples while leaving out the rest.
“Officers must respect the sentiments of the public before deciding anything in haste. In the name of the Supreme Court order, many temples have been razed. As per the Supreme Court guidelines, a review must be conducted before the unauthorized religious structures are demolished. But here, the Mysuru authorities are not reviewing the structures and have outrightly demolished them,” he remarked.
Mysuru District administration had planned to demolish another old temple
Divulging further information on the demolition drive, Simha revealed, “We have learnt that the authorities have decided to demolish the 101 Ganapati Temple on Sept. 22. This was constructed in 1955 and people from across the city and district have a virtuous bonding with the Temple for decades,” vowing to not let the demolition take place.
State to halt demolition in Mysuru
Leading the fight, Simha urged Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai to intervene and get the Mysuru administration to withdraw the list of 93 other temples marked for demolition.
Addressing the media Simha assured, “The CM spoke to me over the phone and said he will instruct the officers to halt the demolition drive. A new list will be prepared after considering each structure on a case-to-case basis and no structure will be demolished.”
While the city district administration claimed the temple was just 12 years old, Simha claimed that the Uchchagani Aadishakti Mahadevamma Temple has a history of over 500 years old.
Former CM attacks BJP
Former Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah slammed the BJP government claiming the demolition “hurt the religious sentiments of the people”. “The destruction of an ancient temple in Nanjangud is condemnable. Since it was a sensitive issue, the @BJP4Karnataka should have spoken to the local residents, The demolition is done without the consultation of the people in the region & has hurt the religious sentiments,” he Tweeted.
Concerned officials have not followed due process. An alternate site should have been provided if the demolition was deemed necessary.@BJP4Karnataka govt is responsible for this act against Hindu sentiments. An alternate arrangements should be made immediately to restore.— Siddaramaiah (@siddaramaiah) September 11, 2021
The Congress leader also demanded compensation for the demolition by earmarking a piece of land for the reconstruction of the temple.