The Bawakhaleshwar temple in Navi Mumbai was demolished on Tuesday. After a legal battle of over eight years, the structure was deemed illegal by the High Court and then the Supreme Court had turned down the special leave petition in September 2018.
The High Court, hearing the compliance, had given the Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC) and Navi Mumbai Police time till November 26 for demolition. However, after conducting a rehearsal on Monday, MIDC began the demolition Tuesday afternoon.
The temple was built at Pawane village in Navi Mumbai in 2007 over 32 acres, which allegedly belonged to the MIDC. The temple was inaugurated by the then Guardian Minister Ganesh Naik.
The temple was taken over by the Bawakhaleshwar Temple Trust in 2010. Activist Sandeep Thakur had dragged the temple trust and other authorities to court, and after at least three special leave petitions filed by the trust, the courts had ruled that the temple was illegal and built on encroached land. The temple complex had three temples and was sealed for almost two years.
On Tuesday, amidst heavy bandobast by the Navi Mumbai Police, MIDC officials emptied the temples of the idols and then started the process of demolition around 3 pm. The process continued into the night.
While MIDC officials refused to comment on the matter, stating that they were following court orders, the temple trust spokesperson said the demolition was carried out with a lot of disrespect towards the idols.
“We were not even allowed to enter and take the idols out. They did not even perform the rituals and just dumped the idols in a container. They have refused to give us custody of the idols now,” said advocate Ajit More who represented the Bawakhlaeshwar Temple Trust. He added: “We were in the middle of filing another special leave petition. A group of devotees had also filed a petition. But now that demolition has taken place, we will not contest.”