The eviction and demolition drive undertaken by the Puri district administration around Jagannath Temple hit a snag on Friday after the Mahanta (chief) of one of the maths (monasteries) being demolished refused to move out of the premises and continued to sit in protest.
As per a state government decision, structures within 75-metre radius of the temple in Puri, specifically Meghnad Pacheri (boundary wall), are being demolished.
On Wednesday, the administration started bringing down Emar Math, located in the south-eastern corner of Jagannath Temple. However, the drive stopped on Friday after Mahanta Rajgopal Ramanuj Das sat in meditation in the premises, ignoring requests to vacate the place.
The math belongs to the Ramanuj sect and is believed to be one of the oldest and richest maths in Puri.
Speaking to news channel OTV over phone, Das said the administration had only discussed about demolishing unused and dilapidated structures. Das reportedly declined the Puri administration’s offer to provide him an alternative cell for meditation.
Apart from Das’s protest, the demolition was largely unopposed by priests, residents and business establishments.
On August 23, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik announced Rs 500 crore for various infrastructure projects in Puri, and measures to be taken for the demolition.
A statement from the CMO read: “Terrorism is a major problem all over the world. Terrorists have no religion, but they target religious places. It is important that recommendations for the security of Sri Mandir be implemented. I know that some families will be affected. However, a sacrifice is necessary for Sri Mandir’s security. Cooperate with us thinking this is in service of Mahaprabhu (Jagannath).”