A day after some rituals in Puri’s Shree Jagannath Temple were delayed for hours by protesting sevayats (servitors) refusing to carry out their duties, more priests on Tuesday warned of stopping all rituals if police continue to arrest their colleagues.
The temple witnessed violence last week after the Shree Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA) decided to implement the queue system for visitors on an “experimental basis”.
A mob overthrew barricades installed at the temple entrance and ransacked the SJTA office. The residence of Puri MLA and Revenue Minister Maheswar Mohanty was also vandalised.
While SJTA chief administrator Pradipta Mohapatra told The Indian Express that the system was implemented as “part of court orders”, BJP spokesperson Pitambar Acharya said the top court has not given any such orders. “It is not clear why SJTA implemented the queue (system), without consulting priests, locals, political parties and other stakeholders,” said Acharya.
“Police have arrested five or six priests and are looking for more when we have done nothing,” said a priest, who did not wish to be named. “We are contemplating a full strike,” he said. While Puri SP Sarthak Sarangi was not available for comment, police said 57 people have been arrested.
Asked about the impending strike, Mohapatra said, “There is no such thing.”