Demolishing such centuries old structures, is blatantly against the letter and spirit of the Places of Worship Act- 011019

Bhubaneswar-The Indic Collective Trust expressed its deep shock and anguish at the recent events surrounding the demolition of heritage structures around the Jagannath Temple at Puri and also put on record our views regarding the actions of the elected officials and reparative measures that need to be taken to assure the Hindu community of their freedom to practice their religion as guaranteed under the Constitution of India.

Speaking to the press, Ravilochan Iyengar, said that  act of demolishing such centuries old structures, is blatantly against the letter and spirit of the Places of Worship Act of 1991, which prohibits any agency from modifying physically or otherwise the nature of a place of worship of any community. Further, calling the structures “Illegal” is a blatant misrepresentation, since the structures themselves have been in existence longer than the Republic of India has been and are part of the social and religious fabric of the town of Puri.

Dr. Biswajit Mohanty said that the mutts that have been demolished so far (3 out of the 18 structures notified for demolition) have deep historic ties to the temple and its rituals and are of great religious importance to the millions of adherents of the respective denominations. In demolishing these structures, the unelected officials, in their high handedness have trampled upon the rights under Article 26 of these devotees of various denominations.

The Emar Mutt was founded by the great Vaishnavite saint Shri Ramanuja himself and having visited and stayed there, And was a place of immense religious significance to Vaishnavites across India. The Bada Akhada Mutt was the abode of Ramanand, who had stayed and carried out his work from the place. It held significance for the Naga sect.We would also like to place on record that the Archaeological Survey of India has certified eight structures in the proposed demolition drive to be heritage structures. The object failure of the ASI to intervene and protect the monuments, which it has declared to be heritage structures. In this regard, the failure of the Ministry of Culture officials to intercede has also been a sore disappointment. The unsubstantiated claims of these structures being unsafe for habitation were floated to support the case for demolition. It is important to note, that the Raghunandan library was recently renovated and all the demolished structures were certified as safe by the government officials themselves.

Anil Dhir condemned the strong arming tactics employed by the government officials, with regard to their treatment of Shri Ramanuja Das of Emar Mutt, by intimidatory presence of a thousand strong police contingent in front of the mutt premises.

The Indic Collective trust intervened via a Writ Petition in the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India – to put an end to this hasty ill conceived beautification drive cum security enhancing measure. The Supreme Court of India duly appointed an Amicus to assess the ground realities and report back to it. Unfortunately, the Amicus failed to deliver on the mandate given to him by the Hon’ble Court, by not meeting the stakeholders and rushing to meet the press with a statement after meeting only errant government officials.

As of today, the case is still pending before the Supreme Court and the Amicus report has not been tabled yet.  Regardless of whether this kind of beautification projects are related to the Central government schemes HRIDAY and PRASAD, it should be kept in mind that enhanced security and tourist accessibility cannot come at the cost of violating centuries old structures. The history of the place, the will of the deity and sensitivities of crores of devotees must take precedence over the comforts of the few tourists.

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