Missing Ratna Bhandar keys: Outfits turn heat on Law Minister Pratap Jena

Demanding resignation of Law Minister Pratap Jena and seeking a probe into the mystery surrounding the keys of Puri Srimandir’s Ratna Bhandar, different outfits on Sunday staged a demonstration in front of the Singhdwara (Lions gate) of the 12th century shrine.

Holding placards and raising slogans against the district administration and the Law Minister, members of the Sri Jagannath Sena and the Sachetana Nagrika Manch staged demonstration alleging that such incidents have hurt the sentiments of devotees.

“If the keys are lost how the treasure inside Ratna Bhandar will be safeguarded? Now question arises why the administration has been silent and a police complaint was filed by the district Collector when he came to know that the key is lost. Even conspicuously the Law minister is too silent on the sensitive matter. Therefore, we demand his resignation and strict action as per law,” said Jagannath Sena convener Priyadarshan Patnaik.

“If the matter is not resolved at the earliest, the Jagannath Sena would move Orissa High Court seeking its intervention,” Patnaik added.

“Suspecting foul play from the way the 17-member inspection team returned hastily from the Ratna Bhandar, I had lodged an FIR on April 5 saying that the treasury key is missing. Besides, I had demanded probe to bring truth to the fore,” said President of the Sachetana Nagarik Manch, Prasanna Das,

“The inspection of the Ratna Bhandar was a mere drama. The callousness of the administration is hurting sentiments of devotees,” said a devotee.

Meanwhile, expressing his anguish over the missing of the keys, Puri Shankaracharya Nischalananda Saraswati urged the government to urgently intervene into the matter.

“Be it the Culture Minister or Law Minister or even Srimandir management committee, everyone should sit down and discuss on how to resolve the issue so that a consensus can be developed and then only it would be appropriate to take any further action, Shankaracharya said.

On the other hand, a political storm has ensued over the issue with both the Congress and BJP coming down heavily on the government.

OPCC chief Niranjan Patnaik today met Puri Shankaracharya and sought his intervention into the matter.

“It seems that the government has been irresponsible in safe-keeping of the keys which is a huge responsibility,” Patnaik said.

Similarly, Puri Youth Congress also lodged a FIR at Singhadwar Police Station alleging that the persons who were in-charge of the safe-keeping of the keys since 1978 should be held responsible for the missing of the keys.

BJP state unit spokesperson Pitambar Acharya also highlighted that even though the issue is a highly sensitive one, the State government has kept the public in dark.

“We request the chief minister Naveen Patnaik to come and openly clarify whether the keys are really missing or it is just rumour,” said Acharya.

However, when queried, Law Minister Pratap Jena was mum on the issue.

As per the minutes of the temple management committee meeting held soon after the inspection of Ratna Bhandar (the treasure trove of Lord Jagannath) on April 4, the keys handed over to the inspection team by temple administration for opening the inner chamber didn’t belong to the locks.

The matter was highlighted in the meeting by the inspection committee. Puri King Gajapati Dibyasingh Deb who was also present had expressed his surprise over the same, the minutes revealed.

During discussions on whereabouts of the keys during the meeting, Puri Collector Arvind Agarwal stated that he had a detailed inspection of the registers present in treasury. But no records regarding transactions pertaining to Ratna Bhandar keys since 1970 was found.