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Sabyasachi Kundu

Puri: No sooner than the Puri district administration started the mass eviction drive today, inmates and Mahant (chief) of the Bada Akhada Mutt criticised the demolition process citing the administration of victimising them. Though already the inmates have vacated the mutt and shifted their belongings to other places, the demolition was halted and postponed by the district administration after it failed to convince them during a discussion held today.

Mahant of the Bada Akhada Mutt Harinarayan Das alleged the administration of pressuring him to sign documents mentioning that the mutt is in a dilapidated condition. Though the administration claims so, the Bada Akhada Mutt was never a danger zone neither have Endowment Commission or ASI mentioned anything about this. If the mutt was in precarious condition, how could the Singha Dwara Police Station run in its premises for such a long time, he questioned.

Apart from Akhila Bharatiya Santha Samaj, Akhila Bharat Sadhusanth Samiti also criticised the eviction drive and said the State government as well as the district administration is showing dictatorial behaviours. President of the committee Sankarananda Giri too criticised the government for demolishing the mutts without the consulting the mutt mahants.

"The eviction process should be done with consent of all the stakeholders as the mutts are heritages of the country," said the president of the committee.

Convener of the samiti Swami Bhaskar Tirtha said saints from all corners of the country have congregated in the pilgrim town to protect the heritage and culture of mutts from destruction in the hands of the government. "We will rather die here than leave the mutt for demolition," he said.

Similarly, the Kataki mutt chief, Bijay Ramanand Dash said, "The Mutt was never unsafe or a danger zone. The administration should let us know how it declared the mutt unsafe."

Senior Congress leader Sura Routray who was also in Puri to take stock of the situation launched a scathing attack on the Odisha government over demolition of mutts in Puri. After visiting the Bada Akhada Mutt today along with other representatives of the party, Routray expressed that the curse of the mutt inmates will ruin the government.

Later in the day, while the mahant of the Bada Akhada mutt attended a meeting with the collector in connection with the issue and machinery along with all equipments used in the demolition drive were mobilised for action near the mutt but the razing was not initiated.

Following the meeting, collector Balwant Singh informed, "Discussions with mutt chief and stakeholders have been successful. Demolition has been stopped in the interim and steps will be taken in 2/3 days."

Bada Akhada mutt Mahant Harinarayan Das said that he has urged the district administration to call for an urgent meeting with all stakeholders and intellectuals of all prime institutions in the pilgrim town so that a consensus can be reached. Some will say yes to the demolition drive while some others will come out with a no and many will also very likely put forth good alternative steps, so after considering all of them, the administration should move forward.

In order to decide the next course of action, a mega convention was also held in the town hall which was attended by all stakeholders. A 15-member delegation led by Puri MLA Jayant Sarangi is scheduled to hold a meeting with the district collector tomorrow. Other stakeholders like Jagannath Temple Management Committee members, lawyers' body members will also participate in the meeting.

History says Bada Akhada mutt which was built in 1402 by Naga sadhus to save the Srimandir from outside enemy forces, has turned into one of the prominent destination for Hindu monks visiting the pilgrim town.

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