Op-Ed: Resistance Notwithstanding Reforms Should Be Implemented

By Ashutosh Mishra

Bhubaneswar: Change, as the proverb goes, may be the only constant in life but it is never easy to effect. Most people, by their very nature, are reluctant to accept change for it threatens to disturb the equilibrium of their lives at least temporarily. Even a change for the better takes time to be initiated and accepted.

That explains why reforms are so difficult to implement, especially when they involve places of worship. The resistance to the attempts at streamlining the affairs of the 12th century Sri Jagannath temple is a glaring example of this. Not only temple sevayats and mukti mandap members but also the ordinary citizens of Puri are up in arms against the state government’s decision to raze structures within a limited area surrounding the shrine to ensure its safety and facilitate easy movement of people.

The decision said to be based on the recommendations of Justice BP Das Commission constituted to suggest reforms in the functioning of the temple has evoked protests even from socio-cultural organisations in the temple town which is a famous pilgrimage centre of the Hindus. The shrine is visited daily by thousands of people from around the country and attracts more than 10 lakh people on the occasion of the annual rath yatra of lord Jagannath and his siblings.

The reforms are being considered necessary in the wake of a plethora of complaints from pilgrims and tourists about the problems they have been facing during their visit to the shrine. The problems range from space constraint restricting the movement of pilgrims to the kind of treatment they receive.

Considering that many famous temples of the country have undergone reforms which have helped smoothen their affairs such a move in the Puri Jagannath temple should be welcomed by all stakeholders. But that does not seem to be the case here with government’s latest move raising the hackles of sevayats as well as other stakeholders.

One of the senior sevayats of the temple has been quoted by the media as saying that demolishing structures in and around the temple would destroy its culture and heritage. The shrine is surrounded by old mutts, houses and even shops and dharmshalas which the government would find it tough to demolish. Overcoming the resistance of local people will not be easy considering there is a growing feeling that the move has been planned without consulting all the stakeholders.

One can appreciate the feelings of the local people who have been closely associated with the temple and its culture but even they will admit to the urgent need for reforms and steps to ensure the security of the 12th century structure which remains vulnerable to terrorist attacks. During every rath yatra the government has to take special steps like heavy deployment of police and paramilitary forces to protect the shrine from any kind of danger.

The vulnerability of the shrine from security point of view would continue as long as it remains hemmed in by the structures surrounding it. Clearing the area is a necessity and the sooner it is done the better.

(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.)