Shankaracharya Should Not Be Sidelined- Dharmendra Pradhan On Demolition in Puri

Bhubaneswar: A day after the mahants (chiefs) of various mutts in Puri town sought Chief Justice of India’s intervention to order a stay on the eviction drive in which several mutts have been razed, Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan today asked the Odisha government to be mindful about consulting the Shankaracharya and Puri King in matters of such importance.

“Developments are necessary but the administrative steps undertaken around the shrine of Lord Jagannath to make way for modern arrangements should be in line with ancient heritage and culture. So those in charge should be more sensible while taking any decision in the matter,” Pradhan said after meeting Shankaracharya Nischalananda Saraswati.

Expressing his disappointment over the recent developments in the pilgrim town, Shankaracharya said no political party of the government has ever taken sincere steps for the safety and preservation of mutt culture in Puri.

“After years of attempts to suppress the voice of Govardhan peeth, it seems now the government is aiming to dislodge the religious leadership in the pilgrim city,” said the Puri seer.

On the other hand, the demolition of structures around the Srimandir resumed today after a brief lull following protests by numerous sadhus during the razing of Bada Akhada mutt.

Apprehending more protests, the administration did not begin the scheduled razing of the Bada Akhada mutt and the demolition drive was carried out near Baniapati and Emar mutts.

Meanwhile, ahead of Supreme Court-appointed Amicus Curiae Ranjit Kumar and Solicitor General of India’s visit to Puri tomorrow, the eviction drive in Puri has turned a hotbed for political debate.

Several bigwigs of the opposition political parties today slammed the State government’s move to demolish the mutts in the pilgrim city.

After meeting the mahant of Bada Akhada mutt, BJP’s Sambit Patra said, “We are not against the Puri’s development but the process adopted by the Odisha government has loopholes because it should have first taken people into confidence, made arrangements for their compensation and rehabilitation and then taken up the eviction drive.”

Former Union Minister Braja Kishore Tripathy also criticized the State government and termed its eviction drive as unconstitutional. “Several heritage structures were demolished in the name of beautification which is really unfortunate,” said Tripathy.

Similarly, senior Congress leader Suresh Routray said Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik will bear the consequences due to the curse of numerous sadhus who have been made to suffer after the demolition.

“The mutt culture is deeply ingrained in the Srimandir’s tradition so destroying it is a big mistake. CM Naveen will pay for this,” said Routray.

However, the ruling BJD has clarified that the move taken by the government is for the welfare of Srimandir and the tradition and culture of Lord Jagannath.

In order to allay fears brewing among the stakeholders over the demolition drive in the pilgrim city, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik today approved 3 projects for Puri including 25 crore plan to develop Raghunandan Library with heritage architecture and 3-storied structure that will house research centre on Jagannath culture.

Patnaik also approved multilevel car parking at Jail Road with commercial space for 400 cars and 300 vending spaces for greater convenience of devotees coming to Puri.  The CM has also announced the construction of Jagannath Ballav Pilgrim Centre with a cost of Rs 180 crore. The centre, spread across 5 acres, will have parking space for 1,000 cars, meditation space, commercial space, multi-modal hub & other amenities.

Apart from this, a Rs 190 crore Shree Setu Project to create a new link road connectivity from Puri Bypass to Jagannath Ballav Math Pilgrim Centre has also been approved. The 1.5km long 60m wide will have a trumpet interchange with access control.