Tension outside Srimandir; Puri SP says talks on to resolve the issue

Puri: Tension erupted in front of the Jagannath Temple here today after devotees in large numbers tried to barge into the 12th century shrine protesting delay in opening of the temple and rituals of the dieties.

Following disruption of rituals amid servitor-police face off over alleged manhandling of a ‘sevayat’ by some police personnel yesterday evening, the administration had set up barricades outside the temple gate today morning. However, protesting the delay in opening of the temple, thousands of devotees waiting to have darshan of deities for hours since early morning today, tried to forcibly enter the temple leading to a minor scuffle with the police personnel.

Devotees from far and wide across the globe have expressed their displeasure over the temple and district administration’s inability to resolve the dispute between the servitors and police.

“One of my relatives has come to visit Puri from a distant village in Koraput district as he has a wish to pay obeisance to the Lords. But now it is saddening to witness that the temple is closed,” a resident of Keonjhar said.

“The district administration should look into the matter and convince servitors to restore the temple functioning so that devotees do not suffer in this festive period,” said another devotee.

A local resident of the pilgrim town said both the administration and the servitor groups are responsible for such indisciplinary incidents which occur on a day to day basis.

Similarly, another devotee who came from Haryana said, “If the temple administration is unable to resolve such issues, it should openly issue a notice asking devotees not to visit the shrine. The Central government should immediately intervene and take the temple administration under the control.”

Meanwhile, making callous statements in connection with the disruption of rituals, Puri SP Sarthak Sarangi courted a controversy by saying that devotees who are unable to visit the temple can visit other places of interest like sea beach until the opening of temple.

After failing to convince irate servitor groups to stand down from their protests against alleged manhandling of a ‘sevayat’, SP Sarangi told mediapersons that such incidents of indiscipline at the 12th century shrine is not uncommon and devotees should not be disheartened by it.

“If the temple opens after successful dialogue with servitors, devotees can have darshan of the deities but if it does not, people can visit sea beach and other places of interest. In the meantime we will try to resolve the standoff and ensure restoration of the rituals,” Sarangi said.

Temple management committee member and senior servitor Ram Chandra Das Mohapatra said the issue can be resolved by mutual discussion. If the local MLA wants, the row can be resolved as it had been during the past. But such a minor issue should not be utilised to halt the functioning of the temple. The incident is a result of brewing dissatisfaction in the servitor community for past several weeks,” he said.

Senior servitor Binayak Das Mohapatra said the dispute between police and servitor should have been resolved yesterday evening itself.

Asked about how serious it was that the presiding deity of 4 crore Odias, Lord Jagannath has been left unattended for more than six hours today due to a trivial issue, Binayak Das Mohapatra said “The servitor community, police and administration will be held accountable.”

Jagannath Culture Expert Rajat Kar stressed “The issue should be brought to the notice of Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik. Local MLA and Revenue Minister Maheswar Mohanty should also intervene. The attitude of the administration and the comments of the Police officials are unacceptable as they are taking the mater for granted.”