Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Mar 7:
Tension ran high at the Khandagiri area in the Odisha capital as the Enforcement team of Bhubaneswar Development Authority (BDA) began demolition of Bajrangbali Mutt, also known as Patsani Mutt,constructed on government land allegedly encroached by BJD MP Prasanna Patsani.
After backing off in the face of stiff resistance from the locals for quite some time, the BDA team began the demolition of the mutt a short while ago.
The team, which had arrived at the spot accompanied by police, bulldozers et al to raze the mutt, developed cold feet after hundreds of locals blocked the road leading to the mutt by setting ablaze tyres and staged a dharna on the road in front of the mutt’s entrance.
“Encroacher Raghunath Das has lost the case he had filed against the demolition. His appeal was rejected by the High Court on Jjanuary 22 this year. Under the Odisha Development Authorities Act, 1982 (ODA Act), BDA had given him one month’s time to vacate the land. It is more than a month and a half since then. So we have come to make the land encroachment free. Das is going against the court order and takingthe law into his own hands by assembling some anti-social elements who are burning tyres and blocking our movement by squatting on the road in order to prevent us from removing the encroachment,” Deba Prasad Das, Enforcement Officer, BDA, told reporters.
Raghunath Das, however, said he had approached the BDA for more time. As the BDA did not allow him time, he had approached the High Court to intervene in the matter.
“I had approached the BDA authorities seeking more time which they did not allow. Our lawyer had visited them three times. We have appealed against the BDA order in the High Court. This temple is not mine. It belongs to the people of ten villages in and around it. Since this is a public property, every villager will raise his voice against its eviction. If the BDA goes ahead with the demolition, I shall lie down in front of the bulldozers and they will have run over me to demolish the mutt,” said Das.
While claiming that he had nothing to do with the mutt, Patsani said no mutt should be demolished. “I don’t know about the demolition. But as a general rule, no mutt should be demolished since it involves people’s religious sentiments,” he said.
Asked about his role in the mutt, the Bhubaneswar MP said; “Ii have nothing to do with the mutt, except that I go there occasionally to pray. I don’t own an inch of the land on which the mutt stands nor have I applied for the allotment of the land,” he said.
Asked about writing a letter to the Director, Estates for allocation of the land to the mutt, he chided the media contingent thus; “I recommened so many things. Tomorrow, I can recommend your case too if you ask for an allotment. What does that prove. You must check your facts before reporting.”
“Our elders are saying that 30 to 40 years back when this area was filled with forests, this mutt had come up here. These temples and institutions are associated with the religious sentiments of the Hindus. Since it’s hurting our religious sentiments, we will oppose its demolition tooth and nail,” said a youth from among the picketers.
It may be mentioned here that the BDA has been accused of adopting dilly-dallying tactics on razing the mutt spread over an area of over half an acre near the Khandagiri hills.
On December 11, 2014, the General Administration (GA) department had intimated the BDA and Central Enforcement Monitoring Committee through a written communiqué about the said encroachment. The state government had then asked these departments to free the GA land from encroachment, construct a boundary wall and put up a signboard saying it was government property. Besides, it had asked the two agencies to submit an action taken report on the order.
However, BDA did not show any urgency to demolish the illegal construction, paving the way for a long drawn legal battle delaying the demolition process.
While the GA department did not follow up on the action taken on its order, sources said BDA carried on the demolition drive of the illegal roadside encroachments and shanties to hoodwink people.
As per the standard operating procedure (SOP) of BDA, a notice to evict the area is served on the encroachers and the demolition follows after 24 hours irrespective of the hue and cry by the encroachers. However, BDA has strangely deviated from its own procedures in the case of Patsani.
On December 16, the state government registered a case under Odisha Development Authorities (ODA) Act and a show-cause notice was served to Raghunath Das aksing him why Bajrangwali Sebashram under Khata No. 443 (Anabadi), Plot No. 1076 and 1215 (part) should not be demolished. The government asked the respondent to reply within seven days.