Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Jul 14:
While the countdown for the century’s first Nabakalebara Rath Yatra has already begun, controversies pertaining to Lord Jagannath Temple in Odisha’s Puri is refusing to die down. Barely three days after the relocation of the statue of Utkalmani Gopabandhu Dash, the platform constructed for chief minister and other dignitaries to view Rath Yatra festival from is embroiled in a fresh controversy as it poses danger to the 12th century shrine from terror outfits.
While the bust of Gopabandhu and the information centre near the Lion’s Gate was relocated to near Meghanada wall, the construction of the said podium besides the newly-erected statue of the freedom fighter has raised many eyebrows.
The recent demolition and relocation drive was resented by the people in the holy town and had drawn criticism from political parties too. The administration justified the move by saying it would ease traffic congestion near the Lion’s Gate.
Earlier, the district administration had decided against any construction along the Meghanada wall after a burglar– Prakash Sahu– had decamped with idols from the Jagannath temple on November 11, 2001. Three ancient idols were found missing from the temple of which one was that of Lord Madan Mohan, who is considered to be the representative of Lord Jagannath.
Sahu jumped the Meghanada wall with the help of a ladder inclined to the wall. Since then, the administration had put restrictions on any construction along the wall. However, it flouted its own rules for reasons best known to them.
“Threat to the shrine is more from terror outfits than burglars like Prakash Sahu. In view of possible terror threat, the Centre has issued advisories from time to time not to give permission to construct high-rise buildings around the temple. It was decided not to allow constructions around the Meghanada wall and several buildings which could pose a threat were razed to the ground. Now, it should be probed under what circumstances the police administration allowed the construction of the podium,” a retired police officer said.
As Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik holds the portfolio of Home department which oversees the maintenance of law and order issues in the state, he shouldn’t have given go-ahead to this construction, he opined.
Notably, the construction of the roof of the podium meant for the chief minister and other VVIPs to witness the Rath Yatra festival was abandoned as it evoked sharp reactions from various quarters. The construction of the roof would have obstructed the view of Snana Mandap of the Lords from the Grand Road. The devotees’ wouldn’t have been able to witness the bathing rituals of the presiding deities of the Lord Jagannath temple during Snana Yatra.
After resenting voices emerged, the construction of the roof was stopped. However, it has slipped from everybody’s mind the possible danger it is going to pose to the 12th century shrine as it could act as an access point to anti-socials.