Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Puri, Feb 22:
The standoff between the Daitapatis (the body protectors of Lord Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra) and the Odisha government has taken a new turn for the worse with the Daitapati Nijog (body of Daitapati servitors) announcing to go it alone and conduct the Banajaga yatra –the search for daru (neem tree) for making of idols – considered the opening chapter of the Nabakalebara process of the Lords giving two hoots to the itinerary for conduct of rituals announced by the administration.
The Daitapati Nijog at its general council meeting held here on Saturday announced to conduct the Nabakalebar Yatra of the Lords on its own in a disciplined and peaceful manner without administration’s help and show it to the world. Daitapatis play a vital role in the whole Nabakalebara process starting with the Banajaga Yatra to the transfer of the Bramha or the soul of the idols.
Daitapatis, who are peeved over the parsimonious compensation offer made by the state government for losses suffered by them in last year’s Rath Yatra in which devotees were barred from climbing atop chariots following a High Court order which upheld the Shankaracharya’s views that persons other than those connected with rituals should not go atop the chariots, have made it clear at Saturday’s meeting that they would not compromise until and unless the government resolves the dispute over the compensation issue.
Members of the Nijog expressed concern over the state government’s apathy.
Accusing the Chief Minister of not desiring for a peaceful and disciplined conduct of the Nabakelabar Yatra of the Lords, the Nijog’s president Ramakrushna Mohapatra alleged at the meeting that some officers and the administrator are creating confusion.
Daitapatis at the meeting demanded the government to finalize their dues first, otherwise, have announced of non-cooperation with the administration in the days to come. This has led to a standoff like situation between the Daitapati Nijog and the government. The Nijog has made it clear at the meeting that the Rs 40 lakh offered by the government as the compensation amount was not acceptable under any circumstances. It was decided at the meeting that if the government pays them compensation for the 2014 Rath Yatra as per the Nijog’s demand only then it will be accepted.
Absence of two senior Daitapatis in the meeting also surfaced at the meeting. At the meeting the permanent president, president and secretary of the Nijog were vested with the responsibility of getting back these two by assuaging their feelings. Senior Daitapatis Jagannath Swain Mohapatra and Ramchandra Das Mohapatra were absent in Saturday’s meeting.
“None will be spared from performing the rituals of the Lords”, said Nijog president Ramakrushna Mohapatra on being asked on the absence of the two at the meeting. He said such kind of resentments exist in each and every Nijog, while adding “We will convince them and get them back”.
With the Nijog’s rolling out of its own plan for preparations for the Banajaga Yatra by excluding the administration from it at Saturday’s meeting, the situation has become confusing. This has led to further straining of relations between the main servitors of Banajaga Yatra, Daitapatis and administration putting a brake to administration’s preparations for the Yatra.
The Nijog at its Saturday meeting has taken an important decision and has formed a Banjaga committee. This committee in the next two to three days will finalize a list of members for the Banajaga team. The committee will draw up a list beginning Sunday and from it will be made different selections.
The committee will manage the Banajaga Yatra. Senior Daitapati Haladhar Das Mohapatra will head the committee. The Nijog’s president and secretary have been also included in the committee.
This apart an advisory committee will be formed for search of daru. This committee will advise on identification and selection of daru. This important committee has Biswanath Das Mohapatra, Bada Kashinath Das Mohapatra, Sana Kashinath Das Mohapatra, Naba Kishore Das Mohapatra, Haladhar Das Mohapatra, Krushna Chandra Das Mohapatra and Biswanath Das Mohapatra as members.
This apart the Nijog has included ten members each in Nabakalebar Banajaga Committee, Nabakalebar Mahotsav Committee, Mahaanasar Niti Committee and Artha (Finance) committee. These committees will have ten members each apart from president, secretary, permanent president of the Nijog and four Badagrahis as its members.
After the Daitapatis formed the Banajaga Committee, sources said the special officer for Nabakalebar, chief administrator Shree Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA) and RDC (central) and Puri collector had held a meeting at Puri in the evening, however, what transpired at the meeting is not known.