Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Puri, Feb 15:
The ongoing row between the daitapatis (servitors) and the Shri Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA) in Odisha’s Puri has further intensified.
While a section of the daitapati nijog has openly revolted against the temple administration, another faction has struck a more conciliatory note. That the Nijog is plit down the middle became clear during its general council meeting on Saturday.
According to reports, the daitapati nijog, taking strong exception to the gross apathy of the temple administration in not convening a preparatory meeting on the ensuing Nabakalebara Banajaga Yatra, had a meeting on Saturday in which they announced that henceforth they would not attend any meeting convened by the government unless it fulfils their long-standing demands to pay the compensation amount it had promised during the Rath Yatra in June last year.
They also said that Lord Jagannath would decimate those who have infringed on and interfered with their rights.
It may be mentioned that the the daitapatis had asked for Rs 2 crore as compensation for the loss they suffered on account of devotees not being allowed to climb atop the chariots during the Rath Yatra last year as per the advice of the Shankaracharya.
The state government had recently announced to pay the daitapatis Rs 40 lakh, which was rejected outright by the Daitapatis.
Venting their ire against the lackadaisical attitude of the government, the daitapatis said the government has treated them as beggars.
“We would neither receive the compensation and nor attend any meeting convened by the government. We would perform Nabakelabara rituals on our own,” they said.
Some senior daitapatis present at the meeting asked as to why the government had imposed restrictions on the devotees climbing the chariots after it had agreed to pay the compensation.
However, some daitapatis said the government had imposed restriction due to the chaos it causes on the chariots and the unsavoury behaviour of the servitors atop the chariots. They cited in particular an instance of manhandling of eminent Italian born Odissi exponent Illeana Citaraistti.
The meeting witnessed heated exchange of words when some young daitapatis demanded formation of a Nabakalebara monitoring committee by the nijog by including them as members.
While one group opposed the proposal, the other group favoured the formation of the committee.
Unhappy with the proceeedings, two senior daitapatis—Jagannath Swain Mohapatra and Rama Chandra Dasmohapatra- left the meeting midway.
The meeting later decided to form four committees—Nabakalebara Banajaga Committee, Nabakalebara Mahotsav Committee, Maha Anasara Niti Committee and Artha Committee—which will have a president, secretary, permanent president and one badagrahi each.
Sources said that nijog will have another round of meeting on Monday.
Talking to the newsmen later, Jagannath Swain Mohapatra, who had left the meeting midway, said the meeting opposed his suggestion on formation of a monitoring committee to be led by the young daitapatis.
“We left the meeting as we were scolded and reprimanded by some members,” he added.
He, however, made it clear that the daitapatis would not attend any meeting of the government unless it pays them the compensation amount it had promised.