Yet another temple has been demolished in Tamil Nadu despite devotees best efforts to save it. The Nrisimha Anjaneya temple near Chennai has been demolished on the allegations that it encroaches on the waterway of the Adyar river. However commercial establishments and residential complexes encroaching the same space have been left untouched. While temples are demolished with impunity, places of worship of other religions are spared, Hindus allege.
Shri Nrisimha Anjaneya temple in Varadharajapuram near Chennai was declared as an encroachment a few weeks ago and a notice was issued to evacuate the land. However devotees accused the government officials of issuing notice out of the blue and wanting to demolish the temple the next day itself. Devotees sat on protest inside the temple and refused to leave when the officials came next day. Some even climbed the temple tower in protest and the officials had to leave as they didn’t have enough police with them to control the devotees.
They started an online campaign to protect the temple and the video of a female devotee, part of the temple management committee, crying about the situation went viral. She said the temple has been there for nearly 30 years and that in 2015, Amudha IAS, had checked out the temple and said that it doesn’t encroach the waterway. But corporation officials claim that it was declared as encroachment in 2015 as well and the structure was brought down. Even if that’s the truth, how could other buildings encroaching the waterway be spared and the temple selectively chosen for demolition, devotees question.
Mudichur, where the temple is located, has been bearing the brunt of encroachment on waterways and floodplains since a longtime. In 2017, when the area flooded due to rains, residents accused the state government of inefficiency. The state highways department hadn’t completed the storm water drains and even the ongoing work was allegedly poor, as the drain’s capacity was small. Residents allege that corporation officials are in cohorts with those who have encroached government land and block the flow of rainwater.
To give an insight into how badly water bodies are encroached, this Economic Times report quotes an environmental activist and professor as saying, “The Porur lake’s original water spread area was 800 acres; now it is 100 acres or less. Lot of land has been given to private parties. Land use patterns were changed and made legal for them. These are called legalised encroachments”. Another activist says, “even though there are 3,000 settlements in the Perungalathur lake with 10 houses per acre whereas the revenue records show only 100 settlements with 1 house per acre”.
The government, regardless of the party in power, lets people encroach water bodies and waterways selfishly. But when it comes to removing them only temples are targeted while so called “legalised encroachments” are left untouched. Hindu organisations have alleged that more than 150 temples have been demolished since DMK came to power. They accuse the government of demolishing temples on the pretext of removing encroachments in waterbodies and waterways based on Madras HC’s order.
Last month the High Court had slammed government officials for helping a pastor evade eviction of his church which was encroaching a water body. The Tehsildar had told the court that the public didn’t object to the presence of the church and so there is no need for it to be demolished. The church was demolished only after the court came down heavily on the government for bias.
On the same day, corporation officials encountered an Infant Jesus and Mary statue at the entrance of a bus stand in Chennai. The land was recovered from an individual who had encroached it. The bus stand is still being constructed and the statue was a hindrance to traffic. When officials went to evict the statue, the move was opposed. After placating the protestors officials carefully removed the statue and placed it in the Tehsildar’s office for protection. They have also promised an alternate land to install the statue.
While it is difficult to find out whether more than 150 temples were really demolished by the DMK government since May, that the officials have displayed bias and a much higher regard for churches or mosques during their demolition drive can be safely asserted.
When Chennai flooded during the monsoon rains, a youngster had posted a video in social media about how the waterway adjoining her residential area has been encroached by a church, which despite being inspected many times still stands and blocks the rain water flow.