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Varanasi
Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Part of 100 year old TN temple razed as devotees cry, forces at play to usurp the land

The demolition of a temple was put on hold in Tamil Nadu after intense protests by devotees and Hindu organisations. Devotees accuse the owner of a nearby residential complex of conspiring to remove the temple to use the property for car parking. Officials who came to demolish the temple claim that there are 15 encroachments in the concerned area but couldn’t answer why they chose to demolish the temple alone.

A Shiva temple in Coimbatore, reportedly more than 100 years old, was targeted for demolition on August 4. But due to intense protests by devotees, officials left after demolishing the compound wall. Devotees claim that the Swayambu Thampuran temple on the Avinashi road has been there for more than 100 years. The presiding deity, a lingam, is said to have revealed itself on its own and acquired the name Swayambu Thampuran.

Surprisingly BBC Tamil has written a detailed article on the issue, giving space to both sides. As mentioned in the article, the temple’s side says that it is being targeted by the owner of the nearby residential complex who wants to use the property as a car parking area. Karthik, part of the Temple Protection Committee, told BBC Tamil that the whole neighbourhood used to be agricultural land till a few decades ago. The temple has been there for a long time and farmers used to offer worship.

But 3 decades ago, they sold off their lands as farming failed them. The lands were converted into residential plots and houses came up a little later. But the temple remained in the same place through all these changes, devotees say. They accuse one Sridhar of eyeing the temple land since he built a residential complex next to the temple without providing space for car parking. Sridhar went to court, saying that the temple encroached on the road. The temple committee says that as the temple’s counsel didn’t handle the case well and didn’t appear in a few hearings, the verdict came in favor of Sridhar.

Marimuthu, Treasurer of the temple committee, told BBC Tamil that even though Coimbatore Corporation sent a notice on August 6, 2021, no final decision was made and no prior notice was given before the demolition drive. Sridhar claims that he went to court as the Corporation officials didn’t remove the ‘encroachment’ despite issuing notice. He claims that he didn’t file the petition against the temple alone and says that it is curious that Corporation officials targeted the temple first for demolition.

Even though the temple committee has offered to give land on the other side of the road for expansion, Corporation officials are adamant that the temple has encroached big time and should be demolished. The temple committee has sought time to file an appeal and so officials stopped the demolition drive after bringing down the compound wall. As the excavator pulled down, the wall, devotees were heartbroken and cried their eyes out.

It is to be noted that no prior information was given to remove the murtis before starting the demolition. In fact officials came like thieves at 4 AM in the early morning. In the videos shared on social media, devotees could be heard saying, “When you have to sign documents, you come at 11 AM. But to demolish a temple, you come at 4 AM? What should we understand from this?”. The Temple committee is planning to approach the court with relevant documents to prove the temple’s existence before the area was developed as a residential colony.

If the temple is indeed more than 100 years old, it doesn’t explain the behaviour of the corporation which came much later. Bharat got independence only 75 years ago. But many temples have existed from times before that. How can such temples be called encroachment when the government land records came into existence only after independence? Or are we following the British model of governance to follow their land records?

Past Incidents of Indiscriminate Temple Demolition

In 2021, as soon as the DMK government came into power, 9 temples were demolished in Coimbatore on the pretext of removing encroachments from waterbodies based on a Madras High Court order.

An Anjaneya temple was demolished in Chennai claiming that it blocked the waterways in January 2022

In February 2022, Ganesha temple in Perambalur was razed to the ground on the claim that it encroached on government land. It is another matter that the government encroaches many temple properties without paying a penny.

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