Temple architecture

Why is the ‘Baahubali’ Sevayat of a viral photo protesting against the government of Odisha

Anil Gochhikar, the popular Odisha bodybuilder whose photo during Rathayatra went viral a few years ago, has been sitting in a ‘Dharna’ against the government of Odisha since the first week of January. Gocchikar says his family owned homes and land near the Puri Jagannath temple which were demolished by the Odisha government “illegally”.

Photos of Gocchikar sitting at a protest are going viral on social media.

Gochhikar’s photo goes viral on social media

What is Gochhikar’s complaint?

Anil Gochhikar, who is a successful and popular bodybuilder and has won many international accolades in the field of bodybuilding, belongs to a family of Sevayats from Sri Jagannath temple in Puri. Gochhikar says their family had buildings very close to the Shri Jagannath temple which were demolished by the government despite ongoing legal proceedings. He says the family was offered a compensation amount and an offer for another site in exchange for the land. But Gochhikar thinks the compensation money is not enough and the alternative plot proposed by the Odisha government is “too far” from the Jagannath temple.

In a Facebook post, Gochhikar claimed that 4 of his buildings had been demolished by the Puri administration without prior orders from the High Court. He said he had cut off his hair and beard in protest and would continue his dharna on the side of the road until he served justice.

Gochhikar says that since their family had filed a lawsuit against the government demanding adequate compensation and “better” land near the temple, the government of Odisha should not have demolished its buildings which were near the temple and would have had to wait until the lawsuit filed by their family had come to an end.

Speaking to Odia media portal Odisha Bhaskar on January 5, he had admitted that several families who had stayed in buildings near the temple (most plots not legally owned but just occupied over generations), left the buildings of their own free will and accepted the compensation. given by the government. He further says that some families were unhappy with the amount of money and the alternative plot they were getting, but did not voice protest out of fear of the government. He further claims that his family does not like the compensation money offered and the alternative site provided to them. They will therefore protest until the government of Odisha heeds their demands and gives them an amount they deem appropriate and provides them with land “near” the temple.

Gochhikar also claims that his brother is being threatened by the police and his family is being harassed. He also criticized the corridor project, saying the Odisha government is turning the temple into an amusement ‘park’.

Odisha Government Jagannath Temple Parikrama Project

The government of Odisha under CM Naveen Pattnaik focused on removing illegal encroachments around the Jagannath temple and moving adjacent mathas and other religious structures to other locations, in order to widen the hallway of the temple for the great Ratha Yatra and to facilitate the millions of devotees. the Temple sees every year.

On November 24 this year, the Gajapati Maharaj of Puri had executed the Heritage Corridor Shilanyas Project around the Jagannath Temple. Named in Odia as “Parikrama Prakalpa”, the Grand Heritage Corridor Project envisions the preservation of the 12th century temple and its great wall, called Meghanada Pacheri”, and develops the surrounding areas for beautification, security and the comfort of pilgrims and the facilities of the millions of devotees who visit the famous temple each year.

CM Naveen Pattnaik said he would transform the temple city of Puri into a world-class heritage city. Previously, the areas surrounding the Jagannath temple were cramped with shops, stalls, houses and dharmashalas, most of which had encroached over the years. The cramped area not only posed a safety concern for worshipers during the crowded Ratha Yatra and Bahuda Yatra events, but it also endangered the 12th-century Meghanada wall, which surrounds the ancient temple.

The Odisha government wanted all structures within 75 meters of the Meghanada wall to be removed

In August 2019, the government of Odisha had announced that all structures around a 75 meter radius of the Meghanada wall of the Jagannath temple would be removed to ensure the safety and integrity of the 12th century shrine. Structures identified as part of the cleanup plan were shoe stalls, government facilities such as electricity supply buildings, information centers, police outposts and shops and stalls that had seen day over the years.

The decision was made to implement the first phase of the recommendations made by the BP Das Justice Commission.

The Odisha government had said illegal encroachments and structures built around the Meghanada wall were also a major threat to the security of the temple and visiting pilgrims. “We want this area to be cleared of all buildings, many of which are illegal, to facilitate strict surveillance and prevent a terrorist attack. Since there are many structures adjacent to the main temple, it would have been very easy for terrorists to launch an attack on the temple,” the Puri collector told reporters.

Supreme Court-appointed amicus curie backed Odisha government’s teardown campaign

Several PILs have been filed in the Supreme Court after the Naveen government’s teardown campaign sparked outrage among many stakeholders. Several Mathas religious leaders had also written to the SC. The Supreme Court then appointed Ranjit Kumar amicus curie and sent him to inspect the demolition work. Ranjit Kumar had arrived with SG Tushar Mehta in Puri and held meetings with Matha chiefs, government officials and temple administration officials.

Report in TNIE

After meetings and inspections, the amicus curie had submitted his report to the SC, stating that there was no ongoing forced evacuation and that the government of Odisha should continue with the demolition work, and affirmed that the heritage corridor project was necessary and justified. After the report, the SC had authorized the government of Odisha to continue with the demolition campaign.

The government of Odisha is also undertaking similar development works around the famous Lingaraj temple in Bhubaneswar under the Ekamra Kshetra project.

Many controversies have surrounded the Parikrama project of the Shri Jagannath Temple since the Naveen Pattnaik government began the redevelopment works. While there are concerns about compensation to families affected by the project, it is also true that the areas around the temple have suffered massive encroachment, mismanagement, putting the temple and worshipers at risk.