Puri eviction drive halted for some time as mutt chief refuses to vacate

Puri: The ongoing eviction drive around Sri Jagannath Temple here was halted for some time on Friday as the chief of the century old Emar ‘mutt’ (monastery) refused to vacate his seat, officials said.

The Puri district administration has been undertaking eviction of all structures including mutts and private properties within 75 meters from the boundary wall of Shri Jagannath Temple. Emar mutt, located in the southeastern corner of the temple, belonging to the Ramanuj sect was established in 1402. It is one of the oldest and the richest mutts in this holytown as well as in Odisha.

“The administration has been undertaking eviction drive illegally. According the agreement, only unsafe buildings should be demolished. But, they have demolished all structures including Raghunandan Library,” the chief of Emar Mutt Rajgopal Ramanuja Das claimed.

He claimed that the Mutt had renovated the library by spending lakhs of rupees before Lord Jagannath’s Nabakalebara Festival in 2015. “I am not happy over the manner in which the administration demolished the library and other buildings,” he said.

The Raghunandan library was established in 1921 by the then chief of the Emar Mutt. It had a rare collection of palm leaf manuscripts and books on various subjects in Sanskrit, Odia and Bengali languages. The district administration, however, defended demolition of the library and claimed that the facility will be relocated to other location and will have a world-class makeover.

“Steps are being taken to make Raghunandan library as world-class library after relocation. All the ancient scripts and books will be preserved and digitised using technology,” said Puri collector Balwant Singh.

With the chief of Emar Mutt refusing to cooperate with the district administration on the eviction drive, local people suspect presence of huge valuables inside the mutt. The suspicion was strengthened as at least 522 British-era silver bricks weighing over 18 tonne (worth Rs 90 crore) were recovered from Emar mutt during a repair work in 2011.

The people engaged in eviction drive were also surprised when they found a three-story basement of the Mutt building having some secret tunnels. A member of the mutt said: “The underground chambers were used as “Kothi Ghar” to store food grains. The mutt had helped people meet food grain demands during precarious times in the past like one during the Great Orissa Famine of 1866.”

“The Emar Mutt building was unsafe and that’s why we demolished it. There is a basement structure in the mutt and we are looking into it,” said Puri additional collector BK Dash. He said all arrangement has been made with police deployment and magistrate and all precautionary steps before launching eviction drive.

Earlier on Tuesday, the 300-year-old Languli mutt was also evicted in the ongoing drive around the temple in Puri. There are seven such mutts within 75 metre limit of the temple which face demolition by the district administration.


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