Tense scenes were witnessed near the Sreekanteshwaram temple here on Monday after the activists of the Bharatiya Janata Party and some Hindu organisations blocked the officials of the Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) who had arrived at the temple for the inauguration of the counting station of the centralised counting system of temple offering box donations (kanikka).

The protesters blocked the TDB officials, including president M. Rajagopalan Nair and commissioner N. Vasu, in protest against the move to convert the temple wedding-cum-‘Annadanam' hall into a permanent counting station of TDB.

The protesters said that the hall should not be converted into a counting station as it was the only facility available in the temple for conducting ‘Annadanam' (mass feast) during special occasions.

“Annadanam is an important part of most festivals when free food is provided to devotees. Many people from the weaker sections of society benefit from this. If there is no space to conduct ‘Annadanam' on the temple premises, then it will become a deterrent for the organisers,'' said BJP leader and Palkulangara councillor P. Ashok Kumar.

Activists of the Hindu Aikya Vedi, Kshethra Samrakshana Samithi and Sreekanteshwaram ward councillor P. Rajendran also participated in the agitation.

Following the protest, which went on for a few hours, TDB officials consented to construct a separate facility for organising ‘Annadanam' on the temple premises within three months.

“Centralised counting of kannika is a new initiative of TDB and a pilot project is being introduced in the district. We found that the hall at Sreekanteshwaram temple was suitable for the counting station office since the building is sturdy enough to be converted into a strong room as well. That is the reason why we made it clear that this hall will be required as counting station. But we will definitely construct a new facility for Annadanam within three months,'' Mr Vasu said.

He added that counting of kannikka donations from around 200 temples in the three Devaswom Board zones in the district would commence on Tuesday.

Only on 23 days

Meanwhile, Mr. Nair said that ‘Annadanam' was held at the temple only during 23 days annually. “We cannot forgo this building for a programme held on just 23 days a year. This property belongs to TDB and we will use it suitably,” he said.

He added that it was necessary to have a strong and suitable facility for the centralised counting programme, as it would be a continuous process involving monthly stock-taking of ‘kanikka' donations of hundreds of temples in the district.

“We will be assisted by officials from nationalised banks in the counting process. Proper security arrangements will also be ensured for the centralised counting process,” Mr. Nair added.