“Thank god, it is a Thursday. Had it been any other day, the bulldozers would have certainly entered the sprawling Shirdi Sai temple allegedly constructed illegally on government land in Khan Nagar to pull it down.”
This was the version of a policeman on duty accompanying personnel of the district administration in their ongoing temple demolition drive, which resumed after a two-day gap.
The policeman refused to admit that the newly-built temple was spared because of the massive protest locals had been staging for the last two days.
“Since Thursday is considered auspicious for Sai devotees, the administration thought it proper to look the other way,” said another policeman on duty, indicating that the bulldozers would raze the Rs. 2 crore temple on Friday.
Notwithstanding the threat, hundreds of devotees, including women and children, stayed put inside the temple for the third consecutive day and made fervent appeals to the administration to give some more time so that legal formalities could be completed to save the shrine from demolition.
On the other hand, the district administration targeted illegal constructions along the NH-5 in Madhupatna and brought down as many as five places of worship, including the Madhupatna Puja Mandap. At least three temples located were razed on the day as people watched helplessly.
Traffic on the NH was paralysed for over an hour as the demolition drive took place using one lane of the highway.
The temple demolition drive was launched in the city on May 1 following the Odisha High Court orders. The Puja Mandap at Madhupatna became the first casualty.
Several puja mandaps in the city have come up illegally encroaching upon government land and they have all been identified and placed under the list for demolition.