Park encroachment becomes communal hotspot

Temple encroaching on island park in Bhagyanagar Colony grows over years. The two pictures show the situation in 2014 and the present one with more violations.  

City Commissioner of Police received a rather strange request on Thursday. A colony welfare association from city has urged him to grant permission to construct B. R. Ambedkar’s statue, prayer hall, dargah, and other structures inside an island park, to satisfy all communities and faiths in the colony!

The police may not act on this appeal from Bhagyanagar Colony Welfare Association of Nampally, as the authority to grant building permission lies with GHMC.

But the letter points to years of apathy and neglect of duty by GHMC and the police under whose nose the park was encroached upon by a religious structure.

Repeated complaints by the association could not remove the flagrant encroachment, which has now become the hotspot of political and communal tensions.

The temple kept growing in size, gobbling up more and more of the open space earmarked in the colony constructed by the State Housing Board way back in 1974.

With entry of the Goshamahal MLA Raja Singh, publicly challenging the residents as well as the police against touching the temple, the situation has assumed a political colour.

Of late, preparations to install an idol inside the temple rekindled the tensions, prompting the association to write the said letter to the Police Commissioner. The idol was installed anyway amid police protection, while a few right wing political cadre were detained in a show of balance.

“It all started in 2014, when a small structure was built overnight around a picture of goddess left at the base of the neem tree by some worshippers. We immediately alerted the police and district authorities about it, and a three-year bind-over order was given against a few persons responsible for the act,” recalled K. Srikanth Kumar, general secretary of the association.

Trouble started brewing again in 2017 when a prefabricated marble temple was brought and installed overnight replacing the brick structure. Tiles were laid around the temple, and a temporary shed with metal barricades was created in similar fashion. Soon enough, a temple society was also registered in the name of ‘Sri Sri Bangaru Maisamma Devalayam’, and it also reportedly received grant from the Endowments department for festivals such as Bonalu and Bathukamma.

“With backing from right wing political parties, people objecting to the temple are being silenced through fabricated cases and threatening gestures. Despite knowing the issue, police too are entertaining such cases,” said Avinash, an advocate and colony resident who approached High Court in 2018 about the issue.

Court issued notices to the government, and posted the hearing to 2022.

“Meanwhile, we are being questioned by other communities in the colony if they too can go ahead and construct their own structures. When we cannot stop one illegal act, we would be hand-tied against others too,” said Mr.Srikanth.

Mr.Raja Singh, through a video clip, justified the encroachment saying that most colony residents belonged to the majority religion, and the temple had been there for a long time.

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Printable version | Sep 20, 2021 5:15:49 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Hyderabad/park-encroachment-becomes-communal-hotspot/article35641915.ece

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