People visiting the police station at Gonibeedu village in Mudigere taluk of Karnataka’s Chikkamagaluru district are not necessarily interested in seeing a policeman. Many come to a new resident at the station: Lord Ganesha.
The new Ganesha temple on the station premises, funded by the 8,500-odd residents of Gonibeedu and built with the approval of the local police, has raised questions about propriety, with some pointing out that a police station is a secular space that ought not to host a religious structure.
The villagers organised the idol installation ceremony on Wednesday. Police officials from Gonibeedu and neighbouring stations participated in the event.
P. Rakesh, police sub-inspector of the Gonibeedu station, was among those who attended. “People from all castes and religions have contributed funds and construction materials. Mohammed Ali, a trader in Gonibeedu, looked after the lighting arrangements,” said G.N. Raghu, honorary president of Vinayaka Geleyara Balaga (VGB) of Gonibeedu, which played a key role in building the temple.
Anthill stood there
Mr. Raghu said there was an anthill at the very spot where the temple stands now, and locals used to worship it. “However, they stopped doing so after the gram panchayat allotted the land to the police station and the station’s compound wall came up, cutting off public access to the anthill,” he said.
Over the years, decreased rain, business failures and even an increase in accidents began to be attributed to the neglect of the sacred anthill. VGB treasurer K.R. Prakash said the villagers invited a tantrik from Kerala, who advised them to build a temple where the anthill used to be. The villagers then requested police officials for permission to build a temple.
A.V. Krushik, a native of Sringeri, said the premises of a secular place such as a police station could not be used for a temple.
Harish Pandey, Chikkamagaluru SP, said it was not a new structure and locals had been offering prayers there for long. As for the sub-inspector attending the ceremony, he said: “Since he was present at the station, he also went.”