Guwahati: Local tribal people were in a state of shock, and there was anger when they learned about the heinous incident of the 200-year-old Shiv-Parvati and Lakshmi-Narayan temples being set on fire. It is their only place of worship in the Ratabari area, but it has been reduced to ashes.
The incident ignited tension among the locals, who have been worshipping the deities for hundreds of years in the temple inside the forest of Damsora village. Taking advantage of the darkness of the night, miscreants set fire to the ancient temple, which had been a revered religious site for centuries, as the temple is situated in an isolated location.
Locals said that the temple was established in the early 1800s by one Devi Ram Barman near the tribal village. For generations, this sacred place has been at the heart of tribal worship. Distraught women in the village allege that the miscreants deliberately set the temple ablaze to hurt the religious sentiments of tribal Hindus and are demanding appropriate punishment for the culprits.
The villagers alleged that the Islamist families were recently evicted from the forest areas by the administration. However, after the eviction, they again encroached on other parts of the forest. The encroachers were not happy that tribal people were allowed to stay in the forest area under special provisions. The Muslim encroachers engaged in quarrels on several occasions with the tribal villagers. The villagers found three empty plastic gallons of petrol in the temple premises and suspected that the miscreants used petrol to burn the age-old temple.
Police officials, including the District Commissioner (DC) and Superintendent of Police (SP) rushed to site of the incident. SP Partha Pratim Das informed us that a column of paramilitary forces and a police battalion have been deployed to maintain order and security, and administration will soon start evicting the encroachers. The senior police official confirmed that the security forces would be stationed till the eviction process is completed.
DC Mridul Yadav said that the eviction was done one month ago, but they again created some temporary structures and encroached on other parts of the forest. Instructions have been given to the circle officer to carry out fresh evictions in the next 15 days.
The tribals have been residing in the village for centuries with the permission of the forest department. However, in recent years, the situation has worsened as the Islamists started encroaching on the forest land. Even after evictions by the district administration, they’re encroaching on other parts of the forest. Local people alleged that the community often engaged in quarrels with the tribal people. As revenge for the recent eviction, they set the temple on fire, the locals alleged.
But the reason behind the arson incident will only come out only in police investigation. Meanwhile, tribal women of the area broke into tears after seeing the burnt temple and idols of Shiv-Parvati and Lakshmi-Narayan. They demanded a proper investigation and immediate arrest of the miscreants. The situation is still tense in the area, as the tribal people feel that it is a direct attack on Sanatana Dharma and their beliefs.