Anger simmers in Chennai as the DMK government faces flak for the overnight demolition of a newly built Vinayagar temple at the Kilambakkam Bus Terminal. This action, coinciding with the terminal’s hasty inauguration, has ignited accusations of religious bias and sparked concern about the government’s commitment to secularism.
Allegedly succumbing to pressure from followers of EV Ramaswamy Naicker and other pseudo-secular forces, the decision to raze the temple has drawn sharp condemnation from the public.
The recent hurried opening of the Kalaignar Centenary Bus Terminus in Kilambakkam, located 40 kilometers away from the city, has drawn widespread criticism from the public. The terminal, lacking last-mile connectivity and adequate transportation options, has caused significant inconvenience to passengers, especially during the festive season when many are travelling to their native places for the Pongal festival.
The project, initially conceived during the previous AIADMK regime, faced multiple delays and mishaps. In an attempt to overcome obstacles, astrologers suggested building a temple for Vinayagar within the complex to ensure the smooth progress and completion of the project. A small temple was constructed, and regular poojas were performed.
Questions have been raised about the legality of the land where the bus terminal is situated, as it was reportedly under the control of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). The land in question is said to be near a site notified by the ASI, raising uncertainties about how the authorities obtained permission for the project.
The project’s history is marked by hurdles, and locals attribute the mishaps to the removal of the Baba Baukh Nag, the serpent deity of the mountains around the Silkyara tunnel in Uttarkashi. After setting up a temporary temple dedicated to Baba Baukh Nag, the successful rescue of 41 trapped workers led to a surge in devotees. Plans are underway to construct a permanent temple in the region.
The unexpected demolition of the Vinayagar temple has sparked protests and condemnation from Hindu Munnani and devotees. Images and videos capturing the temple’s removal have circulated on social media, further fueling public dissatisfaction.
In light of the public outcry, there are calls for a thorough investigation into the legality of the land, the permissions obtained, and the decision-making process behind the demolition of the Vinayagar temple.
In response to public outcry, the government offered an explanation, stating that the demolition was carried out following rules prohibiting the construction of places of worship on public and government lands. Hindu Munnani functionary Paramesaran challenged this explanation, suggesting that if the rule is applied consistently, then government buildings, including the Madurai bench of the High Court and Collector offices, should be vacated as they are allegedly built on temple lands.
According to Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority (CMDA ) officials, the land was previously under lease with the VGP group, and there was a legal dispute over ownership. While the CMDA claims that the court ruled in their favour, there were petitions to remove the temple, leading to its demolition.
Devotees from nearby areas like Urappakkam and Kaarnaip Puducherry expressed their dismay, claiming that the temple, which stood for two decades, was discarded during the construction of the bus terminal project. The public gathered at the site of the demolished temple, creating a tense atmosphere. Assistant Commissioner of Police Guduvancherry Jayaraj and Inspector Murugesan intervened to maintain order and prevent further escalation.
Parameswaran, the Hindu Munnani functionary, criticised the secretive nature of the demolition, questioning why it was carried out at night without leaving any trace of the temple. He condemned the act and called for divine wrath and punishment for those involved. Parameswaran urged the government to rebuild the temple at the same location promptly to avoid provoking the wrath of the deity.
The controversy surrounding the demolition of the Vinayagar temple highlights the ongoing debate about the treatment of religious structures in public development projects. The clash between the government’s explanation and the sentiments of devotees emphasises the delicate balance needed to address issues of cultural and religious significance in urban development. As devotees continue to express their discontent, the situation remains tense, prompting authorities to maintain a vigilant presence at the site.