PURI: The Puri district administration on Tuesday temporarily halted the eviction drive near the Shri Jagannath Temple due to stiff opposition from monks of different mutts (monasteries) located close to the 12th-century shrine here, a senior official said.
The monks of different mutts opposed the eviction drive when the district administration resumed the drive on Tuesday after a break of two-days to evict Bada Akhada Mutt of Pancha Ramanandia sect established in the town in 1402.
As the eviction drive faced opposition, Puri Collector Balwant Singh invited Bada Akhada Mutt chief Harinarayan Das for a discussion and later announced about suspending the eviction process till discussion with all the stakeholders.
The administration had launched the eviction drive on August 19 in the area within 75 meters from the temple boundary wall for the sake of the safety and security of the 12th century shrine.
Earlier, the district administration has evicted two mutts - Nanguli Mutt (300-years old) and Emar Mutt (900-years old).
While the administration completely razed Nanguli mutt, a portion of Emar Mutt still could not be demolished due to protest by the mutt chief.
Though all arrangements were put in place by deployment of 30 platoons (1 platoon comprise 30 personnel) and magistrate to undertake eviction of Bada Akhada mutt, the team had to halt the eviction drive as chief of Bada Akhada mutt opposed the move.
Several monks from different mutts from within the state and outside assembled at Bada Akhada mutt and opposed the eviction drive.
Many monks were seen standing on rooftop of the mutt buildings and opposing the eviction drive.
The Bada Akhada Mutt chief alleged that the administration has been pressuring him to sign documents admitting that the mutt is in dilapidated condition.
"How can I sign in the document admitting that the mutt building is in dilapilated state when it is strong? The Bada Akhada Mutt was never in danger. Neither the Endowment Commission or ASI have mentioned anything about this," he said.
The Akhila Bharat Sadhusanth Samiti, an apex body of saints, has criticised the eviction drive.
"The administration has been demolishing ancient buildings without consulting the mutt authorities," alleged Sankarananda Giri, the president of the committee.
He said mutts are heritage and they should not face mindless demolition.
Kataki mutt head Bijay Ramanand Dash said, "The Mutt was never unsafe. The administration should let us know how it declared the mutt unsafe."
Meanwhile, opposition BJP and Congress strongly criticised the state government for evicting ancient mutts and demanded their preservation and conservation instead of demolition.
Congress lawmaker Suresh Routray, who met the monks at Bada Akhada mutt said: "We do not appreciate the government action. You cannot demolish the mutts linked with Shri Jagannath Temple."
He said announcement of rehabilitation and resettlement is not sufficient.
"The affected people should be rehabilitated first before being evicted," he said.