Bhubaneswar: The Union government challenging the promulgation of an ordinance by the Odisha government to bring in a special legislation for redevelopment of Lingaraj Temple has sent ripples through the political spectrum as well as the general public.
The Odisha government had promulgated the ordinance in 2020 to formulate a law like that of Puri Srimandir for redevelopment of Lingaraj Temple and its peripheral area here in the city.
However, the Centre has imposed curbs on it and returned the ordinance to the Odisha Governor. The move by the Union government has triggered sharp reactions from various quarters.
Many have dismissed the move and alleged that the Centre wants to foist its laws on the state government to take control of ancient monuments in Odisha.
Ekamra MLA and Minister Ashok Chandra Panda justified the state government’s move to bring an ordinance and sought to know if developmental work could be undertaken in Kashi Vishwanath, Somnath and Kedarnath shrines, then why not at the Lingaraj Temple.
“Why the Centre is adopting one yardstick for development of Kashi Vishwanath, Somnath and Kedarnath temples and a different norm in case of Lingaraj Temple?” Panda asked.
“The state government has already clarified about the ordinance to the Centre, and if needed, it would clarify on the issue once again,” Panda added.
The Centre has pointed out that the state’s ordinance on Lingaraj Temple and eight other temples around it are not under the ‘legislative competence’ of the Assembly and it violates the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains (AMASR) Act, 1958.
The ordinance is fully contradicting AMASR Act, which prohibits any kind of new construction in the area within 100-metre periphery of the protected monuments. Besides, the area lying 200 metres from the prohibited area is called control area.
If any work or restoration is to be carried out in the control area, there is need for permission from the National Monuments Authority. The Union Home Ministry, in a letter, has pointed out objections of the Union Culture Ministry about the ordinance.
It has stated that the Archaeological Survey of India is the competent authority to protect and conserve the Lingaraj Temple, 11 other monuments and three ponds in Bhubaneswar.
It also said that certain provisions in the Odisha government’s ordinance pertain to conservation and restoration of some temples and ponds. Such dual administrative control over temples will lead to conflicts.
In the letter, it was stated that basic structures of these monuments will not be changed under any circumstances. The Centre had twice or thrice sought clarifications on the ordinance from the Odisha government and got its reply.
After the Centre’s rejection, the Odisha government has started exploring legal steps to counter the move.
“Further steps will be taken, after receiving the letter from the Centre on its objection to the ordinance,” Chief Secretary Suresh Chandra Mohapatra said.
The blocking of the Lingaraj temple ordinance by the Centre has evoked sharp reactions from various quarters.
The Ekamra MLA further said, “The Centre instead of seeking clarifications has tried to block the ordinance which has hurt Odia sentiments. The law is same for all. The Centre should not to adopt a discriminatory approach in case of Odia deities.”
Kamalakanta Badu, secretary of the Badu Niyog in Lingaraj Temple, condemned the Centre’s move to block the ordinance. He said all were hopeful of a special law for Lingaraj Temple after long years.
He suspected a political conspiracy behind the move. The temple can have a smooth run if both the Union and state governments stop doing politics and introduce the ordinance in proper coordination among them, Badu said.
Biranchi Narayan Pati, secretary of Brahman Niyog, said the ‘traditions’ of Sri Lingaraj were being regularly violated for which they have been demanding enactment of a Special Act before the Odisha government.
“The state government had agreed to bring in a special law but it’s ironical that the Centre has blocked the ordinance,” he pointed out.
State BJP president Samir Mohanty said that the Union government is not objecting to any developmental works in the state but it wants execution of the projects as per rule.