The Jagannath Sevayat Sammilani has urged the servitors of the 12th century temple to boycott the Rath Yatra coordination meeting, to be chaired by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on 3 July, to protest the alleged attempt to defame them.
The Sammilani put up posters on the walls of the temple on Sunday condemning the “repressive” attitude of the Puri collector towards the servitors.
The posters cited a “series of false allegations and anti-servitor” tendency of the Puri collector to “defame” the servitors on several issues including the purported letter received from Rashtrapati Bhawan on the alleged disrespect to Savita Kovind, wife of President Ram Nath Kovind, during their visit to the temple on 18 March.
The Sammilani also referred to an incident on ‘Niladri Bije’ last year in the posters.
The secretary of the Sammilani, Kashinath Khuntia, alleged that the district collector, in an attempt to tarnish the image of the servitors, has started a “vilification campaign” against the entire community.
“Therefore, the servitors have been urged to boycott the coordination meeting,” Khuntia said.
The servitors were unhappy with the district collector after the chief administrator of Shree Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA) told the media that it had not received any Rashtrapati Bhawan communiqué on the alleged disrespect to Savita Kovind by some servitors during the First Family’s visit to the temple.
Chief secretary AP Padhi had also confirmed that the state government had not received any communication from the Rashtrapati Bhawan on the issue.
In another incident last year, there was a dispute between the district administration and servitors over climbing the chariots on ‘Niladri Bije’ despite a ban.
‘Niladri Bije’ is the concluding day of Ratha Yatra when deities return to the temple after nine days.
Calls to the Puri collector Arvind Agarwal went unanswered.
In a separate development, senior servitor and assistant secretary of ‘Daitapati Nijog’, Binayak Dasmohapatra, had lodged a complaint against the Puri collector and former SJTA chief administrator PK Jena at Simhadwara police station, demanding action against them for making false allegations and trying to malign the servitor community.