Evidently taking recourse to technicalities, Law Minister Pratap Jena on Wednesday denied that the deities of Puri Jagannath Temple had ‘starved’ on Tuesday, but admitted to the inordinate delay in conduct of rituals.
The Minister made the statement after the Odisha Assembly was stalled for the second successive day by the Opposition Congress and BJP on Wednesday over the total chaos at Puri Jagannath Temple since on Tuesday and the colossal waste of tonnes of food (maha prasad) that had to be buried as it was not offered to the Lord.
As soon as the Assembly session commenced on Wednesday, Leader of Opposition Mr Narasingha Mishra raised the sensitive issue that has agitated the state since on Tuesday and demanding that the question hour be suspended to discuss the Jagannath Temple chaos.
The Speaker Pradip Amat did not respond and Congress members trooped to the well in protest forcing Amat to adjourn the house till 11.30 pm and again till 12.50 pm due to disruptions. The Speaker convened an all-party meeting to try and resolve the deadlock.
Mr Mishra told reporters that the government has been paralysed and directionless. Since on Tuesday we have been demanding a discussion on the sensitive matter that has hurt millions of devotees and yet the government does not respond, he remarked.
BJP leader K V Singh Deo echoed the same and said the state government , temple administration owe an answer to the lakhs of devotees who failed to get maha prasad since on Tuesday.
Veteran BJD leader Dr Damodar Rout, in his comments, to media persons said it was a very sad and unfortunate incident, but it should not be politicised. He suggested that Puri Sankaracharya and Gajapati Maharaja ought to be consulted to resolve the crisis in the temple.
Subsequent to the stalemate in the Assembly, the Law Minister Jena made a statement which said that the daily rituals had been delayed but it was wrong to say that the deities had starved.
He said on 10 April the High Court had issued an order pertaining to reopening of the Jagamohan of the temple that has been closed for repair since last two years. The date for reopening was fixed for 16 April by the court and it was done accordingly.
There was delay in conduct of rituals on the said day, he said. Outside the Assembly, people reacted sharply to the total glossing over of the problem and the entire issue.
If everything was fine why was tonnes of prasad buried and nothing offered to the deities for 30 hours. Why were emergency meetings convened and why are a section of the suara servitors on dharna.
Further why is it that the temple authorities are mulling over moving the court seeking amendment to its earlier order , quizzed people at Puri on Wednesday.
The problem arose because a section of the servitors were aggrieved over the court order pertaining to entry to the sanctum santorium by only those who are to perform the ritual.
No substitute was thought of and on 16 April, it so happened that the servitor who was the perform the morning ritual did not turn up and there was no substitute.
The temple administration stuck to the rule book while the servitors too remained adamant saying they will not accept any last minute request. In the process till late night everything came to a standstill.