The highly sensitive issues pertaining to hereditary rights of sevayats, donations given to them by devotees has come to the fore again with a section of the sevayats issuing a terse warning that if donations are stopped or their rights encroached upon with adequate compensation, they would stop work and hand over keys of the Lord Jagannath Temple to the Puri Maharaja Diba Singh Deo.
A meeting between the chief administrator of the temple Mr P K Mahapatra and the sevayats held on Saturday at Puri discussed the issue. Mr Mahapatra is said to have told the sevayats that the apex court order need to be adhered to and the sevayats are free to raise their problems in front of the amicus curiae Mr Gopal Subramanium as and when he visits Puri.
The sevayats (priests) however said any abrupt stoppage of donations to them by devotees or hereditary rights and tendering of the ‘chula’ (kitchen to cook mahaprasad) run by some of them would be opposed.
On Sunday, some of the sevayats told media persons that if the chulas are tendered or given to others, donations stopped and hereditary rights denied, they have no reason to come to the temple and perform puja’s.
We are willing to discuss all these issues, let the temple managing committee be convened for the purpose within one month and take a call by 5 September.
If it is imposed on us without alternative measures and adequate compensation we will hand over the keys to the Gajapati Maharaja and stop going to the temple, they said.
It may be noted here that the Supreme Court had asked the Puri district judge to submit a report on reforms in the light of a petition which had raised issues of mismanagement, harassment of devotees, donations being squandered away etc.
The district judge had given a report with some suggestions including abolition of hereditary rights, end to collection of donation from devotees by the sevayats and all donations to go to the temple donation box etc.
Since the Puri Rath Yatra was to be held, everything was put on hold and now that the rath yatra is over the sensitive matters have cropped up. The temple authorities, as well as the government, are to furnish a report to the apex court and it is in this context that the chief administrator P K Mahapatra had held the meeting on Saturday.
The Managing Committee of the temple headed by the Puri Gajapati Maharaja is to meet and discuss within a week. In another related development, a three member committee to study the matter as per directions of the apex court constituted by the state government has decided to hold a public hearing at Puri on 10 August to work out reforms and seek suggestions.
The Shree Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA) has issued a notification seeking suggestions and ideas during the hearing scheduled to be held between 11 am and 2 pm.
The committee is headed by Mr Suresh Chandra Mohapatra, IAS and its two other members are Soumyendra Priyadarshi, IPS and temple managing committee member Mahimohan Tripathy.