Guwahati: Ugratara Temple Boundary Wall Being Built in Violation of Court Stay Order
An iconic archaeological site steeped in mythology in the heart of Guwahati city is being encroached by committee members for personal gain, defying the judiciary’s repeated order to put a hold on the ongoing construction. Concerned citizens suspect an unknown powerful hand backing the ‘care-a-damn’ attitude of the accused.
The concern mentioned here is a narrow lane adjacent to the northern wall of the Jorpukhuri (the one belonging to Ugratara Temple) that is being extended by encroaching upon the fringe land of the lake.
Kalyan Kumar Das, the resident of Lamb Road, had earlier lodged an FIR with the Latasil Police station (case number 43/2020) under Section 406 of the IPC read with Section 4 of the PDPP Act.
Later, a civil injunction petition was also filed under additional District Judge number 1. The said petition was filed against Parameswar Sarma (Doloi of the temple), president of the Sri Sri Maa Ugratara Devalaya Managing Committee, Kailash Sarma, and members of the temple committee.
The Jorpukhuri pond was dug in the year 1650 by Late Rani Phuleshwari Devi. It is situated on the southeastern side of the Ugratara Devalaya covering 4 bighas, 1 Katha and 10.83 lechas of land.
At present, the said pond is having two folded boundary walls - one at its inner side, used as a guard wall for protection of water bodies and erosion, and the second being a boundary wall that covers the entire area. Just adjacent to the northern side of the boundary wall of the pond, there is a very narrow road that ends at the rear entrance gate of the Devalaya, touching Lamb Road. Hence no RCC (reinforced cement concrete) building is permitted for construction as per the building by-laws maintained by Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) and Guwahati Metropolitan Development Authority (GMDA).
On 12th February last, the defendants who reside on this narrow lane demolished the outer boundary wall of the Jorpukhuri without obtaining permission from the competent authorities, misusing their respective status and power as the President and member of the Ugratara Devalaya Managing Committee.
Demolition of the pond’s boundary wall was undertaken to extend the width of the narrow lane to make it motorable. But in doing so, they encroached upon the land of the historic site without prior permission. Allegedly, nearly 6 to 8 feet of land has been encroached upon by raising a boundary wall.
Talking to G Plus in February, Kailash Sharma had said, "GMC had undertaken construction of the said lane and as the wall of the lake on that side was already inclining towards one side, GMC proposed to reconstruct the same and also broaden the lane. As such a No Objection Certificate (NOC) was asked from the temple committee and we issued the same."
The said NOC was reportedly issued by Parameswar Sarma, Doloi of the Devalaya. It needs to be mentioned that a Doloi is reportedly the caretaker of the temple who presides over the religious rituals as required.
However, he does not hold any legal power over the properties, be it the land or the building. The land belongs to the Devalaya and the District Judge is the main custodian of the temple. So due permission should actually have been taken from the custodian. It has also been reported that the demolished wall itself was an archaeological property.
The petitioner, Kalyan Das said, "This historical temple is of the people and the managing committee has no authority to allow any construction without the consent of the local people."
As such the Court had put on hold the ongoing construction work. The order reads, “The Holy Sri Sri Maa Ugratara Devalaya is a historic site and its preservation is necessary and therefore, if the defendants are not restrained from constructing the boundary wall, then it would amount to irreparable loss to the society.”
Despite the order, the construction work continued without any restraint. Due to the unprecedented Covid-19 situation, the disposal of the review petition was pending. And reportedly taking advantage of the same, construction continued.
The Additional District Judge No. 1 of Kamrup (Metro) held that “...till disposal of the appeal...for the interest of the justice both the parties are directed to maintain status quo. The defendants, the servants, agents, employees, workmen, etc are directed to restrain from any demolition/construction of the boundary wall on the northern side of the Jorpukhuri Pond.”
Yet, construction of the wall and other related activities have continued disregarding the lawful injunction order of the court.
Notably, an application was also submitted with the Commissioner of GMC stating the issue along with details of the judicial order. The petitioner also mentioned the GMC contractor who has been involved in the same. But to this issue, a reply by the corporation is yet awaited.
As such an injunction violation application has been filed against the GMC as well as the GMC contractor as the proposed work of road widening have also been impleaded.
G Plus reached out to the GMC Commissioner but no response was provided. The GMC Joint Commissioner, Pulak Mahanta, whose office reportedly received the complaint could not be reached to comment on the same after multiple attempts.
Concerned citizens have hinted at possibilities of support from highly placed persons given the carefree attitude of the defendants and their continuous contempt of the judiciary.
It needs to be mentioned that the Jorpukhuri pond is home to a large number of turtles. Apart from turtles, it serves as an excellent nesting ground for swans and for various herons, egrets, and cranes in the trees on its boundary. Whether any permission was sought from the forest department for the aforesaid construction is yet to be ascertained.
Presently, the court has ordered for police intervention in the matter, and ‘comntempt of court’ might be slapped if the illegal construction continues.