Guwahati: Ugratara Temple’s idol theft leads to public squabble
GUWAHATI: Temples do have controversies and sometimes these get very ugly with the internal tug-of-war between the various sections trying to control the management on display. There are numerous examples in the country of rivalries and battles inside temple complexes and this time we are witnessing it in the Ugratara Temple. There is enough mud-slinging at the moment and it all portrays the very poor state in which the temple is being actually run. This has indeed become a very sad journal of events.
The controversy surrounding the theft of an idol from Ugratara Temple lingers on and allegations have been made against each other by the factions. There is no doubt that the factions are trying to go for each others’ throats.
Recently, an FIR was registered after a certain phone call and it involved a former member of the temple. The former secretary of Ugratara Devalaya Committee, Paresh Kalita, has denied all allegations leveled against him in connection to the Ugratara Idol heist. As per Kalita, there are various elements who are trying to frame him in this case and have been continuously raising issues to divert attention from the reasons that led to the idol going missing.
The main idol of the temple and other valuables went missing on 15th November last and later the CID and the police managed to nab the supposed thieves based on CCTV footage. The main idol, however, continues to remain missing.
There have been allegations against Paresh Kalita being involved in some way with the missing idol. Kalita, on the other hand, has named one Kailash Sarma who is behind this false propaganda against him. The enmity, according to Kalita, goes back to 2007 when the illegal encroachment of Kailash Sarma over the temple land was removed by the district administration on the orders of the Supreme Court of India. Kalita was the secretary then and saw to it that the encroachment was removed. It also means that there was a long drawn battle between the two parties where ultimately Kalita and his team finally won. Sarma, according to Kalita, had let out the western side of the temple property to various small business establishments and was enjoying the rent.
As the idol theft case is a high-profile case, a Special Investigative Team (SIT) has been set up and the investigators wanted a sketch of the idol to make the identification process easier. As per Paresh Kalita, the SIT had reportedly called upon Paresh Kalita who directed them to meet the Chief Purohit (Chief Priest), Jiten Sarma, who takes care of the idol’s bathing and change of attire.
The SIT had some issues connecting to the purohit on phone, so Paresh Kalita called up his on number and as the purohit has some hearing problem the phone was taken over by someone else. Kalita informed the receiver that the SIT wanted a sketch of the idol and might call the purohit and other people in the temple. This, according to Paresh Kalita, was made into a story that he was threatening the purohit with SIT’s influence and it was a misrepresentation of what had actually transpired. Kalita blames Kailash Sarma for all of these allegations against him and counters the claims that the present committee had failed to provide safety and security to the temple premises that led to the idol theft.
“The allegations that are leveled against me are completely false. The FIR lodged against me has wrong information. However, I made a call to the chief purohit on December 1. I am assisting the Special Investigation Team formed to investigate the idol theft case. It has been wrongly mentioned in the FIR that some Special Branch officials called the chief purohit on December 1,” Paresh Kalita defended.
Present Committee breached the age-old traditions of the Devalaya: Former Secretary
Paresh Kalita also alleged that the present committee members showed a lackadaisical attitude in maintaining strict security vigil in and around the Devalaya.
“The present committee failed to provide security in around the Devalaya. During our tenure, two security guards – one from the administration and one from our side - stood guard at the Devalaya. There is no sign of security on the part of the present committee,” said Paresh Kalita.
Moreover, Kalita also accused the present committee members of breaking age-old traditions of the Devalaya and cited this flouting as another factor behind the theft.
“Devotees, out of belief in Devi Tara, pay tributes in the form of sacrifice where ducks, pigeons and goats are offered. Some devotees release them – that is another form of sacrifice – on the Devalaya premises. There is no bigger crime than consuming livestock which are actually animals sacrificed in the name of the Devi. The present committee has also laid their hands on a fixed deposited amount of Rs 40 lakh left by the former President and Doloi,” Kalita alleged.
“The Devi left the Mandir premises due to the atrocities meted out to her in these forms. The present committee should have arranged for pujas and rituals for the return of the Devi instead of making arrangements for another idol,” he added.
The former president also alleged that the present committee members have the tendency to seize the valuables, gold and silver in the treasury of the Devalaya.
No sign of the Idol
The police have extended the search operation for the lost Ugratara Idol to other districts of the state but have not been successful. Though it has managed to recover a lamp and some cash after the accused were arrested on the basis of CCTV footage from the temple premises, the hope of getting the idol back is getting lesser by the day. The accused Babu Basfor, Rohit Basfor, Suraj Basfor, Tinku Ali and Farida Begum have been remanded to judicial custody at the Guwahati Central Jail.