Shankaracharya of Puri Govardhan Raises Concern over Jagannath Temple Security Provisions

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Shankaracharya of Puri Govardhan Peeth Swami Neeschalananda Saraswati on Monday said Puri being one of the four important ‘dhams’ of India, it is the responsibility of both Central and State Governments to ensure its safety.

“Pilgrims in lakhs flock this 12th century shrine. Hence, it is the responsibility of the Government to ensure foolproof security to Jagannath Temple and devotees visiting the shrine,” said the Shankaracharya, in wake of confession of Indian Mujahideen (IM) operatives about the terror outfit’s plans to target the Puri Rath Yatra.

Shankaracharya, who is also head of the Jagannath Temple Mukti Mandap Sabha, the apex body of pundits that take final decision of the rituals followed in the temple, said the State Government had never sought his advice on the matter of security for the shrine. “I am worried over the manner in which the security arrangement is made in the temple,” Shankaracharya said.

Following a terrorist strike on IISc Bengaluru and Hyderabad, a three-member National Security Guards team headed by Commander Major LK Nishad in 2006 evaluated the existing security arrangements of the temple and had described it as a soft target for terror strikes. The team had submitted a number of suggestions to prevent possible strike including an emergency contingency plan in the event of a terrorist strike.

Though Commander Nishad had refused to reveal his suggestions, it is learnt that his report suggested to remove all structures from the periphery of the temple as they posed grave threat. The State Government and Puri administration did precious little to implement the suggestions.

Even as the State Government had announced a number of security arrangements, all of those have been put in cold storage. Every time there is a report of terror attack in India, Puri Police doubles up security provision in the shrine and removes them after a day or two. As on today, the metal detectors and CCTV cameras installed in the temple do not work round-the-clock and watch towers erected nearby are empty throughout the day.

This apart, the then DGP Gopal Chandra Nanda had in 2008 inaugurated a special police station – Lions’ Gate police station – in front of the temple dedicated for security of the shrine. It was planned that 204 armed police personnel including one inspector, 20 sub-inspectors and a DSP would be engaged at the police station round-the-clock. Today, the police station functions with a handful of officers.

Meanwhile, Gajapati King of Puri Dibyasingha Deb, the president of the Jagannath Temple Management, said, “The State Government has all apparatus to provide foolproof security to the temple. They should leave no stone unturned.”

Puri SP Anup Kumar Sahoo said, “We have increased security of the temple. All persons entering are being checked at the main gate.”

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