Temple embroiled in dispute between Palike, MEG

Temple embroiled in dispute between Palike, MEG

Caught in crossfire

Devotees believe that the deity in this temple is the most powerful.

Members of the Muneshwara Temple Bhakta Mandali stage a protest against the alleged encroachment of the temple land on Sunday. The Muneshwara Temple in Halasuru, located right below the Kempe Gowda tower on the Halasuru rock, enjoys special status among the local community who visit the place on all occasions considered auspicious. Also, many residents in the surrounding areas have memories of childhood attached with the place, as they often visited the playground next to it.

The temple today is stuck in a conflict between the BBMP and the MEG. While the MEG has claimed the land to be theirs and has put up a fence around the temple, prohibiting public entering the premises, the BBMP claims the land to be its. The Muneshwara Temple Bhakta Mandali staged a dharna on Sunday against the alleged encroachment by the MEG.

Devotees are clueless as to why the temple was taken away from them. “What will they gain from this? They do not even use this land,” says Latha, whose family has been visiting the temple for decades.

Manjula, another devotee, says that three generations of her family have been visiting the temple without fail, every week. Since they are no more allowed inside the temple, devotees have placed another idol in front of the fenced temple, where they offer prayers.

Ousted from premises

Susheelamma, the temple priest, recalls that her family had to move out of the only home they had after the MEG put up a fence around it. “My father-in-law used to be the priest here. After his demise, I have taken charge,” she says. Staying away from the temple is out of question for her. She has pitched a tent right next to the fenced land, which serves as her home. She has asked her children to stay separately, as the place she stays has hardly room for one person.

In a letter written in 1989, addressed to the Commandant, MEG, the BBMP commissioner states, “The Kempe Gowda Tower has been blocked with a board warning against trespassing and declaring the area and the archaeological monument a part of defence properties. I am sure you would not like to participate in a needless controversy.”

The letter requests the MEG to remove the boards as the land does not “clearly belong to them.” Also, Section 18 of The Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958, specifies that “Subject to any rules under this Act, the public shall have a right of access to any protected monument.”

Claiming purchase

On the other hand, the MEG claims to have bought the land. Reacting to the protests, an official of the MEG said, “The issue is the other way round. The temple was an encroachment on our space. The land belongs to the Army and it is not obliged to permit anyone to enter its premises.” Insiders at the MEG say that two years ago, a contract was also awarded to build a compound wall around the place (including the Kempe Gowda Watch Tower and the temple).

In the process, the family of the priest of the Muneshwara temple, residing in the premises, was ousted. This led to protests by the public and the construction of the compound was stalled.

No documents

Speaking to Deccan Herald on Sunday, one of the officials said a court ruling in 2005 was in favour of MEG and the BBMP had no claim over it.

However, in reply to repeated RTI applications filed by K Venkatesh of Muneshwara Temple Bhakta Mandali, the Defence Estates Office has not been able to provide any document to support its claim.