[Reader-list] riverfront update

Jeebesh jeebesh at sarai.net
Wed Jun 4 16:48:22 IST 2008

On 6/2/08, Yamuna Jiye Abhiyaan <yamunajiye at gmail.com> wrote:
Dear Friends,

Today's incident at the Satyagrah Sthal not only highlighted the true  
face of the highly controversial structure called the Akshardham in  
the river bed bringing to fore its evil existence but a strange  
dilemma that we Satyagrahis came to be faced with as a result.

A phone call during mid day alerted us to impending demolition of the  
Satyagrah Sthal by the police.

Rushing to the scene we found that while the Satyagrah Sthal was  
untouched all the jhuggies nearby (about 10 of them) had been  
demolished by a strong police force on orders from the 'top'. These  
are labourers (migrants from East UP and nearby) who used to tend the  
nurseries, many plants from which grace the residences of the greenery  
lovers in the city.

Discreet enquiries revealed that the Akshardham authorities had  
written to the Home Department about a security threat to the so  
called temple and hence these jhuggies had to go. And lo ! with no  
political voice whatsoever they were brought to ground by a police  
force obeying orders from their superiors. As if now Akshardham, not  
withstanding a prison like walls all around it, extra special security  
at its 'restricted' entrance, prison like watch towers in all corners  
could sleep in peace. If jhuggies and the like around the 'precious'  
Akshardham is a security risk then almost the whole of Pandav nagar  
(incidently the area where the Akshardham had first been allotted a  
piece of land for an educational and cultural centre that they refused  
to 'accept' – we have official documents to support this) and some  
part of the Samaspur Jagir village and Mayur Vihar should also have no  
right to exist ! But would the state have the guts to bring them down  
like wise?

What is this Akshardham after all? Claiming to be a 'temple' as its  
public face it is a cultural centre on paper run by a private trust of  
monied and politically connected swamis (sic). It today encroaches  
upon about 100 acres of the river bed against its initially allotted  
18 acres which had later on been extended to 30 acres. It must be  
perhaps the only temple anywhere with a highly restricted entry, paid  
parking and paid visits to some of its facilities. The MCD which is  
today controlled by the Party that facilitated its construction in the  
first place have surreptitiously also exempted it from payment of  
commercial taxes, despite it being an out and out commercial facility  
making crores of rupees annually through entry charges as well as  
payments for other commercial activities within the premises.

A temple is ideally a place of worship where the devout get attracted  
for spiritual rejuvenation in a voluntary manner with no restricted  
entrance and receive whatever is given out freely as a parshad. Is any  
of this true of Akshardham?

It is an illegal structure (has never sought any permission from the  
Yamuna Standing Committee) that is founded on deceit and illegal  
appropriation of farmer's land abetted by a party in power. (Even the  
so called approval by the SC of it on a dismissed PIL is based more on  
default rather any merit of the case – the fact that a sprawling  
concrete parking space stands where the SC was made to understand that  
no land use change would happen is a glaring example of the SC having  
been taken for a ride by the temple managers).

With so much of evil intent, ill-gotten land and artificial security  
how can any devout really visit it with faith and fervour is beyond  
our comprehension. But people either attracted by its architectural  
grandeur (which indeed it exhibits) or blinded by faith continue to  
visit it in hordes almost everyday enriching the coffers of the trust  

It is time that the civil society exposed its real face and advocated  
its public boycott as a structure which is not only illegal but is  
'evil' in its existence in the river bed.

That today it has taken toll of the hapless jhuggies in the river bed  
is but yet another instance of its power and reach. That the party  
that created it may yet again come into power more by default of the  
present regime's poor governance than any positive vote for the party  
in question may have played a part in today's action by the concerned  

Whatever, it presented a serious dilemma in front of us Yamuna  
Satyagrahis whereby us being better 'secured' politically by our high  
moral (?) ground of a public cause stood watching helplessly the  
demolitions of the homes of the helpless and the hapless.

Two scenes of the day add to our dilemma.

Two small kids of the 'homeless' labourers 'swinging' away to glory  
without a care on a 'vine swing' while their parents searched for  
their belongings amongst the demolished jhuggies and a police wallah  
carrying away a small plant home (presumably free) from a nursery  
whose help he had just dispossessed and made homeless !

Shall we call it 'Karma' and consign the happenings of the day to  



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