BHUBANESWAR: A large number of people on Friday staged a demonstration at Jatni, about 20km from here, protesting against the state government's move to settle their land in favour of Puri's Jagannath Temple.
A dawn-to-dusk shutdown called by protestors led to closure of all government, non-government offices and commercial establishments at Jatni.
The locals are up in arms against the government's plan to displace over 50,000 people from their land. "Recently, a revenue department's circular announced that the land on which we have been residing since years belongs to the Jagannath Temple in Puri. We were shocked as we possess land pattas and have been paying tax to the government regularly. The government cannot displace us from our homes," said Kailash Mahapatra, president of Ekhrajata Mahal Rayata Surakhya Samiti, which is spearheading the movement in the locality.
The Jagannath Temple Administration said it would look into the matter. "The land belongs to Jagannath. Nobody has the right to occupy the land illegally," temple's chief administrator Arvind Padhee said. "We will consider if anyone gives us application and submits valid documents, claiming ownership over the land. They will have to pay certain premium to register the land in their favour," Padhee said.
Similar controversy persists in Puri where locals, under the banner of Bhu Sampati Surakshya Parishad (BSSP), have been fighting for last one decade for land patta titles, which were named in favour of Jagannath.
Almost all residents had purchased land from various 'mathas' after obtaining permission from the commissioner of endowment and constructed houses over them. The government asked the land registrar to stop sale and transfer of land, the finance institutions not to extend loans on the land and the development authority not to sanction plans on the temple land.