Tensions flared on October 22, 2023, at the Bhadrachalam Sri Sitaramachandraswamy Devasthanam Goshala in Purushottapatnam, Etapaka Mandal, Andhra Pradesh, as a dispute over temple lands culminated in a confrontation between farmers and temple staff. The incident resulted in injuries to several employees and priests, prompting police intervention.
The source of the conflict stemmed from the temple authorities’ decision to fell trees on lands belonging to the temple, situated within the village of Purushottapatnam. Notably, the temple boasts approximately 900 acres of land in this region, with the Supreme Court confirming the temple’s ownership of these lands.
Despite the legal affirmation of ownership, as the lands fall within the jurisdiction of Andhra Pradesh, temple authorities have encountered challenges in reclaiming these properties from encroachers. This backdrop set the stage for a heated argument when Executive Officer L Rama Devi was overseeing work on the temple lands.
During the tree-cutting operation, farmers who had encroached on the temple lands arrived and questioned the officials. Their main concern revolved around the lack of prior notice regarding the tree felling. In response, the Executive Officer asserted that the entire property belonged to the temple, and as such, the temple had full rights to initiate development work.
The disagreement between the farmers and temple authorities escalated into a heated argument. Emotions ran high, and the farmers eventually resorted to physically attacking the temple staff. Several members of the temple staff, including Executive Engineer V Ravinder and a priest, sustained injuries during the altercation.
Local law enforcement arrived at the scene, diffusing the confrontation between the parties. In the aftermath, the injured temple staff received medical attention. In a display of collective discontent, Executive Officer L Rama Devi, along with other temple officials and staff, organised a dharna (sit-in protest) on the temple grounds. They demanded justice and called for a resolution to the ongoing dispute over temple lands.
This is a startling case where the EO is actually supporting the temple authorities while the police are siding with the encroachers.
Credits: Hindu Post