Imphal: The row over the Govindaji Temple construction being undertaken inside the campus of the Royal Palace (Sana Konung) in Imphal has snowballed into a bigger storm, with Pandit Loishang members vandalising under-construction buildings.

The Loishang members maintained that the forced construction of Hindu temple allegedly on Pandit Loishang’s premises is impinging on the age-old sanctity of the indigenous religion of Meitei. They accused the BJP-led government in Manipur of usurping Pandit Loishang’s land and undertaking a Hindu construction on its premises against the will and consent of Pandit Loishang.

A committee called “Pandit Loishang (Maru Loishang) Kanba Lup” has also been constituted by various CSOs, Meira Paibis, amaiba amaibi (priests and priestess) and Pandit Loishang members to safeguard and protect Pandit Loishang, which is considered to be the custodian of the indigenous religion of Meitei community.

Meanwhile, the government put the premises under a heavy security umbrella. Pandit Loishang members have been unable to enter the premises since Monday.

The committee accused the BJP-led Manipur government of trying to disturb religious harmony by targeting a small religious community and annihilating the indigenous religion of the Meitei.

The newly-formed Pandit Loishang (Maru Loishang) Kanba Lup has appealed to the people to support the protest and help safeguard the little space for the indigenous religion of Meitei inside the Royal Palace.

Pandit Loishang (Maru Loishang) Kanba Lup convenor Ngariyanbam Khomba told EastMojo that the religious ceremonies and offerings are made at Pandit Loishang premises situated in front of Takhel Khong every year for ages.

“There used to be a hall with separate pedestals for Ibudhou Pakhangba, Nongshaba and Ima Yumjao Lairembi. However, the hall was demolished some years ago. Without leaving space for Ibudhou Pakhangba, Nongshaba and Ima Yumjao Lairembi, construction works for Govindaji Temple have started since July this year, he said.

“The ongoing construction was to accommodate wheels of Lord Jagannath’s Rath at the site meant for Ibudhou Pakhangba, Nongshaba and Ima Yumjao Lairembi,” he added.

Stating that the Manipur chief minister N Biren Singh is the Shri Shri Govindaji Temple Board chairman, Khomba alleged that the Manipur government led by him is attempting to stamp out Pandit Loishang and usurp its premises to construct a Hindu temple.

“Since the proposal for construction of the temple inside the premises came to light, Pandit Loishang had objected to the plan and pleaded with the chief minister to intervene and stop construction of the structure,” said Khomba.

“A memorandum was submitted to the chief minister by Pandit Loishang registering its objection to construction at Pandit Loishang’s premises. Pandit Loishang members had also met the chief minister on the issue. During the meeting, the chief minister had promised to leave space for Ibudhou Pakhangba, Nongshaba and Ima Yumjao Lairembi untouched in the construction of Hindu Temple,” he added.

Khomba also claimed that the chief minister had also promised to construct special pedestals for Ibudhou Pakhangba, Nongshaba and Ima Yumjao Lairembi.

However, after the chief minister did not keep his word and started construction at space meant for important deities of the Meitei community, members of Pandit Loishang including amaiba and amaibis (indigenous priests and priestess) were up in arms leading to Sunday protest, he alleged.

The committee has now decided not to allow any construction of any structure which is not related to the Pandit Loishang will be allowed inside its premises, he said.

He demanded the state government protect the premise, which is one of the sacred places of Meitei’s indigenous religion.

Khomba also said that the Pandit Loishang had also filed a petition to the court with a prayer for the protection of the sacred place of the indigenous religion and the matter was pending disposal.

He slammed BJP leader Manoharmayum Barish Sharma, who claimed to be a member of Shri Shri Govindaji Temple Board, for using swear words against the protesting amaibas and amaibis.

The committee lamented that access to worship sites for the Meitei community was denied for protesting against the construction of a Hindu temple on the Pandit Loishang’s premises by stationing huge security forces.

Criticising the action of the state government, Khomba said the move of chief minister Biren-led government is against principles of democracy and secularism. The chief minister must understand how hurt it will be if he is denied entry to enter his own house, he said.

Claiming that the chief minister had invited the committee for talks over the issue, Khomba said Pandit Loishang (Maru Loishang) Kanba Lup has decided to set Pandit Loishang members to access to its premises as a precondition for talks. The committee members will not meet the chief minister until Pandit Loishang members are allowed entry to the sacred place of worship for Meiteis, he added.

The committee has also resolved to detach Pandit Loishang from Shri Shri Govindaji Temple Board. Pandit Loishang will no longer exist under the Shri Shri Govindaji Temple Board, he said.

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