The temple that has come up on a flank of NH-33 in Ramgarh on Wednesday. Picture by Pankaj Priyadarshi
Hazaribagh, Jan. 22: A temple has sprung up overnight on an under-construction flank of NH-33, which is being widened into four lanes, at Kankebar in Ramgarh town, stalling ongoing work and landing the district administration in a spot of bother.
Villagers of Kankebar, Dulmi, Ramgarh, Gola, Chitarpur and Mandu joined hands to build the temple at the same spot where a Kali mandir used to stand as part of a doctor’s house that was demolished by the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) to make way for the widening project.
The angry villagers decided to build the temple on their own after the administration didn’t demolish a nearby mosque that also came in the way of the NH project to build a bypass that would pass through Kaitha and meet the old highway at Tyre More.
The villagers began construction of the temple on Sunday at a spot where the bypass will meet the new road as around a 5,000-strong crowd stood guard. Boundary walls were raised within two days after which an 8ft-tall marble idol of Kali was installed.
Although a large posse of policemen, led by sub-divisional police officer Ashok Kumar, was sent to the spot, they failed to pacify the mob, which swelled further as more people joined in to guard the temple.
“Chahe lathi chale ya goli, par hum mandir banake rahenge (Let lathis and bullets rain, but we will ensure that the temple is built,” one of the protesters declared.
Vishwa Hindu Parishad has also thrown its weight behind the villagers with its leader Praveen Togadia reaching the site on Sunday evening. Hazaribagh MP Yashwant Sinha visited the temple on Tuesday evening and accused the administration of playing with people’s sentiments. He asked villagers to speed up construction and name the area Mata Kali Chowk.
Devotees from across Ramgarh as well as from neighbouring districts have started pouring in to visit the temple, while vehicles passing by the old highway stop to offer puja.
Around half a kilometre stretch from the Tyre More Chowk to a petrol pump has been decorated with flags.
Damodar Mahto, one of the villagers who is monitoring the work, said: “We will sacrifice 11 goats and a big function will be held in a day or two for pran pratistha ceremony. We will stop only after a big, proper temple is built.”
The controversy dates back to last year when the late gynaecologist, Lalita Prasad’s double-storeyed house, which also had a small Kali temple in the premises, was demolished to make way for the new four-lane road.
Local residents agreed to the demolition only after NHAI and Ramgarh district officials assured them that both the temple and a mosque, Nuri Masjid, which also came in the way of the NH-33 bypass, would be removed. Consequently, the temple was razed and the idol sent to Mahamaya Temple in the nearby Mayatongri Pahad in July.
But on January 16 this year, NHAI officials informed the villagers that they had changed their plan and would not demolish the mosque. In fact, the officials said a roundabout of 30X80feet and a park would be built around it. The news angered the local residents, who amassed support to build a temple at the old site in the middle of NH-33.
On the back foot now, Ramgarh district administration is proceeding with caution. “We will speak to both sides and sort out the matter soon,” deputy development commissioner P.K Jha, who is also acting deputy commissioner, said.
NHAI officials admitted that construction of the highway bypass was on hold. “At present, the NH-33 passes through Ramgarh town. The new stretch constructed via Kaitha will meet the old road Tyre More without entering the town. Work is in the final stages. We are waiting for a speedy solution to the deadlock,” said an official.
More than 30,000 to 40,000 vehicles ply on NH-33, which is the lifeline of the state connecting two capital cities of Patna and Ranchi.