Mahant on hunger strike in Girnar, seeks transfer of local forest officer
Ahmedabad Newsline By: Sibte Husain Bukhari
Junagadh, March 24: While forest officials, grappling with a who dunn it poaching case, are trying to seal at least half a dozen roads and highways passing through the Gir sanctuary to ensure safety of wildlife, they have one more problem at hand.
The priest of Bordevi temple located inside the Girnar forest is demanding ‘extra rights’ for himself as well as pilgrims and shepherds. When forest department declined citing dangers of allowing free access at all hours to pilgrims and shepherds, he has began a 48-hour hunger strike and demanded immediate transfer of local forest officer.
There is a long history of tussles between forest officers and religious heads in Girnar and Gir Sanctuary. While religious heads of temples located in the forest want more freedom, forest officials have a tough time keeping them and the stream of pilgrims and vehicles under control. Mahant of Bordevi temple, Ramcharandasis demanding `extraordinary’ rights for the temple which is located en-route the Girnar mountain in the middle of the dense Girnar forest, some 12 km from Junagadh city. “Mahant Ramcharandas is demanding that there should be free access to the road leading to the temple, hastle-free cattle grazing in forest area, and the right to use of river-sand and stones. The priest says these are the temple’s exclusive rights but we have declined,’’ a senior officer says. With VHP and BJP supporting Mahant, the forest department’s denial has sparked off a controversy.
Meanwhile deputy conservator of forest (Girnar range) S K Mehta said, “Following state’s direction road repair work en-route to parikrama is under progress. So entry of four wheelers has been restricted for now. Besides mahant has not approached us on this.”
Range forest officer (Girnar south range) B K Parmar whose transfer has been sought says giving in to the demands “is against forest protection and conservation rules and we cannot allow it”. On condition of anonymity, a forester said that during surprise checking surrounding temple, objectionable things including empty liquor bottles were found in the lion habitat.