Late on Friday night, residents of Vasanth Nagar near Jasma Bhavan on Queenâ€™s Road, a suburb in East Bengaluru woke up to the noise of JCBs rolling into their neighbourhood.
When they stepped out to see what the noise was all about, they saw that their neighbourhood was filled with police personnel and a temple and a church in the area was being cordoned off.
In the course of the next few hours, the two JCBs pulled down Om Shakti temple and Mary Matha church, that had been built on encroached land.
BBMP Commissioner Manjunath Prasad told The News Minute that the 13,500 sqft of land was leased out to one Nagaraj in the year 1976 to build a hospital.
"While the land was leased out to this individual for the purpose of building a hospital, the plan never materialized. Last year, we (BBMP) sent Nagaraj a show cause notice, asking him why we shouldn't cancel the lease, considering that the purpose for which the land was given to him was not met," the Commissioner said.
Commissioner Manjunath said that in a reply to BBMP, Nagaraj pointed out that he was agonized, since the land leased out to him was encroached upon and unauthorized construction had come up in the land.
"In his reply, Nagaraj said that two religious structures were built on the entrance of his land, which has prevented him from building a hospital all these years. He has been running from pillar to post, trying in vain to build the hospital," Commissioner Manjunath added.
One month ago, the BBMP issued an order to raze the unauthorized constructions on the land and proceeded to pull them down on Friday night.
SG Raveendra, Special Commissioner (Estate/Education/
"But since the land does not belong to them, the BBMP has the powers to bring down these structures," he said.
However, Sampath Kumar, corporator of Ward 93 where the religious structures were located told TNM that the BBMP had "wronged" by demolishing the religious structures.
"More than 50 families live near the temple and the Church, that was built some two decades back. The villagers themselves built them. It's a place of worship, a symbol of unity for the residents. Everyone is allowed to visit them, irrespective of their religion. Not only did BBMP officials not inform me about the demolition, but the idol from the temple has now gone missing," Sampath alleged.
Questioning why the BBMP had "suddenly woken up to the violation," Sampath said that the BBMP should pay for re-constructing the religious structures.
"The residents want the temple and the church to come up on that land. Let the BBMP give away the rest of the land to whoever they please. Why did they come at night while nobody was around and demolish them?," Sampath argued.
BBMP Commissioner Manjunath, however, made it clear that the civic body had zero tolerance towards land grabbers.
"It is because many officials do not take action against illegal constructions claiming it to be a sensitive issue, that land grabbers are taking advantage of it. The BBMP is not entitled to inform anyone about demolishing an illegal structure built on its land," the commissioner told TNM.