There was an unspoken tension as one entered the ISKCON temple on Friday. At least six policemen sat huddled together near the entrance, as devotees glanced occasionally at them while passing by.
"We are here to prevent any untoward incidents," one of the policemen said.
Just 24 hours ago, on Thursday, tension prevailed at the temple situated on SD Road over the demolition of a compound wall that was under repair by the Town Planning wing of the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC).
The GHMC had called in the police for support and demolished the 150-year-old north-west wall of the temple, even as devotees shouted slogans and launched a protest movement on the premises.
(One of the boards used during the protest, hangs on a fence)
"During the recent rains, the wall had caved in a few days ago and we were repairing it. All these bricks that you see were kept for the new wall," says one of the temple authorities.
While the temple was built in 1984, the land has boundary walls as old as 150 years.
The corporation claimed that there was no permission to construct a new wall, while the temple administration claimed that it was repairing the old wall and this was not a new construction.
(The demolished wall)
Temple president Sahadeva Dasa alleged that a few officials demanded bribe for raising the compound wall and when they were refused, a notice was sent to the temple committee on the same day asking them to apply for permission and the wall was razed the following day.
â€œWe told officials that we were taking up regular repair works which did not require permission....After a while, there were as many as 60 policemen who were manhandling our devotees. The GHMC officials were claiming that our wall is in the way of the metro corridor and it would have to be demolished," Sahadeva said.
However, the Hyderabad Metro Rail has denied issuing orders to the GHMC.
"They cut open this fence and barged in from here, and did not even listen to the priests. We have decided that enough is enough. If things go on this way, the entire 'sangh parivar' will defend the temple," says a VHP member who wished to remain anonymous.
(The fence that was allegedly cut by the GHMC to enter the temple premises)
However, the friction between the temple administration and government authorities is the latest in a series of confrontations.
In July 2013, the temple started a mass movement with many political leaders including current Union Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatreya and devotees taking to the streets, after the Hyderabad Metro Rail's notification to get 1,700 sq yards of the 3,500 sq yards belonging to the temple.
In January 2014, protesters threw the dug-up mud and barricades into the pits dug up for erecting pillars near the junction.
After protests and several rounds of discussions, the authorities decided in June last year that they would acquire only 612.77 sq. yards.
"Firstly, they take away an entire portion of the temple, and we agreed because we did not want to curb development, but this high-handedness is too much. We finally sorted our issues with the metro rail authorities only to be harassed by the GHMC," the VHP member adds.
The GHMC authorities held a meeting with the irked priests and VHP leaders to sort out the issue on Friday.
The corporation has asked for 15 days to look into the issue and has asked the temple to put off all construction work of the wall till then. If no solution is chalked out at the end of those 15 days, the temple plans to take the legal route.