‘Mamata cannot visit the temple as she supports eating beef,’ says Jagannath Puri servitor

A servitor of the Jagannath Temple here in Puri was detained by the police on Tuesday for allegedly threatening to oppose West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s visit to the 12th century shrine on Wednesday.

Somanath Khuntia, a sevayat of the temple, had reportedly claimed that the servitors were annoyed with Banerjee as she had allegedly supported the consumption of beef.

“We came to know from media reports that she supports eating beef. It is against our culture and traditions. She should not be allowed to enter the Jagannath Temple. We will oppose her visit to the shrine,” he had reportedly said.

However, other sevayats said the Jagannath Temple was open to all Hindus and Banerjee was welcome to visit the shrine and seek the blessings of the Lord. Khuntia was detained for questioning by the police, Puri Superintendent of Police Sarthak Sarangi said.

He said adequate security arrangements were in place for Banerjee’s visit to the coastal town and the Jagannath Temple.

The Trinamool Congress chief is on a three-day visit to Odisha from Tuesday as a state guest. She is scheduled to have a darshan of Lord Jagannath in Puri on Wednesday. Arya Kumar Gyanendra, the state convenor of Trinamool Congress, claimed that Banerjee’s Odisha visit was “purely personal” and had nothing to do with politics.

Sources in the Chief Minister’s Office, however, said the West Bengal Chief Minister was likely to call on her Odisha counterpart, Naveen Patnaik, during her visit.

Banerjee and Patnaik had met at the Parliament House in Delhi on April 10.

The proposed meeting of the two non-BJP and neighbouring chief ministers assumes significance as both the ruling parties in West Bengal and Odisha have been entangled in the chit fund scam which is being investigated by the CBI.

As both the parties — the Trinamool Congress and the Biju Janata Dal — are allegedly being targeted by the BJP, speculation is rife that Banerjee and Patnaik may draw a specific strategy to counter the saffron surge in their respective states.