Tamil Nadu Govt Authorities have told the Madras High Court that the 112-feet Shiva statue built by Sadhguru’s Isha Foundation and inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi was built without getting the necessary approvals. At the same time, a petition in the Court by locals is calling demolition of the structure so that the land could be returned to the erstwhile residents.
The 112-feet Shiva statue was built by the Isha Yoga Centre, a non-profit organisation founded by the yogi and mystic Sadhguru. It was inaugurated on 24 February by Sadhguru and Prime Minister Narendra Modi to mark the festival of Mahashivratri. The statue was inaugurated amidst protests by locals and activists, who claimed the statue had been built on illegally acquired land and that the construction had done “profound damage to a pristine ecology” of the region. Many also questioned the need for the Prime Minister to inaugurate a religious event or be associated with a construction alleged to be illegal.
On 17 February, a petition was filed in the Madras High Court by the Vellingiri Hill Tribal Protection Society. The petition stated that the construction of the 112-feet Shiva statue and certain other buildings was completed without proper approval.
The petition in the Madras High Court sought the restoration of the wetlands damaged by demolishing the statue and the buildings. Locals alleged that the construction had destroyed the livelihood of the tribals and elephants in the Velliangiri hills.
Isha Foundation’s response
A few days ago, Isha Foundation released a statement belying the petition. They said “Some vested interest groups filed petitions making baseless allegations about the 112-ft Adiyogi statue. We would like to place on record that Isha Foundation carries out all its activities within the purview of the law. The accusations laid down in the petitions filed against Isha Foundation in the Madras High Court are frivolous and a compilation of twisted allegations.”
On Wednesday, 1 March, a counter-affidavit was filed in the Madras High Court by the Deputy Director of Town and Country Planning (DTCP), Coimbatore Region. He declared that Sadhguru’s Isha Centre/Foundation had built the structures without permission.
Chennai-based activist Nityanand Jayaraman told The News Minute, “The TN government should have stopped the Mahashivratri event if the Shiva Statue was built without permissions. Because the TN government did not put its foot down, the Prime Minister’s office has been party to an illegality … This is more an admission of guilt by the Tamil Nadu government. If there is a lock and seal notice, why have they not gone ahead with it? What is stopping them? Are they scared of Isha?”
The DTCP has stated that it sought all the necessary documents regarding approvals before giving its clearance to the Isha Foundation. But the Isha Foundation had gone ahead with construction of the Shiva statue and other buildings in the area pending approvals.
There are 12 respondents in the case. The High Court will wait till all of them give responses before passing a judgement.
The Logical Indian hopes that those who broke the law is made to face the consequences by the Madras High Court. The locals are fighting for what they are saying is land the Isha Foundation illegally stole from them, the DTCP has criticised the Foundation for going ahead with construction without getting the required approvals, while the Sadhguru’s Foundation has called these allegations “twisted” and the work “vested interest groups”. We hope that the truth emerges eventually, and the judgement is passed accordingly.