July 28, 2001
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Sydney temple disallowed public worship

Paritosh Parasher

A newly constructed Hindu temple has been denied permission for public worship or social functions under a city council decision labelled as blatant racism.

The city councilors of Campbelltown in Sydney's southwest voted 12 to 1 to refuse permission to the Mukti-Gupteshwar Temple in Minto, which was in the news last year when Nepal's late crown prince Dipendra visited it and presented to it a Nepalese icon.

The Campbelltown council decided against allowing conversion of this massive 'private' shrine for public worship.

The lone dissenting voice is said to have been that of Mayor Jim Kremmer, who opposed the rejection of the application, describing it as 'racism'.

"It came as a shock on Tuesday when the council decision was conveyed to us. It is a bit absurd as 95 percent of the building is finished," Rama Misra, whose husband Prem Misra owns the temple said.

The Mukti-Gupteshwar Temple is located on five acres of land, most of which is underground.

The sculpture has since attracted a large number of devotees and the list includes a number of visiting Indian dignitaries as the temple has emerged as one of the principal Hindu shrines in Australia.

"We had the crown prince of Nepal visit this little Hindu temple. It doesn't have a major impact on the area, but we have people who object because it's (Hinduism) not an Anglo religion. To me this is a good location and a beautiful place and I'm quite outraged," Jim Kremmer told a Sydney newspaper.

"Their objection against the increased traffic in the area sounds absurd. We are near a major road intersection and have vast parking area where any number of vehicles can be accommodated," said Rama Misra.

She is puzzled by the objection to the building as being 'a blight to the landscape,' wondering how an underground structure could be a 'blight'.

"We have been here for the last three decades and are law abiding Australian citizens. If such gross violation of religious sentiments is committed, then we will have to raise our collective voice against it," said Rama.

Besides the 'traffic congestion' and 'blight on landscape' pleas, the objecting councillors have said the Misras tried to deceive the Campbelltown City Council by constructing a religious shrine on a land lot which they intended to use personally.

One such councillor Bob Thompson told reporters after turning down the application that it did not comply with zoning laws.

"He purchased the place, built a home and a place of worship for his own use, and built it to an extent that was trying to deceive council," Thompson said.

"We have our codes and they have to abide by them. It's not a personal thing, they shouldn't be treated any different. It wouldn't matter if it was my own church."

But Rama said the council may review its erroneous decision soon. Their failure to rescind the decision, she asserts, would result in the temple committee having a meeting and launching a 'peaceful' agitation to get the necessary permission.

Indo-Asian News Service

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