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Bihar: Resentment over decision to declare Bodh Gaya buffer zone

By M I Khan
August 11, 2011 15:56 IST
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Traders, hoteliers, monks and locals from Bihar's Gaya district are all speaking in one voice. They are protesting against the district administration's anti-encroachment drive where in the world heritage and pilgrimage site Bodh Gaya, which houses the famous Mahabodhi Temple, will be declared a buffer zone.

"The local administration has demarcated a buffer zone around the temple and identified encroachments and illegal constructions by traders, hoteliers, monasteries and local residents," said special officer of the Bodh Gaya Nagar Panchayat Sushil Kumar Mishra.

The temple, which is known as the birthplace of Buddhism, was declared a world heritage site in June 2002. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation had asked government agencies recently to stop violating guidelines to protect the site.

UNESCO officials are reportedly unhappy after an expert team complained that illegal concrete structures were mushrooming in and around the temple. The organisation has warned that it would revoke the heritage status for the temple if its maintenance guidelines continued to be flouted.

The Centre and Bihar government had assured UNESCO that its guidelines -- including the enforcement of a strict ban on all construction in a one-kilometer radius around the temple -- would be strictly followed. The state government had admitted that new structures have come up within the restricted area.

Mishra told rediff.com that the administration will go ahead and free the temple area from encroachments and illegal constructions despite opposition and protests. "Action will be taken violators of laws," he said.

The Bodhgaya Nagar Panchayat has identified as many as 150 structures in the area, which have been constructed either without the approval of the administration or have expanded without necessary permissions.

The proposal of the buffer zone has put several hotels and monasteries at the risk of   being demolished. With the threat of business taking a back seat, traders, hoteliers, monks and residents are up in arms against the local administration. "The demolition drive will only create more problems. It's not correct to snatch livelihood of traders, hoteliers and other locals," Kali Charan Yadav, a former secretary of Bodh Gaya Temple Management Committee, said.

Yadav said that there was a strike in Bodh Gaya on Monday to protest against the demolition drive launched.  "Most shops and monasteries remained closed against district administration an anti-encroachment drive," he said.

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