Myanmar seeks help to save Buddhist temple in Varanasi

Security of a Buddhist temple and monks from intruders here has turned into a diplomatic issue with the Myanmar embassy in India seeking intervention from the ministry of external affairs (MoEF) after the district administration allegedly failed to provide the required help.

Officials confirmed that a letter (dated December 17), written by MoEF under secretary (Myanmar section) Shweta Singh, seeking security at the Buddhist temple near Cantt Railway station, has been received by the district administration. District magistrate Pranjal Yadav said "appropriate action is being ensured in this connection".

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The monks of the Burmese Buddhist temple told TOI that they had contacted the DM and other officials when problems like locking the main temple and entrance gate of their premises by intruders had started way back in September 2013, but no action was taken. "Despite assurances, the officials did not deploy security personnel," they said preferring anonymity.

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They later contacted the Myanmar embassy officials who wrote to MoEF on December 9 seeking assistance in accordance with rules and regulations.

The Burmese temple is located in a lane near Cantonment Railway Station in Maldahiya where the value of property has increased after mushrooming of hotels in the past few decades. Chief priest U Mandala said, "My predecessor Ashin Gambir Budhi, who passed away in 2009, had engaged a maid from Chennai for cooking food and other daily chores. After his death, the maid and her lawyers started claiming that the temple and its property had been transferred in her name by Budhi. The issue started some time after September 2013 and is under litigation now."

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But the real problem started when some intruders, allegedly at the behest of the woman, tried to lock the main entrance gate and also the temple and stationed their security guards on the premises. The chief priest, who was not satisfied with the role of local police, said that "the intruders had applied tactics to fabricate him and other monks in fake cases after they reported the matter to the district administration and also the embassy."

Mandala also recalled that major problems like threats and pressure tactics had started after a new temple was built on the campus. Now saving this temple is a cause of concern for the Burmese priests as they claim that a precious land of temple in Sarnath had already been sold by the same people who were intimidating them.

The temple is governed by Pravasi Baudh Sangh Council and was built in 1958. It was inaugurated by then Burmese prime minister U Nu, who had friendly relations with late Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. In fact, Nehru had helped in construction of the temple, said Mandala, who is the fourth chief priest of the temple.

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