Century-old Hindu shrine in Alor Setar torn down

What’s left of Sri Madurai Veeran shrine following its demolition by the Alor Setar City Council. (Vijhay Mohen pic)

ALOR SETAR: Some 200 city council officers descended on a century-old Hindu shrine here just after midnight today, before demolishing the structure despite protests from its caretaker.

The Sri Madurai Veeran shrine, which sits under a tree opposite the Alor Setar rail station, was reduced to rubble at 2am.

Its caretaker C Vijhay Mohen said he was escorted out of the area by policemen.

“Next thing you know, the backhoes came in,” he told FMT.

The Alor Setar City Council (MBAS) had served an eviction notice on the demolition plan a few weeks earlier, saying the shrine was built “illegally” on road reserve land and was disrupting traffic flow.

Vijhay said a police report would be lodged against the city council.

The Sri Madurai Veeran shrine under a tree near the Alor Setar railway station was built in the early 1900s. (Vijhay Mohen pic)

The shrine was founded by Vijhay’s great-grandfather and Indian labourers who worked in the construction of the railway between Butterworth and the northern frontier in the early 20th century.

Vijhay said Malayan Railways had given the spot on which the temple was built in the early 1900s, but attempts to register it with the Registrar of Societies was turned down with the excuse that it was “too small”.

When contacted, DAP’s P Ramasamy questioned why the authorities demolished the temple in the early hours of the morning and not during office hours.

“This act in itself indicates that the act of demolishing the temple in Alor Setar was based on religious and extremist sentiments,” he said.

In an immediate comment, the Kedah menteri besar’s special officer B Kumaresan said the caretaker of the shrine had been given ample notice before the demolition took place. He said the caretaker was given four notices last year but these were ignored.

“On June 17, the state executive council and the state secretary’s office ordered the district office to clear out the shrine, as it was on a road reserve. The city council had no choice but to comply with the order,” he said when contacted.

Kumaresan said the state had asked for the shrine to be relocated to a nearby Hindu temple before a suitable piece of land could be found. He said the caretaker refused and insisted on being given a suitable plot of land nearby.

“The MB had given 10 days for the shrine to be moved. I think we have given ample notice to them before action was taken,” he said.

Explaining the need to remove the shrine, Kumaresan said the temple was “smack on the middle of the road”, impeding traffic to the railway station.

He said the railway station was relatively new, opening in 2014 to replace an older one not far away. The new station was built as part of the Ipoh-Padang Besar electrification and double-tracking upgrade project.

“With the shrine in the middle of the road, it has caused traffic congestion for those heading to the station.”

In response, Vijhay strongly refuted the claim that the shrine was in the middle of the road, saying it was 15m away from the main road.

“There is no traffic impediment at all. They have cleared out our shrine because they knew we were trying to get a court injunction to prevent them from doing so.”

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