Uttarkashi tunnel collapse: Villagers believe Baba Boukhnag temple’s demolition brought on tragedy

Uttarkashi tunnel collapse, Uttarakhand, rescue operation, Arnold Dix, temple demolition
Image Source : PTI Entrance to site of under-construction road tunnel that collapsed in Uttarkashi

Uttarkashi tunnel collapse: The locals in Uttarkashi claimed that the under-construction Silkyara tunnel collapsed due to the wrath of Baba Boukhnag, a local deity, whose temple was demolished by the construction company days before the incident occurred on November 12 morning. The temple of the deity was built near the mouth of the tunnel in the Silkyara village in the Uttarkashi district of Uttarakhand. The villagers’ claims come from a major crisis in which 41 workers were trapped in the debris after a portion of the under-construction tunnel, part of the ambitious Char Dham all-weather road project, collapsed due to a landslide.

As the relief and rescue operations entered day 10 on Tuesday (November 21), the locals believed that the incident took place due to the demolition of the temple.

After initial efforts to rescue the trapped workers failed, temple priest Ganesh Prasad Bijalwan said, company officials called him, apologised and requested him to perform a special puja.

He performed the puja and prayed for the success of the operation to rescue the workers.

“Uttarakhand is the land of gods. There is a tradition of building a small temple for the local deity before building any bridge, road or tunnel. The work is completed only after taking their blessings,” the priest said.

What did the locals say?

A local resident said that the labourers used to offer prayers daily at the temple before entering the tunnel for construction, however, it was brought down by the construction company days before the incident, which led to the accident.

“Before the project started, a small temple was built near the mouth of the tunnel and out of respect for local beliefs, officials and labourers used to enter the tunnel only after offering prayers. However, a few days ago, the construction company management removed the temple from there and people believe that due to this, the accident happened,” Dhanveer Chand Ramola, a resident of Silkyara village, said.

Another villager Rakesh Nautiyal said that the locals had asked the company not to bring down the temple and claimed that the company rejected their suggestion calling it a “superstition”.

“We had asked the construction company not to demolish the temple and if they had to do so, to build another temple nearby. But the company rejected our suggestion saying it was our superstition and see what happened,” Nautiyal claimed.

“Earlier too, in the initial stage of the project, a part of the tunnel had caved in but not a single worker got trapped nor was there any other kind of loss because the temple still stood there,” he added.

International tunnelling expert offers prayers at the new temple

International tunnelling expert Arnold Dix, who heads the Geneva-based International Tunnelling and Underground Space Association, was seen bowing down before a temple built at the main entrance of the tunnel. Dix has been called to review the ongoing rescue operation.

Dix has expressed belief that the workers will be rescued safely.

(With PTI inputs)

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