New Delhi: Tomorrow, if PM  Narendra Modi  decides to attend the much talked about unveiling of the 112-foot bust of ‘Adiyogi’ (Lord Shiva) built by NGO Isha Foundation in Tamil Nadu’s Coimbatore, he maybe in for a surprise. 

A sea of black flags might welcome him to the venue. 

The decision to protest against PM Modi was taken collectively by the local tribals and environment activists who allege that the foundation has encroached upon large swathes of environmentally fragile land inside the forest area. This comes a week after an umbrella group of tribals, Vellingiri Hill Tribal Protection Society filed a petition against the foundation in Madras High Court. 

According to the tribals of Ikkarai Poluvampatti Village, Perur Taluk in Coimbatore, the Isha Foundation, in violation of all the rules and regulations, has carried out massive construction in the area without any prior approval from the Hill Area Conservation Authority (HACA) – a body responsible for allowing or disallowing any kind of construction in the hill area. 

Isha Foundation

“It’s a contested land as it belongs to the various SC/ST villagers. The foundation got the hold of land illegally and got more land through benami accounts. The area where they have brought cranes and concrete mixers is actually a habitat for elephants,” Srinivasan Kuppusamy, an environment activist who has been tracking the movement of elephants in the region for last 15 years, told ScoopWhoop News.   

Kuppusamy, who’s spearheading the fight against Isha Foundation in Madras High Court, asserts PM Modi’s visit to the site will give the NGO “legitimacy” to vandalize the environment. He also said the extensive security arrangement in the wake of PM’s visit has “changed the picture” of the area where more than 1 lakh participants are expected to take part on Friday.  

The petition filed by Vellingiri Hill Tribal Protection Society has submitted that Isha Foundation had acquired 3.26 acres at the village on February 22 2011 and purchased another three acres in benami names later in the same village. 

It also said the foundation from August last year started the construction of 120 feet public usage building over an area of about 9,000 square meters without any approval from the government authorities.

Advocate R Kalaiarasu, the legal counsel for tribals, stated that the NGO has “brazenly” violated rules and regulations of the area. 

“An independent inquiry in the matter will put everything before the public,” he said. 

When the court heard the petition on February 19, it posted the matter for March 3, without providing any relief to the petitioners. 

The event is scheduled to take place on Friday evening where Isha foundation’s Sadguru Jaggi Vasudev will consecrate the 112-foot-bust of ‘Adiyogi’. PM Modi is expected to light the “sacred” fire to commence the event.

The matter has also been brought to the notice of National Green Tribunal (NGT) with the petitioners seeking an interim order restraining the Isha foundation from holding the Mahashivrathri celebration at the venue. 

Recalling the topography of the area a decade back, Kuppusamy said the forest department had built forest checkpoints around the area, which according to him, clearly meant that the area is reserved. 

“Now, vehicles and huge machines carrying building materials enter the area on daily basis and even during the night. They also create scare among the animals,” he said. 

Officials at Hill Area Conservation Authority (HACA) in Chennai confirmed to ScoopWhoop News that the foundation has not sought any clearances from the department. 

“The foundation has also not got the clearance from agriculture department and forest department,” an official from HACA said.

When contacted, the officials at Isha Foundation said they were busy with the preparations of the event. However, the foundation has put a detailed response on its website regarding  the petition. 

“We would like to place on record that Isha Foundation carries out all its activities within the purview of the law. The accusations laid down in the petitions filed against Isha Foundation in the Madras High Court are frivolous and a compilation of twisted allegations… The petitioner, incited by vested interest groups, is willfully trying to create a sensation by misrepresenting facts,” the statement reads. 

The villagers have decided to hoist black flags on their houses as a show of protest against PM Modi’s visit to the event. 

“We can’t stop them from celebrating the event,” said Kuppusamy, adding “but we will continue to fight in the court.”