The Problem with Modi's Plan to Refurbish a Hindu Temple

Critics say Varanasi’s essence will be lost

The Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led Hindu nationalist government has subjected the ancient Indian city of Varanasi to structural changes. The upcoming Kashi Vishwanath Corridor, however, has been described by locals as an attack on the soul which makes up Varanasi, one of Hinduism’s holiest sites and reportedly one of the oldest continually inhabited metropolises of the world. The Indian city attracts thousands of devotees and tourists who enjoy traversing its meandering lanes and visiting the numerous temples that dot the city.

The Kashi Vishwanath Corridor, a brainchild of PM Modi, will supposedly provide easier urban navigation to people who will come to visit the Hindu holy city. The road, however, has sliced through the heritage metropolis, resulting in the demolition of age-old houses, with some dating back to 500 years. The Kashi lane is also a part of this refurbishment, being the road that houses the iconic Kashi Vishwanath temple. According to the state government, the corridor will have a length of 300 meters and a width of 56 meters. It will not only directly link the temple to the Ganges river but also beautify the section of the city it passes through.

Locals, however, were not pleased. The Kashi Vishwanath corridor scheme was met with strident protest soon after its announcement. Varanasi residents point out that more than the destruction of residential houses and small shops, the road construction will also destroy a countless number of small temples. All houses within the area have active altars and demolishing them hurts the local devout Hindu sentiment. As per residents, the government did not even send any official notice to them. They came to know about the project only through the media in 2017.

It was always a plan for previous administrations to widen the lanes and the paths leading to the river from the temple, but those schemes were always put on the backburner due to the consequence of political losses. The scenario changed when Yogi Adityanath, a Hindu saint who is also active in politics, took over as the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh state in 2017. The city of Varanasi is in Uttar Pradesh. Modi himself is enthused with the project. He is an MP elected from Varanasi and laid the corridor’s foundation stones in the large “maidan” or ground which was made through demolishing several homes and shops. The PM claimed that the project has the Hindu God Lord Shiva’s blessings.

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