Bridge Construction Threat to Yamuna and Vrindavan

By Harmonist Staff

Note: At the bottom of this article is a series of links which can help readers stay informed and participate in the effort to halt the construction of the bridge over Sri Yamuna River. Particularly everyone is encouraged to sign the petition linked below.

The government of Uttar Pradesh, along with private contractors, has begun construction of a bridge that will cross Vrindavan’s Yamuna River in close proximity to the historic Kesi Ghat. The project is an effort to facilitate further growth in the area, nearby parts of which are already overwhelmed with buildings and people, particularly during certain times of the year in which pilgrims from all over the world flood Vrindavan to celebrate and honor various holidays.

In recent days it seems that the issue is coming to a head with many devotees and environmental activists speaking out against the construction. One of the more prominent voices involved in the protest is that of K.P.S. Gill, former director general of police, who has previously been credited for cleaning up and helping to reduce crime in the area surrounding Kesi Ghat.

Many are pointing out that the portions of Vrindavan that are already inhabited, polluted, and neglected are where money needs to be invested, whereas more expansion will only further degrade both the physical condition and the sanctity of the dhama.

On December 25, a kirtan/protest procession and Yamuna puja were organized. Residents of Vrindavan and Vaishnavas from various institutions attended, but apparently not without opposition. There are reports that police were sent to the Sandipani Muni School in an attempt to prevent the five hundred students therein from taking part in the protest. Additionally, the police are said to have threatened to cancel the visas of foreign teachers in the school. Despite the threats and actions of the police it seems that the children did indeed participate. No word has come as to whether the protest has had or will have any impact, but some feel the effort is likely to be too little too late, considering many have known about the bridge plans for years now.

There has at least been some encouraging news circulating on the Internet in the form of a message from Vaishnavacharya Chandan Goswami of the Goswami family of Sri Sri Radha Raman temple. The message reads as follows:

We have been protesting since day one and asked everyone to join with us. Sad to say all the gurus agree that this construction is wrong, but no one wants to protest against it. In a couple of days we are having a meeting with Satish Chandra Mishra, who is the second strongest person of the state because of whom Vrindavan got the package of reinnovation.

According to the law of the archeological department of India, the area up to 100 metres from a monument is designated as a prohibited area and up to 200 meters as a regulated area.

“No development is permitted within 100 metres of any monument preserved by the State Archaeology Department or by the Archaeology Survey of India.”

There is a Jugal Kishore Temple which is situated on the back side of Kesi Ghat. Because of this law now we have made them stop the construction work and filed the FIR against them.

JP Group, the contractor, has called back his project manager and half of the labor has left. Now three things can happen:-

1. Either they make bridge after 300 meters radius which will make this bridge far from Kesighat.
2. Or they can stop the work altogether.
3. Or they can work on our idea which we have proposed to them.

The result will be out in few weeks as we are taking serious actions against them.

It must be noted that a significant number of those involved in the effort to reverse the bridge construction do have some involvement, to one degree or another, in its inception. Not only has the sheer number of pilgrims to Vrindavan increased, but more and more of those pilgrims are coming from Western cultures and expecting some degree of Western accommodations. All of this translates into business opportunities, which the government and others are seeking to capitalize on.

There are some efforts taking place on social-networking site Facebook to unite concerned parties and keep the flow of information steady. One such group can be accessed here.

There has also been talk of raising money to place an ad on Facebook itself, particularly in India, in order to promote awareness and support of the opposition. It is not completely clear who is organizing this effort, but interested parties can start here.

Lastly, there is an online petition available to stop the Yamuna Bridge construction, available here.

Pictures of the protest procession can be seen here.

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