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Jun-02-2012 16:16printcomments

Bailiffs Raid Hindu Temple as Priests Refuse to Move

Business interests want to convert the temple into a to Travelodge.

Tooting temple

(TOOTING, Sri Lanka) - Bailiffs have carried out a dawn raid on a Hindu temple, evicting priests and seizing its sacred contents.

Backed up by the police, they moved in on the Sivayogam temple in Hebdon Road, Tooting, following a protracted legal dispute with owner Barrowfen Properties Ltd, which has plans to turn it into a Travelodge.

Eleven priests sleeping in the building were evicted and the building sealed, preventing worshippers from entering or removing 16 gold and gem encrusted statues of gods said to be worth about £100,000.

Founder and spiritual leader of the temple Nagendram Seevaratnam, 74, said: “It is the way they would have treated criminals. Everybody is devastated, people are crying. There is disgust on the face of the deities.”

The raid took place at 5am on Tuesday May 22. But following pressure from the Hindu community and others, including local MP Sadiq Khan, the High Court ruled on Monday that the temple trustees should be allowed back into the building for one day to remove their possessions. The court had earlier granted legal possession of the building to Barrowfen and ordered the temple trustees to pay the company £180,000 in rent arrears dating back to 2008.

The temple trustees, who have been based in the building for 16 years, continue to dispute this debt.

But Barrowfen said the order was enforced with sensitivity to ensure the deities were not touched. A statement said: “Nobody touched the deities, they were told to just take their personal possessions and leave. We told them in 2009 we would not be renewing their lease. The landlord wants to redevelop the block to a mixture of everything — housing, shopping and it will make the whole area so much better and for everybody’s benefit.”

Special thanks to The London Evening Standard

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Sean Flynn was a photojournalist in Vietnam, taken captive in 1970 in Cambodia and never seen again.