Hundreds of people sat on a dharna at an ancient temple here to force the district administration to stop digging a sewer line close to its main gate that they say amounts to desecration of the shrine.

Residents of Gopeshwar town converged on the Gopinath Mandir last night after they came to know that a sewer line was being laid just two metres from its main gate. They sat on a dharna in protest against the sewer construction which they said violates the Constitution as the ancient temple is a protected area.

They refused to budge despite repeated attempts by the administration and continued with their dharna at the temple in the presence of police personnel who are there to facilitate digging work for the sewer line. The revered shrine, one of the Panch Kedar pilgrimage centres, is spread over one acre at a height of 4,500 feet.

It is said to be 3,000 years’ old and is protected under the Union Culture Ministry’s Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act. According to the Act, no construction or repair work can be taken up in 300 metres of the temple without the prior permission of the Culture Ministry.

Sushila Devi, a protester, said the construction of the sewer line near the temple amounts to desecration of the centuries-old temple, which could not be allowed. “If a sewer line is dug only two metres away from the temple’s main gate, dirty water will flow into it,” she said.

Lily Dhasmana, Deputy Superintendent in charge, Archeological Survey of India, has also written to the Chamoli district administration asking it to immediately stop digging work for the sewer line as it was in violation of the law. Chamoli SP Priti Priyadarshini said the police force was on the site at the orders of the DM.— PTI