“When I stopped him and told him that non-Hindus cannot enter the shrine, he started arguing with me. He claimed himself to be a follower of international society for Krishna consciousness (Iskcon) and insisted me to allow him to enter the temple. Other priests also requested him to go back. But he pushed me and attacked me with a stick,” Pujapanda told TOI. Cops of nearby Singhadwar police station reached the spot and detained him. However, no case was registered against the foreigner till filing of the report. “We are verifying the allegation. We will also ask the eyewitnesses,” inspector-in-charge of Singhadwar police station Bamadeba Swain said.
Though a non-Hindu’s entry into Jagannath temple is not a punishable offence in Indian Penal Code, Berger might land in trouble for assaulting Pujapanda. Police said Berger, who reached Puri three days ago, made unsuccessful attempts to enter the temple through three other gates earlier in the day. Berger, who possesses valid passport, admitted he was aware of the temple’s restriction on the access of non-Hindus. “I am a staunch follower of Lord Jagannath and visited several other Hindu temples in India. Why should I not be allowed entry inside Jagannath Temple,” asked Berger.