It was a strange sight: In the middle of a vacant lot strewn with rubble and the metal bars that had once supported the temple structure were the beautiful Radha-Krsna Deities, Sri Sri Radha-Rasabihari, dressed in Their green and silver outfits and garlanded with flowers. They stood on Their carved teakwood altar amid the fragrant scent of burning incense and the warm glow of ghee lamps. Only two or three small pieces of the roof over Them had been removed; otherwise, They and Their Deity room remained intact. And the picture of Lord Nrsimhadeva over the altar doors, though slightly tilted to the side, was still there too, as if He was looking down upon us and assuring us that He had been there to protect the Deities.
The year was 1973, and that field—a piece of what had been jungle in Juhu—was supposed to be in the process of being transferred to Srila Prabhupada and ISKCON. The seller, Mr. Nair, had taken a sizable deposit and was delaying the transfer under some pretext—as he had done twice before with the same land. Meanwhile, Srila Prabhupada had brought Deities of Radha and Krsna onto the property, which he named Hare Krishna Land, and built a temporary shed as a temple to house them. Srila Prabhupada told Nair, “If you want to keep the land, then return our money. Otherwise, keep the money and give us the land.” But the landlord wanted to keep both the money and the land—against all principles of law and justice.
One morning, on May 18, 1973, two large trucks from the Bombay Municipal Corporation drove onto Hare Krishna Land and fifty municipal workers carrying crowbars, chisels, and sledgehammers descended on the temple. Following close behind was a truck from the police department, from which numerous constables emerged. I rushed forward to meet the municipal officer in charge and asked him what was happening. He said that the structure was unauthorized and that they had come to demolish it. I replied that the temple was authorized and that I had a letter from the municipal commissioner to prove it. He seemed uninterested, however, and even after I showed him the letter and other documents in my file, he ordered the demolition to begin. So I approached the policemen. “We are here only to see that there is no trouble,” they said nonchalantly.
Some workers put a ladder up against the temple, and one of them started climbing up with a sledgehammer to break the roof. I threw the ladder down. Immediately three policemen grabbed me by the arms and neck and put me into the truck. Other devotees too rushed forward to stop the demolition squad, and one by one each was apprehended. Finally, the last one left was Maithili dasi, the head pujari. Having locked the doors to the Deity chamber, she stood there, ready to knock down anyone who came near. A policeman seized her, and she punched him. Several policemen ganged up on her and hit her with their clubs, grabbed her hair, and dragged her into the truck, where we all sat helplessly, witnessing the brutality and singing prayers to Lord Nrsimhadeva. Neighbors, tenants, passersby—no one lifted a finger to help us. Continue reading »