Prime Minister Narendra Modi unveiled the Isha Foundation’s 113-foot Shiva statue in Coimbatore amid protests against allegations that the organisation led by yoga guru Jaggi Vasudev had violated several environmental norms while building it. The ceremony was scheduled for 6 pm on Friday, on the occasion of Mahashivratri. An online petition on change.org asking the prime minister to comply with their request had gained traction.
State authorities had increased security arrangements as tribal associations and environmentalist groups announced plans to stage demonstrations against the organisation. Dedicated to “Adiyogi”, a form of Shiva who in the Hindu tradition is considered the first of yogis, the statue has been funded by Isha Foundation.
Activists had alleged that the foundation’s constructions had done “profound damage to a pristine ecology” in the foothills of the Western Ghats in Coimbatore.
On Wednesday, former judge of the Madras High Court, Hari Paranthaman, had alleged that the Isha Foundation was responsible for over 13 lakh sq feet of illegal constructions. “Should the prime minister associate himself with such an organisation?” Paranthaman asked, addressing a press conference in Chennai.
Isha Foundation, in a statement on its blog, had dismissed the allegations and said those with vested interests were trying to sabotage their Mahashivratri celebrations. The statement said necessary approvals had been obtained. The organisation describes itself as “a volunteer-run, international nonprofit organisation dedicated to cultivating human potential”.
On February 21, Modi had tweeted saying he would be a part of the consecration ceremony of the statue in Coimbatore.