Nearly 9,000 people had signed an online petition by Friday morning, asking for a change in a proposed Mumbai metro route so that a tunnel is not built below temples sacred to the Parsi community. Members of the community on Thursday blocked attempts by metro engineers to take measurements at the temples, The Indian Express reported.

According to the petition, part of the Line 3 of the city’s metro service will pass through a road that has two “Fire Temples”, the Wadiaji Atash Behram and Anjuman Atash Behram. Part of the tunnel will be below the “Sanctum Sanctorum where the holy fire is enthroned”, the petition said.

The community considers the holy fires “consecrated entities” and “living vibrant beings who are intermediaries between God and mankind”, which “protect humanity”. Digging a tunnel under them will enable “negative forces of physical and spiritual pollution” to harm the powers of the fires, resulting in “backlash from nature”, the petition said.

The petition, started by Khushnood Viccaji on Wednesday, is addressed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi.

“Unless we know the exact position of the tunnel, it is not right to reach conclusions,” Khurshed Mistry, the secretary of the Wadiaji temple, however, told The Indian Express. “We have asked the MMRC (Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation) to show us the exact position of the tunnel, we will then take a call.”

Metro officials told The Times of India that they need to check the position of the sacred fire. “This is the tunnel portion which will progress from CST [Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus] side and proceed towards Girgaum-Grant Road deep inside the ground,” an official told the daily, adding that the boundary wall of the temple would be the closest structure to the planned tunnel. “No portion of the heritage temple will be affected because of our work.”