An attempt by the Endowments Department officials to remove alleged illegal structures from the endowment lands of the renowned Sangameshwara Swamy temple in Teerthala village near here met with stiff resistance from a section of local villagers on Saturday.

A team of officials led by the Endowments Department Assistant Commissioner Gowrishankar and others reached the village, a famous pilgrimage centre located nearby the confluence point of three rivers – Akeru, Munneru and Buggeru in Khammam rural mandal, to take up the “encroachment eviction” drive on Saturday morning.

Trouble broke out when a section of the local villagers picked up an argument with the officials opposing their move to demolish some already constructed houses, including that of the village sarpanch.

The officials contended that the drive is aimed at clearing the illegal structures to protect the valuable temple lands in Teerthala, famous for its annual Maha Sivaratri jatara.

However, the large group of agitated villagers flayed the move as an “arbitrary decision” to demolish the houses without conducting any survey and following the due procedure. In the melee, two villagers including a woman tried to consume some poisonous substance but were prevented by the locals. Commotion prevailed as the irate villagers entered into an altercation with the officials and stalled the drive amid chaotic scenes.

The agitated villagers outnumbered the police and other officials, forcing the latter to leave the village abruptly. Talking to mediapersons later, Mr Gowrishankar asserted that the encroachment eviction drive was planned in strict compliance with the stipulated procedures to protect the valuable temple lands.

“We would lodge a complaint against those who prevented us from discharging our designated duty and behaved in a high-handed manner with our team members, including a woman employee,” he said.

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