Currently, pilgrims reach the temple from the ghats through these congested bylanes -- a hallmark of the older Varanasi and dotted with small temples and shrines. The 400-metre-long corridor aims to enhance accessibility between the two landmarks.
The Kashi beautification project was conceived during former UP Chief Minister Mayawati's regime, but it is only now, under Yogi Adityanath's leadership, that the project has gathered momentum.
The authorities want to raze at least 166 homes so that the 56-metre wide corridor can be constructed. But the families have been staying in these bylanes for decades, in some cases even centuries.
Krishna Kumar Sharma, who runs a shop here, said their home is over 200-year-old and the government can't just raze it. "Yeh ghar bikau nahin hai (this house is not for sale). We have no problem with any government scheme. If the roads have to be widened, any house owner would agree to offer a few feet area. We also want that pilgrims get more facilities. But to destroy homes and to show such a hurry in getting this done isn't right," Mr Sharma said.
Historians say there are at least 46 big and small temples housing several important idols that are likely to come in the way of this proposed corridor. "Are the tourists interested in the new roads or ancient temples? This is an attempt to destroy history of this ancient city," said Gauri Shankar Gupta, one of the protesting residents.
The state government claims that 58 building owners of the 166 listed for demolition have already offered their homes and they have been compensated fairly. "The process to acquire 60 more buildings is on," an official said.
The Kashi Vishwanath Trust, which is rooting for the project, said that people should view this as a step closer to preservation of culture.
"We, too, want to preserve history. It's sad that a few people are trying to create a perception that we want to destroy our heritage. Crores of people visit this holy city. They are the real custodians of our culture," said Vishal Singh, CEO of the trust.
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