Singing bhajans (devotional songs), BJP workers on Saturday staged a sit-in protest outside the 300-year-old Shiva temple that was demolished with bulldozers in Rajasthan’s Alwar district last week, to clear the way for a road.
While inside the temple, Kirori Lal Meena, a Rajya Sabha MP, is registering his protest from the comfort of a mattress as he prepares for a long haul.
According to Rajasthan’s ruling Congress, it was the BJP that had promised a road called the “Gaurav Path” at the spot where the demolitions took place. The Congress alleges that the municipal council of Rajgarh town, which is controlled by the BJP, passed a resolution to construct the road after removing encroachments in September last year.
“The Congress is trying to blame the nagar palika of this town and crucify the board chairman of Rajgarh town, for the demolition of the temple, said Mr Meena.
“The municipality board only passed a resolution that the “Gauarv Path” should be made, they did not say demolish homes and shops. This the Congress government did on their own and they are blaming the BJP. The BJP will not destroy temples,” he added.
The ruling Congress maintains that the decision to demolish the temple to broaden the road was under the charge of the local municipality.
Congress workers raised Bharat Mata ki Jai slogans as state minister Jitendra Singh, taking the mike away from the bhajan singers, promised that a temple will be rebuilt on that land.
Along with the temple, 86 shops and homes were also demolished. The local Congress MLA Johari Lal Meena reportedly opposed the demolitions.
“Who will support me in these difficult financial times?… This shop was my only source of income I don’t know what to do now,” said Anita Sharma, 60, a widow whose shop was one among the many demolished last Sunday. She earned Rs 4,000 per month from the shop.
Manju Jangid’s three-storey home is also destroyed. What’s worse, her 90-year-old mother-in-law is stuck on the first floor and the only way up and down is an unsteady wooden ladder.
“Everyone is talking about mandirs and idols, but what about us people who are living in this heat without water and electricity. How can I climb up and down these broken stairs to take care of my mother-in-law. What if she takes ill?” Ms Jangid asked.
People whose homes have been half demolished are left trying to guard houses with no doors and beat the heat with no power.
“We received notices on the evening of 6th, for the next few days we thought what action to take. Then there was a weekend. On Monday and Tuesday we ran around government offices but nobody paid any heed, and then a long weekend…The administration decided to carry out the demolition drive on 17th April, a Sunday, so we could not get a court stay,” said Govind Vijayvargia, an affected shopkeeper.
The Congress delegation, blaming the BJP, has also filed a police complaint against the municipality chairman for acting in a manner to hurt people’s religious sentiments and demanded he be arrested.
“Where is the chairman of the municipality? Why has he not been arrested? We have now filed a police complaint against them,” said Congress’s Bhanwar Jitendra Singh, who is the former MP of Alwar.
Official sources say there is no move to rehabilitate or provide a compensation to those affected in the demolition drive.