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Monday, May 29, 2023

300-year-old Shiv temple, 150 Hindu homes and shops demolished in Alwar, Rajasthan

A 300-year-old Bhagwan Shiv temple was razed to the ground by bulldozers in the Sarai Mohalla in Rajgarh of Rajasthan’s Alwar district. The action was taken under a supposed ‘anti-encroachment drive’ for road widening in the town. The tearing down of the ancient Hindu temple has invited heavy flak on social media and fury of locals for the Congress state government.

A JCB was brought to the temple site to tear down the temple’s pillars and roof. The demolition drive not only took down the temple but also committed a significant desecration of the murtis of the Hindu deity installed in the temple. The officials went near the murtis with their shoes on. When the workers could not move the Shivalinga, they cut it using drills and then uprooted it. Apart from Bhagwan Shiv, there are allegations of murtis of Sri Hanuman and other Hindu deities also being ruined, overlooking protest by the locals.

It seems three temples were demolished, and Alwar collector Nakate Shivprasad Madan claimed “one temple was completely demolished but the owners of the temples had removed the idols. The second temple was partially demolished but its sanctum sanctorum is safe.” The collector added that the demolition drive was approved by the local municipal board. Here is the detailed press note put out by the collector for the demolitions done on 17 and 18 April.

However, video footage shows the Shivaling being desecrated and removed with an electrical cutter by a man wearing shoes inside the sanctum sanctorum, a clear sign of desecration and disrespect.

The act of desecration and demolition of the temple has spiralled into a huge controversy. Responding to the dispute, Superintendent of Police Tejaswini Gautam stated that he would meet the locals and discuss the matter with other police officials. Hindu organizations have complained to Rajgarh Congress MLA Johari Lal Meena, Municipal EO Banwari Lal Meena, and SDM Keshav Kumar Meena on this barbaric demolition which has the potential of creating a law & order situation.

On the other hand, a video of the local Congress MLA Johari Lal Meena has surfaced and been widely shared on social media. MLA Meena, in the video, states that he could have stopped the bulldozer if Congress controlled the local municipality board – it is currently controlled by BJP. Many are linking this statement to the demolition of the temple.

Social media users also wondered how a temple dating back to 300 years can be termed an ‘illegal structure’.

Some even pointed out how Congress had a different opinion on demolition during the Jahangirpuri anti-encroachment drive. 

Notably, a few days ago, the Rajgarh authorities had razed down 85 buildings, including the temples, citing a “road widening” drive as per the city’s master plan. The number of demolished properties has gone up to 150. All of these properties reportedly belong to Hindus. Though the administration cited an approved master plan, as per reports several shops had been allotted by the state government about a decade ago. 

Local authorities, including the local MLA, had refused to comment on this issue. It is startling that though CM Gehlot had stated that the government has no power to demolish buildings without a probe and giving prior notice, these buildings were demolished allegedly without any notice to the residents. 

As per a report published by Dainik Bhaskar, many residents have complained that their houses and shops were taken down despite their having property papers. They have now been robbed of their livelihood as well. 

In one of the disturbing visuals of this demolition shared on social media, an older woman can be seen stuck on the top floor when the bulldozer started to take it down. The woman was not even given the time to evacuate, noted journalist Sushant Sinha. 

The BJP has come down heavily on the state government for targeting Hindu establishments, and dubbed it a ‘revenge’ for the Jahangirpuri demolition drive in Delhi. However, the demolition in Alwar took place on 17 & 18 April, while the Jahangirpuri demolition that was stayed within minutes of starting by Supreme Court took place on 20 April. It is pertinent to note that in the Karauli anti-Hindu violence too, it is a Congress-linked Muslim councilor who is the prime accused.

BJP has constituted a five-member committee to probe the demolition of 300-year-old Shiva temple in Rajasthan. BJP MP Kirodi Lal Meena said the Gehlot government ruthlessly demolished an old temple just like Aurangzeb. He is sitting on a dharna outside the police station in Rajgarh. However, a report in Dainik Bhaskar states that Kirodi Lal Meena has acknowledged that even the BJP-controlled board had committed an error.

Rajasthan Congress chief GS Dotasara has blamed the BJP-controlled municipal board but contradicted the Alwar collector when he claimed that “No collector was asked for or has given permission (for demolition), the municipal board, after orders from its president, took the decision.” Dotasara also back-pedaled on the temple demolition by saying, “We’ve given orders to place idols back.”

Attacking the Congress, BJP leader Amit Malviya shared the video of the ancient temple in Alwar being destroyed. “Shedding tears on Karauli and Jahangirpuri and hurting the faith of Hindus — this is the secularism of Congress,” Malviya tweeted.

In a subsequent tweet, he also recollected the bulldozing of the houses and shops of the Hindus and held the state CM accountable for the devastation.

As Malviya mentioned, Congress MLA Johari Lal Meena’s son Deepak Meena and two of his friends have been accused of repeatedly gang-raping a minor Class 10 girl student. The accused abducted the girl, took her to a hotel and gang-raped her. They made a video of the act and used that to blackmail and repeatedly gang-rape the girl. A case has been lodged against them under various sections of POCSO Act in Mandawar police station.

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