On Friday, March 11, a Hindu youth identified as Gopal Bassi took a landmark step by breaking the lock which had kept the Devnarayan temple in Bhilwara, Rajasthan closed for 45 years. He recorded a video while opening the temple and hoisted the saffron flag, claiming the right to worship in the temple.
“This temple has been reopened after 45 years. This temple has been shut even before I was born. This is a matter of great pride for us. People of Rajasthan should celebrate and have sweets. Jai Sridev, Jai Gurjur, Jai Hindu,” he said in the video while congratulating the Gurjar society and the Hindu community for the opening of the Devnarayan temple.
Gopal had already announced during a bhajan function held earlier that he is planning to unlock the temple. “I will come to Mandal alone and open the temple of Bhagwan Devanarayan. If you have the courage, stop me and arrest me,” he had stated.
Located in the Mandal locality of Bhilwara, the temple has been subjected to an ongoing dispute since 1977 as some people from the Muslim community also claim a right to this property. The dispute case is dragging without any resolution in sight in the High Court; the temple was locked as per court orders and the keys were handed over to the Mandal police. No religious rituals or practices took place in the Devanarayan temple since then.
Tensions broke out between the two communities the next day. The Muslim community staged a protest against the unlocking of the temple by the Hindu youth and submitted a memorandum to the Mandal SDM demanding his immediate arrest. Protesting this memorandum for Gopal’s arrest, Hindus observed a bandh in Baneda town and submitted a memorandum to SDM seeking action against those who had chanted slogans against the Hindu community the previous day.
On Monday, March 14, Gopal reached the temple with a following of approximately two and a half thousand people. Several Hindu organizations hailed Gopal for opening the temple doors for its devotees. They staged a rally with the youth riding in an open jeep and the crowd marching behind him. The police tried to stop them when they reached the Jail Crossing and eventually arrested Gopal.
Representatives of the Hindu community stated that the site in the Mandal area is an ancient temple of Bhagwan Devnarayan. They added that the construction of the temple was initiated by leaders of the Gurjar society in 1555 and it was completed by 1557. Mentions of this temple can be found in historical documents of this area dating back to 1561.
They also highlighted that the history of Devnarayan Bhagavan has continued from the 13th century and the other community (Muslims) has nothing to do with the site. However, the court has been appointing receivers ever since the Muslim community first laid claim in 1977 to the temple site.
The Gurjar Samaj said that the Muslim community claimed it to be a religious site related to Talia Mithu Shah Fakir. Though the civil court had dismissed this claim, and an appeal against the verdict was also squashed by the court, the Devnarayan temple was blocked for Hindus as the matter is stuck in the High Court.
BJP state president Dr Satish Poonia has tendered a letter to state Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot requesting immediate reopening of the Bhagwan Devnarayan temple underlining how the temple had been closed for 45 years. This has deeply offended the faith and religious sentiments of the people of the Gurjar society and other segments of Hindu society. Considering the sentiments, the temple must be opened and people should be allowed to carry out religious activities inside it, the letter stated.
Poonia also stressed that representatives of the Gurjar society and other Hindu organizations have made multiple requests to the administration to open the temple, but no action has been taken.