Delhi temple demolition notice: Will stand before bulldozers, say locals
Locals in Delhi's Sriniwaspuri—where the Centre allegedly plans to raze down a temple—have opposed the move, saying they will stand in front of bulldozers to stop the demolition. An eviction order purportedly issued to the temple by the Union Housing and Urban Affairs Ministry has enraged locals. Meanwhile, Delhi's ruling Aam Aadmi Party slammed the Bharatiya Janata Party-led Centre for indulging in "bulldozer politics."
- Many states have lately witnessed anti-encroachment demolition drives, including in Delhi's Jahangirpuri following last Saturday's communal clashes.
- A few days ago, a similar drive in Rajasthan saw the destruction of two temples in the Alwar district, which sparked a political storm in the state.
- Now, the Centre's alleged order to demolish a temple in Sriniwaspuri has triggered a new row in the national capital.
To recall, on Saturday, AAP leader Atishi tweeted a letter—alleging it was issued by the Centre—that apparently ordered the demolition of a temple in Sriniwaspuri. "The BJP-led central government has ordered to run bulldozers on the Neelkanth Mahadev temple in Sriniwaspuri," Atishi tweeted in Hindi. This triggered a fresh controversy in Delhi and started a war of words between the AAP and the BJP.
India Today reported the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs' (MoHUA) eviction notice to temple authorities says they "unauthorizedly occupied/encroached" government land. The notice—dated April 13—also asks them to vacate the premises within seven days or face demolition. Citing an old Delhi High Court order, it also says that barring the area where idols are installed, other areas with unauthorized constructions can be demolished.
On Saturday, AAP workers—led by Kalkaji MLA Atishi and Kasturba Nagar legislator Madan Lal—protested at the temple. They criticized the BJP for issuing the eviction order, accusing it of engaging in "wasooli" (extortion) tactics. "The Delhi HC order is at least ten years old, why is the BJP suddenly remembering a ten-year-old order?" Atishi questioned. She alleged the BJP is extorting "donations" from temples.
After the AAP leveled allegations, the Delhi BJP retaliated by accusing the party of encroaching on a public area. It claimed AAP illegally occupied public space by expanding its party headquarters to the pavement on the Deen Dayal Upadhyay Road. "Now one understands why AAP leaders are so vocal against encroachments drives," Hindustan Times quoted Delhi BJP spokesperson Praveen Shankar Kapoor as saying.
After learning about the eviction notice allegedly issued by the MoHUA, Sriniwaspuri locals flocked to the temple on Saturday and expressed their displeasure over the development. "We can't let our parents get evicted, and God is even bigger than our parents. We will stand in front of the bulldozers. We can't allow them to raze [the temple] down," Neelam, a resident, told India Today.
Meanwhile, residents also stated they don't want the matter (the notice issued to the temple) to be politicized. "We don't want the political leaders to politicize this issue. We have assembled here with one concern, that is to ensure the safety of this temple. All that we want is to make sure our temple is not demolished," another resident, Rajni Bhati, told India Today.