A fortnight after an anti-encroachment demolition drive reduced nearly 90 shops and houses and three temples in Rajgarh to rubble, the ancient town in Rajasthan’s Alwar district holds a war-ravaged look. The skeletal remains of the buildings lining both sides of Sarai mohalla, turned inside out by the JCBs, brave the scrutiny of the camera flashes and the harsh sun in quiet mutiny. Locals, however, seem more interested in displaying the salmon dome of a temple lying in a nullah amid the rubble of the walls that had once supported it. “The shops with stay orders were left untouched. The temples could have been spared too,” says Hari Shankar Vijay, 80. His family had been the custodian of the Shiva temple for decades before it was demolished. The other two were devoted to Ram and Chauth Mata. Vijay and other locals claim that all three temples demolished were at least 300 years old, though their exact ages are yet to be ascertained.
The razing of the temples in the Hindu-majority Rajgarh, a BJP stronghold in a Congress-ruled state, has led to a predictable blame-game between the two parties. While Congress has held the BJP-led municipal board responsible for the demolition, the latter has accused the ruling party of trampling Hindu sentiments out of vengeance. Protests over the razing of temples is not new in Rajasthan, dotted with religious structures across its length and breadth. Incidentally, the BJP was at the receiving end of Hindu ire in 2015 when the Vasundhara Raje government was accused of demolishing over 250 places of worship across Jaipur for the metro construction project. At that time, Raje was called a descendant of Aurangzeb.