A Hanuman mandir came up overnight on the central verge of Chandni Chowk — to replace an older one on the side of the road that was demolished on January 3 following a Delhi High Court order. While no one claimed responsibility for the new structure, both BJP and AAP claimed “people of Chandni Chowk” had put it up. And against the backdrop of next year’s MCD polls, the parties said they had no issue with it.
Praveen Shankar Kapoor, spokesperson of BJP’s Delhi unit, said, “The temple was reinstalled by the people of Chandni Chowk around 4-4.30 am on Friday. It was pre-made and comprises a steel and glass fabricated body.”
On the new structure ostensibly lacking permission from the government or civic bodies, he said, “This was an open call by the citizens and it is supported by the BJP. If any government has an objection to it, we will fight the battle on the street.”
The demolition of the Hanuman temple on orders of the Delhi High Court had sparked a political row between the AAP and BJP. While the BJP had blamed AAP for the demolition, the latter had pointed out that it was the North MCD which backed the proposal to remove the structure — including in an affidavit to the HC on December 20 last year. The razing was also challenged in the Supreme Court and a demand was made to reestablish the temple in the same location. However, a bench of Justice D Y Chandrachud and Justice M R Shah had observed that the needs of common people have to be kept in mind and that the pujari can apply for an alternative site, away from vehicles and pedestrians.
The AAP government said it is “examining the issue”.
BJP’s Kapoor said Chandni Chowk will be decorated with flags and that a mass Hanuman Chalisa will take place at 11 am on Saturday.
Sources said the structure was prepared “at a kothi in Civil Lines and very few people were in the know”.
The plan, sources said, was set in motion 10-15 days ago after some “influential locals” got in touch with the Delhi BJP and RSS leaders, complaining that not enough was being done to re-establish the temple. Early Friday morning, when it was still dark, around 50 people were called in to install it, and it took an hour to put the nuts and bolts in place — 16, to be exact. The process started around 3 am and was wrapped up by 4.30 am.
BJP councillor from the area Ravi Kaptan told The Indian Express: “It was done by people belonging to Hindu sangathans as well as locals who were deeply pained by the demolition. There was not one person or one political party but many people who came together… They took a collective decision and then went ahead with it.”
Around noon on Friday, Delhi BJP president Adesh Gupta visited the spot and sat through a prayer. “The Hanuman Temple which was demolished by the Delhi government at Chandni Chowk has been re-established by the people… we welcome it. I appeal to Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal that he cooperates with the move and goes there and repents for his mistake,” he claimed in a tweet.
Parlad Singh Sawhney, AAP MLA for Chandni Chowk, said, “The mandir was set up by the people of Chandni Chowk… we do not have any objections to the move. This is the home of God, why would we object to it?”
He said the earlier structure was obstructing the road but now that it has been set up on the central verge, there shouldn’t be an issue. He said an inauguration is going to take place on Saturday and that he and AAP’s MCD in-change Durgesh Pathak will be present at the inauguration.
Pathak tweeted that locals of Chandni Chowk have built the ‘pracheen Hanuman Mandir’ and that he will visit on Saturday and pray for world peace. In a video attached to the tweet, he said, “Lord Ram and Lord Hanuman are for everybody. I found out that a mandir has been made there. So I will go there tomorrow and offer my prayers…”
The Shahjahanabad Redevelopment Corporation, tasked with modernising and redeveloping the Chandni Chowk stretch, did not comment on the matter.
Jai Prakash, North MCD Mayor, also visited the temple on Friday. He told The Indian Express: “I woke up and read about the temple. I then tweeted that I will be visiting it myself. Look how happy the people of Chandni Chowk are today… if there was no Hanuman Mandir, the beautification project would be lacking something.” On permissions for the structure, he said there are no permissions required when it is “an act of God”.
Police said they received information about the temple around 7 am on Friday. Police sources told The Indian Express, “We went there and conducted an enquiry. The temple wasn’t built, but a steel structure was placed by some locals. We don’t know if there were party workers on the ground. Further investigation will be conducted with land-owning agencies.”
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