Mandawali: Grille removal near Delhi temple triggers protests, political backlash
When the authorities were carrying out the exercise, some protesters lay down on the road and raised slogans against the drive
Protests erupted in east Delhi's Mandawali on Thursday following the removal of a grille encroaching upon the footpath near a temple. The protest started because of a rumour that the government authorities were demolishing a temple.
Police said that the grille was removed peacefully under heavy police presence by the Public Works Department (PWD) which conducted an anti-encroachment operation.
While the authorities were carrying out the exercise, some protesters lay on the road and raised slogans against the drive. The massive protest also led to traffic congestion in the area, which was later brought under control, police said.
The incident triggered a political slugfest between the AAP and the BJP.
There was heavy deployment of paramilitary and police personnel in the area.
Deputy Commissioner of Police (East) Amrutha Guguloth said the encroachment drive by the PWD was scheduled to be held on Thursday.
"We were intimated about the encroachment drive by the PWD yesterday. The grille surrounding the temple was encroaching upon the footpath, and it was removed peacefully. We assisted the police officials. The law and order situation is normal," she said.
Police said the locals who had gathered near the temple premises have now stopped their protest but are still at the spot standing on one side of the road. The protesters raised slogans and also participated in prayers at the temple after the encroachment drive was completed, police said.
A district administration official said that the temple was not touched.
"A grille on the footpath adjacent to the temple had been installed by some people a few months ago. This was affecting the access to the footpath. The PWD, the concerned road-owning agency, had requested the grille's removal. There was no proposal to touch the temple or any of its portion. However, locals were misled into believing that the temple was being demolished, leading to protests. The encroachment was removed," he added.
The drive was carried out within one-and-a-half hours.
Meanwhile, the AAP targeted Delhi Lieutenant Governor V K Saxena over the issue, while the BJP called Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal "anti-Hindu".
PWD minister Atishi said the permission for the encroachment drive was given by the Delhi LG despite opposition from the then-PWD minister Manish Sisodia. Atishi took over as PWD minister after Sisodia was arrested for his alleged involvement in the Delhi excise policy case.
"The temple being demolished in Mandawali is being carried out on the orders of the Delhi LG. When the file pertaining to this issue was forwarded to the then Home Minister Manish Sisodia, he had opposed it," Atishi told reporters in Delhi.
"But LG sir overruled Manish Sisodia's decision. Not just in Mandawali, he has decided to demolish 10 other temples in Delhi," she claimed.
Delhi LG has also said that files to demolish temples would be sent directly to him, and not the elected government, the minister said.
She also said the Aam Aadmi Party was opposed to the encroachment drive and that party workers have been at the spot in Mandawali since Wednesday evening.
Delhi BJP president Virendra Sachdeva said, "Not only BJP workers were opposing (the removal of portion of the temple), but some of them including two BJP councillors also got injured. This action exposes (Delhi CM) Arvind Kejriwal's anti-Hindu face."
Inputs from PTI and ANI