A ‘debate’ on Jahangirpuri and the demolition of a Rajasthan temple turned into a demonstration on who is more Hindu.
So much has been said – in print, on television, through tweets – about the demolition drive in Jahangirpuri this week after communal violence broke out in the area. It’s part of a seemingly new chapter of “bulldozer politics” across India, from Uttar Pradesh to Delhi, Madhya Pradesh to Gujarat.
This week also saw a 300-year-old temple being razed in Rajasthan’s Rajgarh in Alwar district. News18 India’s Aman Chopra immediately sniffed out a connection between these incidents and presented it to his viewers on April 22.
Chopra’s focus was on how the Rajasthan government purportedly razed the temple to go after Hindus as revenge for Jahangirpuri. Except that this temple was razed on April 17 while the mosque gate was damaged on April 20.
Before we begin, some background: The Congress is in power in Rajasthan, under chief minister Ashok Gehlot. But the state Congress chief says the Rajgarh municipality, led by the BJP, took the decision to raze the temple in order to build a road. The BJP says otherwise. So, as per usual, a blame game is afoot.
Now, on to Chopra whose show was sponsored by an army of brands: Sprite, Lux Cozi, MDH Masala, Patanjali, B Natural, and Yippee Noodles.
Chopra told his audience the temple was razed, people “wearing shoes” entered, and then broke a Shiva idol using “drills”.
He then introduced his panel, comprising BJP spokesperson Shehzad Poonawala, Congress spokesperson Abhay Dubey, Samajwadi Party spokesperson Rajkumar Bhati, Karni Sena leader Soorajpal Ammu, “spiritual leader” Swami Dipankar, and a guest appearance from Mahant Balaknath of the BJP.
Poonawala kicked off proceedings by sitting on a “dharna” in the studio itself, because why not? He sat on the steps for the entirety of the show, though Chopra begged him to get up, and said the Congress had razed the temple as revenge for the mosque gate being demolished in Jahangirpuri.
Again, the dates don’t add up.
“This is how temples are going to be broken down, to avenge mosques through Mahadev,” said Poonawala. “Rahul Gandhi calls himself everybody’s leader. Today, he has proved he is Jahangirpuri.”
Perhaps moved by Poonawala’s eloquence, Swami Dipankar and Soorajpal Ammu joined him on the steps to sit in dharna too.
The SP’s Rajkumar Bhati said this was “drama”, as did Congress’s Dubey. But Chopra was in full support of the dharna.
“When the bulldozer razed down the mosque, you all were there on dharna,” the anchor pointed out. “...A dharna wasn’t wrong then but it’s wrong now?”
Onwards and upwards. Bhati said the municipal corporations of both Rajgarh and Delhi came under the BJP. “This means the BJP is playing a huge game in the country,” he said. “They break temples in one place and mosques in another. They want citizens to fight. Their spokespersons do drama.”
Dubey’s line of attack was to go in an entirely different direction, by proving his piety as a Congress member. He chanted a sloka, praying to Mahadev to “forgive the BJP”.
He then said he was in possession of an order that allegedly revealed the BJP municipality had ordered the temple’s demolition. After a few minutes, Chopra cut in: “Will your politician give lawyers for the temple? Or are lawyers only for Rohingyas?”
If you play “hate speech” bingo while watching TV news, you can scratch off “mention Rohingyas/Bangladeshis” on your cards.
A lot of shouting followed and Chopra returned to the concept of dharnas – unsurprisingly since one was playing out in his very studio. “If it was BJP’s order, then the Congress should do dharna at the temple...You should go to Alwar,” he said. “You went to Jahangirpuri but not Alwar.”
An ad break gave viewers some respite but when it ended, Mahant Balaknath had arrived with his own theories.
“Who is Alwar’s Aurangazeb?” Chopra asked him.
“Anti-national elements”, Balaknath said, who operate from outside India.
The free-for-all shouting resumed between the mahant and Dubey, who warned Balaknath not to ”hide BJP sinners”.
“Do not insult my Hindu sanatan religion,” Dubey thundered. He then returned to talking about the alleged order in his possession but Poonawala interrupted, saying the order did not actually mention a temple. Viewers were then lost as Dubey and Poonawala engaged in an endless back and forth.
Back to Balaknath, who compared the Congress party to the Mughals. “Just how the Mughal-era Hindu temples were attacked and broken down,” he said, “Congress is on the same path.”
He then departed the show, leaving behind Chopra and his arsenal of hard-hitting questions. “Did the order say it [the temple idol] has to be cut with a katar?” he asked of no one in particular. “That the Shiva idol must be drilled or broken down? That wasn’t in the order, right?”
Soorajpal Ammu, who had been quietly on dharna for most of the show, saw his opening and swung in. “Sonia and Rahul Gandhi are sinners,” he said. “...They have oppressed Hindu and Kashmiri Pandits...They have a habit of oppression.”
Some shouting later, Bhati then chimed in with possibly the most measured take of the day. “Whether it be Jahangirpuri or Alwar or Khargone, a lot of homes and shops have been broken down,” said the SP spokesperson. “...A lot of people have lost livelihoods...There has been no discussion on that.”
From the rational to the absurd, Dubey jumped in saying he had “prayed” that those responsible be punished. “God, listen to me,” he begged.
Thankfully, the show then drew to a close and Chopra summed it up: “They [the Congress] raised questions that BJP’s bulldozers went over Muslims. Now they are saying it went over Hindus. The bulldozer has become secular. Bulldozer has got a clean chit.”
Hence proved, we suppose.
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