Violating Lt Governor's 2009 intructions
Villagers who worship their traditional deity protest
But full protection to Muslims visiting mazars near the runway at Terminal 2
An ancient temple complex sprawling at over five acre land near Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi is in the hit list of Delhi International Airport Limited (DIAL) and GMR. Though, the Lt Governor of Delhi Tejendra Khanna has issued directions to preserve the temples, the DIAL is adamant to raze these temples. It is also a clear case of violation of the Monument Protection Act. On the other hand, the same DIAL authorities provide full facilities and protection to the Muslims visiting the mazars situated very close to the runway at Terminal-2 of the same Airport.
For expansion of Indira Gandhi International Airport, the central government had acquired entire agriculture land of village Nangal Dewat in 1965. The villagers accepted the Government decision thinking that the government really needs land for development purposes. But after a few years, they were stunned when the government authorities served them notices to vacate the village also. Despite strong protest for many years, the DIAL razed the entire village with the help of heavy police force in 2007.
During the demolition drive, the DIAL, however, could not raze this temple complex, it took the complex under its control and sealed it by erecting iron sheets to prohibit the entry of devotees. Since the temple complex houses many ancient temples, samadhis of several great saints like Baba Samayram, Dada Lal Begh Wali Saheb, etc. and also the village crematoriums, the attempts to prohibit entry in the complex hurt the sentiments of devotees. But they could not fight for long due to heavy police force deployed there.
Therefore, the devotees made a secrete way by digging a big hole beneath the iron sheets and continued puja in the temples. Hundreds of devotees assemble in the temples on every Thursday and Amavashya (no moon day) for puja. During the Amavashya Day of Pitrapaksha, there is huge gathering of lakhs of devotees coming from Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan, West Bengal, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh for puja, and the administration has to make security arrangements for it. Despite that, the DIAL authorities are adamant to raze these temples, which are basically about one km away from the runway and the Airport office. According to the devotees, the DIAL authorities have sought police force to raze the temple complex and the operation can be carried out any time.
What hurts the villagers more is the discrimination being meted out to them by DIAL authorities, who provide full facilities including transportation, etc to the Muslims visiting the mazars of Baba Roshan Khan and Baba Kale Khan situated near runway No 10/28 of the Terminal 2. When this runway was being constructed, these mazars came in the middle of the runway. But to keep them safe, the location of the runway was modified. Apart from providing facilities and protection to the Muslims visiting the mazars, the DIAL also allegedly helps in maintaining the mazars. “The question arises if there is no threat to the runway or the security of the airport from these mazars, which are very close to the runway, how could the temples, which are far away from the runway, be a security threat,” ask the villagers and the devotees.
The villagers have been running from pillar to post to protect the temple complex. On an appeal by Nangal Dewat Vikas Samiti, the Lt Governor of Delhi Shri Tejendra Khanna issued instructions to DIAl to preserve the temples. In a letter sent to the Director of DIAL through his OSD Ranjan Mukherjee on October 16, 2009, (letter No U.O. No. Misc./RN/2009/RM/ 74234) the LG says, “…the old temple structure may also be preserved if it does not hinder the construction of the new airport area.” But the DIAL appears to have thrown these instructions also into the dustbin.
The fight of the villagers for protecting their land had basically begun in 1964-65 when the government first acquired their around 1200 bigha fertile agriculture land for expansion of the Palam Airport. The villagers then accepted the government decision keeping in view the necessity of the land for expansion of the Airport. But suddenly in 1972, the villagers were issued notices to vacate the village also. When the villagers protested against this action, the authorities postponed the action for some time. But in 1985, the villagers were again served notices to vacate the village. When the villagers again protested, the police arrested over 500 people including women and children and cases were registered against 250 protesters by the police. However, all these cases were withdrawn in 1998 when Saheb Singh Verma was Chief Minister of Delhi. After withdrawal of the cases, the villagers approached Delhi High Court to protect their village. The case was yet to be properly disposed off the DIAL suddenly demolished the village in 2007. The villagers were not even granted time to remove their household things. This shocked the villagers to the extent that around 300 villagers reportedly died of the shock.
Nangal Dewat also has historic significance. The fight against British government in Delhi Dehat had basically begun from this village. Impressed with the initiatives and courage of the villagers, Pt Jawaharlal Nehru himself visited the village in 1935 and praised the villagers. During the Bhudan movement, Acharya Vinoba Bhave also stayed here for a night in 1951 and then Mahashaya Pyarelal of the village had donated some land to Vinobaji, which he immediately distributed among some landless villagers.
When asked if you have already lost your agriculture land and houses, why do you now insist on the temples, the villagers said in clear words, “There can be no compromise on the faith. The temple complex houses our traditional deities, who were worshipped by our forefathers and now we too worship them. How can we relocate our deities who are here since centuries.” When again asked what is wrong in relocating the temples, they asked, “Can the samadhi of Mahatma Gandhi or Pt Jawaharlal Nehru be relocated to Gandhinagar or Allahabad respectively? If no, why this pressure only on us? It is a matter of faith and we appeal to all the authorities concerned to respect our faith and sentiments. We have sacrificed our agriculture land and village for development, but we must not be pressurised to shift our deities from here.”
It is to be noted that Delhi International Airport Limited (DIAL) is a joint venture consortium of GMR Group (54 per cent), Airports Authority of India (26 per cent), Fraport & Eraman Malaysia (10 per cent each). GMR is the lead member of the consortium; Fraport AG is the airport operator, Eraman Malaysia is the retail advisors. In January 2006, the consortium was awarded the concession to operate, manage and develop the IGI Airport following an international competitive bidding process. DIAL entered into Operations, Management and Development Agreement (OMDA) on April 4, 2006 with the Airport Authority of India (AAI).