The erstwhile Jaipur royal family led a rally through the city’s streets on Thursday in the first public protest against the Jaipur Development Authority’s (JDA) sealing of Rajmahal Palace hotel gates.
‘Rajmata’ Padmini Devi along with her grandson Padmanabh Singh and son-in-law Narendra Singh rode in an open jeep from Tripoliya Gate to Rajmahal Palace, a distance of about 7 km.
Supporters from Rajput Karni Sena and BJP MLA Diya Kumari’s constituency Sawai Madhopur and Tonk followed in jeeps and on foot, shouting slogans against the BJP-ruled JDA “Rajmata tum sangharsh karo, hum tumhare saath hain,” “BJP hai hai” and “tanashahi nahi chalegi”.
Diya Kumari, however, kept away from the rally, making her mother Padmini Devi, husband Narendra Singh and son Padmanabh the face of the protest.
At the rally, Padmini Devi appealed for support against the JDA. Although the family expected support from all communities and other former royal families, not all came forward.
At Rajmahal Palace, Padmini Devi addressed the crowd and thanked them.
“Injustice has been done to us. We have not taken any government land. You can’t lock the door to someone’s home… But the officials have not bothered to see our legal papers,” she said, hoping to get the matter resolved from chief minister Vasundhara Raje.
“We ask the government to open the gates of Rajmahal Palace at once,” she said.
JDA officials had on August 24 taken possession of a piece of land on which the main gate of the Rajmahal Palace hotel situated in the posh C-scheme area stands and sealed them. The authority had acquired the land in 1993 but had not taken possession.
JDA officials said they moved to acquire the land now as the royal family had bypassed the JDA and surreptitiously moved an application in the Jaipur Municipal Corporation a month back seeking reconstitution of the land.
The former royal family is opposing the JDA action saying they have a court decree of 2011 which has given possession of the disputed land to them.
Rajput Karni Sena leader Lokendra Singh warned of a Jaipur bandh if the palace gates were not opened in 24 hours.
Talking to the media, Padmini Devi said the family would fight a legal battle and go to the Supreme Court if necessary.
Asked why they chose to take out a rally, she said because nothing had happened in the matter so far. “Our (hotel) business is getting affected. Are we supposed to enter the hotel from the backdoor like thieves?”
An elderly man in the rally, wearing a red bandhani safa, expressed displeasure, saying, “This was supposed to be a silent rally but all these Karni Sena youth created a ruckus all along the route. They tore down posters and forcibly changed the route.”