On the orders of the Supreme Court, the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) had demolished the Ravidas Madnir on August 10. The protestors of all ages wore blue caps and carried flags as they marched from Ambedkar Bhawan in Jandewalan to the Ramlila Maidan; disrupting traffic flow in some parts of the city.
The protests today have been held a week after similar protests made by Dalits in Punjab on Aug 13 over the same issue.
The streets of Delhi were coloured with blue today as thousands of Dalits from all over the country marched from Jhandewalan to Ramlila Maidan in Central Delhi to protest the recent demolition of a Ravidas Mandir in the nation’s capital.
The protestors arrived from Punjab, Rajasthan, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, and other states and shouted ‘Jai Bhim’ as they demanded that the government hands over the land to the community so that the temple can be rebuilt.
The matter has become politicised with different parties urging that that the temple be constructed again either on the same spot in the Tughlakabad forest area or somewhere else.
Bhim Army Chief Chandrashekhar Azad Joins the Protest
Delhi’s Social Justice Minister Rajendra Pal Gautam, Bhim Army Chief Chandrashekhar Azad, and spiritual leaders from the community joined the gathering today.
Gautam explained that the protest is against the injustice that has been dealt to the community and not against the order from the Supreme Court.
“I am here as a representative of the community and not as a Delhi minister or politician. We respect the Supreme Court order, but the government should answer why only temples of the Dalit community and statues of B R Ambedkar are being demolished across the country?” he asked.
The protesters gathered under the banner of Akhil Bharatiya Sant Shiromani Guru Ravidas Mandir Sanyukta Sanrakhshan Samiti, an umbrella body of Dalit groups formed for this temple movement as they resolved to keep fighting until their demands are met.
What do the Protestors have to say?
Some protestors have begun an indefinite hunger strike at the Ramlila Maidan.
Hansraj Raj, 42, who travelled from Punjab’s Jalandhar to join the protest, asked, “How is our demand different from that for the construction of a Ram temple in Ayodhya? If that is so important for a particular community, this is important for us.”
V P Singh, 60, from Ghaziabad explained that thousands of religious structures have come up on government and forest land. “Why only a temple of Sant Ravidas was razed? The government should answer”.
Sonu, 30, said, “They are asking us to construct the temple at an alternative place. Why don’t they shift the Ram Mandir to some other place? Everything happened in the blink of an eye. We didn’t even get to know of the SC order. Are we not citizens of India?”
Another protester alleged that the apex court diluted provisions of the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act, “without considering the views of Dalits”.
Shrishti Devi from Punjab’s Pathankot stated that she voted for the BJP in the Lok Sabha elections but now this government has hurt the community’s religious sentiments.
Dhail Singh, 83, said that President Ram Nath Kovind should have intervened in the issue since he himself is a Dalit.
“The temple was around 500 years old. Many governments have come and gone, but no one touched it. It is the anti-Dalit BJP that has hurt the sentiments of crores of people in the country,” he alleged.
BJP criticises AAP for politicising the issue
Vijay Goel, BJP leader and former Union minister, criticised the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) for allegedly making the issue political.
Goel said that he held a meeting with community leaders recently and offered them a solution, but the AAP wanted to score brownie points.
According to Goel, he recently held a meeting with community leaders and offered a solution but the AAP wants to appeal to the community.
“I have proposed that the temple be built at an alternative place after the approval of the Supreme Court. If they agree, we will take the matter up with the DDA,” he said.
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