Protests continue against demolition of Delhi's Ravidas temple in Punjab

Updated: Aug 13, 2019, 11:18 IST | PTI |

Punjab Congress chief Sunil Jakhar extended his party's support to the Ravidas community for protesting against the demolition

Representational Image
Representational Image

Chandigarh: Protests continued at many places in Punjab on Monday by Dalits over the demolition of a temple dedicated to Guru Ravidas in New Delhi's Tughlakabad on the directions of the apex court. Protest marches were taken out by Dalits in Nawanshahr, where shops remained shut. Meanwhile, leaders from the Congress, BJP and Shiromani Akali Dal said they would help resolve the issue amicably.Commenting on the demolition of the temple believed to be on the site visited by Guru Ravidas around 1509 during the reign of Sikander Lodhi, Punjab Congress chief Sunil Jakhar extended his party's support to the Ravidas community.

He, however, appealed to the protesters to ensure that the common people were not adversely impacted as a result of their protests. In a statement issued here on Monday, Jakhar said the party stood by the community and would help in every possible way to pursue the case for the re-allocation of the historic site and the reconstruction of the temple.

However, in the interest of people, he urged the Guru Ravidas Jayanti Samaroh Samiti, which is spearheading the protests, not to block roads and highways as that was causing hardships to commuters. Union Minister of State for Commerce and Industry and Hoshiarpur MP Som Parkash too described the demolition of the temple unfortunate.

He said he would meet the Lt Governor of Delhi and, if required, prime minister, for resolving the matter and getting the land re-allotted for the temple. Addressing a press conference at his residence in Phagwara on Monday before leaving for New Delhi, Som Parkash said the demolition of the structure had hurt religious sentiments of all sections of society, not just Dalits.

"Religious places and monuments of historic importance should not be tempered with," the BJP leader said, adding that they were "seized of the matter" and "doing their best" to find a way out. "I had written to the Delhi Lt Governor on July 17, bringing to his notice the representation by Sant Kulwant Ram, president, Shri Guru Ravidas Sadhu Sampardai Society, pleading against the demolition of the 500-year old structure," the minister added.

He further said the Lt Governor in his reply on July 30 had informed him that the vice-chairman of the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) had been asked to look into the matter and take appropriate action.

He released copies of both letters to the media. The minister said a lapse had occurred at the level of the local committee of the temple as it had not informed them in time. "After getting information, I, along with Congress leader Shamsher Singh Dullo, met Union Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment Thawar Chand Gehlot who took up the issue with Hardeep Singh Puri, Housing and Urban Affairs Minister," Parkash said.

Calling upon all parties to rise above the political lines for resolving the issue, Parkash said, "We all will meet the Delhi Lt Governor and, if need be, the prime minister, for settling the matter to the satisfaction of the Dalit community."

"Since it was a state matter related to the DDA, the Lt Governor will be approached first," he said. Commenting upon call for a shutdown on Tuesday by the Dalit community, he said people should not adopt a provocative path like it. Shiromani Akali Dal president and Lok Sabha MP Sukhbir Singh Badal too condemned the demolition of the temple, saying their party was ready to help re-build the temple at their expenses.

He said the SAD would not tolerate the insult of religious gurus and will take up the matter with the Union government. It was a matter of faith for millions of followers of Guru Ravidas in and outside Punjab, he said in a statement at Chandigarh. The SAD firmly stood with followers of Guru Ravidas, he said, vowing to resolve the issue at the earliest by taking up the matter with Home Minister Amit Shah.

Delhi Social Welfare Minister Rajendra Pal Gautan sought Prime Minister Narendra Modi's intervention in ensuring that the "land be given back" to the community to rebuild the place of worship. The AAP minister in a press conference in New Delhi said the Delhi Development Authority (DDA), in the presence of a police force, demolished the structure on Saturday morning.

The DDA in a statement issued on Monday, however, did not use the word temple, and said the "structure was removed as per the orders of the Supreme Court".

"The standing semi-permanent structure was dismantled peacefully without any resistance or use of force in the presence of Guru Ravi Das Jayanti Samaroh Samiti members," the DDA said in the statement. The DDA said the apex court in a case titled 'Guru Ravi Das Jayanti Samaroh Samiti vs Union of India', had on August 9 observed that "serious breach" has been committed by the Guru Ravi Das Jayanti Samaroh Samiti by not vacating the forest area as earlier ordered by the court.

"Therefore, the Hon'ble Supreme Court ordered that the premises be vacated tomorrow and the structure be removed by Delhi Development Authority (DDA) with the help of police," it said.

Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh had on Sunday sought Prime Minister Narendra Modi's intervention to pacify the situation as Dalits had called for a nationwide shutdown on August 13 besides observing Independence Day as 'black day'.

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