• Ravidas Temple Demolition: Tension Simmers in Delhi, UP After Wednesday’s Violence

    Abdul Alim Jafri

    August 22, 2019

    Image courtesy Newsclick

    Tension prevailed in Delhi’s Tughlaqabad area even as sporadic incidents of violence were witnessed in Delhi and Saharanpur district of Uttar Pradesh after a huge protest rally by the dalit organisations in the Capital on Wednesday against the recent demolition of a Ravidas Temple by the BJP-led Delhi Development Authority, which maintained that had followed the Supreme Court’s order.

    According to reports, after the massive protest in Ramlila Grounds, some protesters headed towards Tughlaqabad where the demolished temple of Sant Ravidas, revered by the dalit community, was located. On the way, there were some violent incidents that left several protesters, including some police personnel injured.

    Close to 100 dalit activists were arrested, including Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad, with the police accusing them of rioting and unlawful assembly. Azad was detained in South East Delhi’s Govindpuri police station and was slated to be produced before a Delhi court on Thursday.

    According to the police, the protesters damaged several vehicles and two motorcycles were set on fire, even as the protesters said they were lathi-charged and tear-gassed, with many of them even uploading videos on social media on the incident.

    "An FIR has been registered on charges of rioting, unlawful assembly, voluntarily causing hurt to deter public servant from his duty among others. Chandrashekhar has been arrested. 96 other protesters are also in police custody. Probe is on," a police official was quoted as saying by PTI.

    Meanwhile, Bahujan Samaj Party, distanced itself from the late night violence in Delhi. Party supremo Mayawati tweeted on Thursday: "The incidents of vandalism that have taken place in Delhi, especially in Tughlakabad, are unfair and the BSP has nothing to do with it. The BSP always respects the Constitution and the law. The struggles of the party are carried out well within the ambit of law."

    HOW PROTEST TURNED VIOLENT

    On Wednesday, thousands of dalits from across the country, including Rajasthan, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, wearing blue caps and waving blue flags marched from Ambedkar Bhawan in Jhandewalan to Ramlila Maidan, demanding that the Centre hand over the plot of land to the community and rebuild the Ravidas temple in the Tughlaqabad area. The temple was August 10..

    As the sea of blue in Ramlila Grounds dispersed, some of the protesters were stopped from marching towards the temple in the Tughlaqabad area with the police forming a security ring around them.

    Soon after, the protesters turned violent and police lathi-charged them to ‘disperse’ the crowd.

    Terming it a case of judicial discrimination, Yashpal, a member, Dalit Soshan Mukti Manch (DSMM) told Newsclick, "This government showers flowers on kanwariyas from helicopters and is using lathis(canes) on dalits and minorities when they protest for their rights. What action has been taken against those who demolished Babri Masjid and the leaders who led the 'Rath Yatra' to provoke people to demolish the mosque?”.

    However, the DSMM leader said he was not supportive of any violence. “I agree that the protesters should not have turned violent but were probably been forced to do so. The demolition of the temple was an insult to the dalit community. This fascist government can go to any extent with dalits and minorities. Union Minister Hardeep Singh Puri has called a meeting on August 29, but we will not accept shifting the temple somewhere else," said Yashpal.

    He further said that this was a “ploy by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government just to distract people’s attention from its economic failure, industry slowdown.”

    RIDGE ROAD IN DELHI — A HUB OF ILLEGAL TEMPLES

    Several dalit activists pointed out that there were several temples and religious places on illegal sites and encroachments had become a hurdle for the public in Delhi. They cited the example of the ashram of Asaram Bapu near Ridge Road, alleging that DDA could not demolish these because they belonged to upper caste Hindus.

    Sushil Gautam, a dalit activist based in Meerut, told Newsclick, "Ravidas temple was not the only temple on forest land. There are several other places of worship, including a Hanuman mandir at Jhandewalan within the demarcated forest area."


    First published in Newsclick.

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