Chandigarh: The Bandh call given by the Ravidasia community against the demolition of historic Ravidass temple in Delhi evoked a strong response in the Doaba region of Punjab, with shops and commercial establishments shut down across the state. Educational institutions were closed in certain parts of the state, especially in Jalandhar which happens to be the stronghold of the community.
A near complete shutdown was observed in Jalandhar, Patiala, Barnala, Fazilka, Samana, Ferozepur and Moga as commercial outlets remained closed. District administrations in Kapurthala, Hoshiarpur and Jalandhar had ordered closing of schools and colleges. Members of the community held protests and staged dharnas at various places.
Traffic movement on the Jalandhar-Delhi National Highway in Jalandhar was disrupted as scores of protestors laid siege to the highway. It could be opened only for 20 minutes on the instance of the police in the morning, but was again blocked by the protestors. In Patiala, the agitating members of the community forcefully closed the gates of the Punjabi University.
The Ravidass or Ravidasia community in Punjab are an influential vote bank accounting for 32 per cent of the electorate. This probably explains their importance in Punjab politics and hence the support lent by the Congress and the Akali Dal to their call for Bandh.
Even chief minister Capt. Amarinder Singh sought the prime minister’s intervention to resolve the matter. He also spoke to the union urban development minister Hardeep Singh Puri about the issue and has constituted a five-member committee comprising of cabinet ministers to reach out to the Ravidasia community.
The community worships Guru Ravidass and has now founded its own religion known as the Ravidasia religion or Ravidass Panth. It is an off-shoot of Sikhism which based on Guru Ravidass’s teachings, and was formed during the last decade.
The community mainly comprises of Dalits, known as Chamaars (a caste which deals with chores associated with skin and hides). Guru Ravidass is known be born in a Chamaar family. His teachings also find a mention in the Shri Guru Granth Sahib, hence the community adhered itself to Sikhism for long. But contrary to established belief, casteism made its way to Sikhism and this community bore the brunt. Consequently, the community slowly moved away from Sikhism.
In 2009, Ramanand Dass, head of Dera Sach Khand Ballan — a prominent dera of community — was assassinated in a Gurudwara in Vienna leading to a mass movement and culminating in a new religion. They compiled their own holy book based exclusively on Ravidass's teachings, the Amritbani Guru Ravidass Ji. The Dera Ballan Ravidassia temples now use this book in place of the Guru Granth Sahib. There are over 14 lakh followers of the Dera Ballan in Punjab alone, mainly comprising of Dalit Sikhs and Hindus.