Ravidas Temple Demolition: Dalits Mark a Month of DDA Action, Push for Restoration of Delhi Shrine
Activists have also urged the authorities to release the protesters being held since demonstrations against the government action last month.
Illustration by Mir Suhail.
New Delhi: Dozens of men and women chanted hymns while playing tambourines and other instruments as they commemorated a month of a temple demolition in Delhi’s Tughlakabad locality on Tuesday.
The Delhi Development Authority (DDA), a central government agency, carried out the action against the historic Shri Guru Ravidas shrine last month. The Supreme Court had ordered that the structure be pulled down after hearing a petition against alleged encroachment. Following the action, Dalits staged a massive protest and demanded that the temple be rebuilt at the site where it stood for over five centuries.
According to folklore, poet-saint, social reformer and spiritual figure Guru Ravidas visited the sacred place around 1509 during the reign of Sikandar Lodhi. His followers formed the Ravidassia religion, a spin-off from Sikhism, in the 21st century. Guru Ravidas Jayanti Samaroh Samiti has claimed that it has been taking care of the Ravidas temple land for 160 years.
Members of the Dalit community said they have decided to mark the demolition on the 10th of every month, and in increasing numbers.
“This is not an issue of the Dalits of Delhi alone. It is a national issue and it will keep getting increasingly greater attention from the community members in the times to come. Unless the temple is rebuilt at the exact same spot, we are going to keep agitating,” said Sant Sukhdev Waghmare, a religious leader and a member of the community.
Ashok Bharti, an activist, who was also present at the site on Tuesday, said, “We want to give ample time to the government and to other authorities to rebuild the temple here. We are holding regular meetings with members to see to it that our efforts are peaceful, organised and well-coordinated.” A process of gathering one crore signatures to press for the demand to rebuild the temple has also been initiated, he said.
Thousands of people participated in demonstrations in Delhi against the razing of the temple on August 21. People from Haryana, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan and several other states assembled at the Ramlila Maidan to register their protest. They argued that if the proposed Ram temple cannot be built anywhere but in Ayodhya, why should the followers of Ravidas allow their 500-year-old temple to be relocated as proposed by authorities? Delhi police arrested 96 people, including Dalit leader and Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad on charges of rioting and unlawful assembly.
The Supreme Court is expected to hear the Ravidas temple matter on September 14. Meanwhile, activists have urged the authorities to release the protesters being held since the August 21 demonstrations.
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