Protesters demand Ravidas temple be rebuilt at same site

Bhim Army activists at Ramlila Maidan in New Delhi on Wednesday.

Bhim Army activists at Ramlila Maidan in New Delhi on Wednesday.   | Photo Credit: SHIV KUMAR PUSHPAKAR

Traffic comes to standstill as agitators march from Ramlila Maidan to Tughlakabad

Thousands of protesters, from Punjab, Haryana and Delhi, marched towards the site of a demolished temple of Guru Ravidas in Tughlakabad forest area from Ramlila Maidan, about 20 km away, on Wednesday afternoon despite being stopped by the police.

Raising “Jai Bhim” slogans, they blocked the road in front of Civic Centre in the morning and then gathered at the Ramlila Maidan, from where the rally started around 2 p.m.

Traffic jam

The protest brought the movement of traffic in several parts of Delhi to a standstill, as police personnel struggled to bring the situation under control.

Traffic moved bumper-to-bumper in entire south- east Delhi, including Jasola Vihar, Greater Kailash, Alaknanda, Sangam Vihar, Kalkaji Mandir, roads leading to Govindpuri, Nehru Place and Badarpur.

A traffic police officer said the protesters were squatting on the roads and police personnel were trying to convince them to call off the protest.

Leading the march, Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad told The Hindu: “We are going to the temple site and will protest till the temple is rebuilt.”

The temple in Tughlakabad was demolished by the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) on August 10 following a Supreme Court order. The DDA is headed by Lieutenant-Governor Anil Baijal, who is appointed by the Central government. The protesters also raised slogans against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP.

AAP protest

Leaders of the Aam Aadmi Party, which has also been protesting against the demolition, took out a march from Ambedkar Bhawan to Ramlila Maidan. Social Welfare Minister Rajendra Pal Gautam said: “The DDA at the behest of the Central government demolished the Ravidas Temple at Tughlakabad. The DDA’s action has once again proved to what extent the BJP considers Dalits, Sant Ravidas Panthis untouchable even today.”

AAP MLA Ajay Dutt said that the real face of the BJP has been revealed. “BJP is playing with the feelings of the Dalits,” he said.

‘Hurt our feelings’

Balvender Singh, 25, from Punjab, came to Delhi to join the the protest on Tuesday and spent the night at the Bangla Sahib Gurdwara. “The Modi sarkar is trying to hurt the feelings of the Dalits. They have done it intentionally,” he said.

Padam Singh Gautam, 54, who was selling posters, flags and books at the Ramlila Maidan, said that he goes to such events of Dalits to make a living. “They should not have demolished the temple. They are playing with the emotions of 30 crore followers of Guruji [Ravidas].”

From a stage erected on one end of the Ramlila Maidan, one of the speakers, shouted, “Mandir kahan banega?” “Mandir vahin banega,” the crowd replied in unison.

As different Dalit groups had a disagreement over who should speak on the stage, a woman worker of the Bahujan Samaj Party was allegedly pushed down and manhandled.

“She and others wanted to gherao Parliament and there was a disagreement over it,” said Satish Kumar, a protester.

(With PTI inputs)

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Printable version | Aug 5, 2020 5:31:08 AM |

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