Punjab shuts down in protest against demolition of Ravidas shrine in Delhi

Four others, including a doctor of a government hospital, are also under the IMA scanner for violating quarantine procedures after returning from abroad. Photo: iStock

Normal life was affected at many places in Punjab on Tuesday as demonstrations were held by Dalits to protest the demolition of a temple dedicated to Guru Ravidas in New Delhi’s Tughlakabad area on directions of the Supreme Court.

There were reports that protesters had blocked roads at a few places including the Jalandhar-Delhi national highway causing huge traffic jams, officials said. Protestors under the banner of Guru Ravidas Jayanti Samaroh Samiti had given a bandh call on August 13 and announced observing Independence Day as a Black Day.

The protests are being held at different places in the state over the past few days. In response to the bandh call, protest marches were taken out by Dalits at several places on Tuesday including Jalandhar, where educational institutions were shut.

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Besides, protest marches were also taken out at Ludhiana, Phagwara, Nawanshahr, Barnala, Ferozepur, Bathinda, Amritsar, Moga and Fazilka. The shops remained shut at a few places including Nawanshahr, Jalandhar and Barnala.

The protesters were demanding that the temple be re-built. “We will intensify our protest if our demand is not met. We will be compelled to block rail routes too,” a protester in Jalandhar said. Tight security arrangements have been put in place across the state in view of the protests. Leaders from the Congress, BJP and Shiromani Akali Dal have 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 had on Monday extended his party’s support to the Ravidas community. He, however, appealed to the protesters to ensure that the common people were not impacted as a result of their protests.

Union minister of state for commerce and industry and Hoshiarpur MP Som Parkash too had described the demolition of the temple unfortunate. He had 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.

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. 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 earlier had 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 Samiti by not vacating the forest area as earlier ordered by the court.

“Therefore, the 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.

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