FOLLOWED BY the 11-day-long Bhagwan Valmiki idol procession throughout the state, Punjab government will inaugurate the Rs 200-crore Valmiki Tirath Dham in Amritsar on Thursday ahead of Assembly elections. Darshan Ratan Ravana, the founder and head of Adi Dharam Samaj, is one of the religious leaders of the Valmiki community. Punjab CM Parkash Singh Badal attends his annual congregation for the community every year. The Indian Express spoke to Ravana about the political aspect of the inauguration for which the government has been mobilising the Valmiki community.
How do you analyse the role of Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal in the construction of the Valmiki Tirath Dham in Amritsar?
It was former Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee President Gurcharan Singh Tohra, who had introduced me to Parkash Singh Badal. Tohra suggested to CM Badal that I should be supported and since then, CM Badal has never disappointed me. This Valmiki Tirath has been constructed beyond our imagination. We wanted to construct it but we never thought its scale would be so big.
Will you appeal to the Valmiki community to vote for Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) for this project?
I never felt that the government is doing all this to get the community’s vote in elections. There is no need to make an appeal as people already know whom they should vote. There is already a feeling in the community. Besides, Congress leaders from Valmiki community like Hans Raj Hans have made a mistake by maintaining a distance from the Valmiki Idol procession in the state. They themselves got out of it. Valmiki community will definitely see inauguration from a political angle and votes will automatically be cast in favour of the incumbent government.
What is your personal opinion about the elections?
It is not only about Valmiki Tirath but this government has taken many Dalit-oriented steps like legal stay from Supreme Court in a case related to Valmiki-Majhabi Sikh reservation issue, reservation in judiciary, regularisation of sanitation workers after 25 years. No one can deny these achievements.
You are a critic of RSS and hardliner Sikhs often accuse Punjab CM carrying RSS agenda forward. Did you ever feel that the CM was under pressure from RSS for construction of Valmiki Tirath?
There was organised pressure from RSS to not allow this Valmiki Tirath to develop since 1986, when this idea was conceived. At times, the project was not getting speed and we felt that CM Badal could be under pressure from RSS. But now it is ready for inauguration.
Are you satisfied or still you have some concerns?
Biggest concern is that we want to develop our identity. The recent procession of Valmiki idol was made to stay at Hindu temples on the way during nights. I don’t want all this wasted under the influence of dominant cultures. We want this Tirath to help us in creating a separate identity of the community.
Who will manage Valmiki Tirath Dham?
I have learnt Punjab government has been making a nine-member shrine board with five ex-officials of the Punjab government. Punjab CM will be chairman. Nine members will be from the community.