In the last leg of campaigning, a plot of land in West Delhi’s Sikh-dominated Tilak Vihar became the scene of an open electoral battle between the AAP and the BJP on Thursday.
The Sikh community clashed with police outside the Tilak Nagar police station, accusing the latter of evicting them while offering prayers on the land in question.
Giving it a political colour, BJP’s West Delhi candidate Parvesh Verma visited the site and expressed solidarity with the community. AAP MLA Jarnail Singh, too, visited the site and accused the BJP of politicising the issue.
Parvesh Verma said, “I have spoken to the principal secretary to the L-G and he will provide a solution. Police interrupted the ‘paath’, which they should not have done. It was Jarnail Singh who informed the Social Welfare department of the matter. He should be answerable for this.”
Singh, who is the MLA from Tilak Nagar, said, “The BJP is politicising the matter. Both sides should be heard and a consensus reached. I want to tell people that they should be aware of religion-based politics…”
Reportedly, a four-acre land behind a police post in Tilak Vihar has been converted into a prayer hall over the past few months with the Sikh community reading the ‘paath’ on the site, which is reportedly owned by the Social Welfare department.
However, acting on a complaint by the department two days ago, Delhi Police on Thursday reportedly evicted those performing the ‘paath’.
There was a minor lathicharge at the Subhash Nagar Metro station, which was closed for a few hours. Traffic was diverted too.
The protesters and representatives of the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC) and the Shiromani Akali Dal claimed devotees were evicted while offering prayers. They alleged police took the Guru Granth Sahib to the police station, hurting sentiments of the community.
“We got a complaint from the Social Welfare department and acted on it. Further investigations are under way,” DCP (West) Ranveer Singh said.
DSGMC general secretary Manjinder Singh Sirsa, who visited the scene of the clashes, said the religious sentiments of Sikhs had been hurt. “We have not reached a consensus with police. Just before the bhog was placed, police evicted the Sikhs. This hurt the community. Police have to give us permission to organise the ‘paath’ again after which we will call off the protest,” he said.