Schools and colleges in Jalandhar, Hoshiarpur, Kapurthala and Gurdaspur remained closed on Tuesday as Dalit outfits called for a bandh over the demolition of Guru Ravidas temple, in Tughlakabad in Delhi, on the order of the Supreme Court.
As Dalits in Punjab continued to protest against the demolition of the temple dedicated to Guru Ravidas in New Delhi, political opponents SAD and Congress Monday expressed solidarity with Ravidas community even as a Union minister said they were “seized of the matter” and “doing their best” to find a way out.
The Dalits believe that the land on which the temple was built was visited by Guru Ravidas around 1509 during the reign of Sikander Lodhi.
Reports of protests by Dalits continued to come in from several parts of Punjab. Earlier, protesters blocked several state highways.
Bhim Army chief Chandra Shekhar Azad took part in the protests, visiting Nawanshahr and Jalandhar. Azad also gave a call for Delhi bandh on August 21 over the issue.
Describing the demolition as “unfortunate”, Union Minister of State for Commerce and Industry and Hoshiarpur MP Som Parkash said he would meet the Lt Governor of Delhi and, if required, the Prime Minister, to resolve the matter.
Addressing a press conference in Phagwara before leaving for New Delhi, Som Parkash said the demolition had hurt religious sentiments of all sections, not just Dalits. “Religious places and monuments of historic importance should not be tampered with,” the BJP leader said, adding that they were “seized of the matter” and “doing their best” to find a way out.
“I had written to the Delhi Lt Governor on July 17, bringing to his notice the representation by Sant Kulwant Ram, president, Shri Guru Ravidas Sadhu Sampardai Society, pleading against the demolition,” the minister added. He further said that the Lt Governor in his reply on July 30 had informed him that the vice-chairman of the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) had been asked to take appropriate action.
The minister said a lapse had occurred at the level of the local committee of the temple as it had not informed them in time. “After getting information, I, along with Congress leader Shamsher Singh Dullo, met Union Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment Thawar Chand Gehlot, who took up the issue with Hardeep Singh Puri, Housing and Urban Affairs Minister,” Som Parkash said.
Calling upon all parties to rise above the political lines for resolving the issue, Som Parkash said, “We all will meet the Delhi Lt Governor and, if need be, the prime minister, for settling the matter to the satisfaction of the Dalit community. Since it is a state matter related to the DDA, the Lt Governor will be approached first”. Commenting on call for a shutdown on Tuesday by the Dalit community, he said people should not adopt a provocative path.
Earlier, Punjab Congress chief Sunil Jakhar said, “The party stands by the community and would help in every possible way to pursue the case for re-allocation of the historic site and reconstruction of the temple”.
“However, in the interest of the people”, he urged the Guru Ravidas Jayanti Samaroh Samiti, which is spearheading the protests, “not to block roads and highways as that was causing hardship to the commuters”.
Condemning the “demolition”, Ferozepur MP Sukhbir Singh Badal said “SAD is ready to help restore the legal case as well as re-build the historic temple at party’s expenses.”
Citing that the baani of Guru Ravi Dass is “inextricable part of Sri Guru Granth Sahib ji”, the Akali Dal chief said that his party will not tolerate “beadbi (desecration) of religious gurus” and will take up the matter with the union government.
“It is a matter of faith of millions of followers of Shri Guru Ravidass ji in and outside Punjab,” he said, adding that his party “at this hour firmly stands with the followers of Shri Guru Ravidass ji”. He vowed “to resolve the issue at the earliest by taking up the matter with Home Minister Amit Shah.”
Punjab CM Amarinder Singh had Sunday sought PM Narendra Modi’s intervention as Dalits called for a nationwide shutdown on August 13 besides threatening to observe Independence Day as ‘Black day’.
He had also appealed to the community members to call off their protests, saying the state government was ready to extend its full support to them to get the matter sorted amicably.
Akal Takht condemns Ravidas temple ‘demolition
Akal Takht Jathedar Giani Harpreet Singh on Monday condemned the reported demolition of a Ravidas temple in Delhi.
In his statement, the Jathedar said: “The demolition of the historical Ravidas Temple in Delhi is a highly condemnable episode. It has hurt the feelings of the Ravidas community. The psychology of the rulers has worked behind the demolition of temple. The oppressed Dalit class would never tolerate this oppression.”
The hymns of Guru Ravidas are also part of Guru Granth Sahib.
He alleged that governments and courts “selectively” use laws to demolish these buildings related to minorities and Dalits.
“There are many legal and illegal religious buildings all over the country. But government selectively use law as an excuse to demolish the historical buildings of minorities and Dalits. This double-standard must end,” he alleged, adding that the “Delhi government should immediately hand over the temple land to Dalits and seek apology from the community”.
“The law should treat every community equally,” the Jathedar said. Earlier, Jathedar Giani Harpreet Singh had asked the Sikhs to perform their religious duty by protecting Kashmiri girls. (Written by Kamaldeep Singh Brar)
CM’s panel meets thrice, visits Dera Sach Khand Ballan
Jalandhar: Ahead of a Punjab Bandh called Tuesday by the Ravidas community over the demolition of a centuries-old temple in New Delhi on Supreme Court’s order, a five-member committee formed by Chief Minister Amarinder Singh Monday held three meetings in Jalandhar and also met Dera Shach Khand Ballan head Niranjan Das and appealed to him to help maintain peace.
The committee, including ministers Charanjit Singh Channi, Aruna Chaudhary, Lok Sabha MP Chaudhary Santokh Singh and MLAs Raj Kumar Chabbewal and Sushil Kumar Rinku, was formed Sunday to meet the religious and political representatives of the Ravidas community and formulate a strategy to resolve the issue.
At the first meeting at District Administrative Complex (DAC), the ministers announced that the state government will extend legal and financial support to the SC community for filing a review petition against the Supreme Court order.
The committee met representatives of the SC community before heading to Dera Ballan, the largest religious dera of Ravidassia community. Dera head Niranjan Das issued an appeal to the devotees and people of the community to maintain peace during their protest.