Delhi government Social Welfare Minister Rajendra Pal Gautam Thursday wrote to the Delhi Development Authority to denotify forest land on which the Ravidas Temple in Tughlakabad was built. With the denotification, the government can allot land to the trust that owns the temple, and the temple can be rebuilt.
The letter comes a day before a planned protest over the temple’s demolition at Jantar Mantar on Friday. A similar protest on August 21 at Ramlila Maidan and Tughlakabad had turned violent, with protesters from several parts of the country allegedly setting vehicles on fire and damaging public property after they were stopped from visiting the temple site.
The demolition took place on orders of the Supreme Court, after a long legal battle over ownership of the land. The matter is still pending in court.
In a letter to DDA vice-chairperson Tarun Kapoor, Gautam wrote: “An early resolution of the matter is required, which would be possible only if the owner of the land, which is the DDA, requests the forest department for denotifying the land from the forest category. Accordingly, you are requested to immediately review the matter and send an appropriate request to the forest department for denotifying the land so that the Delhi government can send a proposal to the central government for approval and allotment of land for construction of Sant Ravidas temple.”
The issue was also discussed at the recently concluded session of the Delhi Assembly, where Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had demanded that the Centre give at least four acres of land to rebuild the temple — either through filing a review petition in the Supreme Court or passing an ordinance — at the same site.
In Thursday’s letter, Gautam said the matter should be given top priority as “each day of delay will aggravate the hurt caused to crores of persons belonging to the marginalised communities of India who hold Sant Ravidas as venerable, derive their meaning of life from his teachings”.
A DDA official said that since the matter was pending in court, they would have to study if they could take action without inviting contempt proceedings.