Over six districts in Punjab have been on the edge after the demolition of centuries-old Guru Ravidas temple in Delhi’s Tughlaqabad area last Saturday by the Delhi Development Authority as part of a drive to carry out Supreme Court orders. ANJU AGNIHOTRI CHABA explains what Dalit outfits spearheading the protests across the state are demanding.
Who gave Tuesday’s Punjab Bandh Call?
The bandh call was given by the All India Adi-Dharm Mission Khuralgarh Sahib and Sadhu Smaj Samperdaye, both of which represent the Ravidasia community. The bandh was supported by all local Ravidasia community outfits as well as by some outfits of the Valmiki Samaj too. Both these organisations have a large base in Punjab, particularly in Doaba region.
What is the historical significance of the demolished site?
The temple was built in 15th century on land allocated by the then Delhi emperor, Sikander Lodhi. Guru Ravidas had spent three days at the same place in Delhi where this temple was built.
Why is the Ravidasia community angry?
Representatives of the community said that they had submitted a letter to Union Minister of Housing and Urban Affairs, Hardeep Singh Puri last month regarding the issue. They added that the temple was demolished without giving proper thought to “the grave implications this decision would have on the law & order situation of the country”. They argued that while the Ram Janam Bhoomi issue was being handled with utmost care, this wasn’t the case with the Ravidas temple issue.
What is the Punjab government’s stand on the issue?
Punjab’s Congress government is supporting the community fully. Punjab CM Captain Amarinder Singh has constituted a five-member committee, including Cabinet Ministers Charanjit Singh Channi, Aruna Chaudhary Lok Sabha MP Chaudhary Santokh Singh and MLAs Raj Kumar Chabbewal and Sushil Kumar Rinku. The committee met religious and political representatives of the community and is formulating a comprehensive strategy to resolve the issue. They also visited Dera Ballan and met its head, Sant Niranjan Das, and appealed for peaceful protest.
The CM has said that if the community agrees, the state government is ready to bear the entire expenses for the legal battle to rebuild the temple. CM Amarinder Singh has also sought PM’s intervention in the matter.
What the main areas in Punjab affected by the stir?
The Dalit community has a large population in Doaba region of Punjab — Jalandhar, Hoshiarpur, Nawanshahr and Kapurthala districts. Doaba has highest Dalit population in the country with 38 per cent Dalit vote bank. Doaba region also have several Ravidasia deras, including the largest dera, Sach Khand Ballan, located in Jalandhar’s Ballan village. Dera Ballan has a following of around 20 Lakh people in the region and abroad.
In 2010, Dera Ballan had announced separate ‘Ravidasia’ religion with their temples keeping ‘Amritbani’, a regious books carrying the hyms of Guru Ravidas, for worship. Over half dozen districts of Punjab are majorly affected by the stir, including Gurdaspur, Ludhian and four Doaba districts.