DW BUREAU / CHANDIGARH
To protest against the demolition of a temple dedicated to Guru Ravidas in New Delhi’s Tughlakabad on the directions of the apex court, the Dalits continued protests at many places in Punjab on Monday.
Protest marches were taken out by Dalits in Nawanshahr, where shops remained shut. The legend says the sacred place on which the temple was built was visited by Guru Ravidas around 1509 during the reign of Sikander Lodhi.
Punjab Congress chief Sunil Jakhar, too, on Monday extended his party’s support to the Ravidas community, but appealed to them to ensure that the common people were not adversely impacted as a result of their protests.
In a statement issued here on Monday, Jakhar said the party stood by the community and would help in every possible way to pursue the case for the re-allocation of the historic site and the reconstruction of the temple.
However, in the interest of people, he urged the Guru Ravidas Jayanti Samaroh Samiti, which is spearheading the protests, not to block roads and highways as that was causing hardships to commuters. Earlier, protesters at Ludhiana, Jalandhar, Phagwara, Gurdaspur and Amritsar had blocked several state highways, causing hardships to commuters. Meanwhile, Union Minister of State for Commerce and Industry and Hoshiarpur MP Som Parkash described the demolition of the temple unfortunate.
He said he would meet the Lt Governor of Delhi and, if required, prime minister, for resolving the matter. Addressing a press conference at his residence in Phagwara on Monday before leaving for New Delhi, Som Parkash said the demolition of the structure had hurt religious sentiments of all sections of society, not just Dalits.
“Religious places and monuments of historic importance should not be tempered 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 of the 500-year old structure,” the minister added.
He further said 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 look into the matter and take appropriate action.
He released copies of both letters to the media. 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,” Parkash said.
Calling upon all parties to rise above the political lines for resolving the issue, 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 was a state matter related to the DDA, the Lt Governor will be approached first,” he said.
Commenting upon call for a shutdown on Tuesday by the Dalit community, he said people should not adopt a provocative path like it.
Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh had on Sunday sought Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s intervention to pacify the situation as Dalits had called for a nationwide shutdown on August 13 besides observing Independence Day as ‘black day’.
Capt Amarinder Singh 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 amicably resolved.