Dalits claim Delhi streets

The roads in the national capital were jammed on August 21 as a rally of thousands of followers of Guru Ravidas moved from Ambedkar Bhavan to Ram Leela Maidan, protesting the demolition of the Ravidas Mandir.A similar protest of Dalits was held in Punjab over the same issue.

The protest march in Delhi kicked off at around 10 am from Ambedkar Bhavan in Jhandewala. Thousands of protesters belonging to all age groups, wearing blue caps and carrying flags, moved towards Ramleela Maidan with cries of “Jai Bhim” rendering the air. The crowd remained here till 3 pm after which the protesters marched toward the site of the temple in Tughlaqabad extension, blocking roads and creating a traffic jam for hours.

Later in the evening, protesters turned violent as they tried marching towards the wall where the entrance of the temple was situated. Later, the agitated crowd even vandalised a few vehicles.

The police confirmed that they had to resort to using tear gas to control the mob.

According to Lakhmi Singh, one of the protesters and a resident of Tughlaqabad, the plan was to break the wall. “People came from across the nation, mainly from Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh,” he said. “The decided venue for the protest was Jantar Mantar but after realising that the crowd is huge, we were asked to not protest there. The venue was then shifted to Ramleela Maidan.”

Bhim Army chief Chandra-shekhar Azad was among the protesters. According to Singh, he (Azad) was stopped mid-way by the police and later released when the crowd started turning violent.

The Govindpuri police station has denied the burning of vehicles by the crowd. However, they confirmed that a huge mob was being controlled by police forces at Tughlaqabad.

“We can’t give out any details right now as all our officers are there,” said a police official. “But the situation is under control.”

Harish Kumar, one of the protesters and a resident of Tughlaqabad, confirmed this. “The whole area near the temple is barricaded, the crowd has blocked the roads and are not letting any vehicles to pass by, there is a huge jam,” he said.

At around 5.30 pm, the area near ITO was jam-packed due to the movement of protesters. By 6.30 pm, the crowd had reached the temple site in Tughlaqabad, causing vehicular movement in South Delhi to come to a standstill, with almost all exits and entries of the area showing a minimum 28-minute delay.

Deployment of heavy police personnel to control the mob, and the added dramatics surrounding the detainment of ex-Union Minister P Chidambaram, further compounded the traffic situation.

Earlier this month, the Supreme Court had ordered the DDA to demolish the Guru Ravidas temple as it was situated in the DDA land of Jahanpanah forest. The issue was politicised after the AAP, Congress and BSP leaders accused the Centre of demolishing a mandir that is sacred to the Dalit community.        

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