Protests broke out in several parts of Punjab’s Doaba region on Tuesday after a 500-year-old Ravidas temple in New Delhi’s Tughlakabad area was demolished on Saturday, Hindustan Times reported. The 15th-century temple was pulled down on the basis of a Supreme Court order on a petition against alleged encroachment by temple authorities.
Demonstrations were reportedly held in Ludhiana, Jalandhar, Phagwara, Gurdaspur and Amritsar, and educational institutions in four districts – Jalandhar, Kapurthala, Hoshiarpur and Shaheed Bhagat Singh Nagar – remained shut. Markets in Jalandhar also remained closed as members of the Ravidassia community held protests, and blocked the national highway at Lamba Pind Chowk.
“Road blockades would start in Punjab from 9 am onwards [Tuesday] for an indefinite period till our leaders urge us to lift them,” The Tribune had quoted Bhim Army President Balbir Garcha as saying in the morning. “We will lift the dharna only after we get an assurance for the reconstruction of Guru Ravidas Temple in Delhi.”
In Patiala, agitators forcefully closed the gates of Punjabi University while complete shutdowns were reported in Barnala, Fazilka, Samana, Ferozepur and Moga, News18 reported. The Punjab School Education Board postponed the Class 10 and Class 12 supplementary examinations scheduled for Tuesday, NDTV reported.
However, Dera Sachkhand Ballan in Jalandhar, which is the biggest dera of the community in the Doaba region, urged devotees to maintain peace and communal harmony, according to Hindustan Times.
Congress leaders met representatives of various dera heads and promised to support them and particpate in the dharna. Politicians from the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Shiromani Akali Dal also said they would help resolve the matter amicably.
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh sought Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s intervention into the matter, and said he had spoken to Union minister Hardeep Singh Puri. Singh also constituted a five-member committee of Cabinet ministers to reach out to the Ravidassia community.
The Delhi Development Authority on Monday said the structure was demolished on the basis of the Supreme Court’s orders. “The standing semi-permanent structure was dismantled peacefully without any resistance or use of force in the presence of Guru Ravi Das Jayanti Samaroh Samiti members,” NDTV quoted the agency as saying.
The Ravidas or the Ravidassia community is an off-shoot of Sikhism. They follow the teachings of Ravidas, who is believed to have been Dalit. His teachings are also mentioned in the Guru Granth Sahib. The members of the Ravidassia community are Dalits. In the last decade, the group has founded a separate religion known as the Ravidasia religion or Ravidass Panth, according to News18.