Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad was detained along with 50 others in Delhi on Wednesday after protests against the demolition of a Ravidas temple in the Tughlakabad locality turned violent, PTI reported. The Delhi Development Authority had demolished the temple on August 10 based on the orders of the Supreme Court.

The police resorted to baton-charge and tear gas to disperse the protestors. The Bhim Army alleged that the police had fired at protestors. Police claimed the protestors had turned violent and seven officers were injured but none from the public was hurt.

Deputy Commissioner of Police (South East Delhi) Chinmoy Biswal said: “At around 7.30 pm, the mob that gathered at Ravi Das Marg turned unruly and became violent despite persuasion and appeal by police to maintain peace and started pelting stones and attacking policemen. Mild and reasonable force had to be used to disperse the unruly mob.”

Biswal said Azad had been detained and would be booked for rioting and unlawful assembly, The Indian Express reported. A pistol was recovered from the protest, police said, adding that they were finding out who it belongs to.

The protest

Earlier in the day, protestors of all age groups from various states had marched from Ambedkar Bhawan in Jhandewalan locality to the Ramlila Maidan, where some began a hunger strike. Chanting “Jai Bhim”, they demanded that the government hand over the plot to the community and rebuild the shrine.

Some protestors turned violent on their way to the site of the temple as they wielded sticks, set vehicles on fire and broke windshields of cars, the police claimed. Traffic was also hit in Central and South Delhi. Seven police officers were injured in the clashes with protestors, the Delhi Police said.

Delhi Police spokesperson Mandeep Singh Randhawa said: “After reaching Tughlakabad, protestors turned violent. We tried to pacify them but they started pelting stones, damaging cars and public property. We used mild force and fired tear gas to disperse the crowd.”

The protestors were gathered under the banner of the Akhil Bharatiya Sant Shiromani Guru Ravidas Mandir Sanyukta Sanrakhshan Samiti, an umbrella body of Dalit groups formed for the temple movement.

The Delhi Development Authority has said the temple was built on forest land. On Monday, the Supreme Court had said that its order approving the demolition of a 500-year-old Ravidas temple in Tughlakabad should not be given a “political colour”.

Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra said the police action was an insult to Dalits’ voices and was intolerable. She tweeted: “The BJP government first tampers with a site that symbolises cultural heritage for crores of Dalit brothers and sisters. When they protest in the national capital, the BJP uses sticks and tear gas on them and arrests them. This is an emotional matter and their voices must be respected.”

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