NEW DELHI: Even television channels were consumed with the Central Bureau of Investigation and former Union Minister P.Chidambaram, parts of Delhi were turned into a virtual battlefield with the police finding it difficult to contain angry Dalits protesting against the demolition of a Ravidas temple by the Delhi Development Authority.

The temple was demolished earlier this month by the DDA as per court orders, with a section of Dalits breaking away from a rally at Ramlila Grounds to visit the spot and register their protest at this “discrimination.” The police barricaded the entire area --Govindpuri, Tughlaqabad, Alaknanda-- with reportedly pitched battles breaking out when the protestors were stopped. Dalits at the protest claimed that the police started the violence, that resulted in about a 100 being arrested, cars vandalised, and tear gas shells fired to disperse the crowd.

The protesting crowd resorted to stone pelting thereafter and this continued till late into the evening. Prohibitory orders remain in force.

This followed a huge rally at the Ramlila grounds where tens of thousands of Dalits came from all across north India to register their protest at the demolition of the Ravidas mandir. Wearing blue caps, shouting slogans, the crowds turned the stretch from Ambedkar stadium to Ramlila grounds into a sea of humanity. Shouting Jai Bhim, the rally was peaceful and addressed by Dalit activists and spiritual leaders. Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar was also present, and according to some reports, was amongst those arrested later at Govindpuri.

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As the protestors said when asked about the violence, “this is all just lies. We were peaceful when we were at the Ramlila grounds in the thousands, why would we become violent inside. It is the police that started it all.” This was one of the biggest monilisations of Dalits in the national capital.

The mass uprising of Dalits, including thousands from Haryana and Punjab as well, was prompted by the demolition of the temple with Ravidas a sacred saint for the community. The rally demanded the temple be rebuilt by November 26 at the same spot, otherwise the protests would be escalated. If encroachment is the reason, an organiser said, then we can give a list of temples that need to be demolished as well, starting with some of the most famous.

Ravidas, a Dalit is revered as a well known saint of the bhakti movement. His poems and songs are an integral part of Dalit folk lore. His birth anniversary is celebrated every year on full moon day, particularly in Varanasi, the place to which he belonged. The demolition of the temple by the DDA has become a major point of dispute, with BJP leader Vijay Goel earlier assuring the angry Dalits of a ‘solution’. However, inaction triggered off the huge rally and the protests at the site.

Mandir kahan banega, shouted the speakers at the rally with the Dalits responding ‘wahin banega’. It has become a huge emotive point now, and clearly set to assume an even larger dimension as India’s most discriminated community makes it clear ---as several speakers said at the rally ---that this symbolises rights and justice, not just religion.

Dalit Leader, 90 Others Arrested After Clashes In South Delhi Over Temple