NEW DELHI: Protests against the demolition of the Ravidas temple by the Delhi Development Authority as per court orders are expected to escalate over the coming days, with Dalit organisations announcing August 25 as a Black Day to demand the release of those detained in the demonstrations here three days ago along with the reconstruction of the temple.

The Bhim Army, in a press release, has stated that its chief Chandrashekhar Azad and national president Vijay Ratan “were tied and beaten mercilessly whilst in police custody. Azxad could barely walks when produced in the court the next day.” Both were arrrested with 90 plus others while demonstrating against the demoition of the Ravidas temple. Dalits had gathered for a huge protest rally at the Ramlila grounds after which a few thousand marched to the Tughlaqabad area where the temple was located.

The Dalit rally on the issue is probably the largest seen in Delhi in decades. The Bhim Army has now given “ten days” to the government to agree to its demand to release all detained and reconstruct the temple otherwise it will issue a call for Bharat Bandh. “ The joined forces fof SC,ST and OVC will call for Bharat Bandh” the statement said maintaining that August 25 will be observed as a black day against the actions of this “autocratic government.”

Calling the government “fascist and undemocratic” the Bhim Army said that it had scheduled a press conference about the violence on August 21 but the government did not allow this to be held. This suppression of dissent, it said, had “all the makings of an undeclared Emergency.”

Azad started marching towards the site after leaders at the Ramlila ground declared that they would reinstall their saint Ravidas’s statue at the original site. Dalits from Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and other states had come in the thousands to protest what they described as an “insult” to their community. Spiritual leader. Sant Ravidas from the 16th century is worshipped by Dalits all across, but particularly in Punjab as his teachings have been included in the Guru Granth Sahab. The temple according to them was built on a site that Ravidas had visited in 1509 when Sikander Lodhi was on the throne.

The Supreme Court directed its demolition, upholding a 2018 order of the Delhi High Court. It said the temple land that belonged to the government should be vacated within two months. This was in April this year. The DDA subsequently demolished the temple on August 10.

Meanwhile Delhi Assembly has passed a resolution urging the central government to bring in an Ordinance to allot land for the construction of a “magnificent” Ravidas temple. Aam Aadmi Party leaders created a storm inside the Assembly, carrying placards, and raising slogans protesting against the demolition. The House then passed a resolution for the Ordinance, with BJP MLA Om Prakash Sharma supporting it.

Interestingly, the Delhi Wakf Board chairman Amanatullah Khan has offered to bear the cost of the reconstruction of the temple at Tughlakabad.