Dalit- Ambedkarite outfit Bhim Army has called for a Press Conference condemning the “fascist actions of the BJP Government” against the activists who participated in protests opposing the demolition of the Ravidas temple in Delhi and have targeted subsequently.
It said, “Despite our repeated attempts, the 96 people unlawfully arrested on August 21 continue to be prosecuted. We demand the immediate release of these innocent people who are hounded and targeted relentlessly for the simple fact that they dared to stand up for the rights of the marginalised. We also demand that the temple be reconstructed at the exact same place.”
On August 22, the police resorted to lathi charge to disperse the protesters who had gathered to protest the demolition of the Ravidas temple, a revered place for Dalits. The protesters carried on a march from Ambedkar Bhawan in Jhandewalan to Ramlila Maidan in central Delhi. On the same day, Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad and more than 90 protesters were detained.
The temple was demolished in earlier in August by the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) which comes directly under the authority of the Central government. It was ordered to be demolished on the plea of encroaching forest land, even though the temple was nearly five centuries old. This 15th century temple located in a forested area was dedicated to Sant Guru Ravidas, a spiritual saint and a poet highly revered by many people and especially Dalit communities in North India.
The legal case of the land was pending for 27 long years and the Supreme Court order tried to end the old dispute by declaring the land as belonging to DDA. This angered Dalit communities who, along with the larger Ravidassia community in North India, have been on protests ever since the temple was demolished. Dalits followers of Sant Guru Ravidas who claim ownership of the land where the temple stood were asked to rebuild the temple on another plot.
Calling the approach of the government “anti-Dalit” and “anti-minority” Bhim Army also said that the government’s attitude is clearly visible in the events that took place in Saharanpur recently. Reportedly, as per the press note, a Babasaheb Ambedkar statue was vandalised by “anti-social elements”. The group alleged, “When Bhim Army activists protested against the same, 750 of them were booked under false charges, which includes the Bhim Army National General Secretary, Kamal Singh Walia. Chandrashekhar’s family members, who were not even present in the protest have also been charged. The fact that the present ruling party encourages and sponsors anti-social elements, and prosecutes the just is not a surprising one.”
The incident had triggered anger among the residents of the village, mostly from the Dalit community. The villagers, led by members of Bhim Army, staged a protest against the demolition on the same day. The protesters had also blocked the Behat-Saharanpur road and chanted slogans against the government. The angry protesters demanded that the people responsible for vandalising the statue be arrested immediately and also called for the installation of a new statue of Ambedkar.
Earlier, Bhim Army also declared that it will start a “Jail Bharo Andolan” on September 17 from Saharanpur and later they will take it across the country. As per the group, there are three reasons behind this andolan: Vandalism of BR Ambedkar’s statue, demolition of the Ravidas temple in Tughlakabad, Delhi and imprisonment of our 96 leaders including Chandrashekhar Azad. Three top leaders of the group, Chandrashekhar Azad, National President Vinay Ratna and Vice President Manjeet Singh Nautiyal still remain incarcerated.