Priyanka Gandhi Slams Centre For "Insulting" Dalits After Temple Clashes

The Ravidas Temple was demolished by the Delhi Development Authority or DDA earlier this month based on the orders of the Supreme Court.

Priyanka Gandhi Slams Centre For 'Insulting' Dalits After Temple Clashes

Ravidas Temple: Police had to baton charge the crowd during a Dalit protest after clashes broke out

New Delhi: 

Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra slammed the government today over police using batons to disperse the crowd when Dalits were protesting the demolition of the Ravidas Temple in Tughlaqabad in Delhi. It is an "insult" of Dalit voices she said, adding that such acts cannot be tolerated.

Dalit leader and Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad and 90 others were arrested last evening after a massive protest in Delhi against the demolition of a temple in the city dedicated to the 16th century mystic poet-saint Ravidas.

Violent protesters damaged several vehicles and two motorcycles were set on fire, according to the police. Several people, including 15 police personnel have been injured in the violence during protests. To end the violence and disperse the crowd, police resorted to lathi charge (baton charge).

The Ravidas Temple was demolished by the Delhi Development Authority or DDA earlier this month based on the orders of the Supreme Court.

"First the BJP government messes around with Ravi Das temple -- the symbol of cultural heritage of crores of Dalit sisters and brothers, and when thousands of Dalit brothers and sisters raise their voice in the national capital, the BJP lathi charges them, gets tear gas fired at them and arrests them," Priyanka Gandhi alleged in her tweet in Hindi.

The demolition of the Ravidas temple in a forest area in south Delhi's Tughlakabad on August 10, based on the Supreme Court's orders, has turned political with many parties demanding that the temple be reconstructed either at the same spot or at an alternative location. The demolition is also an emotive issue for the followers of the Ravidassia religion, mostly comprising people from the so-called "lower castes".

Priyanka Gandhi Vadra further tweeted in Hindi saying, "This insult of Dalit voices cannot be tolerated. This is an emotional issue, and their voices must be respected."

Thousands of Dalits, who trooped into Delhi from states such as Punjab, Rajasthan, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, marched from Ambedkar Bhawan in central Delhi to Ramlila Maidan on Tuesday. Whle the protesters had permission to hold a rally only in Ramlila Maidan, Chandrashekhar Azad and thousands of his supporters tried to reach to the demolition site in Tughlakabad, some 21 km away.

Ravidas was one of the key faces of the bhakti movement between the 15th and the 16th centuries. Hymns written by him are included in the Guru Granth Sahib, the holy book of the Sikhs. He is considered as the founder of 21st-century Ravidassia religion.

Delhi's ruling Aam Aadmi Party or AAP has demanded Prime Minister Narendra Modi's intervention in ensuring that the land be given back to the Ravidas community to rebuild the place of worship.

BJP leader and former union minister Vijay Goel said, "I have proposed that the temple be built at an alternative place after the approval of the Supreme Court. If they agree, we will take the matter up with the DDA."

(With inputs from PTI)

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