Punjab bandh today as protests over demolition of Ravidas temple continue

PUNJAB :All schools and colleges in Jalandhar, Hoshiarpur, Kapurthala and Gurdaspur will remain closed on Tuesday after Dalit outfits called for a bandh over the demolition of Guru Ravidas temple Tughlakabad in Delhi on the order of the Supreme Court.

As Dalits in Punjab continued to protest against the demolition of the temple dedicated to Guru Ravidas in New Delhi, political opponents SAD and Congress Monday expressed solidarity with Ravidas community even as a Union minister said they were “seized of the matter” and “doing their best” to find a way out.

The centuries-old temple in New Delhi’s Tughlakabad area has been demolished on the directions of the Supreme Court. The Dalits believe that the land on which the temple was built was visited by Guru Ravidas around 1509 during the reign of Sikander Lodhi.

Reports of protests by Dalits continued to come in from several parts of Punjab. Earlier, protesters blocked several state highways.

Described the demolition as “unfortunate”, Union Minister of State for Commerce and Industry and Hoshiarpur MP Som Parkash said he would meet the Lt Governor of Delhi and, if required, prime minister, for resolving the matter.

Addressing a press conference in Phagwara before leaving for New Delhi, Som Parkash said the demolition had hurt religious sentiments of all sections, not just Dalits. “Religious places and monuments of historic importance should not be tampered with,” the BJP leader said, adding that they were “seized of the matter” and “doing their best” to find a way out.

“I had written to the Delhi Lt Governor on July 17, bringing to his notice the representation by Sant Kulwant Ram, president, Shri Guru Ravidas Sadhu Sampardai Society, pleading against the demolition,” the minister added. He further said that the Lt Governor in his reply on July 30 had informed him that the vice-chairman of the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) had been asked to take appropriate action.

The minister said a lapse had occurred at the level of the local committee of the temple as it had not informed them in time. “After getting information, I, along with Congress leader Shamsher Singh Dullo, met Union Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment Thawar Chand Gehlot, who took up the issue with Hardeep Singh Puri, Housing and Urban Affairs Minister,” Som Parkash said.

Calling upon all parties to rise above the political lines for resolving the issue, Som Parkash said, “We all will meet the Delhi Lt Governor and, if need be, the prime minister, for settling the matter to the satisfaction of the Dalit community. Since it is a state matter related to the DDA, the Lt Governor will be approached first”. Commenting on call for a shutdown on Tuesday by the Dalit community, he said people should not adopt a provocative path.