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Wednesday, Oct 23, 2019

Dalits block highways in Punjab against demolition of Ravidas temple

Jalandhar-Amritsar highway remained blocked for two hours; In Ludhiana, traffic remained blocked at the Jalandhar bypass for four hours from 10am to 2pm

punjab Updated: Aug 11, 2019 10:37 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Followers of Ravidas Community holding a protest.
Followers of Ravidas Community holding a protest.(Gurminder Singh/Hindustan Times)

Amid reports that a temple dedicated to Guru Ravidas at Tughlakabad in New Delhi had been demolished on the directions of the Supreme Court on Saturday, Dalits held protests at Ludhiana, Jalandhar, Phagwara, Gurdaspur and Amritsar on Saturday.

Due to the protest, Jalandhar-Hoshiarpur and Jalandhar-Nakodar highways in Jalandhar, Amritsar-Ludhiana highway at Phagwara (Kapurthala) and Nawanshahr-Banga highway remained blocked for several hours. Doaba has the largest concentration of the Scheduled Castes population in the state.

The protesters, led by Sri Guru Ravidas Sadhu Sampardai Society chairman Sant Mohinderpal Pandwa blocked the national highway-1 opposite the Shiromani Guru Ravidas Temple near Chak Hakeem village on the Phagwara-Jalandhar stretch. The blockade resulted in long queues of vehicles on both sides of the highway, causing inconvenience to commuters in the hot and humid weather.

As a precautionary measure, authorities diverted traffic at several places, officials said. The SC wing president of the Lok Insaaf Party, Jarnail Nangal, expressed anguish over the Supreme Court order. The apex court had ordered the demolition of the 500-year-old temple built at a place “hallowed” by Guru Ravidas, he said. He alleged that the idol of the guru had been desecrated, hurting religious sentiments of his followers.

Slogans raised against Centre, SC

Raising slogans against the Union government and the Supreme Court, the protesters said the Delhi government and Parliament should adopt a resolution to grant the same land at Tughlakabad for the reconstruction of the temple. They threatened to block the highway once again, on Tuesday, if their grievances were not addressed by Monday.

The blockade on the national highway was lifted after the intervention of Phagwara SP Mandeep Singh and SDM Jai Inder Singh. Sant Mohinderpal Pandwa and other religious leaders, including Sant Krishan Lal Chaheru, Sant Jaswinder Singh Dandia, Sant Tehal Nath, Ambedkar Sena president Harbhjan Suman and Dalit stalwart Jaswinder Dhanda, were among those who observed the dharna.

In Ludhiana, protesters blocked traffic near Jalandhar bypass for four hours from 10am to 2pm. The protesters dispersed only after submitting a memorandum to SDM Amarjit Singh. A protester Ramanjit Lali said community members had formed a 31-member committee to review the situation and submitted a memorandum to the Centre and the state governments through the SDM.

Protesters claim that they wanted the reconstruction of the temple to start by August 21 or they would up the ante and protest inside Ludhiana city. In Gurdaspur city, Ravi Das Sabha president Prem Kumar said that by demolition of the temple, the Modi government had hurt the feelings of the dalits. They also demanded the reconstruction of the temple.

First Published: Aug 10, 2019 22:29 IST

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