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Delhi’s Dalit protests: Finding the balance | HT editorial

Reconcile the court’s order and the community’s faith and emotions

editorials Updated: Aug 22, 2019 21:27 IST

Hindustan Times
A clash between protesters and police personnel after the protest against the demolition of Guru Ravidas Temple, outside the premises of the temple, at Tughlakabad Extension, New Delhi, August 21
A clash between protesters and police personnel after the protest against the demolition of Guru Ravidas Temple, outside the premises of the temple, at Tughlakabad Extension, New Delhi, August 21(Sanjeev Verma/HT PHOTO)
         

Delhi came to a standstill on Wednesday when thousands of Dalits protested against the demolition of a Ravidas temple. The Delhi Development Authority (DDA) had demolished the temple, following the orders of the Supreme Court (SC). The SC, on August 9, observed that a “serious breach” had been committed by Guru Ravidas Jayanti Samaroh Samiti, which manages the temple, by not vacating the forest area as earlier ordered by the court. The DDA did nothing wrong because it was following a court order. Unlike the Municipal Corporation of Delhi, which has elected members and a mandate for political outreach, the DDA is purely an administrative body under the Centre.

The primary onus for stabilising the situation rested on political leaders of the city, across party lines. They should have reached out to Dalit leaders to assuage the feelings of the community, convey the rationale of the move, and prevent any violence at a later stage. To be sure, when protests over the SC order on the temple broke out in Punjab, Union minister Hardeep Puri met Lt Governor Anil Baijal regarding the issue. After the meeting, Mr Puri tweeted that they were determined to find a solution. Other Bharatiya Janata Party leaders, especially Vijay Goel, also said the same thing. But it was not enough. Even the city government, led by the Aam Aadmi Party, was fully aware of the emerging situation but did little. The second issue is the role of Dalit leaders. This is not the first time that action has been taken against religious places. They should have realised that this was not a deliberate instance of singling out the community.

While the Delhi assembly passed a resolution to reconstruct the temple at the same spot once the Centre allotted the land, this was more a political statement by AAP to score over BJP than an attempt at a genuine resolution. All stakeholders must figure out a construction resolution. The balance lies in following the SC order, with the buy-in of the community in a way that respects their faith and emotions.

First Published: Aug 22, 2019 19:42 IST