CM writes to UD ministry over Ravidas temple land
The demolition of the temple of Sant Ravidas, worshipped by Dalits across the country, on August 10 by the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) in adherence to a Supreme Court order had initially led to protests in Punjab, the state with the highest percentage of Dalits in India.Updated: Sep 12, 2019 05:55 IST
Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal has urged union urban affairs minister Hardeep Puri to initiate the process of denotification of a forest land in south Delhi’s Tughlakabad for the rebuilding of the Ravidas temple, which was demolished last month and had led to widespread protests by Dalit groups.
Union urban affairs ministry spokesperson Rajeev Jain did not respond to queries.
The demolition of the temple of Sant Ravidas, worshipped by Dalits across the country, on August 10 by the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) in adherence to a Supreme Court order had initially led to protests in Punjab, the state with the highest percentage of Dalits in India. The protests later spread to other states, including Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Delhi, where dozens of people sustained injuries after a group of protesters clashed with the police near the site of the demolished temple on August 21.
More than 90 people were arrested in connection with the incident.
On Wednesday, the Delhi government said in a statement, Kejriwal sent a letter to Puri writing, “Since the land is under ownership of the DDA, only the Centre can initiate the denotification of the land in question. This is forest land under ownership and control of the DDA. As the agency that has possession and title over it, it will have to initiate the process.”
The statement further quoted Kejriwal saying, “The DDA will need to submit a proposal to the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change through the Government of Delhi, for notifying the diversion of the land. I will ensure that the state government takes up the matter immediately and acts in a time -bound manner. On the proposal to denotify the [forest] land.”
On August 22, the first day of the monsoon session of the Delhi Assembly, Kejriwal had asked the Centre to give at least four acres of land for rebuilding a Ravidas temple – either by filing a review petition in the Supreme Court or passing an ordinance – at the same site. The AAP’s demand to rebuild a Ravidas temple at the same spot found support from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) too. Both parties had earlier indulged in blame game over who was responsible for the demolition in the first place and alleged politicisation of the issue.
In the Assembly, the AAP government had also said that once the forest land is denotified, the Delhi government would bear all expenses on rebuilding the temple. Later, the AAP and the BJP again sparred over which party has the concerned power for the requisite denotification of the forest land. While Delhi’s transport minister Kailash Gahlot maintained it was the central government, Delhi’s leader of opposition Vijender Gupta said it was the city government which has the exclusive power to do so.
In its order on August 9, the Supreme Court had observed that “serious breach” had been committed by Guru Ravidas Jainti Samaroh Samiti by not vacating the forest area as earlier ordered by the apex court. The top court had also cautioned the Punjab, Delhi and Haryana governments to maintain law and order, saying the matter must not be given a political colour.
The members of Dalit community had, however, refused to accept the verdict, saying it is a matter of faith for them and an alternate site is not acceptable to them. “Our guru had visited the place. We have been worshipping here for years. We want the temple to be constructed at the same location,” Narendra Jassi, a member of the committee of Ravidas temples in the national capital, had said.