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Protests, roadblocks in Punjab over SC move on Ravidas gurdwara

A complete bandh is being observed in some parts of Punjab following a call given by Dalit groups to protest against Supreme court’s decision to demolish Guru Ravidas Temple in Delhi recently.

Reports from Jalandhar, Hoshiarpur, Kapurthala and Phagwara suggested that the bandh call had evoked a good response with shops and commercial establishments remaining shut. The administration in these districts had already asked schools and colleges to remain closed in view of the bandh call.

All state highways including those leading to Amritsar, Hoshiarpur, Ludhiana, Nakodar and Pathankot remained closed as protestors who included BSP workers, Sant Samaj followers and Bhim Army sat on a dharna. Commercial establishments including banks and petrol pumps remained shut in Jalandhar and those who tried to open were force to close by groups of young boys taking a round of city markets. In Hoshiarpur, youth were seen wielding swords while moving around on their bikes to enforce the bandh.

Even those commuting by trains were badly affected as these were stopped at various locations including near Phagwara and Jalandhar. All schools and colleges in Doaba remained shut. While Deputy Commissioners of Jalandhar, Hoshiarpur and Kapurthala ordered closing of schools last night, the Deputy Commissioner of Nawanshahr issued orders for the same this morning.

In Nawanshahr, most markets remained open as the town remained closed yesterday. More than the Dalit community, the members of Hindu organisations were protesting today as ex-MLA Shingara Ram Sahungara had reportedly used derogatory words against Hindu deities. Sahungara, who had been BSP MLA earlier, is now with the Congress.

The issue has turned political with various political parties criticising the demolition. Union Minister of State for Commerce and Industry and Hoshiarpur MP Som Parkash too had described the demolition of the temple unfortunate. He had said he would meet the Lt Governor of Delhi and, if required, prime minister, for resolving the matter and getting the land re-allotted for the temple.

Shiromani Akali Dal president and Lok Sabha MP Sukhbir Singh Badal too condemned the demolition of the temple, saying their party was ready to help re-build the temple at their expenses. Delhi Social Welfare Minister Rajendra Pal Gautan sought Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s intervention in ensuring that the “land be given back” to the community to rebuild the place of worship.

The AAP minister in a press conference in New Delhi earlier had said the Delhi Development Authority (DDA), in the presence of a police force, demolished the structure on Saturday morning. The DDA in a statement issued on Monday, however, did not use the word temple, and said the “structure was removed as per the orders of the Supreme Court”.

“The standing semi-permanent structure was dismantled peacefully without any resistance or use of force in the presence of Guru Ravi Das Jayanti Samaroh Samiti members,” the DDA said in the statement. The DDA said the apex court in a case titled ‘Guru Ravi Das Jayanti Samaroh Samiti vs Union of India’, had on August 9 observed that “serious breach” has been committed by the Samiti by not vacating the forest area as earlier ordered by the court.

“Therefore, the Hon’ble Supreme Court ordered that the premises be vacated tomorrow and the structure be removed by Delhi Development Authority (DDA) with the help of police,” it said. Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh had on Sunday sought Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s intervention to pacify the situation.

Meanwhile, protests have also spread to Karnal where scores of members of the Ravidas Sabha blocked the National Highway-44.