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Dalits Launch 3-month Movement for Ravidas Temple, Question Delay if Both Centre, AAP Support Demand

The demolition of the Ravidas temple in a forest area in south Delhi’s Tughlakabad on August 10, based on the Supreme Court’s orders, has caused a political upheaval, with all major political parties –the BJP, AAP and the Congress – demanding the reconstruction of the temple.

Dalit leaders who spearheaded the recent protests in Delhi against the demolition of a temple in the city dedicated to the 16th century mystic poet-saint Ravidas, will launch a three-month long protest in the capital on Thursday that will culminate on November 26 – the deadline posited by the community leaders for rebuilding the temple.

The demolition of the Ravidas temple in a forest area in south Delhi’s Tughlakabad on August 10, based on the Supreme Court’s orders, has caused a political upheaval, with all major political parties – the BJP, AAP and the Congress – demanding the reconstruction of the temple which is an emotive issue for the followers of the Ravidasa religion.

“We are going to announce the beginning of what we feel is going to be a long and protracted battle for the rebuilding of Sant Ravidas temple. We demand that the temple be rebuilt in exactly the same spot where it stood for the last 500 years,” said Ashok Bharti, a Dalit activist.

There are a few more demands that the organisers of protests are going to raise in days to come. “We want 96 youths arrested during the August 21 protests to be released immediately and the government to sponsor their bails if necessary. If the government thinks that by arresting hundreds of people, it will leave our movement directionless, we’re going to prove them wrong,” Bharti added.

For him, the delay in reconstruction of the temple is ‘inexplicable’. “The central government has said that it is committed to rebuilding the temple. The Delhi government has also passed a resolution in support of rebuilding the temple. Then why is there such a delay in allotting land back to us and starting construction afresh?”

“We will approach all the parties and seek their support. If there is a consensus on building of the temple, then nothing can stop the construction,” Bharti added.

On August 21, thousands of Dalits, who trooped into Delhi from states such as Punjab, Rajasthan, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, marched from Ambedkar Bhawan in central Delhi to Ramlila Maidan on Tuesday. They argued that if the Ram temple couldn’t be relocated from Ayodhya, why the followers of Ravidas should allow their 500-year-old temple to be shifted elsewhere.

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