Dalits Protest Demolition of Ravidas Temple in Delhi, Union Government Proposes Rebuilding

Reported by

Aditi PatilLand Conflict Watch

Last updated on

July 7, 2021

Location of Conflict

Katwaria Sarai

New Delhi

Reason or Cause of Conflict

Communal/Ethnic Conflict

(

)

People Affected by Conflict

Land Area Affected (in Hectares)

1

ha

Starting Year

1986

State

Delhi

Sector

Land Use

The Ravidas temple was demolished by the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) on August 10, 2019, following an order of the Supreme Court dated April 8, 2019. Dalit leaders have accused the Union government, to whom the DDA reports, of disregarding the sentiments of Dalits, who are followers of Ravidas. Upholding a 2018 order of the Delhi high court, the Supreme Court had ordered the area to be vacated within two months, starting April 2019. On August 2, the Guru Ravidas Jayanti Samaroh Samiti (an organisation that supervised the temple's management) informed the Supreme Court that it had vacated the area. The court wanted the claim to be verified.  On August 9, the DDA informed the court that the premises had not been vacated and that the Samiti had misled the court by giving a "false statement". The DDA also said that the Samiti was creating unauthorised buildings and structures on green land and hence they were illegal. The court then ordered that the premises should be vacated within a day (by August 10) and the structure be removed by the DDA with the help of the police. The court directed Delhi Police to provide adequate help to remove the structure.  The root cause of the conflict is a 33yearold legal battle between the DDA and the Samiti regarding the ownership of the land where the temple was built. The Samiti contests that it has ownership over the land in question while the DDA argues that it is essentially government land encroached upon by the Samiti. According to documents submitted by the Samiti to the Delhi high court and later to the Supreme Court, the overall premises consist of an area spread over approximately 2.55 acres, which includes 20 rooms, a hall and two separate meditation rooms. The matter reached the court first in 1986 when the Samiti filed a writ petition against the DDA and the Delhi high court passed a status quo order on any further construction. On November 5, 1992, the DDA undertook a demolition drive to raze the unauthorised buildings. The Samiti moved the court and a long, legal battle over land ownership followed. The DDA has consistently rejected the ownership claims made by the Samiti. It said that the land in question was acquired in 1963 under the Land Acquisition Act and that due compensation was paid to the people living on it. Though the high court ruled in favour of the DDA, it suggested a possible way out to resolve the dispute: to shift the temple and the two rooms from the existing location to about 400 feet at the periphery of the plot of land. The court said there would be independent access to the small temple with two rooms and there would be no need to use or access any other land of the DDA. The temple authorities refused and the legal battle over land ownership continued. After the demolition of the temple in August 2019, protesters of all age groups marched from Ambedkar Bhawan in Jhandewalan to the Ramlila Maidan in Delhi on August 21. The protest in Delhi came a week after a similar protest on August 13 by Dalits in Punjab over the same issue. The demonstrators in Delhi arrived from Punjab, Rajasthan, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and other states. Ninetysix Dalit activists were arrested.  Ashok Tanwar and Pradeep Jain Aditya, two former MPs from the Congress party, filed a writ petition at the Supreme Court contending that the demolition of the Ravidas temple and the prevention of entry to the temple site for devotees entail a violation of the right to worship. Stating in the petition that the site has been worshipped for the last 500600 years and is protected under the provisions of the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991, the petitioners claimed that the "Guru Dham" and the adjoining structures had been there for centuries and existed prior to any master plan or modern English law system as now prevalent in India.  The Akhil Bharatiya Sant Shiromani Guru Ravidas Mandir Sanyukta Sanrakhshan Samiti, an umbrella body of Dalit groups formed to protest against the temple demolition, has demanded that the government rebuild the temple at the same spot. They sat on a strike at the Jantar Mantar in New Delhi from August 30 till September 7. On October 21, 2019, the Supreme Court accepted a proposal submitted by the Union government for the construction of a shrine dedicated to Guru Ravidas. The proposal suggested the construction of the temple in South Delhi's Tughlaqabad forest area in 400 square metres of land. While the temple will be constructed at the same place where it stood prior to demolition, the area apportioned for the shrine now stands increased. In October 2020, it was reported that the DDA had formally accepted the allotment of 400 square metres of land for the proposed temple in Jahanpanah city forest in Tughlaqabad. It also recommended a change in land use from recreational to public and semipublic in lieu of religious use.

Demand/Contention of the Affected Community

Demand to get back acquired land

Construction of new temple at an alternate location

Region Classification

Urban

Type of Land

Both

Type of Common Land

Non-Forest (Other than Grazing Land)

Total investment involved (in Crores):

Type of investment:

Year of Estimation

Has the Conflict Ended?

When did it end?

Why did the conflict end?

Categories of Legislations Involved in the Conflict

Land Acquisition Laws, Other

Legislations/Policies Involved

  1. Land Acquisition Act, 1894

    Section 16 [Once an award has been made under Section 11 of this Act, the collector may take possession of the land which shall vest absolutely in the government]

  2. Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991

    Section 4 [The religious character of a place of worship existing on the 15th of August, 1947, shall continue to be the same as it existed on that day]

  3. Limitation Act, 1963

    Schedule (65) [For possession of immovable property, the limitation period shall be calculated from the date when the possession of the defendant becomes adverse to the plaintiff (Limitation period for government property is 30 years)]

Whether claims/objections were made as per procedure in the relevant statute

What was the claim(s)/objection(s) raised by the community? What was the decision of the concerned government department?

No

Legal Processes and Loopholes Enabling the Conflict:

Controversial land acquisition by the government , Lack of legal protection over land rights

Legal Status:

In Court

Status of Case In Court

Disposed

Whether any adjudicatory body was approached

No

Name of the adjudicatory body

Name(s) of the Court(s)

High Court of Delhi; Supreme Court of India

Case Number

RFA No. 822/2018; W.P.(C) No. 1135/2019

Major Human Rights Violations Related to the Conflict:

Arrest/detention/imprisonment

Whether criminal law was used against protestors

Yes

Official name of the criminal law. Did the case reach trial?

Reported Details of the Violation:

Police arrested 96 Dalit activists during a protest.

Date of Violation

Location of Violation

Ramlila Maidan, New Delhi

Nature of Protest

Protests/marches, Hunger strikes, Complaints, petitions, memorandums to officials

Government Departments Involved in the Conflict:

Delhi Development Authority, Delhi Government, Government of India

PSUs Involved in the Conflict:

Did LCW Approach Government Authorities for Comments?

No

Name, Designation and Comment of the Government Authorities Approached

Corporate Parties Involved in the Conflict:

Did LCW Approach Corporate Parties for Comments?

Name, Designation and Comment of Corporate Authorities Approached

Other Parties Involved in the Conflict:

Akhil Bharatiya Sant Shiromani Guru Ravidas Mandir Sanyukta Sanrakhshan Samiti, Bhim Army, Guru Ravidas Jayanti Samaroh Samiti

Resources Related to Conflict

  • News Articles Related to the Conflict:
  • Documents Related to the Conflict:
  • Links Related to the Conflict:
No Images Available

Documented By

Aditi Patil

Reviewed By

Aditi Patil

Updated By

Aditi Patil

Edited By

Aditi PatilLand Conflict Watch
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