Dalits Protest After Delhi Government Demolishes Ravidas Temple on Supreme Court's Order

Reported by

Aditi PatilLand Conflict Watch

Last updated on

April 29, 2020

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

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 central government, to whom the DDA reports, of disregarding the sentiments of Dalits, who are followers of Ravidas. They have been protesting since. 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" on August 2. 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 33-year-old 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 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 due compensation was paid to the people living on it. Though the Delhi 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 an 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, 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 issue. The demonstrators in Delhi arrived from Punjab, Rajasthan, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and other states. Ninety-six Dalit activists were arrested.  Ashok Tanwar and Pradeep Jain Aditya, two former Members of Parliament 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 500-600 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 should 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 Centre for the construction of a shrine dedicated to Guru Ravidas. The proposal submitted by the Central government has suggested the construction of the temple in South Delhi's Tughlaqabad forest area in a 400 square metres of land as opposed to the earlier proposal of 200 square metres. 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.

Region Classification

Type of Land

Both

Private and Common

Type of Common Land

Non-Forest (Other than Grazing Land)

Total investment involved (in Crores):

Type of investment:

Land Area Affected
(in Hectares):

1

ha

Starting Year

1986

Government Bodies Involved in the Conflict:

Delhi Development Authority, Delhi Government, Government of India, Supreme Court of India

Other Parties Involved in the Conflict:

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

Corporate Parties Involved in the Conflict:

Has the Conflict Ended?

When did it end?

Why did the conflict end?

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