Ravidas temple protest: Delhi march by Dalits to disputed site was individual call, says umbrella body

An umbrella body of Dalit groups, which protested the demolition of a Ravidas temple in the city, has condemned the violence at Tughlakabad and said the march to the disputed site in the area Wednesday evening was a personal decision of a few people. Ahosk Bharti, the convenor of the Akhil Bhartiya Sant Shiromani Guru Ravidas Mandir Sanyukt Sanrakshan Samiti, told PTI that the Dalit body had given a call for a peaceful protest in the Ramlila Maidan, but some people decided to proceed to the disputed site. Those who marched to the site of the temple include some spiritual leaders, who were also baton-charged by police. We condemn the violence, but people should know it was the police that used force against the protesters first, he claimed. Bharti said the protesters had resolved to install a statue of Sant Ravidas at the site of the temple demolished by the Delhi Development Authority on August 10 on the orders of the Supreme Court. We will do it sooner or later, but in a peaceful manner. Some people become emotional Wednesday evening and the protest took a violent turn, he said. It was a one-day protest at the Ramlila Maidan and people, who had come from various states, are now returning to their homes, Bharti said. Tension prevailed in the Tughlakabad area in south Delhi after the protest by Dalits turned violent on Wednesday, prompting police to resort to mild lathicharge and use tear gas to disperse the crowd, an official said. The protesters turned violent when police did not allow them to proceed to the site of the temple demolished by the DDA. According to police, the protesters set afire two motorcycles and vandalised cars and a police vehicle. A few policemen were injured in the incident. The protesters have been demanding that the government hand over the plot of land in Tughlaqabad to the community and rebuild the temple.