Sunday, May 28, 2023
Support Our Journalism
HomeIndiaRavidas temple demolition has given political parties a 'mandir issue' ahead of...

Ravidas temple demolition has given political parties a ‘mandir issue’ ahead of Delhi polls

As Delhi & Punjab see protests after the SC-ordered demolition of Ravidas temple, BSP, AAP, Congress and Delhi BJP have all latched onto the controversy.

Text Size:

New Delhi: Two northern states are currently on the boil after the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) demolished a temple of Sant Ravidas in the national capital’s Tughlakabad area last week on Supreme Court’s orders.

Through the week, both Delhi and Punjab saw protests by the Dalit community — which reveres the saint — over the demolition, which has now turned into a political controversy.

Just months ahead of the assembly elections in Delhi, the ruling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are facing the heat and trying to shrug off the blame. Even in Punjab, where multiple districts saw protests and a bandh, Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh has decided to lead a delegation to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking intervention in the matter.

Not to be left behind, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) supremo Mayawati has also waded in to allege collusion between the Modi government and the Arvind Kejriwal regime. In a tweet Wednesday, she said, “Their sinister and casteist mindset towards our revered saints is quite apparent even today.”

The controversy

At the heart of the issue is the Delhi-based temple that had been built to celebrate Sant Ravidas. It is commonly believed that the 15th century saint had spent three days on the land where the temple is situated.

According to documents submitted before the court, the Ravidas temple complex located in Tughlakabad is spread across 12,350 square yards and has 20 rooms and a big hall on its premises.

The DDA claims that the temple and its campus were built on illegal land. The DDA “removed” the “structure” on 10 August after a Supreme Court bench comprising Justice Arun Mishra and Justice S.R. Shah directed the Delhi Police chief and the Delhi chief secretary to ensure the demolition by 13 August.

The apex court had in April refused to overturn the Delhi High Court’s November 2018 verdict, which had upheld the trial court ruling.

In its 31 July, 2018 order, the trial court had rejected the claims by Guru Ravidas Jainti Samaroh Samiti, an organisation that claims ownership on the temple land.

Also read: Modi’s economic advisor red-flags ‘illegal temple’ in elite IAS officers’ colony in Delhi

Who owns the temple land?

During the trial in the High Court, the Guru Ravidas Jainti Samaroh Samiti presented two arguments in support of its ownership claims.

Firstly, it claimed that the temple land was occupied by Sant Roopanand, who was the society’s “ancestor”. According to them, Roopanand had constructed a well — known as “Chamarwala Johar” — on the temple premises.

The Samiti’s second argument used the Adverse Possession rule, according to which if someone lives or possesses a land owned by someone else for 12 years (or 30 years in case of government property), without any objection or interference, then the land is naturally owned by the former. The body argued that it has been in “possession” of the Ravidas temple land for 160 years.

However, the DDA in its case against the temple cited the Delhi Land Reform Act 1954, saying the land now belongs to the Central government in view of the law. It also rejected the body’s claims that revenue records show the Samiti’s ownership on the land.

The DDA also said since the disputed land falls in the “green land” zone, no permanent construction shall be allowed on it. It had earlier made an unsuccessful attempt to demolish the structure on 5 November, 1992.

Based on these arguments, the Delhi High Court ruled in favour of DDA on 20 November 2018. In its ruling, the court said, “To claim the ownership under Adverse Possession rule solid evidences are to be presented supporting unhindered possession for the last 30 years.” The Guru Ravidas Jainti Samaroh Samiti failed to do so, said the court.

It further ruled that the Land Acquisition Act deems the Central government has lawfully acquired this land and the DDA is its rightful owner now.

After the trial moved to the apex court, the SC gave the Guru Ravidas Jainti Samaroh Samiti two months to vacate the temple premises. On 9 August, when it found the body in violation of the ruling, the court ordered the demolition.

The solutions offered

With the DDA carrying out the orders of the top court, the establishment came in for criticism for double-standards vis-à-vis the Ram Janmabhoomi case.

Political parties have been quick to latch onto the controversy, particularly ahead of the Delhi assembly elections. Their suggestions to resolve the issue range from reconstruction of the temple to PM Modi’s intervention.

The BSP is demanding that both the central and Delhi governments should reconstruct the temple on government expenditure. On the other hand, the AAP is targeting the Modi government, asking why it cannot allocate even a small portion of land for the Ravidas temple. Meanwhile, a delegation of Delhi BJP leaders recently met Union Urban Development Minister Hardeep Singh Puri to look into the matter.

Puri has said the Modi government is determined to find a solution and possibly identify an alternative site to “relocate” the temple.

At the moment, though, it seems quite likely that this temple issue will find its way to the Delhi elections.

Also read: Against odds: The Muslim & Kashmiri Pandit caretakers of Hindu temples in Srinagar’s old city


Subscribe to our channels on YouTube & Telegram

Support Our Journalism

India needs fair, non-hyphenated and questioning journalism, packed with on-ground reporting. ThePrint – with exceptional reporters, columnists and editors – is doing just that.

Sustaining this needs support from wonderful readers like you.

Whether you live in India or overseas, you can take a paid subscription by clicking here.

Support Our Journalism


Comments are closed.

Most Popular