Published: 22nd August 2019
Ravidas temple protests: BAPSA students claim it was peaceful
A lot of the news reports said that the crowd had become violent but Praveen says he didn't even see reporters there while he was participating in the rally
Even as 90 protesters from the rally in Delhi yesterday remain in custody of the police, many have complained that the force was unnecessary. Dalits and devotees of Guru Ravidas had gathered at the Ram Lila Grounds and near the location of the temple to protest against its demolition. Towards the end of the day, police claimed that the crowd got violent and the police lathicharged the crowd and threw tear gas at them.
Members of the Birsa Ambedkar Phule Students' Association, JNU were also present at the protest, "I was there till about 5 pm and I didn't see any violence taking place while I was there or any sign that it might break out either. But there were very few police and no one to help, usually, for such big gatherings the police are always there but there were very few cops on the spot," Praveen Thallapelli, former BAPSA President said. He said that besides water supplied by the Delhi government there were no other provisions made for the gathering. He estimated close to 70,000 - 80,000 people had gathered at the protest.
A lot of the news reports said that the crowd had become violent but Praveen says he didn't even see reporters there, "There were only some people from Dalit media but otherwise no one was there, how are people saying the protest got violent? It seems like something the opposition would do to cause trouble," he added. He said he has been trying to get in touch with someone from the Bhim Army but has not been able to do get through to anyone so far.
Amit Kumar, the current BAPSA president said that as long as he was there, he did not see any sign of violence. "I have no idea what happened suddenly but all the protesters were maintaining peace while I was there. People kept comparing the protest to the issue of Ram Mandir and Babri but this was not connected to those issues at all. Guru Ravidas was a Dalit saint who was anti-caste and worked towards annihilating caste and that was why so many people were on the streets that day," he explained.
Girish Dahiya, who is also a member of BAPSA and a scholar who did his MPhil thesis on Ravidas was also there at the protest on Wednesday, "Ravidas himself had donated that land and it legally it belongs to the temple, so this is not about faith to agreeing or not agreeing with his teaching. This is a legal issue," he said.
Many criticized the police action on the protesters claiming that Dalits were an easy target. "The event was organized by Ravidas saints and devotees, no political leader or organization arranged this protest. In fact, a similar protest took place a few days ago yesterday there were other groups that had come together in solidarity," Praveen said. The Delhi government has said that the temple has to be demolished in order to build a road, which the Dalits and Ravidas devotees have been campaigning against. "Would the Delhi government so easily demolish a popular Hindu temple or a mosque? But somehow it's so easy to demolish a place where Dalits pray?" he questioned.
"The Delhi government has said that there is a Supreme Court order but I haven't been able to trace it. Santguru Ramdas is an important spiritual leader for the Dalits in the North. He was the person who said that the Vedas were useless and that all of us were the same. He declared that the blood that flows through all our bodies are the same and we are all equal. He was at the fore front of the anti-caste movement," Praveen explained. He questioned how a government that called itself progressive and claimed to add Ambedkar in the student syllabus bu so insensitive to the Dalits and their spiritual leader."He is also recognised as one of the saints in Sikhism," he added.
People from Punjab, Haryana and also from remote villages had gathered at the protest, "The government has to reconsider its stand," Praveen said.
However, the students still haven't heard anything from the people who were arrested and say there is no statement on the same yet. They have to wait and see if the protesters will be released soon