VHP a Late Entrant to Demand Reconstruction of Sant Ravidas Temple

Several groups and parties protested against the temple's demolition in August.

New Delhi: In a curious turn of events, the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) has entered the controversy around the demolition of Sant Ravidas temple at Chhattarpur in South Delhi on August 10. Incidentally, the organisation, whose stated objective is “to organise, consolidate the Hindu society and to serve and protect the Hindu dharma”, was conspicuous in its absence during initial protests erupted across several north Indian states soon after the temple’s demolition.

On Monday, a delegation of the council met Union minister for urban development Hardeep Puri and urged him to immediately reconstruct the temple which was pulled down by the Delhi Development Authority on the Supreme Court’s directions.

The apex court held on August 9 that a “serious breach” was committed by Guru Ravidas Jayanti Samaroh Samiti by not vacating the forest area as earlier ordered by it. Thereafter, the very next day, the DDA pulled down the temple and the Samadhi.

A statement issued by the VHP said, “The delegation, comprising senior representatives from Hindu, Sikh, Jain, Buddhist schools of religion, through a memorandum to Shri Puri, demanded that immediate steps should be taken for the reconstruction of the Sant Ravidas temple.”

The delegation, led by international working president Alok Kumar, demanded that arrangements should be made for regular rituals and prayers in the temple. It also called for rejuvenating the water bodies of the temple and restoring the samadhis that exist there.

The statement said a memorandum was submitted to the minister which noted that the demolition of the temple caused “worldwide angst among the devotees and appreciative populace”. It said lakhs of Hindus participated in the protests against the demolition.

Initial protests were held by other parties, groups

Incidentally, the VHP was not prominently visible in the protests that broke out soon after the temple was demolished in August. Several political parties and social groups had publicly denounced the demolition, carried out by an agency that reports directly to the BJP-led Centre.

A major protest was organised by the Bhim Army, following which its chief Chandrashekhar Azad and 96 other people were detained.

Watch: Ravidas Vs Ram Mandir: Some ‘Sentiments’ Count More Than Others

Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati had also criticised the demolition and blamed both the Centre and the Delhi government for it. In a tweet, she said that the temple was pulled down due to their complicity. She said the action displayed the “contempt and casteist approach” of some people towards saints of socially backward sections of the society.

AAP also joined protests

The Aam Aadmi Party government, led by chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, had also distanced itself from the demolition. The party also joined a protest at Jantar Mantar on August 21, in which party workers from Delhi, Haryana and Punjab participated in large numbers. AAP went on to squarely blame the Narendra Modi government for allowing the temple to be demolished.

Delhi minister Rajendra Pal Gautam said on record, “Despite my writing a letter to Prime Minister on August 12 and two days of protests at the BJP headquarters, the Central Government had not taken any proactive measure to solve the issue of demolition of Sant Ravidas Temple.”

He accused the BJP of suppressing the voice of Dalits and charged that “the Union Government resorted to repressive steps like stopping buses and nearly 15 passenger trains from Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan in order to prevent people from joining the protest.”

The issue had also led to tensions in several parts of Punjab, especially Doaba or the land between Beas and Sutlej rivers in the state, where a large number of followers of Sant Ravidas, belonging to Scheduled Castes reside. At many places, roads were blocked by protestors.

The protests demanded that the temple, which was more than 500 years old, be reconstructed at the same site.

A protest against the temple’s demolition. Photo: Vimal Varun/Twitter

Two Congress MPs moved Supreme Court

Subsequently, on August 27, two former Congress MPs – then Haryana unit president Ashok Tanwar and Pradeep Jain Aditya – sought enforcement of their right to worship, which they said was denied to them due to the demolition of the temple and the ‘samadhi’.

The petition demanded the approval of the apex court to reconstruct the temple, saying it was a pious site and prayers were held there for the last 500-600 years.

On October 4, a Supreme Court bench comprising Justices Arun Mishra and S. Ravindra Bhat said attorney general K.K. Venugopal and all parties in the case can hold a discussion to find an amicable solution on a better location where the temple can be built.

“You find an amicable solution and come back to us. Any day we can pass the order. We respect the sentiments of everybody on Earth but we have to follow the law,” it ruled.