The Bhim Army on Friday threatened to call for a nationwide shutdown if the issue of Ravidas temple was not resolved within 10 days.
The outfit announced that its supporters will observe August 25 as ‘International Dhikkar Diwas’ and will burn the effigies of Prime Minister Narendra Modi protesting “police atrocities on their leader Chandrashekhar Azad and 95 others.”
The national capital witnessed massive protests by the Dalit community on Wednesday led by Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad for the demolition of Ravidas temple by Delhi Development Authority.
National chief general secretary of Bhim Army Kamal Singh Walia said, “If the Guru Ravidas Temple is not built within 10 days, we will call for a Bharat Bandh.” He further added, “Azad will not seek bail till the time the other protesters, who were arrested along with him, are not released.”
Azad and 95 others, arrested on charges of rioting and unlawful assembly, has been sent to judicial custody for 14 days. He was detained by the police after the protests took a violent turn in Tughlaqabad area of South Delhi on Wednesday night, leaving several people, including policemen, injured.
The Bhim Army had called a press conference at the Indian Women’s Press Corps on Friday to share its version on the arrest of Azad and other protesters but the IWPC cancelled the event.
“The IWPC said in an email that we do not permit religious or political functions or programmes here. Bhim Army is not a political or religious organisation. This issue (demolition of temple) is a constitutional one. Exercising your constitutional right is not a religious issue,” said Mahmood Parcha, the counsel for Azad and Bhim Army protesters.
A representative from IWPC said, “We do not permit religious or political functions. There was miscommunication from their side.”
Bhim Army representatives spoke to reporters outside the IWPC. “They have cancelled it. Such a step is being taken to scuttle the rights of our organisation which is raising the voice for the rights of scheduled castes,” a representative said.
“It was a peaceful protest. Some mischievous elements, which we suspect were planted by governmental agencies and police created this ruckus. This was their attempt to spoil the unprecedented support that we got. None of the members of Bhim Army was carrying sticks,” he said.
Tension prevailed in the Tughlakabad area in south Delhi after the protest by Dalits turned violent on Wednesday, when police did not allow them to proceed to the site of the temple demolished by the DDA. Police resorted to “mild lathi-charge” and used tear gas to disperse the crowd, an official said.
The protesters turned violent on Wednesday when police did not allow them to proceed to the site of the temple demolished by the DDA. According to police, the protesters set on fire two motorcycles and vandalised cars and a police vehicle. A few policemen were injured in the incident.
The issue took a political turn with various parties demanding that the temple be reconstructed either at the same spot in Tughlakabad forest area or at an alternative location. After the demolition of the temple, BSP chief Mayawati had alleged that the incident reflected a “casteist mentality.”
Following Mayawati’s allegation, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said Delhi government had nothing to do with the demolition of the temple. Union Housing and Urban Development Minister Hardeep Singh Puri had also said that the centre was determined to find a solution and possibly identify an alternative site to “relocate” the temple.