Ravidas demolition: 96 arrested as tension prevails

New Delhi: Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad in the custody of Delhi Police after a Dalit protest over demolition of Saint Ravidas temple turned violent in south Delhi's Tughlakabad area on Wednesday; in New Delhi on Aug 22, 2019.

New Delhi, ¬†Fear prevails in Delhi’s Tughlaqabad Extension area which witnessed police lathi-charge and vandalism on Wednesday after Dalit protesters turned violent over demolition of a Sant Ravidas temple even as 96 people have been arrested so far.

“The situation is under control now,” said DCP (southeast) Chinmoy Biswal, adding that 96 people have been arrested so far.

Ashok Bharti, the convenor of Akhil Bhartiya Sant Shiromani Guru Ravidas Mandir Sanyukt Sanrakshan Samiti, said that the Dalit body had given a call for a peaceful protest at Ramlila Maidan, but some people decided to proceed to the disputed site.

On Wednesday, around 4 p.m. a group of Dalit activists who had gathered at the Ramlila Maidan began marching towards Tughlaqabad.

“To maintain law and order situation in the area police had already deployed heavy force in the area but the agitators broke the barricades. When the police dissuaded the protesters, they dispersed but gathered again in small numbers near Nizamuddin,” said a senior police official.

“Police had set up barricades near Ashram Chowk and then at Maa Anand Mayi Marg to stop them from reaching the site of the demolished Ravi Das temple. However, they mixed among the locals to avoid being stopped by the police,” he said.

Around 6 p.m., the main drama began when a sprawling crowd of more than 4,000-5000 protesters broke one layer of barricades after another when police tried to stop them from getting close to the temple that was demolished 10 days ago.

The protesters approached the site which had been cordoned off by the Delhi Police. However, several police officials were also asked to call in their teams and more than 600 policemen covered the area in the next one hour. A four-layer barricade was set up by the police, two of which were broken by the protesters.

The protesters started pelting stones at the police teams as soon as police tried to stop them. Around 7 p.m., police started using tear gas shells but the stone-pelting continued.

The protesters smashed windshields and window panes of more than 20 cars parked along the road. Seeing the agitated crowd, the locals started to run haywire to save their lives. A few residents even opened the gates of their houses for the locals.

“Around six government vehicles were set on fire by the mob. Several other vehicles on roads and residential areas were also damaged by the mob,” said a police official. The protesters were forced to retreat after 29 rounds of tear gas shelling.