New Delhi: A signboard outside the Ravidas temple area in Tughlakabad warned visitors against trespassing on Thursday, a day after the Dalit community protested violently against the demolition of the temple, leaving several people injured.
The signboard was placed on a newly constructed wall that restricts entry to the temple area. “This land belongs to the Delhi Development Authority according to a Supreme Court order. Occupying it is a punishable offence,” the message on the signboard reads in Hindi.
On Wednesday, the violence broke out during a march by the protesters to the site where the temple stood before it was demolished on 10 August on Supreme Court’s orders. When police did not allow the protesters enter the area, they sneaked through the park and started hurling stones, eyewitnesses said.
Police had to resort to mild baton charge and fire tear-gas shells to disperse the crowd, who had set on fire two motorcycles and damaged a police vehicle. A few policemen were also injured.
On Thursday, tension prevailed in the south Delhi neighbourhood, but no untoward incident was reported. Around 60 Central Reserve Police personnel and several police officials have been deployed in the Ravidas temple area.
Kamal Gupta, a sweet shop owner, said he had never seen trouble of this scale in the area. Around 7 pm on Wednesday, Gupta recalled, a group of protesters started targeting shops and damaging vehicles on the street in Tughlakabad Extension.
He said he and other shop owners pulled their customers inside and downed the shutters. “They vandalised our counter and a CCTV camera. I have been running this shop for 10 years and never had such an experience before,” the shop owner said.
“When police did not allow them to enter the (temple) area through the main gate, they sneaked via the park and hurled stones unmindfully. They also burnt a police motorcycle in front of the shop,” Gupta added.
Ashok Bharti, the convenor of Akhil Bhartiya Sant Shiromani Guru Ravidas Mandir Sanyukt Sanrakshan Samiti, told 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.
“Those who marched to the site of the temple include spiritual leaders who were also baton-charged by police. We condemn the violence, but people should know it was the police that used force against the protesters first,” Bharti claimed.
Several cars with damaged windshields were still parked in the Ravidas temple area.
“I was in mosque when the protestors entered the area and damaged vehicles,” said a biryani shop owner. “My workers were present in the shop and I asked them to shut it down.”
Several people shut their shops when the trouble began and immediately returned home. “I closed my shop around 6pm and left the area for my residence in Sangam Vihar before the situation could turn worse,” said Hari Om, a general shop owner.