The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to allow construction of a shrine to Guru Ravidas, revered by the Dalits, in south Delhi, on a 400 square metre plot of land at the same site where a Ravidas temple was demolished in August. The top court also ordered the release of people arrested for protesting the demolition.
The demolition was carried out by the Delhi Development Authority on orders of the Supreme Court because the 15th century shrine was located in a protected forest. The Centre had responded earlier this month to a backlash from Dalit groups and opposition parties and offered to allocate 200 metres of land for the temple.
At Monday’s hearing, the government’s top law officer KK Venugopal doubled the offer to 400 square metres. A bench led by Justice Arun Misra accepted the offer and also ordered the release of all people arrested during protests against the demolition of the temple.
Justice Misra also ordered closure of all the criminal cases filed against them and ruled that those arrested during the protests would have to give a personal bond undertaking to maintain good behaviour for their release.
The first round of protests against the demolition had taken place in Punjab, the state which has the largest share of Dalits – 31.9% according to the 2011 decadal headcount – in its population. The protests soon spread to other states including Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan as well.
At one protest near the site of the demolished temple in south Delhi’s Tughlakabad area, dozens of people were injured.
The Supreme Court had first ordered the temple to be vacated in April this year and ordered the Guru Ravidas Jayanti Samaroh Samiti to hand over its possession to the DDA. In early August, the top court was told by this body that the premises had been vacated. When the court later heard that it had been misled, it ordered the DDA to remove the structure by August 10 under police protection.