supreme court of India
Supreme Court of India, New Delhi.IANS

The Supreme Court on Monday, October 21, allowed the reconstruction of Guru Ravidas temple in the Tughlakabad forest area, at the same site where it was demolished in August on the court's order.

The SC bench, led by Justice Arun Mishra, also said that no commercial activity will be allowed, including that of a paid parking lot in the area. A government committee will be formed to oversee the temple construction.

The temple was demolished by the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) on August 10 after the SC asked the Ravidas Jayanti Samaroh Samiti to vacate the site, which is on forest land and belongs to the government.

For the followers of Ravidas, the temple held great significance because it is believed that the 15th-century Bhakti movement poet-saint spent three days at the site. He is revered for his message of equality and seen as a divine figure by the people belonging to the lower caste as he called to boycott the caste hierarchy.

Earlier this month, the central government had responded to the backlash from Dalit groups and opposition parties and offered to allocate 200 metres of land for the temple.

In Monday's hearing, top lawyer KK Venugopal doubled the initial offer, which was accepted by Justice Mishra. The court also ordered the release of all those arrested during the protest against the demolition of the temple. 

Dalit protest

Over 50 protesters, including Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad, were detained by the Delhi Police on August 21, after a Dalit protest against the demolition of Guru Ravidas Temple turned violent in south-east Delhi's Govindpuri.

Delhi Dalit protest

Thousands of protesters of all age groups Punjab, Rajasthan, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and other states, gathered under the banner of Akhil Bharatiya Sant Shiromani Guru Ravidas Mandir Sanyukta Sanrakhshan Samiti, wearing a blue cap and carrying flags had marched from Ambedkar Bhawan in Jhandewala to the Ramlila Maidan in central Delhi.

Cries of "Mandir Wahin Banayenge" and "Jai Bhim" were reportedly raised by the protesters, with the leader proclaiming that the demonstration will continue until the temple is rebuilt.

"The demolition of the temple was an insult to our community and I will go to any extent to fulfil the promise (of installing bust) made by me to my people. No force can stop us," said Azad.

A tight security ring was formed by the police around the protesters and they were stopped from marching towards the site of the temple. According to the police, soon after, the protesters turned violent and attacked the officers with sticks and stones.

The police had then resorted to shelling tear gas, firing in the air and lathi-charging the protesters to disperse them.

The protesters, however, claimed that they were peaceful. "Some people wanted to go inside the temple and the police used water cannon and lathis to stop us," said a protester.

Political hue

The Bahujan Samaj Party supremo Mayawati had alleged that the demolition of the temple reflects a "casteist mentality". Following the allegation, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said that his government has played no role in the demolition.

Delhi Dalit protest

The Aam Aadmi Party leaders had also been protesting alongside the Dalits. "BJP is playing with the feelings of the Dalits," AAP MLA Ajay Dutt had said.

The Bharatiya Janata Party leader and former Union minister Vijay Goel had criticised AAP for politicising the issue. "I have proposed that the temple be built at an alternative place after the approval of the Supreme Court. If they agree, we will take the matter up with the DDA," he said.