Hundreds of protesters from the Ravidasia community on Tuesday shut down Punjab’sJalandhar city and blocked highways over the demolition of a 500-year-old Ravidas temple in New Delhi’s Tughlakabad.
The 15-century temple dedicated to the spiritual leader Guru Ravidas was razed last Saturday on the Supreme Court’s orders over allegations of encroachment. Protests have erupted at several places in Punjab, including Ludhiana, Jalandhar, Phagwara, Gurdaspur and Amritsar, after the temple was demolished.
All markets and shops were closed in Jalandhar as members of the Ravidassia community staged protests across the city and also blocked the national highway at Lamba Pind Chowk. While the Ravidas Chowk was the centre of the ongoing protests, major protests were seen on the Jalandhar-Nakodar highway as well.
Officials said hundreds of police personnel have been deployed across the city to maintain law and order.
Dera Sachkhand Ballan in Jalandhar, the largest dera of the Ravidasia community in the Doaba region, has appealed to devotees to remain peaceful and maintain communal harmony during the protests.
Educational institutions across the four districts of the Doaba region including Jalandhar, Kapurthala, Hoshiarpur and Shaheed Bhagat Singh Nagar were also shut amid the call by the community.
The Doaba region is the most affected by the protests as it constitutes the maximum number of Schedule Caste people in Punjab.
Of Punjab’s 2.8 crore population, the Dalits make up about 32%, the highest in the country, and they are largely concentrated in the Doaba region comprising Jalandhar, Kapurthala, Hoshiarpur and Shaheed Bhagat Singh Nagar districts.
The state government led by the Congress party has extended its support to the protesters. The Bahujan Samaj Party and Shiromani Akali Dal are also supporting them.