New Delhi: Normal life was affected in many parts of Punjab following the protest by Dalit groups against the demolition of a temple dedicated to Guru Ravidas in New Delhi’s Tughlakabad on directions of the Supreme Court. Protestors under the banner of ‘Guru Ravidas Jayanti Samaroh Samiti’ had given a bandh call for August 13 and announced observing Independence Day as a ‘Black Day’ against the demolition.
In places like Jalandhar, Hoshiarpur, Phagwara and Kapurthala, the bandh (strike) evoked good response as shops, educational institutions remained shut. There was heavy police deployment as part of tight security arrangements across the state in view of the protests.
The traffic on roads leading to Amritsar, Jalandhar, Hoshiarpur, Pathankot and Ludhiana was affected as protesters sat on dharnas. The protesters blocked Jalandhar-Ludhiana highway, Phagwara-Nakodar, Phagwara-Hoshiarpur and Phagwara Nawanshahr-Chandigarh roads, even as Phagwara city observed complete shutdown.
Besides, protest marches were also taken out at Ludhiana, Phagwara, Nawanshahr, Barnala, Ferozepur, Bathinda, Amritsar, Moga and Fazilka.
Calling the Delhi temple issue a life and death question for the Dalit community, a large number of their members, supported by various political parties, took out a noisy protest march in Phagwara from PWD Rest House via national highway-1 and converged on Sugar Mill crossing on NH1 where they staged a dharna.
Several roads wore a desolate look while many bazars were deserted and some places presented a curfew-like look. However, clinics of doctors, chemists shops remained open. Ambulances and other essential services were also excluded from the shutdown and blockade.
Kapurthala city observed complete bandh as all commercial establishments remained closed. Bus services also remained suspended on several routes in the state causing inconvenience to the passengers.
Normal life was also affected in Ludhiana in view of the protests. Leaders from the Congress, BJP and Shiromani Akali Dal have said they would help resolve the issue amicably.
Commenting on the demolition of the temple believed to be on the site visited by Guru Ravidas around 1509 during the reign of Sikander Lodhi, Punjab Congress chief Sunil Jakhar had on Monday extended his party’s support to the Ravidas community. He, however, appealed to the protesters to ensure that the common people were not adversely impacted as a result of their protests.
Shiromani Akali Dal president and Lok Sabha MP Sukhbir Singh Badal too condemned the demolition of the temple, saying their party was ready to help re-build the temple at their expenses.
Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh had on Sunday sought Prime Minister Modi’s intervention to pacify the situation.
(With agency inputs)