The residents of Khudanpuri, situated on the city outskirts, continued their dharna for the fifth day on Thursday against the district administration’s decision to remove a statue of Dr BR Ambedkar, which was put up allegedly without the administration’s permission on May 9.
With several Congress and BJP leaders, including two legislators, extending support to the residents, the administration is in a fix now. Former Union minister and Congress leader Jitendra Singh, former legislator Tikaram Juli and BJP legislator Jairam Jatav visited Khudanpuri recently and warned the administration not to remove the Ambedkar’s statue.
They said the administration should respect the sentiments of the local people.
On Wednesday night, hundreds of men and women, sitting on the dharna near the statue, had collective dinner and performed bhajan-keertan (religious activities). They also chanted slogans in favour of Ambedkar.
Urban Improvment Trust’s (UIT’s) encroachment removal officer Sohan Singh Naruka told HT, “This land (where the statue has been erected) belongs to government under Khasra no. 103. We got information of illegal construction on the land on May 9, responding to which we went there and asked the locals not to build anything there. But late in the night they put up a statue of Ambedkar near a johad (water tank) there. This statue is completely illegal and is in direct violation of the UIT Act, 1959, section 92 A. This comes under encroachment and it will be removed soon.”
However, advocate Ashok Verma, one of the protestors, said, “This is an issue created by BJP government. The truth is that this land was an animal shelter belonging to local Dalits. They have cleaned up the area and put up a statue there, which is not wrong. There are three temples on other side of the Johad (water tank), but the administration is not concerned about them.”
One of the locals, Heeralal Ratya said the land is under the community control for more than hundred years.
“This statue was put up following contributions from the poor people. We will die, but won’t let anyone remove the statue,” he said.
Another protestor, Sona Devi said, “This is a land of our ancestors. The rich marry in marriage homes, but we don’t have any such place. We will build a dharamshala on this land after collective contributions.”
Geeta Devi urged the administration to build a community centre on the land so that it could be used for Dalit functions.