Dalits, who assemble in large numbers at Shivaji Park to pay homage to Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar, have raised objections to the demands for a memorial of late Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray at the ground.
Their contention is that Shivaji Park is a playground and it is not the right place for a memorial.
“Shivaji Park is a public place and building a memorial will start a wrong precedent,” said 52-year-old Bhima Gaikwad who has been coming annually from Karad annually to Shivaji Park. Similar is the reaction of Salikrao Kanake, 55, a farmer from Chandrapur who said: “This is nursery of cricket and instead of memorials, we need to encourage more sporting activities.”
Every year, lakhs of Dalits gather at Shivaji Park in the first week of December for the Mahaparinirwan Diwas celebrated on December 6, which is the death anniversary of Dr Ambedkar. A makeshift arrangement is made at the ground as followers come from across the state. However, this time, they have come across a makeshift memorial of Thackeray.
Ever since Bal Thackeray was cremated at Shivaji Park on November 18, there has been growing clamour in his party to build a memorial. The Sena has already built a makeshift memorial in the place.
Top Sena leaders Manohar Joshi and Sanjay Raut have led the campaign saying that since Thackeray launched the party at this place and held his annual Dussehra rally there, it was rightful place for him.
However, the state has been opposing the demand on grounds that constructing a memorial in a playground would attract displeasure from the courts and also start a new precedent.
Dalit leaders, too, call the whole idea wrong. “Balasaheb needs a grand memorial and Kohinoor Mill is the right place as it belongs to Manohar Joshi,” said Anand Ambedkar, who heads the Republican Sena.