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On Ambedkar Jayanti, minor clashes in Punjab, Gujarat as politicians vie for Dalit icon’s legacy

BSP chief Mayawati cautioned Prime Minister Narendra Modi that welfare schemes in Ambedkar’s name alone will not improve the lives of Dalits.

india Updated: Apr 14, 2018 13:30 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Babasaheb Ambedkar,Ambedkar Jayanti,Narendra Modi
Workers clean a statue of Dr BR Ambedkar on the eve of his 127th birth anniversary celebrations, in Jaipur, Rajasthan.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday led the country in paying tributes to the architect of the Indian Constitution Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar on his 127th birth anniversary even as tension gripped several parts of India.

“Pujya Babasaheb gave hope to lakhs of people belonging to the poorest and marginalised sections of society. We remain indebted to him for his efforts towards the making of our Constitution,” Modi tweeted. (Live updates)

President Ram Nath Kovind greeted the nation and tweeted: “Homage to Dr B.R. Ambedkar on his birth anniversary. An icon of our nation, Dr Ambedkar was a multifaceted personality who waged a life-long struggle for a modern India free of caste and other prejudices, ensuring equal rights to women and for the disadvantaged.”

BJP president Amit Shah paid tribute to Ambedkar at the party office in Delhi. His Congress counterpart Rahul Gandhi tweeted, “His life and thoughts about equality, humanity, brotherhood, social justice give us inspiration to carry on the struggle.”

But amid an undercurrent of anger in the community and allegations that the government was sidelining Dalits, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati said the BJP’s overdrive to cultivate Dalits with the help of optics won’t cut.

“I want to tell Modi ji and his government that commemorating places related to Babasaheb’s life and inaugurating schemes in his name, will in no way lead to development of Dalits,” Mayawati said.

In Ahmedabad, five men including members of Rashtriya Dalit Adhikar Manch, were detained when they tried to protest garlanding of Ambedkar’s statue at Sarngpur in Ahmedabad by BJP MP Kirit Solanki.

Alleging that BJP is anti-dalit, convener of Rashtriya Dalit Adhikar Manch and Vadgam MLA Jignesh Mevani had given call to prevent BJP members from paying tribute to Ambedkar on his birth anniversary. But events led by Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani in Gandhinagar and BJP president Jitu Vaghani in Surat did not see any protest.

In western Uttar Pradesh, Meerut, which witnessed widespread protests by Dalits during the nationwide protests on April 2, is on high alert. The security measures taken include blocking of internet services from 9 pm on Friday to 8 pm on Saturday, an official at the district magistrate’s office said.

Punjab’s Phagwara was tense after a communal clash broke out between a Dalit and a Hindu outfit over renaming of a traffic intersection in a bid to pay tribute to Ambedkar late Friday night.

Outside the country, Ambedkar’s birth anniversary became a rallying point at the UN where a group of Sikhs held a protest against atrocities against minorities and Dalits in India.

(With agency inputs)

First Published: Apr 14, 2018 13:30 IST