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Protests, ‘cleansing’ and tributes mark Ambedkar’s birth anniversary this year

In Vadodara, members of Dalit community “cleansed” BR Ambedkar’s statue after Union women and child development minister Maneka Gandhi and some BJP leaders paid floral tributes on his 127th birth anniversary.

india Updated: Apr 15, 2018 00:26 IST
HT Correspondents
HT Correspondents
Hindustan Times, New Delhi/Ahmedabad/Bhopal/Meerut
Ambedkar birth anniversary,Dalit community,Maneka Gandhi
People pay tribute to Dr BR Ambedkar on his 127th birth anniversary at Parliament House in New Delhi on Saturday. (Sushil Kumar/HT Photo)

On a day Prime Minister Narendra Modi led the country in paying tributes to the architect of the Indian Constitution Dr BR Ambedkar on his 127th birth anniversary, tension prevailed in several parts of the country although no incidents of violence were reported.

State governments of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh imposed prohibitory orders in places that had witnessed violence during the Bharat Bandh protest by Dalits against the Supreme Court order introducing a mechanism to register cases under the SC/ST Atrocities Act. In some regions, internet was also suspended anticipating violence.

In western Uttar Pradesh, Meerut, which witnessed widespread protests by Dalits during the April 2 protests, was 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.

A person had died in Meerut, another in the nearby Muzaffarnagar in the April 2 nationwide Dalit agitation. A Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) worker was shot dead in Shobhapur village on April 4 for reportedly participating in the Dalit agitation. The Dalit-dominated Shobhapur village, where a police post was burnt on April 2, did not hold any event on Ambedkar Jayanti as a mark of protest over the BSP worker’s murder.

“The administration has identified a total of 21 spots in Meerut city as hyper-sensitive and 35 in rural areas. The district has been divided into 22 sectors (12 in urban and 10 in rural areas) and each sector is under a circle officer and a magistrate who have local police and Rapid Action Force ready with them. The forces will trail the processions that will be taken out in the different parts of the district on Ambedkar Jayanti on Saturday,” the official said.

In Ahmedabad, five men, including members of Rashtriya Dalit Adhikar Manch (RDAM), 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 the Manch and Vadgam legislator Jignesh Mevani had given call to prevent BJP members from paying tributes to Ambedkar on his birth anniversary.

While events led by chief minister Vijay Rupani in Gandhinagar and BJP president Jitu Vaghani in Surat did not see any protest, Subodh Parma and other five supporters of Mevani were detained from Sarngpur. Police said they were detained from preventing the BJP MP from garlanding the statue of Ambedkar.

In Vadodara, members of Dalit community “cleansed” BR Ambedkar’s statue after Union women and child development minister Maneka Gandhi and some BJP leaders paid floral tributes on his 127th birth anniversary.

Earlier, Dalits led by Thakor Solanki, leader of a local union of Dalits, raised slogans against Gandhi as police prevented them from garlanding the statue. “We told the police that since we had gathered there much before the BJP leaders came, it was our right to pay tributes first,” Solanki said.

After Gandhi and other leaders garlanded the statue and left, the members of the community washed the statue with milk and water, saying the BJP leaders’ presence had “polluted” the atmosphere.

In Madhya Pradesh, Gwalior-Bhind region, where eight persons died in violent April 2 protests, the administration deployed additional police force and prohibited assembly of four or more people to prevent any untoward incident.

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. Four persons were injured in the clash forcing the administration to suspend internet connection in four districts of the state – Kapurthala, Jalandhar, Hoshiarpur and SBS Nagar.

The situation was said to be under control as authorities imposed prohibitory conditions and deployed additional police force. Punjab has highest proportion of Dalit population in the country.

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

In the morning, Prime Minister Modi tweeted: “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.”

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.”

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 Modiji 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,” she said.

(With inputs from agencies)

First Published: Apr 14, 2018 22:27 IST