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Skepticism over visitors on Ambedkar's death anniv

'Due to the recent Khailaranji killings and desecration of Ambedkar's statue in Kanpur, we are anticipating fewer crowds', says Kasbe, reports Jyoti Shelar.

india Updated: Dec 08, 2006 20:21 IST

Chandrakant Kasbe (43), President of the Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Mahaparinirvandin Samanvay Samiti was skeptical about the exact turnout of visitors on the 50th death anniversary of the Dalit leader at the Chaitybhoomi at Shivaji Park on Wednesday. He, however, was taken by surprise.

"Due to the recent Khailaranji killings and the riots that followed after the desecration of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar's statue in Kanpur, we were anticipating fewer crowds", said Kasbe adding that there is always some kind of fear in people's mind due to which they resist attending such mass gatherings immediately after day of tension and riots.

However, "The followers of our dalit icon turned up in huge numbers", added Kasbe who has been involved in organising the Mahaparinirvandin from the past six years along with other dalit social organisations Samata Sanik Dal and Bhartiya Buddha Mahasabha.

There was a sea of humanity as more than 15 lakh followers of the Dalit leader came to pay their tributes at the national memorial built in the honour of Dr Ambedkar raising slogans and singing devotional songs dedicated to their icon. "Jai Bhim" was the sound echoing in the entire area as masses of people made their way from the park to Chaityabhoomi and vice versa.

Unlike previous years, the arrangements seemed to be much more organised this year -two BMC control towers, 300 drinking water taps, 300 mobile toilets, 300 bathrooms, four life guard boats. Eight pandals spread over an area of 20,800 square meters for temporary shelter were put up in the park with a capacity to accommodate over one lakh people. A 2000 square meter pandals was put at the Ambedkar College and another 1500 square meter pandal was put up at the Dr Ambedkar ground in Worli. Besides this, watch towers and trauma units were also set up for the visitors.

People stood in long queues up to the Siddhivinayak temple in Prabhadevi since early morning on the road leading to the Chaityabhoomi where Ambedkar was cremated. "It's not important to know how long I have to stood in the queue, the purpose I am standing for is important", said Janani Kimne (43), a follower of Dr Ambedkar. Kimne who belongs to the Mahar community said: "Baba has made our lives. It's not a big deal for us to stand in long queues for him as far as we get his darshan."

Even as the residents of Shivaji Park and adjacent areas resisted opening their building gates and even the windows, a few were of opinion that the situation is improving year after year. "The civic authorities are getting better with their arrangements every year.

Earlier the people carried out all their activities in open but year after year this is reducing", said Gopal Krishna (75), a resident of Datta Smaran, a residential building ban opposite the park. Krishna who has witnessed all the congregations said: "It would be foolish to protest against this congregation because it has to happen. All that I wish is that the people had more civic sense."

Among the dignitaries who came to pay homage to Dr Ambedkar were Finance minister Jayant Patil, Maharashtra Minister for Social Justice Chandrakant Handore, Mayor Datta Dalvi, Deputy Mayor Ramesh Medhekar, congress MP Gurudas Kamat and Eknath Gaikwad, Former Vice-Chancellor, University of Mumbai, Bhalchandra Mungekar, RPI MP Prakash Ambedkar, Commissioner of police A N Roy and Municipal Commissioner Johnny Joseph.

First Published: Dec 07, 2006 01:55 IST