Mumbai Local

Ambedkar supporters defy HC order, gather at Bhavan site

CLOSED DOWN:Multiple police barricades block the lane in which Ambedkar Bhavan is located.—Photo: Arunangsu Roy Chowdhury  

Supporters of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar gathered at the site of the demolished Ambedkar Bhavan in Dadar in a show of solidarity, despite a Bombay High Court order asking both parties to maintain status quo.

The historic structure was razed by the People’s Improvement Trust (PIT) in the early hours of June 24, who called in a private demolition squad belonging to a prominent builder. The move shocked Ambedkarite groups, Left parties and Dr. Ambedkar’s descendents, who took out a protest rally on July 18. At the rally, Prakash Ambedkar, grandson of Dr Ambedkar and leader of the Bharip Bahujan Mahasangh (BBM), had asked supporters to come out and contribute towards reconstruction.

On Friday, the HC directed PIT and Prakash Ambedkar to maintain status quo at the site while hearing a plea filed by the former against reconstruction by the latter. BBM leaders said as the court order came a day before the proposed reconstruction and supporters had already made travel plans, the same could not be conveyed effectively. “People are coming from all over Maharashtra. Some reached here last night. It shows the faith they have in the cause and for Babasaheb,” Vasant Salve, state secretary, BBM, said.

Several booths were set up around the site, where supporters thronged to fill forms, listing ways they can contribute towards the reconstruction. Besides cash, supporters offered to contribute skills like plumbing, electrical work, painting and engineering. BBM convenors said over 15,000 forms had been filled.

Speaking to The Hindu , J.V. Pawar, general secretary, BBM, said the Bhavan will be reconstructed within five days if the court clears it. “We honour the court’s order and have directed people to do the same. We will reconstruct the structure, but we won’t take a single penny from the government, as our leader Prakash Ambedkar has made clear. The PIT’s claim of constructing a 17-storey building is false; BMC has given permission for a two-storey structure,” he said.

Supporters said the PIT’s demolition move was an affront to Dr. Ambedkar. Vikas Kamble, who took leave to be part of the gathering, blamed PIT’s chief advisor Ratnakar Gaikwad. “What he did was morally wrong, and he should be arrested for it. I will contribute whatever I can to help reconstruct,” he said.

N.K. Jadhav of the Samta Sainik Dal and the Buddhist Society of India, said, “There are over 1,000 dilapidated buildings in the city, but the government doesn’t demolish them. Why demolish our Ambedkar Bhavan? They say they are purchasing a house in London where Babasaheb stayed with our tax money, but will we be able to go to London and see this house? This is an illogical step by the government.”

The writer is an intern at The Hindu

Besides cash, supporters offered skills like plumbing, electrical work, painting, engineering

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Printable version | Jul 29, 2021 7:08:19 AM |

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