Mumbai Local

Ambedkar followers vow to carry forward his legacy

In memoriam:Followers of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar gather in large numbers to pay their respect on occasion of Mahaparinirvan Divasat Dadar on Sunday.— Photo: Shantanu Das  

Kalpana Shirshat did not have the money to buy a single book. So she bought a calendar, in the hope that it would give her some information about Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar. Despite her shallow pockets, this factory worker from Mumbai took a day’s leave from work to pay her respects to the architect of the Constitution on his 60th death anniversary on Sunday.

“Since I could not afford the books, I bought this calendar to learn about his message. He sacrificed so much for us and taught us to live with self-respect. We must have self-respect. We must come here for him,” Ms. Shirshat said.

She brought her young daughter and nieces along to initiate them into the annual event at Dadar’s Chaityabhoomi — Dr. Ambedkar’s memorial. Lakhs of Ambedkar followers thronged the memorial to commemorate his life-long struggle to uplift the untouchables from the shackles of the caste system.

“I brought these girls along just to show them the crowd that turns up so they realise what Babasaheb is about,” Ms. Shirsat said. With her eager nieces in tow, she made her way into the sprawling Shivaji Park next to Chaityabhoomi, which was abuzz with a host of activities – from sale of books and music compact disks to lectures on anti-superstition and skits on Dr. Ambedkar.

Sea of people

People had started pouring into Dadar from Saturday night itself. Some spent the night on the pavements and some at the station. On Sunday morning, large batches of people came in a continuous flow chanting slogans of ‘Hail Babasaheb’ and ‘There is only one saheb, Babasaheb.’ A police personnel pegged the size of the crowd between three and five lakh.

Batti, a Dalit wage labourer from Madhya Pradesh, began her journey to Mumbai from home on December 2 with other women in her village “We have come here to offer flowers to our ‘Baba’. We say ‘Jai Bhim’. We have been coming for the past four years,” Batti said.

“Babasaheb is our gurumaharaj. We exist because of him,” said Kalau, also from M.P. Untouchability and caste discrimination are still practiced in her village. “Our way to the fields have been blocked,” she said. Recently, a statue of Ambedkar in their village was desecrated.

Ambedkar’s writings and Buddhist literature was selling like hot cakes in nondescript stalls. Publisher Dilip Bagde has been putting a book stall for the event for 25 years. Before noon, he had already sold books worth Rs 5 lakh. Anand Athavale, a postman from Solapur, bought a bunch of books to distribute in his local school. “I come here to see how much Ambedkar is loved by people,” he said.

Sharad Budhkar bought a bagful of books for Rs 5,000. “I am going to donate them to libraries. I find new energy and inspiration when I come here,” he said.

Many volunteers of the Youth Development Foundation from Ulhasnagar came to help clean the premises. “It is sad that this event is maligned as a civic nuisance. People want to spoil the image of our community. So we have come to participate in the cleaning efforts. Tomorrow a new group of volunteers will come,” said Prashant Ubale.

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Printable version | Jan 23, 2021 5:57:13 AM |

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