Thousands of men, women and children from across Maharashtra came to Mumbai on Tuesday to pay homage to Dr. B.R. Ambedkar on his 66th death anniversary.
People of all ages, young and old, calling themselves ‘Ambedkar,’ gathered at Chaityabhumi, the cremation ground of the Father of the Indian Constitution. Mrinalini Jadhav, who works as a receptionist in a private company in Solapur, came to Dadar on Monday morning, travelling seven hours by train with her four friends. When asked how she could come on a weekday, the 21-year-old said, “Ambedkar has done so much for us. He has literally picked us from the ground and gave us an equal status in society. I could not take leave from my work for two days.” She was working on Diwali so that she could take off for three days and come to Mumbai.
“We came last evening, ate here and slept here. We stood in line for 11 hours to pay our respect to Dr. Ambedkar and will return tomorrow morning,” said Sonal Matre, 23, who lives in the same building as Mrinalini in Solapur.
The area spread over 30 acres in the heart of Mumbai and had many stalls providing free food, water, juices, tea, books and medicines. They were all set up by non-governmental organisations and self-help groups from across the State. The civic body, Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, set up tents, portable bathrooms and ambulances in the area. The presence of police personnel was marked in and around the ground.
Reading a book in Marathi on the Indian Constitution, Santoshi Kamble, 76, from Aurangabad, has been coming to Mumbai since the last seven years. She said, “My parents could not afford to send me to school but my grandchildren are teaching me to read. I told them the first book I want to read is the Indian Constitution written by Dr. Ambedkar. It is because of him we are even here. He gave us so much. He is our only leader.”
Maaysha, a non-binary transgender woman was seen distributing pamphlets in Marathi of ‘Dalit Panthers’, an Ambedkarite social organisation that seeks to combat caste discrimination. She said, “Dr. Ambedkar told us and taught us that we are all equal. It is very important to spread that message.”
Performing a street play right outside the Park, Suvarna Salve, 26, from Samta Kala Manch said, “It is very important to spread the messages of Dr. Ambedkar today, when all efforts are being made to not follow the Constitution. The current regime is leaving no stone unturned to wipe our history and culture, that’s why I am here.” She performed with artistes from cultural group Kabir Kala Manch (KKM) a troupe of musicians and poets who came together after the Gujarat riots in 2002. She spoke about activist Sudhir Dhawale and all other accused and arrested in the Bhima Koregaon caste violence case of 2018. She added, “Prof. (Anand) Teltumbde is out (on bail), others too must be released now.” Three artistes from KKM, Jyoti Jagtap, Sagar Gorkhe and Ramesh Gaichor, are in jail in this case.”