Vice President Jagdeep Dhankar inaugurates Prerna Sthal

Opposition protests against moving statues; Speaker says stakeholders were taken into confidence

Updated - June 16, 2024 11:24 pm IST

Published - June 16, 2024 09:57 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Vice President and Rajya Sabha Chairman Jagdeep Dhankhar inaugurates the newly constructed Prerna Sthal at Parliament House complex in New Delhi on June 16, 2024. Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla, Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman Harivansh Narayan Singh, and Union Minister Kiren Rijiju are also seen.

Vice President and Rajya Sabha Chairman Jagdeep Dhankhar inaugurates the newly constructed Prerna Sthal at Parliament House complex in New Delhi on June 16, 2024. Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla, Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman Harivansh Narayan Singh, and Union Minister Kiren Rijiju are also seen. | Photo Credit: ANI

Vice President Jagdeep Dhankar on Sunday inaugurated the ‘Prerna Sthal’ on the Parliament House premises, where 15 statues of freedom fighters and icons of Indian history, including statues of Mahatma Gandhi and B.R. Ambedkar, previously established in different parts of the Parliament campus, have been relocated to a single location, amid protests by the Opposition.

Vice President and Rajya Sabha Chairman Jagdeep Dhankhar with Speaker of 17th Lok Sabha Om Birla, Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman Harivansh Narayan Singh, Union Minister of Parliamentary Affairs Kiren Rijiju, Union Ministers Ashwini Vaishnaw and Pralhad Joshi and others pose near the statue of Mahatma Gandhi during the inauguration of the ‘Prerna Sthal’ at the Parliament House complex, in New Delhi,  on June 16, 2024.

Vice President and Rajya Sabha Chairman Jagdeep Dhankhar with Speaker of 17th Lok Sabha Om Birla, Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman Harivansh Narayan Singh, Union Minister of Parliamentary Affairs Kiren Rijiju, Union Ministers Ashwini Vaishnaw and Pralhad Joshi and others pose near the statue of Mahatma Gandhi during the inauguration of the ‘Prerna Sthal’ at the Parliament House complex, in New Delhi, on June 16, 2024. | Photo Credit: PTI

Present at Prerna Sthal’s inauguration were Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla, Deputy Chairperson of the Rajya Sabha Harivansh, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kiren Rijiju, Minister of State L. Murugan, Minister of Law and Justice Arjun Ram Meghwal, and Railways Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw. However, not a single MP from any Opposition party registered their presence at the function.

Vice President Dhankar said that the Prerna Sthal was “inspiring” in that statues of great national icons, including that of the late Deputy Prime Minister Devi Lal, under whose mentorship his own political journey had begun, were in one place for anyone who visited the Parliament to see. “It is a rare honour for me that I was here for this function,” Mr. Dhankar said.

Mr. Birla, who addressed the press before the inaugural, addressed the criticism levelled by the Opposition. “None of the statues have been removed; they have been relocated. There is no need to indulge in politics on this,” he said.

“From time to time, I have been discussing these issues with different stakeholders. People were of the view that having these statues at one place will help disseminate information about their lives and achievements in a better way,” Mr. Birla added.

Opposition leaders, however, termed the shifting of the statues, especially the statues of Mahatma Gandhi and B.R. Ambedkar, earlier located at prominent places in the Parliament premises, as impacting the locations where Opposition leaders gathered to protest against the government.

Congress president and Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Mallikarjun Kharge, put out a statement explaining why his party opposed the move. Apart from pointing out that the decision had been taken unilaterally by the government, he also said it was an attempt to tamper with the symbolism behind the location of the statues, especially those of Mahatma Gandhi and B.R. Ambedkar, from specific spots.

“The statue of Mahatma Gandhi in a meditative posture located right in front of old Parliament Building held immense significance for India’s democratic polity. Members paid their respects at the statue of Mahatma Gandhi imbibing within themselves the spirit of Mahatma. It is at this place that Members often conducted peaceful and democratic protests, drawing strength from their presence,” Mr. Kharge said in his statement.

Likewise, he said, “The statue of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar too had been placed at a vantage point conveying the powerful message that Babasaheb is extolling the generations of parliamentarians to steadfastly hold on to values and principles enshrined in the Constitution of India.”

Mr. Birla responded that during the construction work of the new Parliament building, the statues of Mahatma Gandhi, Motilal Nehru, and Chaudhary Devi Lal were moved to other places within the complex.

Lawns and gardens have been laid around the statues at the Prerna Sthal to allow visitors to easily pay their tributes to them, and also take inspiration from their lives by accessing information using QR codes, Mr. Birla said.

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