Thousands visit Deekshabhoomi in Nagpur

PARLIAMENTARY TRIBUTE: Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee, Vice-President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Opposition Leader in the Lok Sabha L.K. Advani and Lok Sabha Deputy Speaker C.S. Atwal after paying homage to Ambedkar, at Parliament House on Wednesday.   | Photo Credit: Photo: R. V. Moorthy

Arunkumar Bhatt

On Ambedkar's death anniversary

No elaborate ritualsVilasrao Deshmukh visited Deekshabhoomi

NAGPUR: Thousands of followers of B.R. Ambedkar, Buddhists and neo-Buddhists thronged the Deekshabhoomi here on Wednesday to pay homage to the social reformer and Dalit leader on his 50th death anniversary, popularly known as Mahaparinirvana Din.

Ambedkar had embraced Buddhism with thousands of his Dalit followers at the Deekshabhoomi to epitomise his philosophy of social equality. The place now has the central memorial built like a Buddhist `stupa.'

This year has an added importance because both the events completed half a century.

Besides, it came close on the heels of the gruesome Khairlanji killings.

The police deployed in strength around the shrine heaved a sigh of relief as the annual pilgrimage passed off peacefully.

The authorities had refused permission to hold a large protest rally here last Monday, fearing that it could rouse passions.

"This is a three-day-long programme that would continue till Thursday," said Anand Gaikwad, a volunteer of the Samata Dal. He said people were coming from far and near.

Several groups were led by Buddhist monks.

Devotees did not indulge in elaborate rituals. They offered flowers and prayed with folded hands at the idol of the Buddha and the statue of Ambedkar.

The approach road to the Deekshabhoomi was lined with stalls selling Ambedkar and Buddhist literature, busts of Buddha and Ambedkar.

Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh visited the Deekshabhoomi in the morning and paid homage to Ambedkar. He made a special mention in the Assembly of Ambedkar's services to the country and the community.