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'Government does not have any plan ready for Babasaheb memorial'

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Anandraj Ambedkar has been at the forefront of an agitation for the grand memorial of the architect of the Indian Constitution, Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar, at Shivaji Park near Chaityabhoomi. Exactly six years ago on this very day, December 6, the death anniversary of Dr. Ambedkar, Anandraj, along with his followers, barged inside India United Mill and took possession of a plot of land which was then to be allotted for construction of an international Ambedkar memorial. They installed the statues of Buddha and Dr. Ambedkar at the site. The grandson of Dr. Ambedkar, Anandraj is heading a political outfit called Republican Sena. A very effective, influential and aggressive orator in Marathi, Hindi and English, he has become the rallying point for all Ambedkar followers, pro-constitution, progressive people, and is the only hope to bring an end to their struggle and take them forward. He spoke to Suyash Padate about the delay in construction of the much hyped memorial.

Two years after Prime Minister Narendra Modi conducted a 'bhoomipoojan' for the Dr. Ambedkar Memorial at Indu Mills, until today nothing much has happened?
Despite Prime Minister Narendra Modi laying the foundation stone for the memorial in October 2015, the work on the project has not yet started. Today, the Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has stated that the work for the memorial will commence within a months time. Let's see what happens. The government has given their assurance. Something should happen now.

Initially you were not satisfied with the design of the memorial?
Yes, I had openly expressed my displeasure about the design of the monument. See, this memorial is built from public money, so how can they finalise the design based on one man’s idea, without any consultation or suggestions from those concerned about Babasaheb? The design is nothing special, there is nothing international about it. I have my reservations about the lack of enclosures at the site. It would be a deterrent for people during rainy seasons. The memorial will consist of a 150-feet-tall statue of Dr. Ambedkar. I had also suggested a design to the state government, which was not considered. My design was of a 360-feet-tall statue of Dr. Ambedkar, titled the 'Statue of Equality', to represent the Dalit icon’s struggle for human liberation and human rights. Not only me, even Prakash Ambedkar was not happy with the design and had said that it is a national waste. Truly speaking that design of the memorial was not befitting the stature of Dr. Ambedkar.

So much delay in the construction of this memorial. What are the reasons?
I think the government does not have any plan ready for the memorial. I will go a step ahead and say that they are not serious about it. The state government is using my grandfather’s name to gain political mileage and nothing else.
So what you have now decided?
The Chief Minister has given the assurance that our concerns will be considered. I think the  government will certainly consider what we have been insisting on. I am sure we won't reach a stage where I will be left with no option but to start a fresh agitation.

The issue of Ambedkar Bhavan came to the fore some time before. What is the situation now?
Former Chief Secretary Ratnakar Gaikwad was behind all this. We had filed a FIR against him. Gaikwad himself was behind the demolition. A 200-strong demolition squad came to the spot and demolished the building at 3.00 am. Ambedkar Bhavan is where Dr. Ambedkar founded the Buddhist Society of India and all its records were inside. The printing press which he set up in 1947 and where several of his books were printed has also been destroyed. Several handwritten manuscripts were inside.

How you see Ramdas Athavale’s politics, who is a part of BJP led Union government? Even in the past he has presented the idea of Shivshakti-Bhimshakti?
Athavale is one of the leaders who always targeted Sena-BJP in a vociferous manner. For years he termed these parties as communal and anti-Dalit forces. But one bright morning, he suddenly took a u-turn and showered praises on Sena-BJP. Not only that, he took Rajya Sabha membership from the BJP quota and now he has joined the Modi government. Though the resentment against him is not visible, the Dalit masses are very upset with this decision.

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