Mumbai (The Hindu): As the issue of the demolition of the historic Ambedkar Bhavan in Dadar rocked the Rajya Sabha, and Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis asked the Mumbai municipal commissioner to probe the matter, Ambedkarite and Left groups on Tuesday staged an huge show of strength in the city on Tuesday.
Ambedkar Bhavan, which housed the Buddha Bhushan printing press, a Republican Party of India office, and a library with handwritten manuscripts of Dr. Ambedkar’s books, was demolished by the People’s Improvement Trust (PIT) early on June 25. PIT claimed the building was dilapidated and proposed to replace it with a new multi-storey structure.
Ambedkarite groups are upset with the Devendra Fadnavis government for not taking strong action against PIT trustees responsible for the demolition.
A crowd estimated at over 10,000 people marched from Byculla to Azad Maidan, causing huge traffic snarls.
Addressing the rally, Prakash Ambedkar, Dr Ambedkar’s grandson, said that Ambedkar Bhavan was a place where Babasaheb “discussed his ideas and shared his thoughts with the community and fought injustice. Demolishing it is like launching a war on what he stood for.” He said the Centre’s assurance in the Rajya Sabha — that it will take up the issue with the Maharashtra government and restore the structure — had come too late. He told the crowd that the Bhavan would be rebuilt within a week from July 30, and appealed for financial contributions and volunteers to rebuild the structure.
Jawaharlal Nehru University student union leader Kanhaiya Kumar, in his speech, questioned the logic of destroying a structure of historical significance because of the rift between the People’s Improvement Trust and Prakash Ambedkar. He claimed that the RSS and the BJP were imposing their Hindutva ideology while turning a blind eye to more important issues: “It’s [a BJP and RSS] conspiracy to erase our history, we won’t let that happen. The condition of women in our country is deplorable. What is the government doing for them?”
CPI(M) general Secretary Sitaram Yechury, who had raised the issue of demolition in the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday, extended his party’s support and said that they will fight till the structure is rebuilt.
Hours after the rally and the Rajya Sabha discussion, the BJP swung into damage control. Denying that the party had any role in the demolition or classifying the Ambedkar Bhavan as dilapidated, Mumbai BJP chief Ashish Shelar said he met the chief minister to demand action against civic officers responsible for classifying the building as “dangerous” for habitation. “BJP has always advocated preservation of all historic buildings of Dr Ambedkar,” he said. “Even historic Ambedkar Bhavan was required to be preserved by the BMC.”
In a related development, late on Tuesday night, the police registered an FIR against the protestors for unlawful assembly. “The protestors only had permission to protest at Azad Maidan, and not to hold a march from Byculla to Azad Maidan. They violated the terms of the permission and hence, a case has been registered” said Deputy Commissioner of Police Dr Manoj Kumar Sharma, Zone I.
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