On the occasion of Ambedkar Jayanti, the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) politicians, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party chief Amit Shah, made a beeline to pay tributes to the social icon, amid criticism by the Opposition. The national capital witnessed protests from the Dalits when some people from the community on Saturday "cleansed" B R Ambedkar's statue soon after Union Minister Maneka Gandhi and BJP leaders paid floral tributes to Ambedkar. Members of the Dalit community claimed that the presence of BJP leaders had 'polluted' the atmosphere.
A group of Sikhs too protested against alleged atrocities perpetrated against minority communities in India during the commemoration of Babasaheb Ambedkar's 127th birth anniversary at the United Nation's headquarters.
The Narendra Modi-led govt and BJP, on the other hand are trying to reached out to Dalits in the aftermath of their violent protests asserting that at every juncture they stand "shoulder to shoulder" with the community and accused the Congress of fuelling tension in the society with an eye on elections.
Earlier this month, Modi had blasted opposition parties for politicising Ambedkar's legacy, blaming the previous governments for not paying due respects to the Dalit icon. Continuing on that note, he said, "After Atal Ji's government, when Congress came to power, they closed the files related to this project, when we were given a chance to serve people in 2014 we dug out the files and worked on it."
In a tit-for-tat, Congress accused the BJP of 'eroding' the legacy of Baba Saheb Ambedkar and said Prime Minister Narendra Modi was merely paying him lip service as his party and the RSS have an 'anti-Dalit mindset'. Congress leader Selja charged the prime minister with doing politics over the legacy of the Dalit icon.
Ambedkar Jayanti is celebrated on April 14 across the nation to remember the Father of the Constitution of India. Popularly known as Babasaheb, Ambedkar was an Indian jurist, economist, politician and social reformer who inspired the Dalit Buddhist Movement. He campaigned against social discrimination against untouchables and also supported the rights of women and labourers.
Top 10 developments on Babasaheb Ambedkar's 127th birth anniversary
1. Devendra Fadnavis says Ambedkar memorial by 2020: Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has announced that the Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar memorial at Indu Mill in Dadar would be completed by 2020. Fadnavis on Friday (a day before the birth anniversary of Dr Ambedkar) visited the Indu Mill premises, where the memorial for Dr Ambedkar is under construction and reviewed the progress of the grand memorial.
The chief minister took to Twitter and said, "Visited Indu Mill premises and reviewed the progress of Grand Memorial of Bharat Ratna Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar with my colleagues Rajkumar Badole ji and Dilip Kamble ji. Also saw a presentation on the planning and timelines and directed to strictly follow the same."
Fadnavis said that the government is committed and working hard to build the grand memorial for Ambedkar, which would be completed by April 14, 2020.
2. Ambedkar statue vandalised in Greater Noida: A day before the nation commemorated the birth anniversary of the Dalit icon, a statue of BR Ambedkar in Richhpal Garhi village of Bisrakh in Greater Noida was found damaged. The incident came to light Thursday morning when the villagers spotted the statue of Ambedkar damaged. Heavy police force was deployed in view of the tense situation. Suniti Singh, SP (rural), said a case was registered against unknown persons for vandalism and that the guilty would not be spared. A large number of people from nearby villages had gathered after news of the vandalism spread. Police, however, contained the mob. Singh said that the damaged statue was being replaced with a new one.
3. Dalits protest use of saffron colour on Ambedkar memorial: Dalit leaders on Friday took strong objection to the painting of the upper part of an under-construction Ambedkar memorial in Uttar Pradesh's Gorakhpur in saffron. The protesters, however, said a private jewellery firm had undertaken the painting work as part of its corporate social responsibility (CSR) project and "the government had nothing to do with it".
Chandrashekhar, the president of a local Dalit group, said, "They would have painted the entire memorial saffron had we not protested." "The jewellery firm agreed to our demand to re-paint it in white and used red paint to write "Ambedkar Chauraha" on it. The government wasn't involved in this," he said.
4. Modi says Congress repeatedly insulted Ambedkar: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday said today's generation should know how the Congress has "repeatedly insulted" Babasaheb Ambedkar during and after his lifetime, and tried to erase his contribution in nation building. "Congress tried its best to remove his name from the country's history. It's a bitter fact but today's generation must know how Congress insulted Babasaheb when he was alive and even after he died," said the Prime Minister, adding, "It is also necessary for the new generation to know how Babasaheb exposed the real character of Congress." Modi was speaking at the inauguration of the Ambedkar National Memorial at Alipur Road in New Delhi.
Modi said Ambedkar had resigned from then prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru's Cabinet, saying that he was not kept in either the foreign, defence or economic committees despite being a student of economics and financial matters. Further, he was given a ministry that had little work. Even during a reshuffle, Ambedkar was not given any additional charge, said Modi, adding that Ambedkar had himself said that the "reason why I am disillusioned with the (Nehru's) government. This is related to the attitude towards the backwards and Dalits".
5. Tension over Ambedkar statue in Punjab town: Tension prevailed in Phagwara town of Punjab's Kapurthala district on Saturday following a late night clash between two groups over the installation of a Babasaheb B R Ambedkar statue. The trouble arose when one group tried to put up the statue at the Balmiki Chowk crossing, which was opposed by the other group. Shiv Sena leader Rajesh Palta was beaten up allegedly by Dalits in Phagwara, around 130 km from here, late on Friday, informed sources in the police said. Senior police personnel along with additional forces have been deployed in the industrial town following the clash.
6. United Nations marks Ambedkar Jayanti: Bhimrao Ambedkar's "tireless efforts" towards ensuring excluded groups were politically and socially empowered made him a "pioneer" in the world and his vision of equality and social justice echoes the ambitions of the UN's 2030 development agenda, Achim Steiner, UN official said.
In his keynote address at a special event organised at the UN headquarters by India's Permanent Mission to the UN on the occasion of Ambedkar's 127th Birth Anniversary, UN Development Programme Administrator Steiner said sustainable development was at the core of Ambedkar's "egalitarian ethos".
"Ambedkar understood that rising and persistent inequalities pose fundamental challenges to the economic and social well-being of nations and people," he said on Friday.
7. Kovind, Modi greet nation on Ambedkar Jayanti: President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday greeted the nation on the occasions of B R Ambedkar's 127th birth anniversary. Kovind tweeted, "Homage to Dr B R Ambedkar on his birth anniversary. An icon of our nation, Dr Ambedkar was a multifaceted personality who waged a life-long struggle for a modern India free of caste and other prejudices, ensuring equal rights to women and for the disadvantaged."
Meanwhile, Modi said in a tweet, "Pujya Babasaheb gave hope to lakhs of people belonging to the poorest and marginalised sections of society. We remain indebted to him for his efforts towards the making of our Constitution."
Greetings on Ambedkar Jayanti. Pujya Babasaheb gave hope to lakhs of people belonging to the poorest and marginalised sections of society. We remain indebted to him for his efforts towards the making of our Constitution.— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) April 14, 2018
सभी देशवासियों को अम्बेडकर जयंती की शुभकामनाएं। जय भीम! pic.twitter.com/NZW6QsKgN0
8. Sikhs protest over atrocities against dalits: A group of Sikhs held protest at United Nations against atrocities against minorities and dalits in India during B R Ambedkar's birth anniversary celebrations here. About 25 Sikhs, some wearing black turbans and others black bands, held protest against atrocities against minorities and Dalits. Holding up posters, they silently turned their backs on India's Permanent Representative Syed Akbaruddin as he spoke on Friday. Unperturbed, Akbaruddin continued with his speech and no action was taken inside the conference room against the protesters.
9. Dalit members 'cleanse' Ambedkar statue after tributes by BJP: Members of Dalit community on Saturday 'cleansed' B R Ambedkar's statue soon after Union minister Maneka Gandhi and some BJP leaders paid floral tributes on his 127th birth anniversary, a Dalit leader said, claiming that their presence had "polluted" the atmosphere. Thakor Solanki, general secretary of SC/ST the Employees Union of Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda, claimed that they had gathered at the venue to pay their tributes before the BJP leaders. The members of the Dalit community raised slogans at the GEB Circle area on Race Course against other party leaders and Gandhi, the Women and Child Development minister who is in the city to attend a number of events.
10. BJP's massive outreach campaign for rural regions begins today: On the birth anniversary of Bhimrao Ambedkar, the BJP embarked on a massive exercise to cover the backward and weaker sections of society under key welfare schemes of the Modi dispensation. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has dubbed it 'gram swaraj abhiyan'. Modi asked BJP MPs, including Union ministers, to ensure that everyone in villages, where scheduled castes and scheduled tribes constitute more than 50 per cent of the population, is covered under the schemes aimed at providing LPG connection, vaccination for children, 'Jan Dhan' bank accounts and electricity for households among others. There are 20,844 such villages across the country.
The drive, which will continue till May 5, will not cover West Bengal and Karnataka, where the Model Code of Conduct is in force in view of panchayat and assembly polls there.