The grandsons of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar have refused to take the help offered by the Maharashtra government for the reconstruction of the illegally axed Ambedkar Bhawan. The Dalit sentiment in the matter and the boiling nature of the issue in Maharashtra have set alarms ringing in the state government. Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis recently announced that the state government would bring the culprits to book and rebuild the demolished historic structure.
Welcoming Fadnavis’ announcement offering to bear the cost of reconstruction, Prakash Ambedkar told The Sunday Guardian that Fadnavis should instead use the taxpayers’ money for other things. “I do not believe in using taxpayers’ money. That is why we have decided to reconstruct the building through public participation and public funding. The process will begin on 30 July.”
Hundreds of Ambedkarites are expected to gather at the site of the demolished Ambedkar Bhawan on 30 July when the volunteers of advocate Prakash Ambedkar and Anandraj Ambedkar will classify them into supervisors, masons, helpers, as per their professional background.
“On the same day, we will also release a list of registered persons who have offered donations. We will later invite the officials of Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai to assess the quality of the construction. They will certify the new structure,” Prakash Ambedkar told The Sunday Guardian.
The historic structure which was built by Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar for community development, was pulled down in a midnight demolition drive by self-proclaimed advisors of the People’s Improvement Trust last month. The issue has snowballed into a huge controversy.
This week, a massive rally jolted the Maharashtra government into action, after 50,000 protesters choked South Mumbai. They walked from Byculla to Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus to raise their voice against the illegal demolition. Soon, Chief Minister Fadnavis tried to pacify the community by declaring that the structure was indeed illegally axed, and that the state government would bear the cost of its reconstruction. He announced on the floor of the House that the government would also probe the officials of municipal corporation to check if they had issued the “dilapidated structure” a notice after following due procedure.
Confusion had prevailed after the demolition as Ambedkarites initially thought that the government demolished it. But Ratnakar Gaikwad, an IAS officer and CIC of Maharashtra, clarified that the demolition was ordered to rebuild the structure. He claimed to be an advisor to the Public Improvement Trust, and claimed the dilapidated building was pulled down to erect a multi-storeyed structure. The Ambedkars branded this as an attempt to commercialise the movement. The demolition has enraged many Ambedkarites.
This week, Fadnavis said on the floor of the Assembly that due procedure was not followed during the demolition of the structure.
Prakash Ambedkar said: “I want to congratulate the government that it has finally accepted that the historic structure was pulled down illegally. It is also nice that the government wants to participate in its reconstruction. But we have followed the tradition of using the minimum of taxpayers’ money. We will follow this tradition. We have decided to reconstruct the structure through public participation and public funds.”
Anandraj Ambedkar told The Sunday Guardian: “We will reconstruct a modest structure, just like it previously was. We want to keep the historic printing press in its original condition. And we, the Ambedkari people, will show that we are capable of doing it by ourselves. Though the Chief Minister has accepted that the structure was pulled down illegally, we are not happy with him. We and the Ambedkari people will be happy only when the state government takes earnest action to bring the culprits to book.”