The 1930’s iconic office of Dr. B.R Ambedkar at Dadar, from where ‘Father of the Constitution’ launched his political movement was demolished on Saturday. The demolition of Ambedkar Bhavan exposed the sharp differences between the two Dalit groups claiming control over the structure. The Bhoiwada police registered an FIR against members and trustees of the People’s Improvement Trust after Dr Ambedkar’s grandson, Prakash and Anandraj Ambedkar, lodged a complaint.
After the structure razed down, a huge crowd gathered outside the demolished building and blocked the main road, halting traffic. However, protesters were unaware about against whom they were protesting, as both the groups, for and against the demolition, are Dalits. The building, situated at a stone throw away from Dadar railway station, was initially used by Dr. Ambedkar as a library and a press to print and disseminate literature opposing the caste system. Later, it was also used as a meeting hall, hosting public and private events by Ambedkarites. Some supporters gathered outside the building were students from nearby college also.
Dr. Ambedkar’s grandson Prakash Ambedkar, who is also a national president of the Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh (BBM), political party said, “We never appointed security guard for the office nor kept any check on it. This is out of anybodies thinking that such things can happened. The power hungry people are violating the preaching of Babasaheb. We have filed an FIR in Bhoiwada Police Station against senior members of the People’s Improvement Trust, including Madhukar Kamble and former IAS officer Ratnakar Gaikwad, for demolition of the structure against our wish.”
Madhukar Kamble, Chief of People’s Improvement Trust, which was caretaker of the demolished building said AV, “The property does not belongs to Ambedkar’s legacy. It is a public property which will be going in redeveloped and will be converted into a 17-storey structure as Dr. Ambedkar Bhawan. The Trust’s work will be continued from the new building. And even Prakash Ambedkar’s office will be retained in the new structure along with others which were working on the premises.”
“There is no greediness or something. Structure was declared unsafe that’s why going in redevelopment. Babasaheb’s family are making issues out of nothing and wants to grab attention of the people and media,” added Kamble.
There were two buildings, one in possession of Prakash Ambedkar, from where he operated and undertook some printing press work. From an adjoining building, the People’s Improvement Trust operates. The open courtyard along with hall was often given on rent for public functions to earn funds for the maintenance of the structure.
However, Kamble further alleged that Prakash Ambedkar wanted complete control of the Trust also. And the real purpose for which the Trust was formed by Dr. B R Ambedkar was not being served. So what is the objection?”
Refuting trust allegations, BBM president said, “My objection is over the commercialisation of Babasaheb’s office. He owned the place since 1930. It has momentous value. It was a place from where all important decisions of the Dalit movement took place.”
“Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis flagged off the redevelopment plan in April and has even pledged funds for the new building. The entire construction will be completed in two years if people don’t oppose the plan,” said NM Kamble, one of the trustees.
Anandraj Ambedkar, another grandson of the Dr. Ambedkar alleges that former IAS Ratnakar Gaikwad had taken Rs. 10 crores from the CM Devendra Fadnavis and induces in trust for the redevelopment of the Ambedkar Bhavan.
BMC, meanwhile have distanced itself from the entire controversy saying they were not aware of the demolition and haven’t employed any officials for it. They said “The BMC’s Building Proposal (BP) department had processed their request and only then issued the necessary permissions. As it is a private property, BMC has no other role to play in the case”
However, Kanhaiya Kumar, President of the Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union, took on social network on the issue and posted, “This is done by the influence of Brahminical mentality, as they are scared of Dalits.”
He further said, “We condemn this move, and refuse to believe that the police had no idea about the demolition. BJP government under the influence of RSS ideology, through this act directly attacks Dr. Ambedkar and his beliefs and I request the government to its stand on the issue.” “People, those who are insecure of Dalits have ruined a place of historical importance,” alleged Kanhaiya Kumar.
The tiff between the People’s Improvement Trust and members of the Ambedkar family came wide open after the demolition.