The Samajwadi Party Government’s decision to rent out memorials of Dalit icons for commercial activities has rattled the BSP leadership in Uttar Pradesh. The sprawling Ambedkar Samajik Parivartan Sthal, popularly known as Ambedkar Park, and other memorials were developed during the BSP rule in the state.
The BSP leadership has now threatened to take to the streets if the decision was not rolled back. BSP general secretary Satish Chandra Mishra, Nasimuddin Siddiqui and Swami Prasad Maurya met Governor B L Joshi on Monday and sought his intervention to stop the ruling party from going ahead with its “nefarious designs”.
There is no denying that the Dalits across the country see Ambedkar Park as the mecca of Dalits, where they worship B R Ambedkar -- the social reformer credited with his lead role in drafting the Indian Constitution -- as “god”. In fact the people gathering at the park to pay homage to their leader on his birth anniversary on April 14, do not think the `5,000 crore spent on the memorials a waste.
They often retort: “How much was spent on the memorials of Gandhiji, Nehru and Indira?”
Before arriving at the rent out plan, the SP leaders had other things on mind. During the Assembly election campaign last year, Mulayam had said that the Dalit statues would be bulldozed if the party came to power. But once in power, the SP chief sensed the grave socio-political fallout of such a move and simply backed off.
Promise broken, but the issue continued to irk the SP. The leadership then asked the state machinery to submit a report on how the memorials could be used without demolishing them, but certainly by taking the sheen out of them. The ensuing report from the administration said the memorials could be rented out for holding marriage ceremonies, birthday parties, festivals and melas.
On Monday, Mishra told reporters outside the Raj Bhavan that the BSP would not permit such activities. “We will not tolerate if the SP plays with the sentiments of the Dalits in the country. This is a sacrilege,” thundered Mishra.
Slowly but surely, the Akhilesh Yadav Government has begun the process.
A police station and milk parlour are already functioning in the administrative building of the Ambedkar Park.
But will Akhilesh be able to go ahead with his plans is the big question.