MUMBAI: After launching an agitation seeking the Centre to hand over the Indu mill lands in Mumbai for Dalit icon Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar’s memorial, his grandson and Republican Sena chief Anandraj Ambedkar is now attempting to further consolidate his base with Buddhist Dalits by planning to launch protests to remove encroachments from Maharashtra’s Buddhist era caves and monuments.
The long pending demand for the memorial had shot into national headlines after a group of Dalit activists led by Anandraj, son of Yashwant “Bhaiyya saheb” Ambedkar, had stormed into the mill premises and occupied it on December 6 to press for their demand. The Centre has already given an in-principle nod for a free-of-cost transfer of the 12.5 acre mill land at Dadar to the state government, for building the memorial. Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan and Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar had led an all party delegation, which also consisted of Dalit leaders, to meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the issue in December, after which Anandraj said the protest had been “suspended”.
But that doesn’t take care the issues of the Buddhist caves. “We feel these caves need to be protected,” said Anandraj, while speaking to The Sunday Standard, adding that the state government tended to neglect these centuries-old sites. He added that the Magathane caves in Mumbai’s suburbs were under threat due to a slum rehabilitation authority (SRA) scheme for rehabilitating slum dwellers that had been taken up there. “The people need to be educated in this regard, these caves are hundreds of years old, they have a history which people need to be told,” stressed Anandraj, adding that they would soon decide on the course of agitation to save such structures in Maharashtra.
After his requests to the Hindu clergy to treat Dalits in a humane manner fell on deaf ears, Babasaheb Ambedkar converted to Buddhism with his followers at Nagpur in 1956, and the Buddhist Dalits (the erstwhile Mahars) comprise a large chunk of the Dalit population. They are regarded as the most politicised, socially aware and militant social section in the state.