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Centre okays Mumbai's Indu mill land for Ambedkar memorial

The central government on Wednesday cleared the decks for a memorial to Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar, the "father" of the Indian Constitution, by clearing the prime Indu Mill land in Mumbai for it.

The decision, termed as "historic", was announced in both houses of parliament Wednesday afternoon, paving the way for transfer of 12.50 acres of land belonging to National Textile Corporation of India to the Maharashtra government for the memorial.

The mill plot is strategically located near Chaityabhoomi, where Ambedkar was cremated December 6, 1956, at Dadar by the Arabian Sea.

Since then, the place which was declared as a national monument later, is revered as a spot of pilgrimage. Lakhs of Dalits from all over India will converge there on the occasion of his 56th death anniversary on Thursday.

Ramdas Athawale and RPI party members outside Indu Mills compound
Republican Party of India leader Ramdas Athawale with party suppoters celebrate the announcement of a memorial being built to Dr Ambedkar at Indu Mill land in Mumbai on Wednesday. Pic/Satyajit Desai

"Respecting the sentiments and in response to the request of government of Maharashtra, and taking note of the unanimous resolution passed by both houses of the Maharashtra legislature, the government of India has taken a view to make this land for use to the government of Maharashtra for the construction of a befitting memorial," Commerce, Textiles and Industries Minister Anand Sharma said in a statement in parliament.

"The government has initiated the process to give effect to this decision and I will be shortly be moving the necessary legislative proposal for Parliamentary approval. I seek the support and endorsement of the House," Sharma said. 

Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan expressed gratitude to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Sharma for taking the "historic" decision.

Since last year, various Dalit and other political parties have demanded that the land of the India United Mills -- or Indu Mills, as it is known popularly -- be handed over for the Ambdkar memorial.

Dalit outfits had set December 6 as the deadline for the state to decide on the issue, failing which they threatened to forcibly occupy the mill premises.

A delegation of MPs from Maharashtra, led by Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, had met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh yesterday to press for transfer of the land. Maharashtra government had proposed a grand memorial near Chaityabhoomi, Babasaheb Ambedkar's final resting place in Dadar in Central Mumbai a few years ago.

Last December, a group of Dalit activists led by Ambedkar's grandson Anandraj Ambedkar had stormed the mill complex and virtually captured it for a few days. They also installed statues of Ambedkar and Lord Buddha, but finally vacated the premises after a court order. 

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