Days after Ambedkar Bhavan was razed to the ground quietly at night, the act has led to an uproar and now threatens to demolish peace in the city. Followers of Dalit icon Dr BR Ambedkar threatened to take to the streets today unless the police arrest those who demolished the building.
RPI members also took out a morcha from Ambedkar Bhavan to the Bhoiwada police station in protest yesterday. Pic/Datta Kumbhar
“We will take to the roads if those who demolished Ambedkar Bhavan are not arrested. The government will then be held responsible for the same,” said Anandraj Ambedkar, Babasaheb’s grandson.
When mid-day visited the site of the demolished building in Dadar East yesterday, a large crowd of Ambedkar followers had gathered there to witness the damage that had been wrought upon the building that had been built by Babasaheb as a safe haven for Dalits. Angered by its overnight demolition, the crowd discussed the future course of action.
Led by Anandraj, the Republican Sena has alleged that the demolition was prompted by ulterior motives and threatened to launch a protest today. Ramesh Jadhav, Mumbai chief of the Republican Sena, alleged, “The way in which they carried out the demolition of the building in the night proves that they have wrong motives.”
The trust that runs the building claimed that it was dilapidated and the BMC had served a notice asking for it to be demolished, but community members alleged that the demolition was carried out in a haphazard manner, and even the library and the historic printing press had been damaged.
According to Sridhar More (65), who oversees work at the library and printing press, the building didn’t need to be demolished. “I was working till the previous evening. All of a sudden, late at night around 2 am, the structure was demolished,” said More.
When mid-day visited the site, not only were several precious books buried under the debris, but even historic printing press set up by Ambedkar in 1944 had sustained considerable damage from the demolition. Earlier, Madhukar Kamble of the People’s Improvement Trust, which is responsible for the daily running of Ambedkar Bhavan, had said that the printing press had not been harmed, but mid-day’s reporters found that the machine lay just a few feet away from a demolished wall. In order to prevent further damage, supporters covered the machine with a tarpaulin sheet. There is a wooden chair and desk, apparently which was used by Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar which they managed to salvage.
“The printing press now lies exposed to rains as walls have been broken down. Books were also lying on the road,” said Ram Taral (64), another employee at the Bhavan.
“The historic printing machine was used by Dr Ambedkar to publish his anti-caste system literature and other important books, which are now damaged. We have emotions attached to each and everything in the building and the printing press and so our people are not happy with the way in which the destruction has been done,” alleged Jadhav.
The other side
Madhukar Kamble, one of the trustees, said, “We had all the permissions for the demolition. The building was in dilapidated condition and BMC had already stated the same in a notice that was sent to us. It was important to carry out the demolition in order to prevent any accident.” Asked about the printing press and other artefacts that had been left vulnerable to damage, he said, “We have not done anything deliberately and in case anything has got damaged, we will repair the same. All the important things related to the life of Dr Ambedkar will be kept in the new, grand building of 17 floors.”