Ambedkar Bhavan row: 'Arrest Gaikwad or we will shut down Maharashtra'

Jun 29, 2016, 07:25 IST | Gaurav Sarkar and Ranjeet Jadhav

Shops and traffic came to a complete halt in Hindmata and Bhoiwada as the Dalit community took to the streets over Ambedkar Bhavan’s demolition, threatening to take the protest statewide

Three days after the historic Ambedkar Bhavan was razed to the ground in the dead of night, the outrage among the Dalit community intensified further yesterday, as over 1,000 protestors took to the streets threatening to ‘shut down all of Maharashtra’ unless the cops arrest the man who ordered the demolition.

Despite heavy police presence in the area, the protest shut down traffic and shops in Hindmata and Bhoiwada for over four hours. Pics/Atul Kamble
Despite heavy police presence in the area, the protest shut down traffic and shops in Hindmata and Bhoiwada for over four hours. Pics/Atul Kamble

Most of their animosity was directed towards former IAS officer Ratnakar Gaikwad for destroying the legacy of Dr Ambedkar. They labelled him a “traitor” who had “sold” the iconic building that marks the beginning of the Dalit movement in India.

“Ratnakar Gaikwad allowed the demolition of the Bhavan in the dead of night, at 2 am on Saturday. He is using his power in an unfair way. While the Bhavan was being demolished, it was Bhoiwada police station that provided them with security. Our fight is against the unjust police as well,” said Satish Kumar Salunkhe, joint secretary of the Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh.

“The authorities have time till midnight today, by which time if the arrest is not made, we will ensure that all of Maharashtra is shut down tomorrow,” he added.

The protest was also led by the Babasaheb’s grandsons and their respective parties — Dr Prakash Ambedkar’s Bharatiya Bauddha Mahasabha and Anandraj Ambedkar’s Republican Sena.

At 1 pm, members of the various Dalit groups started to gather at the site where Ambedkar Bhavan once stood, chanting slogans and demanding the arrest of Ratnakar Gaikwad. But it was around 2.30 pm that the protest gained momentum, and the mob began to shut down shops and blocked traffic. Amid heavy police presence, they marched through the narrow inroads in Dadar, heading towards the Dadar TT flyover, where the protest got ugly. Once they reached Ambedkar Road, two groups began to shout slogans and held up all traffic at the junction. Traffic had come to a halt for nearly 30 minutes, so police officials tried to get the mob moving. Instead, the mob got provoked further and staged a sit-in protest right there on the busy road.

It was over four hours later that the protest march finally ended and the mob broke up at 4 pm, although shopkeepers kept their businesses shut for another couple of hours to stay on the safer side.

No poster boy
The protestors expressed their anger at former IAS officer Ratnakar Gaikwad with derisive posters that had Gaikwad’s face superimposed on the body of a pug. Passers-by vented their anger by slapping the poster with their hands and shoes.

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