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Ambedkar Jayanti celebrated; Dalits stage sit-in


Mumbai: Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan Saturday led celebrations on the 121st birth anniversary of the architect of the Indian Constitution Bhimrao R. Ambedkar while thousands of activists staged a sit-in outside a mill premises in central Mumbai demanding allotment of its land for a proposed memorial to the Dalit icon.

Chavan visited the Ambedkar Memorial at Shivaji Park and offered floral tributes to a statue of the national leader, who was revered as the ‘Champion of the Masses’ and was fondly known as Babasaheb.

He was joined by Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, state Congress chief Manikrao Thakre and Shiv Sena leader Subhash Desai, among others.

The sit-in by Dalit activists outside the Indu Mills’ compound was led by Anandraj Ambedkar, grandson of B.R. Ambedkar, the architect of the Indian Constitution.

Anandraj Ambedkar demanded that the 12.3-acre mill land for the Ambedkar Memorial must be allotted immediately as assured by the government.

“Though it is four months since our first agitation in December, and even after the central government cleared the proposal, nothing has been done to acquire and utilise the mill land for the memorial,” he said.

He, accompanied by his Republican Sena activists and Buddhist followers, came in a large procession to the Indu Mills compound to perform puja at the venue, but they were stopped by police. The activists then squatted on the road.

Ambedkar Jayanti was earlier celebrated with enthusiasm and prayers all over Maharashtra by millions of people.

Dalit leaders like Prakash Ambedkar and Ramdas Athawale also visited Shivaji Park and paid tributes to the leader.

Similar functions were held at places around the state linked to the Dalit icon. These included Mumbai, Nagpur, Nashik, Pune, Mahad and Ratnagiri.

The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation organised a special Ambedkar Jayanti function, while several Dalit political parties, NGOs and academicians also held separate celebrations here through the day.