Tuesday, December 07, 2004

47 years later, they troop to Dadar in Ambedkar's memory

Mumbai: By noon, the queue of crysanthemum-and agarbatti-clutching Dalits had snaked its way from the Dadar Chowpatty seaface through Siddhivinayak temple right up to the Century Mill grounds, Prabhadevi.

The thousands who poured into the city late for Dr B R Ambedkar's 47th death anniversary saw little chance of making it to the memorial before midnight. They set up their personal memorials in the sand—bowing before little circles of candle flames and roses. And then fanned out into the fetid Arabian sea.

Deepak Ramban (18), HSC student
I have been coming here since childhood, but this year I have brought my 80-year old grandfather for the first time. He faced discrimination in his village in northern Karnataka. My father became a construction worker in the city, but things are changing now. Thanks to government scholarships, I am studying commerce in a junior college in Malad. I am the first person in my family to reach this far. Some form of reservation is needed in the private sector because privilege is so well entrenched. I am proud to be a Dalit. Dr Ambedkar's blood is my blood, his philosophy is like a profound sea of knowledge, but every December 6, you have these political parties putting up their banners for easy publicity.

Hindurao Bansode (74), Volunteer guiding crowds
I dropped out of school in Std II. In my village in Sangli, Dalits were made to sit outside at a distance; people refused us water. It was humiliating. Thanks to Ambedkar and his great document, the Indian Constitution, all that has changed. Aaj, sare log school mein mix-up ho gaye hain. (Now, everybody mixes around in school).

On December 6, 1956, I was working in the Western Railway workshop at Parel when our telephone operator received a wireless message of Babasaheb’s death. Everybody rushed out to Babsaheb’s home Rajgruh in Dadar (E). That evening, his body arrived from Delhi. He had said: "I am born a Hindu but will not die one." So he was buried near the seashore, not in the samshaan ghat (crematorium) that you see behind his memorial. I have been volunteering here since 1988; the crowds increase every year. Things may have changed in my village but not in other Indian states. I still read about discrimination in the newspapers.

Source: The Indian Express, December 07, 2004

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