Friday, January 22, 2010

[ZESTCaste] Army to protect Indian minister's statues

Army to protect Indian minister's statues
A controversial Indian minister is to recruit a paramilitary force to
guard a series of public statues of herself she has had erected.

By Dean Nelson in New Delhi
Published: 6:53PM GMT 21 Jan 2010

Mayawati, the 'untouchable' leader of the pro-dalit Bahujan Samaj
Party, has provoked outrage throughout India over her decision to
spend millions of pounds on a series of marble statues.

She has also spent public money on figures of her former partner and
mentor Kanshi Ram, and Dr Bimrao Ramji Ambedkar, the untouchable
architect of India's constitution who converted to Buddhism in protest
at Hindu treatment of lower castes.

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statues, in particular those of herself, have been strongly criticised
as an act of self-aggrandisement and a waste of money in a state where
millions live in poverty.

The Kanshi Ram Memorial is more than 130ft high, and has so far cost
more than £40 million. It features a giant figure of Mayawati,
carrying her trademark handbag, and her late partner and political
mentor Kanshi Ram. Its dome is believed to be the largest in India.

Ms Mayawati has defended the construction of the statues as a tribute
to Dalit advancement and suggested they could attract tourists to the
state capital Lucknow. But her ministers are now worried they could be
damaged by her opponents and have begun a campaign to recruit 1,000
new soldiers to protect them.

"The new force will be named State Special Zone Security Force and
will be headed by an officer of the rank of inspector general, who
will have a superintendent and a few deputy superintendents to assist
him," said Uttar Pradesh home secretary Mahesh Gupta.

The troops will guard memorials to Dr Ambedkar in Lucknow and Noida,
close to New Delhi, two Kanshi Ram memorials and the Kanshi Ram Green
Eco Garden, which is built on the site of a district jail which was
abandoned to make way for the project.

A spokesman for the opposition Samajwadi Party, said his party will
replace the statues and disband the security force if it returns to
power in the state. "They are being built with taxpayers' money which
should be spent on development," he said.

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