Dalit groups storm Dadar mill
HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times
Mumbai, December 16, 2011
Dalit political parties irked by Centre's unwillingness to allocate
the entire 12.5-acre India United Mill plot for the proposed Dr BR
Ambedkar memorial stepped up agitations across the city on Thursday.
Hundreds of activists of Republican Party of India (Athavale) teamed
up with another
Dalit outfit, the Republican Sena and staged a blockade on the Eastern
Express Highway, throwing traffic out of gear. The protesters burnt
effigies of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and demanded that the entire
plot be assigned for the memorial and other facilities, including a
social justice university for the Dalit youth and a vihara for monks.
Demonstrators also stormed the India United Mill, also referred to as
Indu Mill premises and threatened to not leave unless chief minister
Prithviraj Chavan agreed to their demands.
"The agitation will get stronger till the government parts with the
land. We want the prime minister to make a statement that the entire
land will be given for the memorial. There is no hurdle; the land
belongs to the central government,'' said RPI (A) leader Ramdas
On Wednesday, union minister of state for textiles Panabaka Lakshmi
told the Rajya Sabha that the Centre would allocate 4 of the 12.5
acres of the Indu Mill plot for the memorial.
Some activists and monks owing allegiance to the Republican Sena, a
little known Dalit outfit led by Dr Ambedkar's grandson Anandraj
Ambedkar, have been camping inside mill premises since December 6.
Ambedkar said his agitation was not for political gains but
represented the anger among Dalits at having their demands ignored.
"We don't expect much from this government. It took them decades to
even put a portrait of Dr Ambedkar in the Parliament," Ambedkar said.
"Now, the NTC wants to build a five star hotel. Is that valid given
that our demand has been pending for last 10 years,'' he asked.
Ambedkar said that though he disagreed with Athawale's pre-poll pact
with the Sena-BJP, all Dalit groups had a common cause in this
The proposal for the memorial has been pending for nearly a decade and
the posturing by Dalit outfits seems to be timed with the upcoming
civic elections in mind. The Dalit votebank accounts for 15% of the
state's voters and could affect results of the municipal corporations
in cities like Mumbai, Nasik and Thane. With these equations in mind,
the Congress and the NCP tried to woo the Dalit voter and the CM even
announced on December 6 that the entire 12.5 acres of the mill would
be turned into a memorial.
However, the Centre's stance on the project has presented Chavan with
a situation that threatens to spiral into a political nightmare.
No arrests made: cops
Mumbai: The Shivaji Park police registered a case of unlawful assembly
against protestors who forcibly gained entry into the Indu Mill
compound on Thursday evening.
A group of protestors demanding the land be allotted for construction
of a memorial for Dr BR Ambekdar forcibly gained entry in the
compound, said Shivaji Park police. "The crowd, including members of
Republican Party of India (Athawle) was later evicted. A case of
unlawful assembly was registered against the protestors as they did
not have permission to enter the compound," said Vineet Agarwal,
additional commissioner of police (central region). No arrests have
been made in the case, he added.
According to an officer from Shivaji Park police, over 800 protestors
entered the mill compound, and burnt papers and plastic lying in the
premises. Later, they hoisted their party flag and clicked photographs
before being ejected by the police.
Meanwhile, traffic in the area was hit because of the protests.
Police, however, warned motorists of diversions through SMS alerts.
Traffic eventually eased out by 6pm.
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