The Telangana chief minister laid the foundation stone for the statue on April 14, marking the 125th birth anniversary of Ambedkar

Honour or appropriation Hyd Uni students react to Telangana plan for tallest Ambedkar statueBR Ambedkar statue at Ambedkar Park/Wikimedia
news Ambedkar Jayanti Thursday, April 14, 2016 - 18:26

It seems BR Ambedkar is “in” this season, as politicians seek to top one another in honouring him. One of the grandest proposals yet is Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekar Rao's proposal to build what is touted to be the tallest statue of Ambedkar.

Marking the 125th birth anniversary of Ambedkar on Thursday, the chief minister laid the foundation stone for the 125-foot tall statue which will be installed near the Hussain Sagar lake.  

In the backdrop of Rohith Vemula's suicide and the resultant agitation for securing rights of Dalits that cropped across the country, The News Minute spoke to a few University of Hyderabad (UoH) students, some Dalits and others ardent followers of Ambedkar, and asked them about their views on the state government's decision. 

While some students said that they felt Ambedkar's statue was a symbolism in honour of the great icon, Munna Sannaki, a PhD scholar in Social Sciences differed in opinion. "I believe there won’t be any use of building statues for any great persons in the country. Statues are made as a sign of respect. Ambedkar is the father of our Constitution and this very Constitution is not implemented properly in the country. As a result, courts, police and other public servants, who are supposed to work for the citizens, often end up misusing the public machinery," he said. 

However, most seemed to have a common view about the sudden interest of political parties including the BJP in honouring Ambedkar. 

Calling it an "appropriation of Ambedkar", George (name changed on request), a PhD scholar, said, that "the BJP follows the RSS and their constitution is Manusmriti which is against reservations and for caste and which says women are inferior in society, something Ambedkar resisted and struggled against throughout his lifetime".

Though the party did distance itself, he added, and even criticised Ambedkar, the growing acceptance of the political leader made them "appropriate him" failing which they "can't win in elections".

Similarly, Agnes Amala T, Phd Scholar at the Centre for Human Rights says that students see a move like installing an Ambedkar statue as a sop to Dalit and student interests in the face of recent events. “The student community will not forget how the state government used its police force to suppress the movement and within 15 days is coming up with the installation of the 125-foot tall statue of Dr BR Ambedkar.” Honoring Ambedkar is important, she says, but not by a government that does not stand for the rights of Dalits. “Using Dr BR Ambedkar for political mileage will not work among the Dalits and minorities in the future,” she says.

Amid speculations that UoH could remove Rohith Vemula memorials on campus, some students felt that erecting a statue to Ambedkar while other signs of Ambedkarite movements are sought to be torn down is useless. Kavyasree Raghunath, studying translation studies at the University, for instance, says: “The Rohith stupa and Velivada are the markers of struggles of Ambedkarite student organisations here. There is no point in erecting statues unless people understand the ideas and political visions of Babasaheb and his people.”

So, what is the best way to honour Ambedkar? 

According to Agnes, "Read his books and make his writings available to everyone. In a larger context, spread the message of social justice and practice it at all levels."



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