Ambedkar Statue: Jolt to LDF Government
The CPM-led LDF Government of Kerala received a severe jolt when a Division Bench of Kerala High Court directed it not to install Dr. B. R. Ambedkar's statue "in any place other than in front of the State Assembly Complex" till a representation in this regard was disposed off.
The Bench comprising Chief Justice, Ms. K. K. Usha, and Mr. Justice Kurian Joseph, issued the interim order on Wednesday (March 21) on a writ petition filed by Mr. Vandithadam Valsarajan, Chairman of Dalit Cultural Force, Thiruvananthapuram.
The court also directed the State Government to dispose of the representation requesting the State Government to install the statue in front of the Assembly Complex within three months.
According to the petitioner, the Central Government had allotted Rs. 4 lakhs each to all the State Governments for installing Dr. Ambedkar's statue in front of the State Assemblies concerned as part of the two-year-long Dr. Ambedkar birth centenary celebrations declared way back in 1991.
However, neither the Congress-led UDF Government who wielded power in Kerala till 1996 nor the present LDF government initiated any action in this regard. With the opening of the Rs. 80-crore worth new Assembly complex in 1998, various Dalit organisations had been demanding installation of Dr. Ambedkar's statue at the new complex. The CPM government, however, took an adamant attitude of not responding favourably despite the prolonged agitations launched by Dalits since then.
On the other hand, the statue of Marxist leader E. M. S. Namboodiripad, who died in 1998, was installed in front of the new Assembly complex, the formal inauguration of which was done by Vice-President K. Krishan Kant only last month. Considering the fact that installation of Dr. Ambedkar statue at the new Assembly complex was demanded by Dalit organisations even before the death of EMS, this move had clearly aggravated the already hurt feelings of the entire Dalits. Early this month, the Assembly witnessed sporadic scenes following activists of Dalit Action Council for Installation of Ambedkar Statue shouting slogans inside the House - which incidentally was the first incident of its nature within the new Assembly building.
Despite the firm directive given by the Central Government in 1991 while providing Rs. 4 lakhs for installing the statue in front of Assembly premises in all States, what further agitated the Dalit organisations was the LDF Government's recent decision to install Dr. Ambedkar statue on a road-side at LMS Junction in Thiruvananthapuram. The petitioner, Vandithadam Valsarajan, informed the High Court that a lamp post had been erected at LMS Junction in memory of former Travancore Dewan Rama Rayar. Since the statues of Subhash Chandra Bose and Ayyankali also remain in the same Junction, there was no room for installing yet another statue there. Besides, erection of any more statue would also create traffic problem in the area, he contended.
Coupled with impending general elections to the State Assembly due next month-end, the High Court directive on Ambedkar statue had clearly kept the LDF Government in a tight spot. (EOM)