Namboodiripad Given Prominence over Dr. Ambedkar
Thiruvananthapuram, February 19: As Vice-President of India, K. Kishan Kant, is all set to inaugurate the 12-feet big statue of late CPM leader E.M.S. Namboodiripad on February 24 at the square in front of the new Assembly building, Dalit organisations are mounting up their protests over the negation and neglection of the long-pending demand of installing Dr. Ambedkar statue at the same premises.
Notably, Kerala remains as the lone Indian state without a governmental institution/building, district or main road named after Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, even after completion of 50 years of Indian Independence and our Constitution. Dalit organisations, therefore, were mounting their collective demands to erect Dr. Ambedkar's statue at a prime spot in this capital city, which still has numerous statue of former Maharajahs and Diwans in main thoroughfares. In fact, the famous Statue Junction, in front of the State Secretariate on M.G. Road, testify the adoration and reverence of Kerala's so-called progressive rulers towards the erstwhile Princely State of Travancore Maharaja.
In fact, following demands to erect Dr. Ambedkar's statue, the then SC-ST Welfare Minister, Panthalam Sudhakaran, of former Congress-led UDF Government (1991-96) had sanctioned Rs. 10 lakhs for the purpose. Work on the statue was started at Kochi by the famous sculptor, M.R.D. Duttan. However, due to lack of funds its work could not be completed on time. After SC-ST Welfare Minister K. Radhakairshnan of the present LDF Government sanctioned an additional funds, the work was completed. While the Ambedkar statue still remains at Kochi for want of place at Thiruvananthapuram, the new EMS Statue, work on which was completed by the equally famous scultor, Kanayi Kunjiraman, is awaiting formal inauguration by India's Vice-President this week in front of the State Assembly.
The LDF Cabinet meeting held last week-end, however, took a sudden a decision to install Ambedkar statue at the little known LMS Junction here. Clearly, this belated decision was a clever move to counter possible criticism against the statue of EMS Namboodiripad, who died only two years ago, to be inaugurated with much pomp-and-show fanfare on February 24 by India's Vice-President.
Different Dalit organisations have already come out with strong protests against, what they termed, dumping of the Father of Indian Constitution on an unknown street. In fact, bodies like Kerala Dalit Panthers conducted prolonged agitations in the past, including relay-dharna in front of the Secretariate for months together, demanding installation of Dr. Ambedkar statue in the vicinity of the new Rs. 80 crore worth Legislative Assembly complex. Instead, a week before inaugurating EMS statue now, the Marxist rulers decided to confine Dr. Ambedkar at the little known LMS Junction.
Different Dalit organisations have already formed an Action Council to agitate for installing Dr. Ambedkar's statue at a prime avenue in the state capital. The Council decided to organise awareness campaign throughout Thiruvananthapuram district on February 21-22, and to undertake a Secretariate March from Asan Square on February 23.
Terming the government decision to install Ambedkar statue at LMS junction as an insult to all Dalit communities, the All India Samata Sainik Dal said that it was against the long pending demand of Dalits to install the statue in front of the new Assembly building. In view of Dr. Ambedkar's statue remaining within the vicinity of Assembly buildings in all other States, Dalits should fight tooth and nail to defeat the present decision of LDF Government, the Sainik Dal said. The SC-ST Committee of State Janata Dal pointed out that the demand to install Dr. Ambedkar statue before the new Assembly premises was raised even before EMS Namboodiripad died two years ago. According to Dalit Congress(I) leaders, the decision to install EMS Statue in front of the Assembly was taken by the LSDf Government in order to thwart attempts of any future government to install Dr. Ambedkar's statue there. Following last week's Cabinet decision, Kerala Dalit Panthers already started yet another relay in front of the Secretariate demanding installation of Dr. Ambedkar's statue at Assembly square instead of EMS statue. Other bodies like Dalit Cultural Forum have also come into the forefront of protests.
In spite of all these, the LDF Government is keeping a stalk, and meaningful, silence on the sensitive issue dear to all Dalits, in particular.