A 1930, sprawling structure at Dadar from where Dr B R Ambedkar launched his political movement was demolished on Saturday, exposing the sharp differences between the two Dalit groups claiming control over the organisation called People’s Improvement Trust.
Prakash Ambedkar, grandson of B R Ambedkar, filed an FIR in Bhoiwada police station against senior members of the People’s Improvement Trust, including Madhukar Kamble and former IAS officer Ratnakar Gaikwad, for demolition of the structure against his wishes.
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“It is very unfortunate as the government and a section within the Trust have hurt our sentiments. They are trying to commercialise the place in the name of building a grand Ambedkar Bhawan,” said Prakash Ambedkar.
People’s Improvement Trust chief Madhukar Kamble said, “It is a public property which is being redeveloped into a 17-storey structure as Dr Ambedkar Bhawan. The Trust’s work will be continued from the new building. And even Prakash Ambedkar’s office will be retained in the new structure along with others which were working on the premises.”
There were two buildings, one in possession of Prakash Ambedkar, from where he operated and undertook some printing press work. From an adjoining building, the People’s Improvement Trust operated. The open courtyard along with hall was often given on rent for public functions to earn funds for the maintenance of the structure.
Kamble said, “A formal decision to build a Dr B R Ambedkar Bhawan was taken on April 14. We had invited Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis for the ‘bhoomi pujan’. So, we have the sanction of the government. Moreover, the property belongs to the government.”
“Since our structure was dilapidated, we had received notice from the BMC to develop it in a couple of months. Accordingly, our Trust took the decision to demolish the old structure. The work was done at 2 am as it is in a marketplace and gets very crowded in the morning.”The differences within the People’s Improvement Trust are likely to intensify following the demolition. Prakash Ambedkar said, “I will challenge their
decision to demolish my office I had inherited from Dr B R Ambedkar. I had also paid Rs 4 lakh to Rs 6 lakh.”
However, People’s Improvement Trust members alleged, “Prakash Ambedkar wanted complete control of the Trust. And the real purpose for which the Trust was formed by Dr B R Ambedkar was not being served. So what is the objection?”
Refuting their allegations, Prakash said, “My objection is over the commercialisation of Dr B R Ambedkar’s office. He owned the place since 1930. It has historic value. It was a place from where all important decisions of the Dalit movement took place.”
However, BMC officials clarified that they had nothing to do with the demolition. A ward officer said, “We had not deployed any officials or workers for the demolition.