THE MEMORIALS and parks built by Mayawati when she was the chief minister, as a tribute to Dalit icons like B R Ambedkar and Kanshi Ram, will now house statues of other leaders too — some from Other Backward Castes (OBCs) and others from ‘upper castes’. As a first step in this direction, the BJP government led by Yogi Adityanath has decided to put up statues of Raja Suheldeo — the 11th century king of Shravasti who is reported to have belonged to the Rajbhar community (OBC) — both inside and outside the Bhimrao Ambedkar Samajik Parivartan Sthal (Ambedkar Memorial) here.
In April 2009, Mayawati had placed statues of Dalit leaders, including herself, at the site. Besides Ambedkar, Kanshi Ram and Mayawati, there are white marble statues, all seven feet tall, of Ramabai Ambedkar, Chhatrapati Shahuji Maharaj, Kabir Das, Sant Ravidas, Jyotiba Phule, Birsa Munda, Narayana Guru and Guru Ghasidas. The total cost of the statues was estimated to be Rs 1.08 crore.
The BJP government has decided to install a bronze statue of Suheldeo, 16-18 feet tall, inside the Ambedkar Memorial. Another statue of Suheldeo, in white marble, will be placed on a platform outside the memorial.
“There are 13 platforms outside the Ambedkar Memorial. Many of them are vacant. A white marble statue of Raja Suheldeo will be placed on one platform. Another bronze statue will be placed inside the memorial,” said Om Prakash Rajbhar, Cabinet Minister for Backward Classes Welfare, who visited the memorial on Sunday to look for a suitable site.
Rajbhar is national president of the Suheldeo Bharatiya Samaj Party (SBSP), an ally of the BJP government in the state. Over the last few years, the BJP has included Raja Suheldeo in its list of ideologues. Last month, Adityanath attended a ‘Hindu Vijayotsav’, which the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) organised in Lucknow to mark Suheldeo’s victory over Ghazi Saiyyad Salar Masood.
Rajbhar said statues of others like Ahilyabai Holkar, Savitribai Phule, Daksh Prajapati, Guhraj Nishad (all OBCs), Maharana Pratap and Prithviraj Chauhan (both upper caste) would also be installed.
“There are sites for installing statues inside the Ambedkar Memorial too. The possibility of installing other statues will be explored later,” said Rajbhar. “All these great personalities, who fought for the country’s freedom or worked for social causes, should be honoured. Their statues should be installed at different places in the state,” he said.
Rajbhar said a proposal regarding Suheldeo’s statue would be placed before the Cabinet soon. Replying to a question, Rajbhar said additional statues could also be placed at the other parks and memorials developed by Mayawati.
When it was pointed out that the BJP was among the parties which had criticised the expenditure incurred by the then Mayawati government on these memorials and statues, Rajbhar said the “public” had criticised Mayawati because she had installed statues of leaders belonging to a particular caste. “We will install statues of all the great personalities who deserve honour, irrespective of their caste,” he said.
Recently, the state government sanctioned Rs 10 crore for revamping and repairing the parks and memorials built by the then Mayawati government in 2007-2012.