The Dalit community on Wednesday turned out in large numbers to commemorate the 98th anniversary of the Sankalp Bhoomi — the spot inside Vadodara’s iconic Sayajibaug (Kamatibaug) garden, where Dr B R Ambedkar resolved to “change the lives” of the Dalits in India.
Although the Dalit spiritual leaders who addressed the rally described the event as apolitical, the community leaders said they would give up their reservation status if the government was willing to bestow upon the community the rights to cast two votes as per Ambedkar’s original demand.
Dr Karunasheel Raule, a Buddhist monk who arrived from Haryana to participate in the rally, organised by the community on Sankalp Bhoomi Day in Vadodara, told reporters, “The fact is that the Dalits never asked for reservation status. Dr Ambedkar had, in fact, demanded that Dalits be given the right to cast two votes. It was the government that provided reservation instead of the right to cast two votes. So, if anyone has a problem with the Dalits receiving benefits from reservation and wants to revoke the privilege, they can do so by bestowing upon the Dalits the right to cast two votes.”
Raule clarified that Wednesday’s Vadodara rally, organised by the Dalits, was not to be seen as the “political show of strength” or as a “reply to other groups and communities demanding reservation”.
He added that the Dalit community had gathered in Vadodara’s iconic Sayajibaug to pay tributes to Dr Ambedkar as it was here that he pledged to “change the circumstances” of the Dalits on September 23, 1917.
“It was on September 23, 1917, upon his return from England that Dr Ambedkar had arrived in Vadodara and was staying in a Parsi guesthouse, where he was insulted and his belongings were thrown out. He resolved to return from Vadodara to Mumbai that very moment, but unfortunately, his train was late by about five hours and he was forced to spend his time in Sayajibaug. He chose to sit under the banyan tree inside the garden, which is known today as Sankalp Bhoomi around the world. It was here that he resolved to change the way Dalits are treated in the country. The rally is only commemorating the decision made by Dr Ambedkar on that day,” Raule said.
Earlier on Wednesday, a large number of people belonging to the Dalit community gathered at the Navlakhi compound where Raule addressed the gathering and urged the Dalit community to follow Dr Ambedkar’s principles of universal compassion.
From there, the rally proceeded to Sankalp Bhoomi in Sayajibaug where a prayer service was held to pay tribute to Dr Ambedkar. The rally included a statue of Gautam Buddha perched atop a jeep, a beeline of cars and two-wheelers, with patrons waving the Buddhist flags and life-size cutouts of Dr Ambedkar.