On Tuesday evening,the maintenance staff of the Rashtriya Dalit Prerna Sthal and Green Garden in Noida got an urgent order to clear the bird droppings and grime that had collected over the past two years on the statues of various Dalit leaders,including B R Ambedkar,Bahujan Samajwadi Party (BSP) founder Kanshiram and former chief minister Mayawati.
The SP government,which has come under fire for its alleged failure to contain the recent riots in western Uttar Pradesh,decided to throw open the park to the public in a quiet affair on Gandhi Jayanti.
On Wednesday,by the time the gates opened at 11 am,a small crowd had gathered outside. Over the past two years,the park has been the source of many controversies with SP and BSP engaging in a bitter fight over the parks fate.
The opening on Wednesday was no different. The BSP boycotted the event while the SP was seen distributing cycles the party symbol to Dalits.
One of the first to arrive at the park was SP leader Narender Bhati. At the sedate opening,he distributed 250 cycles to the needy,specifically Dalits.
The park was built with public money. As soon as it was ready,we decided to open it up to the public. The cycles are to help Dalits progress, he said.
There were no BSP leaders at the opening. They claimed that they had not been invited.
BSP MP Surender Nagar criticised the timing of the opening. They (government) could have easily opened the park earlier. But they are under fire now for their failure to curb communal riots in the state and they are hoping that by opening the park,they will manage to blunt some of the criticism, he said. Nagar described the distribution of cycles to Dalits as a meaningless gimmick.
If they are really concerned about Dalits,they should stop opposing the bill for promotion of Dalits, he said.
By evening,thanks to a national holiday,hundreds had turned up to explore the memorial.
So much has been written about the park,that we had to see it for ourselves. After all,most of us drive past it every day, Sunita Sharma,a resident of Greater Noida,said.
When the park was being constructed,the BSP government had come in for heavy criticism for the money spent on it nearly Rs 675 crore. In October 2009,the Supreme Court brought the construction to a halt,when concerns over the ecological impact of the park were raised.
Clearance from the court came in December 2010 and an unfinished park was formally opened,in a typically extravagant style,by the then chief minister Maywati.
After Akhilesh Yadav came to power in the state,his attention inevitably drifted towards the park. He first announced that the park would be used for weddings and cultural events. A probe was ordered into alleged irregularities in the park construction and the park was shut indefinitely.
The probe,SP leaders said,will continue even though the park has been opened. There is no doubt that the park is beautiful. Its green and almost endless. Its good to have such a green space in Noida, Ravinder Kumar,who visited the park with his family,said.