With a thick black spectacle, a red tie, a copy of the Constitution in one arm and the index finger of the other pointing forward, Bengaluru resident Venugopal stood at Chaityabhoomi on Thursday, resembling Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar, obliging anyone who wanted a picture with him. “In this attire, I feel like Ambedkar is alive in me. I have come because of Babasaheb,” the retired BHEL employee said.
Like him, lakhs of Ambedkar followers have arrived in Mumbai to pay their respects to the national leader on his 62nd death anniversary.
Railway stations and roads leading to Shivaji Park and Chaityabhoomi were inundated with Ambedkar followers, easily spotted in white clothes.
Early Thursday morning, however, Bhim Army’s Maharashtra wing held a protest at Dadar railway station, demanding that the station be renamed as Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Terminus. State Bhim Army chief Ashok Kamble said, “Our leaders had written to the state government to rename the station before December 6. However, there was no response from the government. If our demands are not met, then we will protest outside Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis’s bungalow.”
Forty-fifty members of the Bhim Army pasted stickers on several signboards at Dadar Terminus demanding the name change. Later, the police removed the protesters. Later, at Chaitybhoomi, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis along with Governor C Vidyasagar Rao paid tributes to Ambedkar.
Mohan from Akola said, “I come every year to pay tribute to Babasaheb. He was the man who gave us the right place in society. Dalits were always neglected until the Constitution recognised us.”
Delhi Social Welfare Minister Rajendra Pal Gautam also visited Chaityabhoomi, a move seen as the AAP’s step towards connecting with Dalits in Maharashtra.
More than 5,500 Dalit volunteers were deployed to manage the crowd along with hundreds of BMC staff.