December 24, 2011 3:46:11 am
A day after the Bombay High Court said the Mumbai Police hardly needs to be apologetic if it needs to forcibly evict protesters squatting inside the premises of the National Textile Corporation (NTC)-owned India United Mill near Shivaji Park,members of the Republican Sena said they are willing to pay the market price for the land but will not move until the Central government announces that the entire 12-5-acre mill premises will be declared as kept aside for the expansion of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkars memorial at Chaityabhoomi.
Dalit people have been ready to take bullets,we are not afraid of any police action, said Bhai Sawant,general secretary of the Republican Sena established by Dr Ambedkars grandson Anandraj Ambedkar. Inside the mill,that has now turned into a minor pilgrimage center for Dalits across the state,the Republican Senas Maharashtra president Kashinath Nikalje said the occupiers would prefer to leave peacefully,and only want the government to announce that the entire 12-5 acres,and not just 4 acres as earlier promised,be handed over for the Chaityabhoomi expansion. If the NTC demands that we pay the market price,we are willing to do so. We can raise about Rs 240 crore in a couple of months, siad Nikalje,adding,this too had been communicated to the state government.
On Dr Ambedkars death anniversary on December 6,observed by his followers as Mahaparinirvan Din,more than 500 supporters of the Republican Sena stormed the India United Mills No 5 premises,claiming that they had taken possession of the land since the state and Central governments had shown little inclination to fulfill their 2003 promise of an international Ambedkar memorial. Most of the supporters left the site later that afternoon,but about 15 monks and their attendants remained inside,where they installed a statue each of Buddha and Dr Ambedkar.
Inside Indu Mill now,amid the ruins of a textile mill,scores of visitors arrive everyday.
A mahant keeps watch over the bust of Dr Ambedkar as visitors sign their name in a thick notebook,the fourth since Dalits from across the city and state began visiting to show their support. They write their numbers down and ask us to call them for any support, said Nikalje.
On Thursday,government pleader G W Mattos told the high court that if the activists do not vacate the premises voluntarily within a week,the police will evict them within three subsequent days.
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