Once bitten, twice shy. That’s exactly the situation in which officials of Savitribai Phule Pune University (SPPU) find themselves when it comes to the sensitive issue of installation of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar’s statue on the campus.
It’s been one and-a-half years since the university had installed the first statue of Dr Ambedkar on August 9, 2014 after which the management faced severe criticism as experts found it lacking in several aspects. SPPU then decided to cover up the statue and replace it, seeking applications from renowned sculptors for the same.
Even as it took nearly one and-a-half years to finalise on a clay model, university officials say that they are taking no chances and have shown the model to at least 40-50 experts, including those who had taken objection to the earlier statue.
While it was earlier expected that the new statue would be unveiled on April 14, which marks the 125th birth anniversary of Dr Ambedkar, officials say that it won’t be possible to meet the date as they are not taking any chances.
“Yes we had hoped to inaugurate the statue on April 14, but it won’t be possible. Right now, only the clay model is ready, which we have shown to at least 40-50 experts, including those who took objection earlier, as well as Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar’s family. They have suggested a few minor changes and after making those, we would once again show them the model,” said SPPU registrar Dr Narendra Kadu.
“We have even asked for permission from the Directorate of Art who informed us that they would also take expert opinion before responding to us. So once everything is finalised, only then shall we
issue the order for the final bronze statue,” added Kadu.
Trouble had started at the university’s name-changing ceremony in 2014 when some groups took objection to the statue, saying it was “not doing justice to Dr Ambedkar’s personality”.
Later, a committee was constituted and even the state directorate of art was contacted which sent a team and later confirmed to university officials that the statue was “not appropriate aesthetically”.
This time, university officials have been extremely cautious in approaching the subject. Dr Sanjeev Sonawane, a member of the inspection committee, said that they had suggested that the prototype should be uploaded online to seek public suggestions. “I think this time it will be flawless,” he said.
In fact, among the efforts that the university undertook, was seeking photos of statues from universities around India and even Japan, including Aurangabad University, the Parliament and even the Koyasan University in Japan.
“Now that the clay model is ready, we welcomed all visitors to inspect it and give us their feedback and suggestions after physically inspecting it rather than objecting later,” Kadu said.
Meanwhile, those who objected earlier seem to be happy with the new model.
Dr MN Kamble, president, Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh, Pune, who had earlier blamed officials for not showing the statue during the sculpting process, said, “Yes, I had gone to inspect the statue with other experts and I think that they have done a good job this time.”
“In the previous statue, the face was defective and there were some issues with the stomach and legs. But the clay model which was shown to us looked fine except for a couple of minor changes. However, we are not happy that they took so long in preparing the model as it would take another 2-3 months to prepare the statue. Ideally, the vice-chancellor should have paid personal attention to ensure that it was ready by April 14,” Kamble added.