Vandalism of Ambedkar’s Mumbai home sparks political furore

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BY QUAID NAJMI
Mumbai, July 8 (IANS)
The shocking incident of at least two persons vandalising ‘Rajgruha’ – the Mumbai home of the late Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar – sparked off a political uproar in Maharashtra on Wednesday with various political parties demanding for stringent action.
Describing Rajgruha as a “place of reverence”, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray said the government will not tolerate what has happened and strict action will be taken against the culprits.
“Goons entering Rajgruha and indulging in vandalism is shocking. The place is not only important for Ambedkarites, but the entire society who consider it as a place of pilgrimage. I have directed the police to act strongly against the vandals,” he said.
The incident occurred around 6 p.m. on Tuesday when some unidentified persons hurled stones at the windows, smashed CCTVs and damaged the flower pots at the residence in a quiet corner of the Dadar Hindu Colony.
However, the implications became apparent only around midnight when some Dalits attempted to visit the venue, and the Ambedkar family appealed for restraint early on Wednesday.
Following statements from Ambedkar family, the Matunga police lodged a formal complaint and started a probe.
The current residents include Dr Ambedkar’s daughter-in-law and grandsons, Prakash Ambedkar, Anandraj Ambedkar and Bhimrao Ambedkar along with their families.
The three-storied bungalow has a huge collection of Dr Ambedkar’s books, photographs, some personal effects and artefacts, his ashes, all of which are now housed in a small memorial museum which is a centre for Ambedkarite scholars from all over the world.
Condemning the incident, Deputy Chief Minister and NCP leader Ajit Pawar termed it as “the handiwork of anti-social elements with a wicked mindset and done with ulterior motives”.
Home Minister Anil Deshmukh called up the Ambedkar family and the police, who have collected CCTV footage and assured that the accused would be nabbed soon.
Flaying the ‘dastardly attack’, Revenue Minister and state Congress chief Balasahab Thorat said the place is an inspiration for all who follow De Ambedkar and urged the government to nab those responsible immediately.
The Ambedkar kin also appealed to the people and their supporters to maintain peace and said the police have taken cognizance and are doing a good job.
Taking strong umbrage, Union Minister for Social Justice Ramdas Athawale wrote to Deshmukh and demanded a CID probe into the incident since the attack was on a place of national and historic significance concerning the chief architect of the Indian Constitution.
Leader of Opposition and BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis called up the Ambedkars and discussed the issue with the family members.
“We strongly condemn the attack on the residence of Dr B.R. Ambedkar. I have spoken with the Additional Police Commissioner and demanded that those responsible should be arrested immediately,” said Fadnavis.
Building Rajgruha in 1933, Dr Ambedkar lived in it for nearly two decades, and had a collection of around 50,000 books, one of the largest private libraries of its kind in the world at that time.
Rajgruha is among the top sites related to Dr Ambedkar in Maharashtra and attracts tourists from all over.
Meanwhile, security has been tightened outside Rajgruha in view of the attack and police are scanning CCTV footage of the entire neigborhood to identify and nab the culprits.

(Quaid Najmi can be contacted at q.najmi@ians.in)

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