Ambedkar followers forcefully shut shops, bring traffic to a halt at Dadar

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Image: Shreenivas Bikkad

Last week, on Friday night, the trustees of the People’s Improvement Trust demolished Ambedkar Bhavan in Dadar, sparking an outrage among the dalit population.

The trustees claimed that the structure was a public property and was demolished only to redevelop it. The Trust’s chief Madhukar Kamble defended their action by saying, “It is a public property which is being redeveloped into a 17-storey structure as Dr Ambedkar Bhawan. The Trust’s work will be continued from the new building. And even Prakash Ambedkar’s office will be retained in the new structure along with others which were working on the premises.”

He further added, “A formal decision to build a Dr B R Ambedkar Bhawan was taken on April 14. We had invited Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis for the ‘bhoomi pujan’. So, we have the sanction of the government. Moreover, the property belongs to the government.”

But, following the demolition, Dr. Ambedkar’s grandson Prakash Ambedkar had warned of a state-wide agitation if no action was taken against those responsible for it. “The present so-called trustees are nothing, but frauds, and do not even have legal status to work as trustees. The original legal trustees of the Scheduled Caste Improvement Trust did not sanction any plan to demolish the bhavan and the printing press,” said Prakash at a press conference.

He also said that the claims of the building being structurally weak were also false as the (BMC), in its structural audit, had cleared the building.

On Tuesday morning, the protesters approached Bohiwada police and asked them to take action against Ratnakar Gaikwad, allegedly responsible for the demolition of the structure. But, when cops refused to take any action, the mob took to the streets of Dadar and forced shopkeepers to shut their shops to protest against the government’s inaction.

The protest also took a violent turn after a few shopkeepers from Dadar circle questioned why they were forcing them to shut shops. The protesters attacked them and pelted stones at the shops, damaging a few of them.

The crowd also stopped vehicles from passing an a few taxis and trucks were targeted. The windows of over half a dozen vehicles were broken.

Many Mumbaikars have tried to get an update from Mumbai Police via their official Twitter handle, but to no avail. Official statement from the Mumbai police spokesperson is also awaited.

Additional details regarding casualties or damage to property, if any, are awaited.

Update (6:15 pm): The situation is under control. Most of the crowd has dispersed and there is heavy police presence in the area.

Update (7:30 pm): Over a dozen shops were vandalized during the day. We are still waiting for official figures. No arrests made till now.

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