Talk­ing stat­ues at the Ambed­kar Park in Ut­tar Pradesh cap­i­tal

Opin­ion on Bahu­jan Sa­maj Party supremo Mayawati’s ex­pen­di­ture on stat­ues may be divided, but ev­ery­body likes a good gar­den

The Hindu - - NATION - Omar Rashid

Vi­jay Pratap feels it’s un­fair of the Supreme Court to ob­serve that the Bahu­jan Sa­maj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati might have to de­posit pub­lic money spent by her in erect­ing parks and memo­ri­als in parts of Ut­tar Pradesh dur­ing her ten­ure.

Stand­ing in the sprawl­ing Ambed­kar Me­mo­rial Park, built on the banks of river Gomti in Luc­know by the Mayawati govern­ment, Mr. Pratap who works in the Na­tional Ru­ral Liveli­hood Mis­sion in Bahraich dis­trict, claims the is­sue is be­ing raised now, months be­fore the 2019 Lok Sabha elec­tion, with an eye to cre­ate “a neg­a­tive think­ing” among vot­ers to­wards the BSP supremo.

Mr. Pratap be­lieves Ms. Mayawati is be­ing tar­geted for her caste.

“Why are these memo­ri­als a wastage? Ac­cord­ing to the caste struc­ture, all castes have pushed up their icons. But when it comes to Dalit icons, they are pained and only see cor­rup­tion. No­body has a prob­lem with the statue of Sar­dar Pa­tel,” said Mr. Pratap.

Had Ambed­kar been a ‘savarna’ (‘gen­eral cat­e­gory’ in reser­va­tions), the park would have been glo­ri­fied, adds Mr. Pratap.

Like hun­dreds of peo­ple do daily, he has come to re­lax at the Ambed­kar Park, known for its mag­nif­i­cent stone struc­tures and domes, a mas­sive ‘ele­phant gallery’ and stat­ues of Dalit icons. With the mas­sive memo­ri­als and stat­ues built by BSP chief Mayawati dur­ing her ten­ure once again the fo­cus of pub­lic at­ten­tion, The Hindu spoke to a range of peo­ple at the sprawl­ing park on what they thought about the con­tro­versy.

Praised for beauty

Across sec­tions, the park was praised for its beauty and ar­chi­tec­ture, es­pe­cially with Dal­its link­ing it to their pride and to move­ment for so­cial up­lift­ment.

Opin­ions on the jus­ti­fi­ca­tion of the ex­pen­di­ture mir­rored po­lit­i­cal divi­sions in the State, where Ms. Mayawati’s con­struc­tions have been used as a tool by po­lit­i­cal op­po­nents to tar­get her. Sens­ing the dam­age done to her im­age by the pro­pa­ganda, and to ap­pease non-Dalit vot­ers, in the 2017 As­sem­bly polls, Ms. Mayawati even de­clared that if she came to power, she would not build any more stat­ues, parks or memo­ri­als, but fo­cus on de­vel­op­ment and on rid­ding the State of goondaism, mafia and com­mu­nal el­e­ments.

Jy­oti Saini, a teacher, praises the park as a breath of fresh air. How­ever, she is also crit­i­cal of Ms. Mayawati, ac­cus­ing her of only fo­cussing on Dal­its, while ig­nor­ing up­per castes and Other Back­ward Classes (OBC), be it in jobs or other po­si­tions while in power. “It’s be­yond doubt — she only works for her caste,” said Ms. Saini.

Ahmed Khan, Mas­ters stu­dent in Urdu at the Luc­know Univer­sity, is also a reg­u­lar vis­i­tor to the park; it helps him de-stress, he says. ‘Luc­know ki shaan’ (‘pride of Luc­know’), he calls it. “It is a his­toric place, not a wastage of money. By that pa­ram­e­ter then, the money spent on the Pa­tel statue should also be handed back,” said Mr. Khan.

His friend, Afzal Raza, a madrasa teacher in Si­ta­pur, also chipped in: “Those who raise ques­tions on such parks only have a neg­a­tive think­ing.”

Staff at the park say around 1,000-1,500 per­sons visit it daily, with fig­ures ris­ing to more than 2,000 on week­ends. Among them are tourists like Amar­jeet Singh, a civil en­gi­neer who moved here from Mum­bai. Mr. Singh praises the park for its aes­thet­ics but wants it to be de-linked from pol­i­tics.

“This is not wastage of money, pro­vided it is not linked to pol­i­tics. Such things are needed to bind so­ci­ety to­gether. But if we only con­nect it to a par­tic­u­lar caste, things get po­lit­i­cal,” said Mr. Singh.

RA­JEEV BHATT ■

Jumbo dis­play: A view of the Ambed­kar Me­mo­rial Park in Luc­know.

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