UP cops on alert as political parties plan Ambedkar anniversary celebrations

Battle lines have been drawn in Uttar Pradesh as political parties prepare to celebrate Dalit icon Bhimrao Ambedkar’s 127th birth anniversary on April 14 with a show of strength aimed at wooing the community which form a substantial voter base.

Fearing that the fierce competition between parties might trigger violence, police have sounded a state-wide alert.

The caution comes in the wake of recent incidents of tension and violence, such as vandalising of Dalit icon’s statues and the massive Bharat Bandh protest against the alleged dilution of laws assuring protection to the community from atrocities.

The Mayawati-led Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) is planning a show of strength at Ambedkar memorial in Lucknow and has painted the town blue by putting up hoardings, posters and banners to mark the occasion. Senior leaders will pay obeisance to Ambedkar and address party workers.

A party leader said BSP president Mayawati would attend a programme in New Delhi and office-bearers in Uttar Pradesh have been asked to organise programmes in all the districts.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has planned yatras in all the districts to felicitate senior members of Dalit community, a party leader said.

The BJP government had recently ordered inclusion of ‘Ramji’ as the middle name of Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar in all official correspondence. The government also directed installation of Dr Ambedkar’s portraits in all its offices. The saffron party has also released Rs 35,000 to each district for Ambedkar’s birth anniversary celebrations.

Ambedkar Mahasabha, a non-political organisation, will honour chief minister Yogi Adityanath with the title of ‘Dalit Mitra’ (friend of Dalits).

SP national president Akhilesh Yadav has directed party leaders to celebrate Ambedkar’s birth anniversary in all the district offices and at public places with fervour.

Congress has also planned a series of programmes across the state. Senior party leaders have been directed to attend programmes organised in Dalit-dominated areas.

Police have been put on high alert to avert any untoward incident on the occasion.

“Superintendents of police (SPs) of all the 75 districts have been directed to remain on high alert and deploy extra police force at sensitive spots on April 14,” ADG (law and order) Anand Kumar said.

“The SPs have also been asked to ensure safety of Ambedkar’s statues in their respective districts,” Kumar said.

He said intelligence units had been activated to maintain a watch on anti-social elements.

A senior police officer said extra force had been deployed in six districts where violence had erupted during Bharat Bandh protest by Dalit organisations.

“Rapid action force (RAF) and provincial armed constabulary (PAC) have also been put on alert. The SPs have been directed to hold talks with the organisers to ensure peace and harmony,” the officer said.

Dalit scholar R K Gautam said political parties were trying to claim Ambedkar’s legacy for vote bank.

“The BJP is trying to spread its base in Dalit and backward communities while the BSP is trying to maintain its hold on Dalit votes. Political parties are wooing Dalits that constitute 21% of the state’s population. Their support will be crucial in 2019 Lok Sabha election,” he said.