Maya under fire from Dalit leaders in Maharashtra

Express News Service

MUMBAI, November 30: In the run-up to Babasaheb Ambedkar’s death anniversary, to be observed at Chaityabhoomi where his last rites were performed on December 6, Dalit leaders are criticising BSP chief Mayawati for not paying tribute to the Dalit icon.

Founder-president of Dalit Panthers and noted poet Namdeo Dhasal has demanded an apology from her for not visiting Chaityabhoomi during her recent visit and for calling Buddhists “Mahar”.

Dhasal has asked her to apologise before December 6 or face dire consequences. “If Mayawati fails to apologise for this great insult toAmbedkar’s followers before December 6, she will not be able to visit Maharashtra again and her BSP will have to face dire consequences,” he has said.

Dhasal further pointed out that after the conversion of Dalits to Buddhism in 1956 along with Ambedkar, the Mahar community was being recognised as Buddhists, but Mayawati had insulted the community by calling it Mahar. He was referring to Mayawati’s speech on Sunday in which she had stated that the Congress Government, in order to appease Dalits, would make a Mahar person the chief minister of the state.

Dhasal’s gesture comes close on the heels of similar criticism of Mayawati by Dalit leaders of Maharashtra. Lok Sabha MP and leader of the Republican Party of India (RPI) Ramdas Athavale has already lambasted her for not paying tribute to Ambedkar at his resting place at Chaityabhoomi.

Athavale has also accused her of misleading Dalits to strengthen the Hindutva brigade, as she has the history of forming alliance with the BJP. He has also asked her to convert to Buddhism if she revered Ambedkar and wanted his followers to join her party.

Ambedkar’s grandson, Prakash, has also objected to the third place given to Ambedkar on BSP’s publicity material and taken it as an insult of the Dalit icon. He too has objected to Mayawati shunning Chaityabhoomi.

The Dalit leaders of the state are divided into a dozen odd factions of the RPI, but are apparently apprehensive about Mayawati carving out her following among their followers. While Athavale is an ally of NCP, Dhasal is a supporter of the Shiv Sena. Prakash’s alliances keep changing between the Congress or leftist parties.
The obvious ploy of the leaders is to turn Buddhists against Mayawati, as she is still a Hindu Dalit. They are banking on the religious sentiments of Dalits, who have converted to Buddhism and are bitter about the caste system.

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