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Friday, 12 February, 2010

Shifting of Ambedkar statue draws court's ire

Shifting of Ambedkar statue draws court's ire

CHENNAI: Denouncing the attempt to confine a statue of BR Ambedkar to a Dalit locality, the Madras HC said it was highly deplorable that a
national leader was sought to be considered leader of a single community.

The matter relates to an Ambedkar statue installed at Pazhaiya Pattinam village in Cuddalore district. Owing to objections from a community, the statue was sought to be removed. Following this, a public interest writ petition was filed by a villager seeking to restrain the authorities from relocating the statue.

Denouncing the attempt by some villagers and authorities to confine a statue of B R Ambedkar to a Dalit locality, the Madras high court said it was highly deplorable that a national leader was sought to be considered a leader of a community.

The matter relates to an Ambedkar statue near a public library at Pazhaiya Pattinam villager in Cuddalore district. Owing to certain objections from a minority community in the area, the one-year-old statue was sought to be removed. Following which a public interest writ petition was filed in the high court by a villager seeking to restrain the authorities from relocating the statue.

Unable to obtain an undertaking from the government that no harm would be done to the statue and that it would not be removed from its original location, the first bench had restrained the officials from removing or damaging the statue. However, claiming that no copy of the order was available, the local revenue and police authorities used an earth-mover to relocate it to a spot close to a Dalit settlement on January 20.

On Thursday, an infuriated first bench comprising Chief Justice HL Gokhale and Justice KK Sasidharan, described the shifting of the statue, in spite of an injunction order, as most deplorable and said: "It is most unfortunate that the statue of Dr BR Ambedkar, which was already located at a place for more than a year (and which place could not be considered to be in any manner a controversial one), was sought to be shifted to a Dalit settlement."

"It is highly deplorable that a national leader is sought to be considered as a leader of a community, disregarding his contribution to citizens of India, irrespective of their caste, religion and community," the bench observed.

Besides directing the Cuddalore collector to hold an inquiry into the matter and take action against the erring officials, the judges said the statue should be re-installed at the original place and due protection should be given to it.

The bench also imposed a cost of Rs 20,000 on the state government, and added that the state was at liberty to recover the sum from the officers responsible for the unfortunate incident.

Seeking to clarify a government order dated November 20, 1998 laying down general guidelines for statues, memorials and arches, the bench made it clear that henceforth no statue or memorial should be erected without the prior sanction of the state government. On receiving applications, the district collector concerned must collect necessary details and forward his recommendation to the home secretary, it said.

Secondly, statues, memorials, arches and pillars already erected should be protected and maintained by persons who had erected them. They shall also furnish an affidavit, giving an undertaking that they would maintain the structures. It is desirable to have only bronze statutes as easy damage could be avoided, it said.

Kartar Singh Siddharth

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