Dalits feel insulted after an Ambedkar statue had to be protected with grills in Chennai.
One of the architects of the Indian Constitution, Ambedkar was also a prominent Dalit figure, who dedicated his life to fighting the caste system and its exploitation. He is now acknowledged as one of the greatest figures of Indian history, and statues, posters and images of him have flourished in every city in India.
However, more than 60 years after Indian Independence, and after the abolition of Untouchability, certain sections of society still find it hard to accept the Dalit leader’s presence and the honor he is paid. Thus, in Chennai, “upper-caste” people vandalized an Ambedkar statue, throwing stones at it and causing severe damages. From then, the municipality constructed grills around the statue. Although the grills are intended to protect the statue from further attacks, local Dalits see them as a symbol of disrespect.
Mani, our Community Correspondent in Chennai, himself a Dalit, covered the story. He was scandalized by the whole event: “Ambedkar is a central and inspiring figure for all Dalits. Stoning his statue was a terrible sign of disrespect for us. But putting grills around it does not improve anything.”
Unfortunately, this incident is only a minor event among a long list of discrimination and atrocities faced by Dalits in Tamil Nadu, one of the states worst affected by casteism, in which inter-caste violence have been the most intense. For Mani, reporting on such events is a necessary task. He thinks that all deprivations and injustices faced by Dalits have to be voiced out, so that one day full respect can be gained by the community.