The unexpected demolition of the iconic Ambedkar Bhavan near Mumbai's Dadar station on Friday night, has evoked strong reactions from the followers of the Dalit icon Dr BR Ambedkar.
Ambedkar's two grandsons - Prakash Ambedkar and Anandraj Ambedkar - have filed an FIR against the People's Improvement Trust (PIT), the managing body of the building, for demolishing the building.
Pictures of the demolished building went viral on social media leading to a string of condemnations and emotional messages.
The 80-year-old structure was built in 1930 and was said to be the place Ambedkar's political career began. The building also housed a library and a printing press from Ambedkar's era which was used by him to publish the anti-caste literature. It's also said that the Ambedkar spent a considerable amount of time in the building while drafting the Constitution of India.
More recently, the building had hosted the mother and brother of late Dalit scholar Rohith Vemula when they held a ceremony to convert to Buddhism.
The Ambedkar family, which is not the part of the trust, has alleged that the demolition was deliberately done in the night to avoid protests. On the other hand, those in charge of the building have maintained that the building was in a dilapidated condition and they had got permission for the demolition from Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC).
The trust is now planning to build a 17-storey building near the site where the building once stood.
Various student groups held demonstrations against the demolition. The Jawaharlal Nehru University Students Union (JNUSU) led by president Kanhaiya Kumar on Sunday also burnt down the effigy of the Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and RSS over the demolition of the Ambedkar Bhavan.
Here are some reactions evoked by the demolition
Anandraj Ambedkar, grandson of Dr BR Ambedkar
"It's a big loss not only for Ambedkarites but for the entire nation. People had an emotional relationship with this building. Any Ambedkarite who used to come to Mumbai would always ensure they paid a visit to Ambedkar Bhavan. Babasaheb had rented this building with an aim to provide a space for discussion and debate among the marginalized groups of society."
The biggest loss is for the students and scholars of Ambedkar studies for whom the building acted as a reference. Unfortunately, it's no more.
Kanhaiya Kumar, JNU Students' Union President
The people who entered and demolished the Ambedkar Bhavan and printing press like cowards during the night, reflects Brahmnanism's hidden fear. Memories of many revolutions are connected to this place and they are even afraid of these memories.
Dontha Prashant, friend of Dalit scholar Rohith Vemula, Hyderabad Central University
Ambedkar Bhavan is a collective memory for all depressed classes of the country. The destruction episode left all of us in shock. Memorials can be erased by demolitions, while memories cannot be erased by demolition.
Umar Khalid, JNU Student
The timing of the demolition of Ambedkar Bhawan illustrates the real motive behind it. As a centre for political activity of Ambedkarites and other democratic forces, this place was central in the co-ordination of the movement in Mumbai for justice for Rohith Vemula.
This demolition is more than just a demolition of a building, it is actually a message to all those fighting for Justice for Rohith. A message that the current government firmly stands with those who have Rohith's blood on their hands. And will go to all extremes to suppress the movement, even if it means destroying a building that is of national importance.
Ajmal Khan, Phd Scholar, Mumbai
The same government that is trying to appropriate Ambedkar and celebrating him is also trying to demolish the original traces that Dr. Amebdkar left behind. This is a direct attack against Dr. Ambedkar, his thoughts and the Ambedkarite movement.