Agra readies for huge show of Dalit strength

Agra, April 13 : The city of the Taj is set to witness a display of the Dalit community’s growing political and economic power Tuesday, when 300,000 people are expected to start three days of celebrations to mark the birth anniversary of B.R. Ambedkar.

The celebrations will take place at Bheem Nagri, an area of this city that has been beautified at a cost of Rs.500 million (Rs.50 crore).

“The festivity will begin with a mile-long procession of elephants, horses, and more than 60 tableaux on the themes of truth, non-violence, justice and equality,” Kartar Singh Bhartiya, president of the Bheem Nagri Ayojan Samiti, told IANS.

Over the past year, nearly Rs.500 million have been pumped in to develop the Bheem Nagri complex near Darauntha village in Shaganj area - the centre of the celebrations.

The stage where cultural programmes will be performed alone cost over Rs.1.5 million. Every year, it is made in accordance with a theme. Last time it was the parliament house and now it is a replica of Udaipur’s Jal Mahal.

The entire structure is an imposing 220 feet high and 70 feet wide, with the area for performances measuring 100 x 50 feet.
In 2008, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati had addressed Dalits at the same event, forcefully defining her agenda of becoming the prime minister.
With Lok Sabha polls round the corner, Dalits in the region are being wooed by all political parties but no politician will make any speech at the Amedkar Jayanti celebrations since the model code of conduct is in place.
Bhartiya said the festivities programmes will end with a mass marriage of Dalit couples according to Buddhist traditions.