Mayas statues stoke anger among majority

By: | Updated: 20 Feb 2012 11:06 PM

Bhagwanpur (Uttar
If Mayawati is accused of using public funds to build her
statues, members of her Jatav caste have collected money to put up one of
Ambedkar in this village. Bhagwanpur, located in Auraiya district in
central Uttar Pradesh, mirrors in many ways the situation that Mayawati
finds herself in as election fever peaks — the hamlet is encircled by
villages dominated by the Thakurs and the Yadavs.

“Gaon ka
pradhan Thakur hai. Usne hamare gaon ka naam Ambedkar yojana se katwa diya
(The village chief is a Thakur. He got the name of our village deleted
from the Ambedkar scheme),” complained Sri Ram, 58. Under the scheme,
Dalit villages are provided concrete houses and several other basic
amenities. Like Mayawati, under attack from rivals across parties, the
Dalit Jatavs express a sense of battling odds.
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The statue of Ambedkar, holding the Constitution in one hand and the other
hand raised with a clenched fist, is perceived as a symbolic source of
strength to fight the powerful castes, just like Mayawati’s statues in
Lucknow are seen as an attempt to stamp her authority and defiance. The
Ambedkar idol, at the entry point to the village, is positioned in a way
that no one misses it. But the background is dotted by thatched roofs,
dirt and squalor, signifying that the village has missed the fruits of
development during the past five years of Mayawati’s rule.

an overwhelming number of Jatavs feel the statues are the reason why many
have “ganged up” against Mayawati. “Brahmin, Thakur, Ahir (Yadavs)
sab bolte hai, Mayawati murtee bana rahi hai... rani ban gayi hai. Zamin
pe utarna padega (Brahmins, Thakurs, Yadavs tell us that Mayawati is
building her statues... She has become a queen. She has to be brought
down),” said Babu Ram, a 70-year-old Jatav. Mayawati’s penchant for
spending crores on her statues runs at the core of the upper and middle
castes’ antipathy towards her, though many among them claim their
unhappiness with her stems from alleged corruption and poor governance.

Shukla is one of those who believe the chief minister’s statue spree has
gone too far. “Aapne kabhi dekha hai kisi zinda aadmi ka murtee bante?
(Have you ever seen statues of live persons being made?),” sneers the
Brahmin from Murainwa village in Kannauj district. Then he adds: “Apne
ko Dalit ki beti kahtee hai. Maharani Elizabeth ban rahi hai (Mayawati
calls herself a Dalit’s daughter but behaves like Queen Elizabeth).”

like Shukla, who had perched themselves on the elephant (Mayawati’s poll
symbol) in the 2007 election and heralded the success of her social
engineering marked by forging an axis of upper-castes and Dalits, appear
to have got off the pachyderm. In some places, Brahmins are looking to
back the BJP. In others, they appear ready to align with the strongest
candidate to defeat Mayawati’s BSP.

Unlike other heartland
states, Brahmins have a sizeable presence in Uttar Pradesh — 10-11 per
cent of the voters. The number is slightly above that of the Yadavs,
making Brahmins a key factor in the elections. Dalits, though, are not
prepared to believe Mayawati hasn’t done anything. They argue that she
has addressed the biggest issue the Mulayam Singh Yadav government had
failed to —criminalisation.

“In Mulayam raj, everybody,
Brahmins, Thakurs or Baniyas (traders) was fed up with criminalisation.
Behenji put all big criminals in jail and restored law and order,” said
Sunil Ram, 23. The student of a Kanpur college felt more than the
failures, it was caste hatred working against Mayawati.

denied such allegations of caste bias. “Goondagardi to khatam kar diya
lekin goondaraj aagaya…police ka goonda raj,” shot back Kamal Tiwari.
The resident of  Badagaon in Kanpur district cited instances of alleged
misuse of Dalit atrocities act and police high-handedness.Backwards other
than those from Mayawati’s caste are upset with alleged
“Jatavisation”. “Jatavo ne mere khet mein se apna raasta nikal liya
hai, lekin main kuch nahi kar sakta. police ke paas jaaonga to wo ulta
harijan act laga denge (Jatavs use my farmland as a road to their houses
but I cannot complain. If I go to the police they, will slap a case under
the Harijan Act against me),” said Sikandar Rathore of Murainwa
village  in Kannauj district. The Jatavs are unfazed though, saying the
Dalits are coming out in large numbers to vote for Mayawati.

sources revealed that on average, they have enrolled some 20 thousand new
voters (mostly Dalits) in each Assembly segment, giving them the
confidence that the ruling BSP would return back to power, even if its is
with diminished numbers. In absolute terms, the high turnout has
translated into 50,000 new votes on average over the previous elections in
2007 in each Assembly seat, party leaders say.

The Jatavs are
unfazed though, saying the Dalits are coming out in large numbers to vote
for Mayawati. “Haathi marega nahi..lekin agar mara bhi to sawa lakh ka
(The elephant will not die. Even if it does, it will be in the
reckoning),”said a BSP leader, quoting a popular Hindi idiom to signify
the strength of an elephant.

Watch: Sonia
Gandhi attacks Mayawati

 -The Telegraph, Calcutta

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First Published: 20 Feb 2012 11:06 PM
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