Even as the state government seemed to have backtracked on erecting a giant statue of warrior king Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj in the Arabian Sea, another ambitious project is gathering dust.
There was a plan to set up a ‘statue of equality’ of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar in the sea. It had been floated during Ambedkar’s birth centenary celebrations which began in 1990.
This soft peddling has led critics to say that such announcements are an attempt to use national icons for vote bank politics. Hari Narke, head and professor, Mahatma Phule Chair at the University of Pune, said a committee under the then chief minister Sharad Pawar as the president and former minister Dadasaheb Rupwate as working president had been set up for the celebrations.
Narke, also an activist, said the committee had sought models for the statue, but the plan was put on the backburner in wake of the political upheavals and the 1992-93 riots. “Since then, the idea has been in cold storage,” he added.
A social activist alleged that such announcements were an attempt to use national icons for narrow political ends and added that the non-completion of these projects indicated a “lack of political will”.
He said that the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj statue idea was born after the attack on the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute in Pune by the Sambhaji Brigade in 2004 to protest the writings of American author James Laine which denigrated the warrior king and his mother Rajmata Jijabai.
Ambedkar’s grandson and Republican Sena chief Anandraj Ambedkar said if there were stumbling blocks in erecting the statue in the sea, a compromise can be made by setting up an international memorial for him at the Indu Mills land at Dadar.