Agra gears up for grand Dalit gathering

April 7th, 2008 - 6:13 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Bahujan Samaj Party

Agra, April 7 (IANS) Replicas of the parliament house and India Gate are being put up, artistes are busy rehearsing their acts and the district administration here is making hectic preparations for the annual Bheem Nagri celebration, considered the grandest of all Dalit gatherings. The Bheem Nagri festival has been held here annually for the past 20 years. Organised by the Bheem Nagri Ayojan Samiti that represents all political parties, the celebrations will climax with a Bheem Darbar.

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati will inaugurate the weeklong event April 15, a day after the birth anniversary of Dalit icon B.R. Ambedkar.

Netra Pal Singh, a functionary of the Bheem Nagri Ayojan Samiti, told IANS: “Since the chief minister will attend this year’s function, the state administration is spending about Rs.700 million on infrastructure development at Bheem Nagri here.”

A 100-foot replica of parliament house is being built as a stage for artistes who will be participating in the cultural performances during the Dalit gathering. Hundreds of workers are busy giving final touches to the stage that has been made rain proof, and bolted and jacketed from all sides to ensure its stability during a thunderstorm.

The chief minister will address the gathering and is expected to announce a development package for Agra from the majestic stage with a replica of the India Gate in the forefront.

Agra is widely recognised as the Dalit capital of north India, with roughly 30 percent of the population engaged in shoe manufacturing or trading.

The Bheem Nagri celebration, which began as an answer to the Ram Lila of the upper castes, not only demonstrates the collective strength of the underprivileged sections of society but is also a political platform.

While Congressmen with an eye on the next Lok Sabha polls have been trying hard to get Rahul Gandhi to start a dialogue with the Dalits in Agra and resolve the woes of small shoe manufacturers, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) is taking keen interest in the Bheem Nagri celebrations this year.

Local BSP leaders are leaving no stone unturned to ensure a large public gathering for the inaugural function. Sources said people from neighbouring districts would also be transported to Bheem Nagri.

Deputy Inspector General of Police Kamal Saksena said a special police station has been set up at Bheem Nagri as hundreds of thousands of people are expected to attend the event. He added that additional security forces were also being deployed.

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