New Delhi: In a little park in South Delhi, the statue of Dr Ambedkar looks benevolently over the tired.
Ambedkar Nagar is where most of Delhi's Dalits live. For those who live in this area named after India's most famous ‘untouchable’, there is no doubt that he stands on a pedestal. In fact, for many, Dr B R Amedkar has acquired a status that rivals the father of the nation, or perhaps even bigger.
“He is just like Gandhiji,” said an Amedkar Nagar resident.
The Father of Dalits is currently topping the popularity charts across India.
While he may not be as chic as the Mahatma to be worn on a mug or a key chain, he's still definitely in, as role model for the common man who is, today, fighting for assertion and an identity.
It is, perhaps, because of this that every time a statue of Ambedkar is vandalized, emotions run high, why lakhs of people turn up for his death anniversary, why more and more statues of him are being erected and more are commissioned to dot roads and highways.
“There is huge demand for statues of Amedkar,” says idol-maker Rajkaran Viskarma. “No one asks me to make statues of Gandhiji.”
Today Dr Ambedkar gets as many hits on Google as Gandhi. The spread of English education among the backward may has made him an even bigger icon. Kanshiram and Mayawati have also contributed to his deification.
YouTube has hundreds of videos dedicated to Ambedkar, as does Gandhi. He shares screen space with the Mahatma for India's tourism campaigns and has an enviable following in online communities. Books on him, which would earlier gather dust, are now being printed in other languages to make him more accessible. India has found a new hero.
“Ambedkar may not be an international figure like Gandhi – not as yet – but I think he has the potential to get there soon,” said writer and social thinker, Purushottam Aggarwal.
Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar's call for social justice has a lot more takers today and many would say that his idea of a society based on liberty, equality and fraternity is relevant now than ever before.
The Mahatma may be the Father of the Nation, but Babasaheb is possibly the architect of a new India.
With inputs from Abhishek Patni