Posters allegedly put up by a Hindu outfit depicting B R Ambedkar in saffron robes and forehead smeared with sacred ash in Tamil Nadu's Kumbakonam on his death anniversary on Tuesday stoked a controversy and instantaneous protest from the Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi members.
Amidst the row, Indu Makkal Katchi founder Arjun Sampath, garlanded Ambedkar's statue at his memorial hall in Raja Annamalaipuram, in Chennai, on Tuesday evening with heavy police protection after his outfit gave an assurance to the Madras high court not to raise any slogans/speech against anyone and that the IMK members would not wear “Kavi (saffron) dhoti” or apply sandal paste or vermilion or sacred ash to Ambedkar statue.
In Chennai, Tamil Nadu Governor R N Ravi unveiled Ambedkar's statue and hailed the Indian jurist, economist and political leader, as "an ardent nationalist and social reformer who laid down the foundations of modern India."
As the posters suddenly sprang up in Kumbakonam, the VCK members staged an agitation demanding stringent action on the Indu Makkal Katchi for their affront on Ambedkar.
The IMK members, too, took to the streets claiming Ambedkar was "common" to all Indians.
The police rushed to the spot and removed the controversial posters in a bid to avoid further escalation of the open disagreement between the two groups.
IMK founder Arjun Sampath contended that there was nothing wrong in the posters portraying Ambedkar as a Hindu.
With a saffron coloured shirt, Ambedkar is seen adorned with a shawl in the poster.
"Ambedkar is a national leader and not confined to specific boundaries in a region. Whenever, the Hindu organisations observe his birth or death anniversaries on April 14 or December 6, certain organisations criticise the Sanathana dharma," Sampath said when asked about the controversial posters.
"Let's tear the mask of those who indulge in caste politics in the name of Ambedkar," Sampath later tweeted.
Meanwhile, VCK chief Thol Thirumavalavan demanded the state government to take stringent action on those who put up the controversial posters and insulted Ambedkar.
Granting conditional permission to the IMK founder and four others, alone, to garland the statue of Ambedkar at Raja Annamalaipuram, Justice G Chandrasekharan on Tuesday observed "considering the fact that Dr Ambedkar is not only a tall leader but also a leader to each and every Indian, this Court is of the considered view that every one should be given an opportunity to pay respect to him, but at the same time should show dignity, respect and observe public peace."
The court granted conditional permission to Arjun Sampth, and four other office bearers: Senthil Kumar, Anand, Shakthivel, and Kannan, to garland the statue while hearing a petition seeking permission and adequate police protection to garland the statue.
At a function held at the Raj Bhavan here, the Governor, accompanied by his wife Laxmi Ravi, unveiled the statue of Ambedkar and paid floral tributes.
Speaking on the occasion, Ravi hailed Ambedkar as the architect of Indian Constitution and revolutionary leader. "He was an ardent nationalist and social reformer who laid down the foundations of modern India," the Governor said.
"Ambedkar had tirelessly worked for egalitarian society, free from caste and gender discrimination. It was his bold leadership that Hindu Code Bill was introduced," the Governor said paying rich tributes.
Ambedkar took complex and daunting task of drafting the constitution, a book that reflects the soul of Bharat and addresses aspirations of diverse India, he said and recollected Ambedkar's visionary thoughts focusing the future well being and interests of a strong and united India.
Ravi elaborated how the daring and dynamic leadership of this intellectual giant kept the nation united against the divisive forces during Independence struggle and also post-independence.
"Dr Ambedkar was against ambivalent stand for Jammu & Kashmir so was on going to United Nation for the same. Had those advices been taken, things would have been peaceful and progressive today. He chose Buddhism, an Indic faith which exhibits his spiritual orientation and belief," the Governor said.
The Governor urged the students and youth to undertake study, research and explore on his thoughts, deeds and philosophy deeper.
Ravi felicitated the sculptor of the statue, Kishore J Nagappa and the sponsors of the statue, Mamannar Ondi Veeran Desiya Trust, on the occasion.
Union Minister of State for Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying L Murugan, Tamil Nadu Adi Dravidar Welfare Minister N Kayalvizhi Selvaraj, Tamil Nadu Chief Secretary V Irai Anbu, and Principal Secretary to Governor Anandrao V Patil, were among those who participated.
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M K Stalin, BJP State president K Annamalai, were among others who paid floral tributes to Ambedkar.