President Ram Nath Kovind, Other Leaders Pay Rich Tributes To Dalit Icon BR Ambedkar

President Ram Nath Kovind became the first President to visit BR Ambedkar's birthplace in Madhya Pradesh's Mhow to pay homage on the occasion.

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President Ram Nath Kovind, Other Leaders Pay Rich Tributes To Dalit Icon BR Ambedkar

President Kovind speaks during BR Ambedkar's birth anniversary celebrations at Mhow, Madhya Pradesh (PTI)

New Delhi:  Protests and tensions in parts of Punjab and Uttar Pradesh, and a political slugfest marked the Ambedkar Jayanti today, a day top leaders, including President Ram Nath Kovind, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress chief Rahul Gandhi paid tributes to the Dalit icon on his 127th birth anniversary. President Kovind became the first President to visit BR Ambedkar's birthplace in Madhya Pradesh's Mhow to pay homage on the occasion. President Kovind urged people to follow the path of peace, harmony and brotherhood shown by Ambedkar.

His statement assumes significance in the backdrop of the April 2 nationwide Dalit bandh, which saw large-scale violence in several states, including Madhya Pradesh where more than half a dozen people lost their lives.

"The society needs 'samrasta' (harmony) today and not 'samar' (conflict or war)...It needs non-violence and peace," he said at a function in Mhow, where the Madhya Pradesh government has built a large memorial dedicated to Ambedkar.

President Kovind said, "The country saw 13 presidents before me. I came to know I am the first president to visit Ambedkar's birthplace on the occasion of his birth anniversary."

PM Modi, who was in Jangala in Chhattisgarh on a day's visit, said Ambedkar has given a Constitution that protects the rights of weaker sections of the society and appealed to people not to join Naxals to achieve their goals.

The Prime Minister said awakening among the poor and backward sections about their rights, hopes and aspirations was due to Ambedkar, and attributed his own success to the legendary social reformer.

PM Modi said, "A son of a poor mother, belonging to a very backward community, this partner of yours is if today the Prime Minister, that is too due to Babasaheb Ambedkar."

In a tweet, Rahul Gandhi said, "Paying rich tribute to Baba Saheb Ambedkar on his birth anniversary. His thoughts and struggle will keep inspiring us in our struggle to bring equality, human dignity and social justice in the society".

Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi said the BJP can inaugurate as many memorials as they like, "but the fact is that they are reducing sub-plans, financial allocations".

"You are robbing them of their scholarships, you are participating in conspiracies to dilute their reservations and then you are shedding crocodile tears in the name of Dalits," he said.

The DMK Working President MK Stalin alleged that the BJP-led Centre was hampering Ambedkar's ideals behind the making of the Constitution.

Coinciding with the birth anniversary of the country's first law minister, the Prime Minister launched a healthcare and wellness centre under the "Ayushman Bharat- National Health Protection Mission".

He also launched the Gram Swaraj scheme to empower weaker sections, tribals, women and backward people, besides the Van Dhan scheme to ensure better marketing and value addition to minor forest produce to benefit forest dwellers.

Meanwhile in Phagwara (Punjab), members of two Hindu groups and a Dalit outfit clashed, injuring four persons, with Chief Minister Amarinder Singh today appealing for peace and ordering suspension of mobile Internet and text services in four districts.

The groups clashed last night, on the eve of Ambedkar's birth anniversary, over the installation of a board and renaming of a "chowk" (intersection) in Phagwara, the police said.

The chief minister has ordered suspension of mobile Internet services in Kapurthala, Jalandhar, Hoshiarpur and SBS Nagar districts to check rumour-mongering on social media, according to an official release.

In Greater Noida in Uttar Pradesh, a statue of Ambedkar was found damaged on Friday. The incident in Richhpal Garhi village of Bisrakh came to light when the villagers spotted the damaged statue. A large police contingent was deployed in view of the tense situation.

SP (rural) Suniti Singh said a case was registered against unidentified persons for vandalism and that the guilty would not be spared.

A large number of people from nearby villages had gathered after the news spread. Police, however, controlled the situation. Security has been beefed up across the state.

Amarinder Singh said that the damaged statue was being replaced with a new one.

A group of Sikhs also protested outside the United Nations headquarters in New York against alleged atrocities perpetrated against minority communities in India.

In Vadodara in Gujarat, members of a Dalit group "cleansed" Ambedkar's statue soon after Union minister Maneka Gandhi and some BJP leaders paid floral tributes, a community leader said, claiming that their presence had "polluted" the atmosphere.

Dalit leaders also took strong objection to the painting of the upper part of an under construction Ambedkar memorial in Gorakhpur (UP) in saffron colour.

After the new found bonhomie with its arch rival BSP, Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav unveiled a statue of Ambedkar at its Lucknow office.

Among other leaders, Uttar Pradesh Governor Ram Naik and chief ministers of Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Telangana, Devendra Fadnavis, Raghubar Das, Yogi Adityanath, K Palanisami and K Chadrasekhar Rao respectively, also paid homage to Ambedkar.

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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