The Land of Maya

By Furquan A Siddiqui

The skyline of the erstwhile City of Nawabs is changing irrevocably. The heritage of a Nawabi and colonial architecture is giving way to a new face to the built landscape of Lucknow City.

CM Mayawati’s obsession to bring Dalit icons to limelight from oblivion is attracting many eyeballs. Her large parks with statues, elephants, fountains, and red sandstone structures reminiscent of feudal Rajasthan dot the landscape of the city. The Imambara and Residency are a passé, now when a tourist comes to Lucknow the first thing he wants to see is Behenji’s architectural marvels.

The Baba Saheb Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar Samajik Parivartan Sthal in Gomtinagar was conceived during Mayawati’s first stint as a Chief Minister [2003]. The initial 28 acres allotted for the same did not seem enough; and was increased to 100 acres demolishing the adjacent Dr. Ambedkar Stadium and Indira Gandhi Pratisthan. Although after the installation of 60 life sized elephants (BSP’s party symbol) in the park, construction was stalled on a Supreme Court order.

Besides the Sthal, other projects following a similar tune are being constructed in various parts of the city.   As homage to her mentor Kanshi Ram, the CM has erected statues of him in various places. A Manyawar Kanshi Ram Smarak Sthal is being built on 42 acres of land on Jail Road in Alambagh.  This snatched out plot of land was used for farming by inmates.

A little ahead is the Baudhha Vihar Shanti Upavan on VIP road. This park boasts of three four-headed statues of Mayawati, Kanshi Ram and Gautam Buddha. The Upavan has an air-conditioned guest house and a library dedicated to the Buddhist monks and research scholars.

It is interesting to note that in each of the statues CM Mayawati is holding a purse, while Kanshi Ram has a handkerchief in his hand. It seems that there is personal attention to detail by the Chief Minister. A story doing the rounds is that she had the level of her statues raised to the same height as those of her mentor Kanshi Ram.

Mayawati reminds us of a feudal Maharaja trying to register her name in the pages of contemporary history. The missing Dalit iconography from the mainstream is indeed something that we need to address, but will architectural landscaping achieve that? The estimated cost of these constructions is 1200 crores – the question now is what does the Chief Minister prioritize?

In addition to various memorials, there is a Kanshi Ram Bahujan Nayak Park and Manyavar Kanshi Ram Yaadgaar Vishram Sthal spread across acres of prime land in Lucknow’s up- market Mall Avenue.

But the star attraction still remains the Ambedkar  Park and the statues of Dalit reformers on nearby Samta Mulak Chowk in posh Gomti Nagar area . Standing tall in the Chowk, Jyoti Rao Phule, Chattarpati Shahuji Maharaj and  Narayan Guru overlook these rapid transformations. Perhaps, they are lamenting the condition of denizens of Lucknow, while the CM builds her Mayapuri.


~ by furquansid on September 23, 2010.

4 Responses to “The Land of Maya”

  1. factually incorrect information. Indira Gandhi Prathisthan was never demolished in Lucknow to build ambedkar sthal. The proposal was to build Indira Gandhi Prathisthan at the same location.
    Indira Gandhi Prathisthan is ready in Vibuthi Khand of Gomtinagar and people use it for conference and other events

  2. Dear msg
    I’m afraid that the facts are correct. The construction of Indira Gandhi Prathisthan was going on when the foundation stone, the boundary wall and the office of the construction agency was bulldozed in the night in September 2002. Although it was later shifted to Vibhuti Khand but the initial land allotted was snatched and the foundation stone was knocked down. If you can remember, there was a protest march staged by the congress and the former governor, Motilal Vohra was arrested.

  3. I think we have some problem. Your statement in article suggest “Indira Gandhi Prathisthan” was demolished. I or any person will only conclude that fully constructed building was demolished.
    You response suggest that only “foundation stone and boundary wall was demolished”.
    Why cant you see difference in two statement and accept that what you have written in aritcle is factually incorrect and article brings out your biasis against particular party / community.

    Location of many projects across India keeps on changing depanding on need and time and here nothing is to be snatched as new land was allocated and Indira Gandhi Prathisthan is complete.

    Indira Gandhi Prathisthan is used by only few ellite people but Ambedkar Sthal is visited by millions from disadvatage class. Tell me who should get proirity?

  4. bilkul bakwas

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