Rashtriya Dalit Prerna Sthal, a monument dedicated to the Dalits, is located along the banks of river Yamuna. The landmark monument at the gateway of Noida was commissioned by Mayawati, the former Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh. It comprises of a mini-museum Rashtriya Dalit Smarak (“National Dalit Memorial”) and a sprawling Green Garden on 82.5 acres of land.
The Rashtriya Dalit Smarak, an expansive building built over 33 acres of land, houses the statues of Dalit Leaders, Dr B R Ambedkar, Kanshi Ram and Mayawati among others, who devoted their life for humanistic egalitarian social order. The memorial is constructed to honor the “unparalleled struggle of these stalwarts towards the struggle for social transformation”
The memorial consists of Column Plaza, Central Park Plaza and Ambedkar Plaza. Drawing heavily on Buddhist architecture the column Plaza have 300 feet high pillars crowned by four-headed carved elephants and replicas of Ashoka Chakra. Ambedkar Plaza have statues of 15 Dalit icons carved out of Mirzapur and Dhaulpur stones. The grand Central dome has life-size bronze statues of Dr Ambedkar, who was instrumental in drafting Indian Constitution, Mayawati, Former Chief Minster of Uttar Pradesh and Kanshi Ram, her mentor and founder of Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). The remaining structure has bronze plaques of Dalit leaders depicting their life and work in Dalit Movement.
The majestic 24 18ft high red sandstone elephants surround the monument. It had earlier sparked a controversy, elephant being the election symbol of Mayawati’s BSP. The elephants are estimated to have cost Rs 70 lakh each while the statues cost Rs 6 crore a piece. The construction of this monument had drawn a lot of criticism and controversy. Mayawati was accused of ‘self-glorification’ and branded as a ‘megalomaniac’ by her political rivals for wasting taxpayer’s money.
In line with the Supreme Court order fifty percent of the Memorial has green cover with 7,600 trees and 1.5 lakh shrubs planted. The construction of the monument was stopped by the court in October 2009 after ecological concerns were raised by residents and environmentalists as it is close to the Okhla Bird Sanctuary.
Rashtriya Dalit Prerna Sthal, built at a cost of Rs 685 Crore, was inaugurated by Mayawati on October 14, 2011.The same day in 1956 Dr BhimRao Ambedkar embraced Buddhism. Dr Ambedkar, who tried to turn the Wheel of the Law toward social justice for all, was the champion of Dalit cause. Dr Ambedkar emphasized on the concept of self-help or ‘Atta Deepo Bhava’, a Pali phrase meaning ‘Be a light unto yourself’. Dalits form 16.6 percent of total population of India as per 2011 Census.This landmark monument epitomizes the life and struggle of all Dalits toward their social, economic and political upliftment.
The grand inauguration ceremony was attended by over 40,000 people and 2,500 police personnel were stationed for the security. However, the memorial was soon closed to finish the remaining work. Akhilesh Yadav, Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, after Samajwadi Party (SP) government came to power in 2012, ordered a probe into alleged irregularities in the park’s construction and shut down the park indefinitely. The SP government announced the park would be used for wedding and cultural events as per the party’s election manifesto.
The SP government reopened the Rastriya Dalit Prerna Sthal, to the public on the occasion of Mahatma Gandhi’s 144th birth anniversary on October 02, 2013. The dream project of BSP supremo Mayawati, was stuck in limbo for almost two years after its grand inauguration. The Noida Authority officials organized a modest ceremony for the re-opening of the park. The BSP understandably boycotted the event while the SP Cabinet Minister Narender Bhati on the occasion distributed 250 cycles – the SP party symbol – to the “needy”, specifically Dalits.
A total of Rs 1.35 crore has been spent by the Noida Authority for setting up of facilities like public toilets, drinking water, finishing work and arrangement of chairs. The park is monitored from the control room located at the backside of the park with the help of surveillance by 52 CCTV cameras. 26 private security personnel guard the park in two shifts apart from 230 personnel deployed by UP Rajkiya Nirman Nigam, a company responsible for its upkeep and maintenance. The entire area is handicap-friendly definitely a step above the norm.
Entry to the monument is from the main entrance opposite the dome, at gate number 5. Four counters are placed, including an inquiry window, for the convenience of the visitors. Currently, visitors are allowed to park their vehicles free of cost outside the main entrance. A parking facility with a capacity of 300 vehicles is expected to be ready for use very soon.
From March 1 to October 30 – 11am to 6pm
From November 1 to February 4 – 11am to 5pm
Adults entry fee – Rs 10
Children up to 5 years are allowed free
The park remains closed on Mondays for maintenance.