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Mayawati Kumari

Kumari Mayawati: 'Untouchable' champion of India's poor

Mayawati Kumari 52%

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Ms Mayawati's garland of 1,000 rupee notes is being investigated by the taxman


The first woman Dalit (formerly "untouchable") chief minister of an Indian state, Kumari Mayawati, is celebrated by those at the bottom of the Hindu caste system as their champion, but also criticised for amassing vast personal wealth. Standing in the afternoon heat close to the banks of the Gomti River, looking down from a flyover on a vast monumental park, you would be forgiven for wondering whether the sun is playing tricks on you.

Is it a mirage?

A row of 60 giant elephants, carved from sandstone, stand guard along a broad processional walkway.

There are domes and colonnades, granite pillars with brass elephant heads, a vast lotus-shaped memorial surrounded by shimmering marble and there are statues. Everywhere there are statues.

My first thought is to misquote the poet Shelley.

My name is Mayawati, Queen of Queens: Look on my work, ye mighty, and despair!

Because this is the piece de resistance of Ms Mayawati, the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh state.

On a scale that puts the Taj Mahal to shame, the Bhim Rao Ambedkar Monument celebrates the life of the man who wrote the Indian constitution and championed the cause of the downtrodden.

He is a hero in particular to India's Dalits, or "the oppressed", the community from which Ms Mayawati has risen.

Dalits used to be known as "untouchables".

Below the bottom rung of the Hindu caste system, they were considered to be ritually polluted from birth.

Officially, untouchability was outlawed by Ambedkar's constitution 60 years ago.

And in urban areas, and among those who have anaged to grab the lifeline of education, its shadow has been diminished.




Sunday, 18 April 2010

By Chris Morris

Read more: BBC News


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