Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday said that India has a prime minister today only because of the contributions of social reformer Bhim Rao Ambedkar. The prime minister was speaking on the occasion of Ambedkar Jayanti after launching the first Ayushmaan Bharat wellness centre in Chhattisgarh’s Bastar.

“April 14 is an important day for 125 crore Indians,” Modi said according to Firstpost. “Ambedkar was highly-educated. If he wanted, he could have lived a comfortable life. But he didn’t do so. He studied abroad, but he came back to India and gave his life to serve the poor.” April 14 marks the 127th birth anniversary of social reformer Bhim Rao Ambedkar.

Several other government leaders such as President Ram Nath Kovind, Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar and Uttar Pradesh’s Adityanath also paid their respects.

Mayawati, Congress attack Modi

Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati, however, claimed that the schemes the Modi government had started in the name of Ambedkar were of no use as atrocities against Dalits were at an “all-time high” under his rule, News18 reported. She claimed that the Supreme Court order diluting the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Prevention of Atrocities Act was the result of the Centre’s lack of “active participation” in the matter.

Congress leader Selja claimed that Modi was merely doing “lip service” over Ambedkar, as the Bharatiya Janata Party and its ideological mentor, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, have an “anti-Dalit mindset”, PTI reported. “The BJP and the RSS have an anti-Dalit mindset as they have talked of ending reservation, and amendment to the Constitution which was framed by Ambedkar,” she said.

Selja also accused the BJP of “eroding the legacy of Ambedkar”.

Members of Sikh community protest at the UN

Meanwhile, members of the Sikh community protested at the United Nations headquarters on Saturday, against atrocities on minorities in India, PTI reported. The incident took place at an event organised by India’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations on Friday to commemorate Ambedkar’s 127th birth anniversary.

As India’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations Syed Akbaruddin began to speak, around 15 Sikhs stood up in the conference room and held up posters that read “Minorities Under Threat” and “Never Forget 84”.

The Sikh members, who had tied black bands around their turbans, left the conference room after Akbaruddin ended his speech. Subsequently, UN police and security personnel questioned the protestors and examined their posters, PTI reported.

The demonstrators belonged to the Shiromani Akali Dal Amritsar USA and the Youth Akali Dal Amritsar USA groups. Sabjeet Singh, one of the protesters, told the officials that they had organised a “peaceful protest”, and that the BJP government in India wanted to build a Hindu nation, and was committing atrocities against Sikhs, Muslims, Christians and Dalits.

On Friday, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres’ spokesperson Stephane Dujjaric had described the rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl in Jammu and Kashmir’s Kathua, which has led to protests across the country, as “horrific”, and said that the perpetrators must be brought to justice.