London, August 28
Dr BR Ambedkar will be the first Indian to have an entire home dedicated to his memory in London after India sealed a £3.1-million deal to acquire a bungalow where the Dalit icon and architect of Indian Constitution lived as a student in the 1920s.
The Maharashtra government this week completed the formalities to acquire the 10 King Henry’s Road townhouse in north London where Ambedkar resided during his student days in 1921-22.
The three-storey home will now be transformed into a memorial after the state government gains possession within two-three weeks and carries out essential repair and renovation work. The memorial is expected to open to visitors by later this year or early next year.
“This property also has the distinction of being recognised as an English Heritage since 1991 and carries a blue plaque with the words ‘Dr Bhimjirao Ramji Ambedkar 1891-1956, Indian Crusader for social justice lived here’.
“This property, therefore, has historic significance for all his followers and admirers, not only in India but all over the world,” said Rajkumar Badole, Maharashtra’s Minister of Social Justice and Special Assistance.
“Our plan is that for the maintenance and use of this property as Dr Ambedkar Memorial, the Government of Maharashtra would work closely with the High Commission of India,” he said.
The details of the shape and form of the new memorial will now be finalised after consultations between the Maharashtra government and India’s Ministry of External Affairs.
Among some of the proposals under consideration for the memorial-cum-museum is a plan to use one of the floors as a transitory residence for Indian students who arrive in the UK to study.
The 2,050 square feet residential property in London went up for sale through an estate agent last year.
The Federation of Ambedkarites and Buddhist Organisation (FABO) UK wrote to the Indian government to urge them to purchase it as a historically important monument.
The decision for Maharashtra to purchase the property was cleared by the Indian government, with the state Cabinet giving its final nod to the proposal in February this year.
“Generations of Indians in the UK and visitors studying, interested or inspired by Dr Ambedkar’s key roles in furthering social justice, human rights and equal treatment issues will be able to visit... Additionally, its five bedrooms could be used as accommodation for Indian students from Dalit backgrounds while doing post-graduate studies in the UK,” said FABO UK president Santosh Dass.
Over and above the 3.1 million pound cost of the home, there will be an estimated 2,17,000 pound Stamp Duty (payable at 7 per cent on the purchase price), with essential legal and insurance costs and renovations taking the cost up to around 4 million pounds.
“There is a lot of work to do on the house before it can be opened to visitors.
“We look forward to working with GOM (Government of Maharashtra) and the High Commission in London in the months and years to come to ensure that this cultural and political heritage site is put to uses of which Dr Ambedkar would approve,” Dass added.
Ambedkar, who died in 1956 aged 65, was posthumously conferred with the Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian award, in 1990. — PTI
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