Dr B R Ambedkar’s memorial in London, which was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2015, has run into trouble with local authorities in the UK raising objections as it is located in residential premises. Union Social Justice Minister Ramdas Athawale held a meeting with High Commissioner of India to United Kingdom Ruchi Ghanashyam last week in London to discuss the issue.
Athawale said, “The local civic body has raised some objections as the Ambedkar memorial is in residential premises. The local civic body Queens Council should address the matter to ensure the memorial is not scrapped. The UK government should also overrule the objection against the memorial.”
However, he said, “The Centre will make all attempts to ensure that the Ambedkar memorial is not closed down.”
While confirming his meeting with India’s High Commissioner in London, Athawale said, “We discussed the problems. We believe the UK government should overrule the objections of the civic body. The concerns can be mutually resolved.”
He added, “After our discussion, the Indian High Commission has conveyed our concerns to the local authorities as well as the UK government.”
The union minister said, “The primary concern relates to turning the residential premise into a memorial, which is open to visitors across the globe. Second, there is no restriction on the number of footfall per day. Moreover, it also has become a hub for events related to Ambedkar’s life and works.”
The Ambedkar House is on a 2,050-sq ft property on King Henry’s Road in London. It is a three-storey structure. Ambedkar stayed there as a paying guest while pursuing his studies at the London School of Economics in 1921-22. A scholar, Ambedkar wrote his papers on economics during this period.
The private property, which was up for auction, was acquired by the Fadnavis government for Rs 40 crore. The central government helped the state in completing the process. The state government renovated the property, redesigning the six rooms it purchased.
Part of it was for displaying Ambedkar’s letters and writings and a couple of rooms were kept for Dalit students pursuing higher studies in the UK.
On November 14, 2015, Modi and Fadnavis inaugurated the memorial. The purpose was to display the intellectual writings and works of Ambedkar for people across the globe.
Senior Congress Dalit leader and energy minister Nitin Raut expressed serious concerns over the objection against the memorial.
Raut said, “The previous ruling government which pursued the project should have addressed all the rules and regulations with the UK authorities. Somewhere, if objections have been raised, it shows the failure of the BJP government.”
While asserting that the Ambedkar memorial could not be scrapped, Raut said, “I will raise the matter with the state government. We will take it to the logical end.”
Raut said the Federation of Buddhist Organisation (FABO), UK, had first written a letter to the Maharashtra government and the Centre, urging them to intervene as the property had been put up for auction early 2013-14 when the Congress-NCP was the ruling government both at the Centre and the state.
He, howeverm said it was “unfortunate” that the government (Cong-NCP) could not decide on the project then. In the 2014 elections, the BJP was voted to power at the Centre and the state.
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