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India reveals plan to turn Primrose Hill home into ‘shrine’ for social crusader

PUBLISHED: 12:15 19 June 2015

BR Ambedkar in 1950

BR Ambedkar in 1950

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A £3million townhouse in a quiet residential street could soon become a global “shrine” for one of India’s most revered revolutionaries, after plans emerged to transform it into an public museum and library.

The house where Dr Ambedkar lived could be turned into a museum. Picture: Polly HancockThe house where Dr Ambedkar lived could be turned into a museum. Picture: Polly Hancock

A state in India intends to splash out millions of pounds on buying and renovating the six-bedroom property in Primrose Hill, to help “spread the teachings” of its former occupant Dr Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar.

Initial proposals would see rooms turned into a public museum and library, with other rooms used to house Indian students.

Dr Ambedkar, who died in 1956, lived in the terrace house at number 10 King Henry’s Road while a student at the London School of Economics in 1921 and 1922.

A blue plaque currently adorns the facade of the home, describing him as an “Indian crusader for social justice”.

The plaque outside the house dedicated to Dr Ambedkar. Picture: Polly HancockThe plaque outside the house dedicated to Dr Ambedkar. Picture: Polly Hancock

A key reformer, he went from his time in Primrose Hill to become India’s first law minister and architect of the Indian constitution.

He is described by his supporters as the “Martin Luther King of India” for the pivotal role he played in rallying against the caste system there.

And, to this day, he remains revered almost as a god among the 200million Indian Dalits – also known as the “untouchables” due to their low status in the caste hierarchy – with his portrait hanging in many of their homes.

Now the government of Maharashtra, a west Indian state where Dr Ambedkar was born, has agreed to calls from the UK-based Federation of Ambedkarite and Buddhist Organisations (FABO) to buy up his former home and transform it into a museum dedicated to his teachings.

Ms Santosh Dass, president of (FABO) , said: “This is a very important place for our movement.

“His time [in Primrose Hill] was formative. He came from an Indian community where he faced significant discrimination, because he was a Dalit, and arrived here in a comparatively wonderful and free environment. His time at the house helped shape the man.

“What he did for India is similar to what Martin Luther King did for the US. But that fight needs to continue and this would be money very well spent [towards that end].

“His teachings still have significant relevance today – there is still a caste system in India and here as well. There are Dalits in the UK who are discriminated against because of their status as an ‘untouchables’. That’s what Dr Ambedkar dedicated his life to fighting.”

Rajkumar Badole, Maharashtra’s minister of social justice, said in London earlier this year: “This is a historical moment for us because it is not just a house but has the emotions of all Indians attached to it.”

Despite reports in India of the house’s sale, negotiations are ongoing. Ms Dass says she is “hopeful” they will be succesful.

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