India Prime Minister Narendra Modi to visit Primrose Hill tomorrow
PUBLISHED: 17:01 13 November 2015 | UPDATED: 17:01 13 November 2015
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The Prime Minister of India is expected to visit Primrose Hill tomorrow as part of his state visit to the UK.
Narendra Modi will officially inaugurate a museum set inside a newly transformed £3million townhouse in King Henry’s Road.
The property is the former residence of one of India’s most revered revolutionaries, Dr Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, and was bought by the Indian state of Maharashtra back in September.
It is to be developed into a “memorial” for Dr Ambedkar and house students visiting from India.
On the visit, Prime Minister Modi said last month: “I will formally inaugurate the house where Babasaheb Ambedkar lived, which recently became the Indian government’s property and a place of inspiration for 125 crore Indians. When Ambedkar’s name is associated, you can imagine how much happiness people like me have. This is the place where Ambedkar did his devotion.”
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 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, and a blue plaque currently adorns the facade of the home describing him as an “Indian crusader for social justice”.
The visit by Prime Minister Modi, who will be on his third day in the UK, has widely been reported in the Indian press as an “important gesture” to the hundreds of millions of Dalits who revere Dr Ambedkar.
Chief minister of Maharashtra, Devendra Fadnavis, who is also attending, said of tomorrow’s event: “The programme has been organised by the UK consulate with limited invitees.
“So there will not be any loud speakers or firecrackers. It will be a small function as the memorial is located in a residential area.”
The UK-based Federation of Ambedkarite and Buddhist Organisations (FABO) led the call to buy up Dr Ambedkar’s former home and transform it into a museum dedicated to his teachings.
Ms Santosh Dass, president of (FABO), told the Ham&High in June: “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.
“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.”
Modi’s visit to Primrose Hill will come after today’s lunch at Buckingham Palace with the Queen and a rally at Wembley Stadium.
While Prime Minister David Cameron yesterday celebrated the £9billion worth of deals expected to be signed between UK and Indian companies, the state visit has attracted controversy.
Mr Modi – who won the world’s biggest democratic mandate in elections last year – has come under fire from critics with a crowd of around a hundred protesters gathering outside Downing Street, chanting noisily and holding placards.
Messages on the banners included “Modi not welcome”, “Stop religious persecution”, and “Remove illegal blockade in Nepal”.
More than 200 writers, including Ian McEwan, Salman Rushdie and Val McDermid, have written an open letter to the Prime Minister urging him to raise concerns about freedom of expression in India during his talks with Mr Modi.