Maharashtra awaits Centre's nod to buy Ambedkar's London home

The Maharashtra government is awaiting the central government's nod to buy out a residential premise in London where B.R. Ambedkar lived while pursuing higher studies at the London School of Economics in 1921-22, state ministers said Thursday.

"We have already sent a letter to the ministry of external affairs in the matter and are waiting for their response," Minister for Social Justice Shivajirao Moghe told IANS.

The house situated on 10, King Henry Road, NW3 London, measures around 2,050 sq. feet and the present landlord recently advertised it for auction-sale at around four million pounds (approx.$6.5 million/Rs.40 crore).

However, Ambedkar's grandson, Prakash Ambedkar expressed his reservations at the state government's proposal to buy out the London property.

"Since we are his legal heirs, the government should first consult us in the matter," the Dalit leader and chief of Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh (BBM) told media persons.

The Maharashtra government decided to buy the house after it learned of the sale proposal and initiated the matter with the central government and the British Deputy High Commission in Mumbai as it involves buying out property in a foreign country.

"A rare and timely opportunity has arisen to purchase the former London residence of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar as the landlord has published an advertisement for the sale of the house. It is a historic place where Dr. B. R. Ambedkar lived in 1921-22," Water Conservation Minister Nitin Raut said in his letter to Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan Sep 3.

A prominent Dalit leader, Raut said that the Federation of Ambedkarites and Buddhist Organisation (FBO) in Britain and other prominent individuals also wrote to the Indian governmentand Maharashtra informing them about the upcoming auction of the property.

"Various Ambedkarite organizations, with whom I associated, also approached me and request for help to acquire the property with the intervention of the Indian authorities," Raut told IANS.

Chavan, Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar and other state leaders also endorsed the idea since Maharashtra is considered the "karmabhoomi" of Ambedkar.

Ambedkar, who went on to become independent India's first law minister, was born in Mhow region, now in Madhya Pradesh, though his family hailed from Mandangad in Ratnagiri district of Maharashtra.

Raut said it was not a question of owning the property, but a symbolic gesture to salvage the historic house and retain its significance for future generations and strengthening India-Britain ties.

He pointed out that finances would not be a constraint as it would require spending only around Rs.40 crore for a noble cause.

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