London: A high-level team from the Maharashtra government has finalised the purchase of a home, costing around four million pounds, where Dr B R Ambedkar lived during his student days in London. The architect of India's Constitution and dalit rights activist had spent around a year at the three-storey town house on King Henry¿s Road in north London in 1921-22 when he was studying at London School of Economics (LSE).
"This is a historical moment for us because it is not just a house but has the emotions of all Indians attached to it. This has been a very fruitful visit and we expect the formalities regarding the purchase to be completed by the end of May," said Rajkumar Badole, Maharashtra's minister of social justice and special assistance. The minister, who is leading a three-member delegation from his ministry including state minister Dilip Kamble and principal secretary Ujjwal Uke, also initiated talks on establishing a Dr Ambedkar Chair at LSE which would be linked with two new scholarships for Indian students.
"An informal proposal to set up a chair in memory of Babsaheb Ambedkar has also been discussed with LSE, in return for which the university could offer to cover tuition fees for two Indian students looking to study there," said Badole. The Indian High Commission in London is now facilitating both initiatives following detailed discussions between the delegation and India¿s deputy high commissioner to the UK, Dr Virander Paul.
The estimated cost of the London property, to be borne by the Maharashtra government, is expected to be between 3.2 million to 4 million pounds. The building, which already has a memorial blue plaque dedicated to "Dr Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, Indian Crusader for Social Justice", will require some essential repair work after which the Maharashtra government plans to open it to the public as a memorial-cum-museum.
Among some of the other proposals under consideration are to use one of the floors as a transitory residence for Indian students who arrive in the UK to study. "During our meetings with Ambedkarites and other community leaders in London it has been heart-warming to see the support for this project. This will be an important memorial that will take concrete shape over time," Badole said.
The 2,050 square foot 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 home was cleared by the Narendra Modi led government, with the state Cabinet giving its final nod to the proposal in February this year.
The purchase process, which will now lead to an independent survey of the property before it can be finalised, coincides with the 124th birth anniversary of Ambedkar on April 14.