Mumbai Dalit entrepreneur to realise Ambedkar's dream at UN

Father of the Indian constitution’s 125th birth anniversary to be commemorated in New York through his words

In 1945, Dalit icon and architect of the Indian constitution Dr B R Ambedkar, wanted to hold a conference at the United Nations (UN). That wish never fructified. Now, 60 years after his death, that dream is coming true. Delegates from 50 countries, including India, are to gather at the UN headquarters in New York on April 14, 2016, Ambedkar’s 125th birth anniversary, to discuss Ambedkar’s ideas, speeches and thoughts, which have been penned down and compiled in a book called, ‘The Ambedkar Volume’.

PM Narendra Modi at an Ambedkar memorial in London last year
PM Narendra Modi at an Ambedkar memorial in London last year

This event is organized by Mumbai’s Kalpana Saroj Foundation, named after Dalit founder and entrepreneur, Kalpana Saroj. “In 1945-46, when the League of Nations was preparing for the formal establishment of the UN, there were many marginalised groups, minorities in the US and across the world who were trying to submit memorandums, one of them was Ambedkar. Ambedkar memorandum, is also part of the Ambedkar volume. Excerpts of this will be read out at the day long event,” said Kalpana.

Kalpana Saroj to share Ambedkar’s thoughts with the world
Kalpana Saroj to share Ambedkar’s thoughts with the world

M K Gore, general secretary of the Foundation said, “Ambedkar’s writings are important in the US too, where atrocities on African-Americans resonate strongly with caste struggles here.” The Foundation has made a request for placing an Ambedkar bust in the UN.

“Presently there is no bust of any Indian leader in the UN. While the process of installing a bust is long drawn, the UN has asked us to ship a bust, which is currently being made, after which they will initiate the process of placing it at the headquarters,” said Kalpana. City sculptor Chandrajit Yadav is making the bust. He says, “Ambedkar was a saviour of the oppressed. It is a matter of pride to be sculpting his bust, that too for the UN.” Yadav has a studio at Kandivali and is making a 3.5 feet tall bonze bust, the clay mould is complete. “It will be ready by next week,” he said.

While B R Ambedkar’s struggles are part of history, Kalpana’s story is stirring too. Born in a Dalit family, married at 12, she lived in a Mumbai slum with her husband’s family. She retuned to her home in Vidarbha after an abusive marriage, only to be ostracised. After a failed suicide attempt, she ran away from home to Mumbai to work in a garment factory. She rose to become the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of a copper alloy manufacturer, Kamani Tubes and established the Kalpana Saroj Foundation to help Dalits in need of education and setting up business.

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