The Maharashtra government on Friday named two prominent experts to oppose attempts to shut down the Ambedkar House, a memorial dedicated to Babasaheb Ambedkar, in London, a top official said here. The Ambedkar House, at 10 King Henry's Road in north London, was where Ambedkar lived during his student days at the London School of Economics in 1921-22, before returning to India, getting involved with the freedom movement and becoming the architect of Indian Constitution besides championing the cause of the downtrodden and Dalits.
However, recently, the local authority, the Camden Council, has initiated move to close down the four-storied memorial situated in residential premises, but the action was challenged by the Indian government. An Independent Planning Inquiry is scheduled to rule on the matter next month. In order to strengthen the case in favour of the memorial, Maharashtra on Friday said it has appointed legal expert Steven Gasztowicz and city planning expert Charles Rose to argue the matter on its behalf before the Inquiry, scheduled on September 24. The state has also engaged the services of a reputed firm of solicitors, Singhania & Company, to represent it.
"These two experts will be part of the committee which, through the Indian High Commission, will present our side of the case at the next month's hearing. The state government has treated the matter very seriously and will make all efforts to satisfy the concerns raised by the local council," an aide to the Chief Minister told IANS. He added that when the state government had bought over the property, through the Indian High Commission, it was in a very dilapidated state and it was repaired from safety viewpoint with the work on converting it into a memorial still underway. The Maharashtra government had purchased the property for 3.1 million pounds, when it was put for sale by its original owners in 2015, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi had inaugurated it during his UK trip in November that year.
The property had earlier been accorded recognition as an English Heritage site since 1991, and sports a blue plaque with the legend "Dr. Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar 1891-1956, Indian Crusader for social justice, lived here 1921-1922." The local council has, however, raised objections to the moves to convert the property into a museum-cum-memorial on various grounds, including the disruption it causes to the quiet atmosphere of the residential neighbourhood, and wants it to be returned to its original status. For India and specifically, Maharashtra, the property has sentimental value and special historic significance as it was here that the young Ambedkar spent a crucial period of his formative years and academic career, and so wants it to be preserved for posterity. Presently, it has already become a popular 'must-visit' site on the itinerary of Indian tourists to the UK, to click pictures, admire the place, remember and pay tributes to Ambedkar.