Gray’s Inn & FABO UK mark the Centenary of Dr Ambedkar’s call to the Bar

– Arun Kumar

(Asian Independent)- Dr Bhimrao R. Ambedkar spent two periods of his higher education in London. One was from October 1916 to October 1917 and the second from July 1920 to 1923. In 1916 he enrolled for his legal studies at the Gray’s Inn and at the same time as he enrolled at the London School of Economics for his PhD thesis. But his education was interrupted as his scholarship ended and he had to go back to India. After saving enough money, and also borrowing from a friend, he returned to London in July 1920 to complete his studies. After passing his examinations, Dr Ambedkar petitioned Gray’s Inn to be called to the Bar on 15 June. Gray’s Inn record of that period shows that “June 21, 1922, upon the Petition of Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar to be called to the Bar, it is moved by Master Keogh and seconded by Master Wilson that he be called to the Bar”

On 28th June 1922, it is recorded that, “It is ordered that .. Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar [amongst others]…be called to the Bar and they are hereby published Barristers accordingly”.

28 June 1922 is a very important day in Dr Ambedkar’s life. It marks 100 years of his being called to the bar. His legal training at the Gray’s Inn played a significant role in his later life. To mark the centenary of this historic day, The Hon. Society of Gray’s Inn and the Federation of Ambedkarite & Buddhist Organisations, UK (FABO UK) organised an event at Gray’s Inn on 28 June, 2022 to mark this significant milestone.

The event started with a Buddhist prayer by Ven. Bhante Vijithvansa Thero.

Sam Hutchinson, Chief of the Staff

In his welcoming address, Sam Hutchinson, Chief of the Staff, the Hon. Society of Gray’s Inn said that last year FABO UK had gifted a portrait of Dr  Ambedkar to Gray’s Inn that is displayed at the Ambedkar Room at the Inn. Post that event many people, including Buddhists and Ambedkarites, have shown a great interest and personally visited Gray’s Inn to see both the Ambedkar portrait and Ambedkar Room. Even he was interviewed by one of the Indian TV channels.

     C. Gautam

C Gautam, Joint Secretary of FABO UK conveyed an apology from Ms Santosh Dass MBE, President of the FABO UK for not being able to attend the event due to the health care needs of a very close family member. Santosh sent her best wishes and gratitude to Tony Harking and Sam Hutchinson for their continued support in arranging this, and similar programs at Gray’s Inn. Santosh initiated this project.

Addressing   Ambedkar’s Birth Centenary event at Gray’s Inn in 1991, C. Gautam informed that Lord Goff of Chieveley described Dr Ambedkar as ‘The Moses of India’. He also recalled the planting of Indian Bean Tree on 9 February 1997 in The Walks at Gray’s Inn in memory of Dr B.R. Ambedkar that was attended by eminent persons including The Lord Justice Chief Justice of England, Lord Bingham. He also attended Ambedkar birth Centenary function organised by FABO at India House, Indian High Commission. He was very appreciative of Dr Ambedkar’s work and paid rich tribute to him. Gautam said that we are marking centenary of Dr Ambedkar’s being called to Bar in the room dedicated to Lord Bingham.

Justice B.N. Srikrishna

Justice B.N. Srikrishna, retired judge, Supreme Court of India in his speech observed that though Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar faced unimaginable atrocities and discrimination, he chose to bring the massive social change by evolution and not by revolution. He was such a great humanitarian that he tried to ensure that no suffering could be inflicted on any person by another person. He secured women’s rights, workers’ rights and worked in support of trade unions. Through Article 19, he ensured no discrimination takes place. Justice Srikrishna concluded by saying that we need to re-tread and reinvent Dr Ambedkar’s path.

Dr Arvind Kumar

Dr Arvind Kumar, Department of Politics, Royal Holloway university of London described how he hails from a rural part of India and still how his family has become trailblazers against oppressive traditions in their village. Dr Ambedkar brought such a transformation in the lives of all the helpless individuals by giving them a voice.

Advocate Asang Wankhede

Advocate Asang Wankhede, University of Oxford said, “There are very few revolutionaries whose efforts lead to a non-violent, bloodless systematic change, which is nonetheless radically transformative and one which is perennial. Very few go on to live a life of polymath, an impeccable jurist, political and legal philosopher, a social revolutionary and a religious revolutionary”.  Referring to the constitutional changes, he pointed out “The society based on graded inequality, untouchability, discrimination based on gender, caste and tribal status and religious disabilities all sourcing from the problematic morality of the ancient laws of Manusmriti and Varnashrama dharma were all rejected, made constitutional offences and disregarded through his vision for a constitutional morality enshrined on the principles of justice, equality, liberty and fraternity.”

              Arun Kumar

Arun Kumar, General Secretary of FABO UK stressed the legal training acquired at Gray’s Inn had a profound effect on Dr Ambedkar’s future social activism. Here he equipped himself with the prowess of knowledge and used it as a weapon to eradicate the oppressive features of the society. Gray’s Inn also helped him bring in many laws for the empowerment of the drown trodden that  transformed the lives of millions of people. He will be remembered for many things. But his contribution in the matters of equality, social justice, eradication of Untouchability, father of the Indian constitution and revivalist of Buddhism will never be forgotten. He also reminisced Lord Goff’s remarks  “It is our pious duty to remember our ancestors and from time to time speak of them, their personalities, their achievements and even failures so the memory of them occupy a corner, however small, in the minds of our children and grandchildren. In this way, not only will the memory of past generations be perpetuated, but those who are born will not feel they have been planted into an alien and inhospitable world.” Arun congratulated the Hon. Society of Gray’s Inn for working with FABO UK and marking this historic day. He also announced that Madam President Santosh Dass’ co-edited book ‘Ambedkar in London’ by Hurst publishers due out in October this year includes a chapter on Dr Ambedkar’s time at Gray’s Inn and what his experience of it would have been in the 1920s. This is written by Steven Gasztowicz QC, also an alumina of Gray’s Inn. We now regard Steven as an honorary Ambedkarite! He helped win the Public Inquiry in 2019 into the Ambedkar Museum London.”

Arun Kumar along with the FABO UK team including C Gautam, Harbans  Virdee, Sohanlal Gindha and Rampal Rahi, presented the Ambedkar Centenary Birth Celebration publications, Volumes 1-4, the New Era journal and Ambedkar Times to Brigadier Anthony Harking, Under Treasurer, the Hon. Society of Gray’s Inn, for the Inn’s library and archives. These publications have extensive record of the various Ambedkar related events at the Gray’s Inn.

            Brigadier Anthony Harking

Brigadier Anthony Harking thanked FABO UK for presenting the publications for the library and archives. He said that the Master Treasurer, the Rt. Hon. Sir Peter Gross was looking forward to attending this event. But due to Covid, he was isolating and was unable to attend any function. He further added that Dr Ambedkar was one of the most prominent members of Gray’s Inn. He was a social reformer who made a big difference to the society. As constitutionalist, his contribution in framing the Indian constitution will always be remembered.

          Ram Pal Rahi

Ram Pal Rahi, Vice President of FABO UK, proposed vote of thanks.

Katherine Gwyn, Archivist, Gray’s Inn set up a small exhibition of original documents related to Dr Ambedkar from 1916 to 1922.

Plaque in Memory of Dr Ambedkar

The event concluded with a visit, to the Indian Bean Tree planted in memory of Dr Ambedkar in 1997 in The Walks of the Inn.  This visit was arranged by Brigadier Harking who also accompanied the attendees to see the tree.

 

 

                                                                     Under the tree planted in memory of Dr Ambedkar
                                                                        Visiting the tree in Dr Ambedkar Memory

  

 

 

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