London Celebrates Dr Ambedkar’s 131st birthday

Arun Kumar, General Secretary Federation of Ambedkarite & Buddhist Organisations UK

(Asian Independent)- Babasaheb Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar is recognised as one of the greatest icons of human rights in the world. His stature continues to increase day by day. His birth anniversary has become an annual festival and people celebrate it with great pump and show. In West London, celebration starts a day earlier, on 13 April. This is unique in a way because it is celebrated as a New Year eve for the Ambedkarites. A cake is cut at what would be the stroke of midnight in India. People get together at the Ambedkar Centre, Southall from far and wide. It is a good opportunity for students studying in London and other universities around the country to network and meet the dignitaries attending the celebration. Mr Virendra Sharma MP, Mayor of Ealing, Councillor Munir Ahmad, and Deputy Mayor of Ealing, Councillor Mohinder Midha, graced the occasion. Ms Santosh Dass MBE, President of the Federation of Ambedkarite and Buddhist Organisations, UK (FABOUK) presided over the function. Celebrations began with the cutting of cake by the Mayor of Ealing Councillor Ahmad. Deputy Mayor, Mrs Midha was impressed to see the majority of students from India in the audience were undertaking masters or PhDs in the UK. She said “Dr Ambedkar wanted women to progress. It is the duty of men to encourage women to pursue their dreams”. Mr Sharma encouraged the youngsters to get involved in politics here in UK and in India as well. Change is only possible through politics. Ms Santosh Dass gave a brief introduction to Dr Ambedkar’s achievements and huge body of works. She updated FABO UK’s initiatives on Ambedkar Museum London and its successful Public Inquiry, Gray’s Inn – where Dr Ambedkar was called to the Bar – naming a room after Dr Ambedkar in June 2021 and FABO UK donating a portrait for that room. Ms Dass stressed that India is going through a difficult time and it was important to raise our voices against the atrocities against the Dalits that continue to take place and the incarcerations of human rights activists and academics and writers (including Dr Anand Teltumbde on spurious charges. She stressed the need to protect India’s Constitution. Arvind Kumar, Delhi University requested the Ambedkarite diaspora to help the students studying in various universities in the UK. Advocate Sushant Singh, President, students union SOAS, University of London stressed upon the higher education. High achiever students and persons in the public field were honoured by the United Buddhist and Ambedkarite Foundation, Maharashtra.

Ambedkar Museum, 10 King Henry Road, London was the main attraction point of Ambedkar Jayanti on 14 April. The celebrations started after the garlanding of bust and statue of Dr Ambedkar by India’s High Commissioner (IHC) to the UK, Mrs Gaitri Issar Kumar, and the Mayor of Camden City Council, Councillor Sabrina Francis. IHC, Mrs Kumar said ‘’Dr Ambedkar belongs to us all. His relevance of ideas is universal and much more relevant today than ever before. He believed that political democracy should be based on social democracy. It should stand on the principle of equality, liberty, fraternity and dignity of every individual’’. Mayor Francis said, “Dr Ambedkar is an inspiration for change. He is an example for others. His life shows that though we born in humble surroundings, we can rise through hard work and determination. Ambedkar Museum, in her borough is a national and international centre for learning. It will help to learn about his work and achievements.” The Mayor was presented with a limited copy of David Newen’s 2020 portrait of Dr Ambedkar for the museum by Arun Kumar and C. Gautam on behalf FABOUK. The original portrait was commissioned by FABO UK in 2020 and donated to Gray’s Inn in June 2021 and is displayed in the Ambedkar room at Inn. In a short speech Arun Kumar, General Secretary of FABO UK said that around the globe Dr Ambedkar is being celebrated as an apostle of equality. First Burnaby and now the Province of British Columbia have declared 14 April, as a day of equality. In the US, state of Colorado is celebrating this day as a day of equity. He said “it is matter of pride for all Indians that in the UK, Coventry City Council is celebrating 14 April as a day of equality in the council chambers where our President, Ms Santosh Dass is giving a keynote speech”. Handing over a memorandum to the Indian High commissioner, Ms Kumar called the Government of India to recommend to the UNO to declare 14 April as an International Day of Equality. He appealed to the IHC to send this letter with their recommendation.

Concluding event on the day was held at the Ambedkar Hall, India House, the Indian High Commission. Again the event started with the garlanding of Ambedkar statue and portrait by the Deputy High commissioner, Mr Sujit Ghosh. Congratulating on the birth of Dr Ambedkar, Mr Ghosh said, “Dr Ambedkar believed that education is a path to progress particularly in women education. Values of equality, dignity, morality, and Indianness are the important pillars of Dr Ambedkar’s vision. This is the day to reiterate our commitment to fulfil his vision and to make his dream as reality.” Ram Pal Rahi, Vice President of FABOUK, Sushant Singh, Students Union, SOAS, London University, Raj Bangar, Kanshi TV, Chaman Madhar, Shri Guru Ravidass Temple, Eastham, London, Atma Ram Midha, Shri Guru Ravidass Sabha, Southall also spoke at the event. All the events started with Buddhist prayers and closed with light refreshments.

The 14th April was made even more special with Hurst Publishers announcing’s its forthcoming book ‘Ambedkar in London’ with co-editors Dr William Gould, Santosh Dass MBE, and Christophe Jaffrelot. Arun Kumar also has a joint chapter in the book.