Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has announced he will be visiting the Ambedkar House in London during his visit to the UK in November. The property was formerly home to Dr Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, one of the founding fathers of modern India and a strong critic of the country's Hindu caste system. It was bought by the Maharashtra government in September with the aim of converting it into a museum devoted to the late Indian lawyer and social activist.
Modi said he was "excited" about his trip to the UK and revealed he would be inaugurating Ambedkar House during the visit. Ambedkar is credited with campaigning for the rights of India's Dalits, also known as the "untouchables" or the lowest members of India's social hierarchy caste system. Modi's visit to Ambedkar House has been cited by Indian media as an "important gesture" in the prime minister's efforts to reach out to the Dalit community.
"I will formally inaugurate the house where Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar lived, which recently became Indian government's property and a place for inspiration for 125 crore [125 million] Indians," said Modi. "When Ambedkar's name is associated, you can imagine how much happiness people like me have. This is the place where Ambedkar did his devotion."
Ambedkar was a Dalit, however he escaped his fate of poverty when he obtained a scholarship to study at the London School of Economics, after which he went on to become a barrister in London. He lived in a house near Primrose Hill between 1921 and 1922, during which he is said to have strengthened his desire to fight for the rights of India's Dalit community.
It is believed the Maharashtra government bought Ambedkar's former London house for £3.1m ($4.7m) and will be conducting refurbishments costing up to £1m before opening it to the public as a museum.
"Generations of Indians in the UK and visitors studying, interested or inspired by Dr Ambedkar's key roles in furthering social justice, human rights or and equal treatment issues will be able to visit," said Santosh Dass, president of the Federation of Ambedkarite and Buddhist Organisations in the UK. "He is a figure on par with William Wilberforce and Dr Martin Luther King. Additionally, its five bedrooms could be used as accommodation for Indian students from Dalit backgrounds while doing postgraduate studies in the UK."
Ambedkar is viewed as a hero by many members of the Dalit community in India because of the way he climbed the ladder after being born into the "untouchables" caste. He became the author of India's first constitution and was appointed as a law minister by India's first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru.
Shortly before his death in 1956, Ambedkar abandoned his Hindu faith and converted to Buddhism, urging other Dalit members to do the same and sparking the Dalit Buddhist movement in a show of defiance against a caste system that had discriminated against them.