Of all the Blue Plaques in Primrose Hill, this is the one I find most astonishing. It commemorates the life of Dr Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar (1891-1956) who lived in King Henry’s Road – in a house backing onto the railway – for a spell from 1921 until 1922, when he was a student at the LSE. His achievements make for an inspiring story of a life well spent.
Not content to accept the lowly position in life that fate had dealt him, he managed the unthinkable, positioning himself to channel his talents for the good of his beloved nation at a time of great change. Quite something for a person born the lowest of the low. Dr Ambedkar was born in India a member of the Dalits, or ‘untouchables’, yet he overcame the social and financial obstacles associated with his place in the caste system, to reach a position of great influence.
His rise began with a scholarship which allowed him to become one of the first of his status to obtain a college education. Making himself a voice for the Dalits, Ambedkar even went on to contest Mahatma Gandhi’s claim to speak for untouchables – or Harijans, as Gandhi called them – in his work ‘What Congress and Gandhi have done to the Untouchables,’ published in 1945.
Ambedkar was to become a mighty figure in many areas of the Indian state, and is known as the Father of the Indian Constitution, which came into effect 26 January 1950. Notably, the constitution outlawed discrimination against untouchables.
His plaque in Primrose Hill, partly hidden by overgrown bushes, belies the importance of his role in shaping post-colonial India.
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