Maharashtra fights closure of Ambedkar museum in London

Friday 23rd August 2019 07:02 EDT

The London house where Dr B R Ambedkar lived as a student in the 1920s, is on the brink of closure after a row with Camden Council. The four-storey complex spread over 2,050 square feet in the upmarket Chalk Farm was purchased by Maharashtra government in September 2015 for 3.1 million pounds and converted into a memorial dedicated to one of India's founding fathers at a cost of around £2 million.

Camden Council, the local authority for the London Borough of Camden in London, said that the apartment complex should be turned into a residential complex following complaints from the local neighbourhood that the visitors to the museum were making noise and disturbing them. However, the Maharashtra government has hired law firm Singhania & Co to appeal against the plea on September 24.

Camden Council denied the retrospective application to convert the house into a museum in October 2018 on the grounds it would be "detrimental" to the amount of residential floor space provided in the borough. A council spokesperson said that there are two main reasons given by its officer for refusing permission to use the property as a museum: “While the provision of a museum would accord with its planning policy, there would be a loss of residential floor space.”

“In terms of balancing the loss of residential floor space against the cultural benefits, there is nothing to suggest that an alternative site could not be found (Dr Ambedkar lived there for a comparatively short time).” The decision states that the property “does not have permission to be used as a museum and must be returned to residential use”.

Managed through the Indian high commission, it features a recreation of Ambedkar's bedroom, a photo exhibition showcasing his life and achievements, a library with a collection of Ambedkar’s writings and a life-sized statue. The building adorns a blue coloured plaque that signifies the historical importance as the residence of Ambedkar between 1921 and 1922 when he was studying at the London School of Economics.

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