Tributes to Dr Ambedkar on his 125th birth anniversary
27th April 2016
This April a range of events and ceremonies have been organised around the world to celebrate Dr Ambedkar’s 125th birthday.
The Permanent Mission of India to the United Nations in New York hosted a Special Event at the UN Headquarters on 16 April with the title ‘Combating Inequalities for the Achievement of SDGs’.
UNDP Administrator and Chair of the United Nations Development Group, Ms. Helen Clarke, who is among the candidates for the post as the next UN Secretary General, delivered the key note speech wherein she commemorated the legacy of Dr. Ambedkar and stressed the relevance of his vision and ideals for the realization of the Sustainable Development Agenda, adopted by the UNGA last September.
- Please see the official press release from the Mission’s own webpage.
- The full event can be streamed from UNTV via the following link.
On April 14th UN Special Rapporteur on Minority Issues Ms. Rita Iszák-Ndiaye also made a speech to mark the event.
DSN-UK trustee and Vice Chair, Corinne Lennox, wrote a wonderful tribute celebrating Dr Ambedkar, called ‘Dr Ambedkar: a visionary for human rights’.
There was also a range of celebratory events organised by India’s representations around the world, including in Geneva, Copenhagen, Beijing, Indonesia, Turkmenistan, Brunei and Guatemala.
Dalit Solidarity Network UK, together with other activists advocating for Dalits rights, celebrated Dr Ambedkar’s 125 birthday at a dedicated event at the House of Lords on 14 April.
Lord Harries of Pentregarth opened the event by requesting a minutes silence to honour Lord Avebury, a champion of Dalit Rights who sadly passed away on 14 February 2016.
Dr Annapurna Waughray, reader in Human Rights Law at Manchester Metropolitan University and Dr David Keane, associate professor in International Human Rights Law at Middlesex University started the panel discussion by saying that on 13 April Dr Ambedkar received the first official recognition at the UN level in New York and was commemorated by a panel discussion on ‘Combating Inequalities for the Achievement of SDGs’. In their presentation both highlighted the importance of
Dr Ambedkar’s work for Dalits and internationalisation of caste discrimination.
Jens Lerche, reader in agrarian and labour studies at SOAS, noted that DR Ambedkar was fighting against inequality and poverty, and despite the high level of economic growth in India a large number of people in the country, especially Dalits and Adivasis, continue living in poverty, work in exploitative industries and perform least attractive jobs. He highlighted that Dalits and Adivasis experience historic discrimination and inequalities in power, and regardless of affirmative action in education system caste discrimination prevails in the sector.
Murali Shanmugavelan, researcher at SOAS, stated that to achieve equality and non-discrimination caste hierarchy should be rejected without a compromise, including a rejection of Hindu social order. He also suggested that India should recognise caste as a primary lens to address discrimination and inequality in the country.
Dr. Virander Paul, Deputy High Commissioner for India in London, gave a summary of events he attended on the day to celebrate Dr Ambedkar’s 125 birth anniversary and indicated that the discussion at this event, celebrating Dr Ambedkar and what he stood for, was most detailed.
Baroness Flather added that discrimination based on caste can be forbidden under the British laws and urged an ongoing campaign for anti-caste discrimination legislation.
Mr Ravi Kumar, general secretary of Anti Caste Discrimination Alliance, ended the panel by reminding everyone that Dr Ambedkar stood for everyone, not just for Dalits.
Lord Harries summarised the situation of anti-caste discrimination legislation in the UK. He highlighted some of the challenges, such as the government refusing to publish the findings of consultation on caste discrimination in the UK and the recent attempts to block the legislation.
Some of the questions and comments from the audience included worries that caste legislation will reach the sunset clause deadline and the process will have to restart. Everyone was encouraged to ensure that their MPs, especially those with big Hindu communities, know where we stand. A question was raised on the use and purpose of Dr Ambedkar’s house in London, which was not decided on yet. And a final question asked why there is no treaty on caste discrimination, like there is one on apartheid. To this Dr Keane answered that not all pressing issues get an UN treaty, including Indigenous and Minorities, although there is a Special Rapporteur on Minority Issues.