Columbia University Students Pitch Demand for Dr. Ambedkar Museum

Babasaheb Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, the champion of the oppressed who dedicated his life to fighting against caste discrimination, was a former student of Columbia University.
Athawale at the Columbia University Library
Athawale at the Columbia University Library

Ramdas Athawale, the Union Minister of State for Social Justice and Empowerment in India, embarked on an official visit to New York, United States. As part of his visit, he paid homage to Columbia University, the alma mater of Baba Saheb Bhim Rao Ambedkar. Athawale visited the university's library premises and paid his respects at the bust of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar.

During this occasion, the Union Minister had an opportunity to meet with students belonging to marginalized communities in India who were studying at the university. 

The students shared their personal experiences and grievances with Athawale. One of these students was Vikas Tatad, originally from Amravati, who represented the Columbia University students when meeting with Athawale.

Museum a Tribute to Baba Saheb's Legacy 

Tatad, who was recently appointed as the Treasurer Executive Board at Teachers College, University of Columbia, achieved significant success in previous elections. He won the position of Senator for International and Transcultural Studies last year by a wide margin and also secured the Chairperson post in the University Policy and Rules Committee with the support of elected senators.

The demand to establish the "Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar Museum" near Columbia University was presented to the Union Minister by Tatad.

The memorandum emphasized the profound impact Dr. Ambedkar had during his time at Columbia University, and proposed that establishing a museum dedicated to his life and work near this esteemed institution would be a fitting tribute to his enduring legacy.

Vikas Tatad with Union Minister Ramdas Athawale
Vikas Tatad with Union Minister Ramdas Athawale

The museum would not only express gratitude for his contributions but also serve as a source of inspiration for current and future generations of students.

Speaking to The Mooknayak, Vikas Tatad said, "The Maharashtra government has purchased Baba Saheb's residence in London and developed it into a museum. Similarly, we are demanding an Ambedkar Museum near Columbia University, following the model of the museum in London, so that people can learn about Baba Saheb in detail."

Scholarship money inadequate to meet expenses

He further said, " In addition, we raised other issues with the honorable minister. We informed him that the scholarship grant does not adequately cover our living expenses in a city like New York. We explained that the yearly expenses amount to approximately $37,000, while the scholarship only provides $15,000 per annum. I also requested an increase in the number of National National Overseas Scholarship Scheme for Scheduled Castes, De-notified Nomadic/ Semi-Nomadic Tribes, Landless Agricultural Labourer and Traditional Artisans to enable more students to study at the university."

Athawale at the Columbia University Library
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Furthermore, Tatad mentioned that he was accompanied by Monalisa Burman, and together they urged for relaxation of the conditions tied to the J-1 Visa.

Currently, this visa requires students to return to India after their studies, even if they have better opportunities in the United States. Tatad highlighted that this condition forces students to leave behind favourable prospects due to the term of the visa.

Last month, Columbia University joined the growing number of U.S. institutions that have banned caste discrimination by officially including it as a protected category. Vikas Tatad played a crucial role in this development and remains hopeful that the Union Minister will consider his demands and take meaningful action.

During his visit to the United Nations Headquarters in New York, Athawale emphasized the need for an Ambedkar statue to be installed alongside the statues of Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi. Dr. Ambedkar, as a universal champion of equality and human rights, deserves recognition at this international forum.

Athawale at the Columbia University Library
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