June 26, 2023 By Michael Dorgan
A Woodside street corner has been co-named after a former Indian human rights leader who is often referred to as the father of the nation’s constitution.
The intersection of 61st Street and Broadway is now known as “Dr. B.R. Ambedkar Way,” named after Bhimrao Ramji (B.R) Ambedkar (1891 – 1956), who headed the committee that drafted the Constitution of India that was ratified in 1949. He also served as India’s law and justice minister.
Ambedkar was an economist, law expert and social reformer who dedicated his life to eradicating social inequality in India.
Ambedkar’s family were the original inhabitants of a state in the western region of India. They were poor and treated as “untouchables” or “Dalits” in the country’s caste system whereby they were subjected to socio-economic discrimination.
For instance, Ambedkar wrote that he and other untouchable children were segregated in schools and given little attention or help by teachers. They were not allowed to sit inside the class, and when they needed to drink water someone from a higher caste had to pour that water from a height as they were not allowed to touch either the water or the vessel that contained it.
Over the course of his life, Ambedkar led various social, labor, and agricultural reforms in the region in the fight for social equality. After India gained its Independence in 1947, Ambedkar was appointed as chair of the drafting committee for the new Constitution which guarantees a wide range of civil liberties for its citizens.
The co-naming ceremony took place on June 25 and was hosted by Councilwoman Julie Won, who represents the 26th Council District, and the Shri Guru Ravidass Temple of New York, which is located at the intersection of 61st Street and Broadway.
Congresswoman Grace Meng, state Senator Michael Gianaris and Assemblyman Steven Raga were also in attendance, along with Randhir Jaiswal, the Indian Consul General in New York, as well as dozens of local residents.
Won said Ambedkar was deserving of the street co-naming since he became an international symbol against caste discrimination through his life and work.
“As the district that’s home to Shri Guru Ravidass Temple of New York and thousands of Dalit community members, I’m honored that we as a community commemorated the life and contributions of Dr. Ambedkar with this street co-naming,” Won said. “Dr. Ambedkar spent his life overcoming adversity and fighting against the discrimination of Dalits, women, and religious minorities. His commitment to equality and justice is an inspiration to us all.”
Ambedkar also attended Columbia University, where he earned a PhD in economics.