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Ninth standard dropout, currently in UK, this devout Ambedkarite is making a big impact

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat* 

Mrs Balbir Kaur Balley came to United Kingdom in 1975 at the age of 20. Born in a Dalit family in Punjab, her father was a soldier in the army but still they had to face caste discrimination particularly when she had to go to another village for her school. She dropped out after 9th standard and her father arranged a marriage for her with D R Balley who was working in a foundry in Birmingham. From Punjab, she travelled to London all alone and the flight got delayed for one day as it was the month of December and there was heavy snow everywhere. She stayed a night at the airport in Germany.
Both her husband D B Balley and she are devout Ambedkarite. They struggled together and embraced Buddhism in Birmingham. She too worked from home to help the family.
Whenever I travel to UK, Birmingham is a home for me and it has always been wonderful to hear their inspiring stories. It is important to understand how the first or second generation of Ambedkarite with no big degrees from Universities or institutions, still made a huge impact. They were more dedicated and kept the flag of Ambedkarite movement in the Western World high. We are witnessing power of Ambedkarite movement in the United State today but they are successful Ambedkarite now working in Universities and transnational corporations but in UK, it was the first generation people who moved out of their home. The Ambedkarite movement grew there and spread across the world.
Interestingly, Mrs Balbir Kaur speak about issues that confront us. They embrace Buddhism much against the wishes of their community but as an Ambedkarite they felt it was important. We discussed issues of caste, identity and marriage. Her wisdom come from her experiences. She is proud of her children who chose their own path, followed Buddhism and are married in English families. It is important to understand that while in India our leaders are campaigning against inter caste marriage and purely personal issues of marriage and food habits have become 'national' obsession while the real issues of employment, poverty, caste and gender discrimination is side tracked.
Sharing this conversation with Balbir Kaur ji which was recorded by me at her home in Birmingham several years back.
*Human rights defender



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