Raju Kamble, an eminent Ambedkarite, breathed his last at 2.10 am on August 16, 2018, in Vancouver, Canada. He was 64. His death is a great loss to the Ambedkarite movement. When the international reach of the Ambedkarism was limited only to a few immigrants from Punjab to the western hemisphere, it was Raju Bhau (elder brother), as he was fondly addressed, who traveled North America, Europe, Middle East and Southeast Asia to build what is now known as the Ambedkar International Mission (AIM). His grasp of the philosophy of Babasaheb Ambedkar was firm and clear. He came from a humble background but rose to heights in both professional and social fields.
In his early days when he was working at Engineers India Limited (EIL) in New Delhi, Raju Bhau was so fully devoted to the mission of Babasaheb Ambedkar that he worked tirelessly for the incipient Backward Classes and Minorities Employee Federation (BAMCEF). He was well known in the Delhi Dalit circles as ‘BAMCEF Kamble’. Such was his devotion to the cause of liberation of Dalits. Though he was a top class engineer; he never forgot ground level activism. In fact, his efforts were always directed towards uplifting the people on the ground.
While in Malaysia to work in the oil sector, Raju Bhau developed contacts with the Dalits in Malaysia. He developed close ties with Tamil speaking Dalit politicians there. With the help of Malaysians and local Dalits, he was instrumental in organising the First World Conference of Dalits in Malaysia. The conference brought stalwarts from the Ambedkarite movement on one platform, including Bahujan Samaj Party founder Kanshi Ram, in 1998. He continued to work to develop Dalit networks in Southeast Asia.
When Raju Bhau moved to the Middle East, he developed a network of Ambedkarites in the Middle East. His strategy of mobilisation was unique in the Gulf countries. He networked not only the rich technocrats from the Ambedkarite communities but also mobilised the labourers working there. It is to his credit that several networks of Ambedkarites are thriving in all the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).
Later, he shifted to the US and immigrated to Canada. This was perhaps a very important phase for him to develop the networks of Ambedkarites in North America. He meticulously networked Dalits from many different States in India living in North America. He also brought many non-Indian sympathisers of the Dalit movement together through the annual celebrations of Ambedkar Jayanti.
He arranged international conferences and seminars to build the voice of the Ambedkarites and extend solidarity with the similarly discriminated communities like the African Americans in the US and Burakumins in Japan. The present development and standing of the AIM (see box) owe it to the indefatigable efforts of Raju Bhau.
Spreading the Thought
One of the remarkable contributions of Raju Bhau was to distribute the writings and speeches of Babasaheb Ambedkar to individuals and institutions throughout the world. He was ever ready to send the blue volumes anywhere in the world. Thus, he played an important role in disseminating the thoughts of Dr Ambedkar.
Raju Bhau also arranged very remarkable Buddhist conferences where he invited people from all over the world in Nagpur. He was a visionary. He realised the importance of spreading the Ambedkarite movement out of India so that it wins friends all over.
His untimely death is a great loss to all of us and particularly to the movement for dignity and self-respect. Raju Bhau will continue to inspire us with his dedication and commitment to the cause of the downtrodden and discriminated. Now, it is upon us to take forward his mission with the same zeal.
(The author, a Buddhist and Ambedkarite scholar, is coordinator, Centre for Dalit Studies)
Dr Ambedkar International Mission
It was founded in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in April 1994 by NRI Ambedkarites. The objective of AIM is to contribute to the overall development of the untouchables/Dalits/Tribals/Buddhists, whose population in India is over 250 million.
It also aims to create a sense of identity and also to regain the self-respect lost due to the 2000-year-old caste-based exploitation and oppression.
In the last 22 years, AIM has grown into an international organisation with functional units in the US, Canada, France, UAE, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain, Malaysia, Japan and Australia.
AIM was an active partner in the first-ever Dalit International Conference organised by the Dalit International Organisation, Malaysia in October 1998. The second and third international conferences were organised by AIM with the active support of Indian Progressive Front in Malaysia (December 2011) and Guru Ravidass Sabha in Paris (July 2014), respectively.
The 4th International Dr Ambedkar Convention is scheduled to be held on September 22, 23 at Fukuoka, Japan