Raju Kamble breathed his last at 2.10 am in Vancouver, Canada. His death is a great loss to the Ambedkarite movement. When the international reach of Ambedkarites was limited only to a few immigrants from Punjab to the western hemisphere, it was Raju Bhau, as we fondly called him, who spanned North America, Europe, Middle East, and South East Asia to build what is now known as Ambedkar International Mission (AIM). His grasp of the philosophy of Babasaheb Ambedkar was firm and clear. He came from a humble background like most of us, but he rose to great heights in both professional and social fields.
In his early days when he was working in New Delhi, Raju Bhau was so devoted to the mission of Babasaheb Ambedkar that he worked tirelessly for the the incipient BAMCEF. He was known in Delhi circles as “BAMCEF Kamble”. Such was his devotion. Though he was a top class engineer, he never forgot ground level activism. In fact, his efforts were always directed towards the people on the ground.
As soon as Bhau moved to Malaysia to work in the gas sector, he started developing contacts with the Dalits in Malaysia. It was he who found the Tamil speaking Dalit politicians in Malaysia and with his network and resources organised the First World Conference of Dalits in Malaysia. The conference brought stalwarts from the Ambedkarite movement on one platform. He continued to work to develop networks in South East Asia. When he moved to the Middle East, he developed a network of Ambedkarites in the middle East. His strategy of mobilisation was unique: he networked not only with the rich technical people, but also mobilised the labourers working in the Middle East. It is to his great credit that we see a thriving network of Ambedkarites in all the countries of GCC.
Later on he moved to USA and then 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, but he also brought many non-Indian sympathisers of Dalit movement together through celebration of Ambedkar Jayanti, and arranging international conferences and seminars to build the voice of Ambedkarites and the network.
The present development of the Ambedkar International Mission (AIM) owes a lot to the indefatigable efforts of Raju Bhau.
Raju Bhau was a very near and dear friend to many. He was a brother to me. I first came to meet him in New Delhi and went to IITD several times where he regularly met the students and listened to their problems. One of the remarkable contributions that Raju Bhau made was distributing the Writings and Speeches of Babasaheb Ambedkar to individuals and institutions. He was ever ready to send the blue volumes, the “revolutionary literature”, all over the world. While he visited students, he always gave them the books of Babasaheb Ambedkar purchased with his own money.
When I went to USA to network, he was there to help. I cannot forget the time I spent with Bhau in California. He was instrumental in arranging Ambedkar Jayanti in Fremont and he came from Texas carrying all the material including the life size photo of Babasaheb Ambedkar. After the program was over, we stayed in the San Francisco Buddhist Centre. In course of our late night discussion, Bhau showed me the account that he maintained to help the movement. He was spending a lot of his personal money on social mobilisation.
Bhau arranged a very remarkable Buddhist conference in Nagpur where he brought people from all over the world. 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 the movement for dignity and self respect. Bhau will continue to inspire us with his dedication and commitment. With a sad heart, I pay homage to this great visionary Ambedkarite with our battle cry, Jai Bhim, Bhau!
Mangesh Dahiwale is Director, Thinking Eye Studio Pvt Ltd, and Chairman, Manuski.