On the 34th Death Anniversary of Barrister Rajabhau Khobragade, an intellectual heir of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar, here is a short writeup about him.
Bhaurao Khobragade, affectionately called Rajabhau, was born on 25.09.1925 in Chandrapur, Maharashtra to Shri Dewaji and Smt. Indira Bai. His father was a forest contractor and a social worker.
Rajabhau Khobragade had his early education at Jubilee High School, Chandrapur. He then went on to clear the Inter Science exam from Nagpur Science College in 1943 and B.A. exam from Morris College, Nagpur in 1945. On the advice of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, he went to London to study Law at the Lincoln College in 1950.
He was one of the 16 students Dr. Ambedkar sent to London to study but was an exception as he went to London bearing his own expenses and the rest were scholarship students. The story behind this is that he was primarily selected amongst the 15 students who were supposed to go England and study on State Funds by Dr. Ambedkar. But as Shri Dewaji Khobragade was a close associate of Dr. Ambedkar, Dr. Ambedkar requested Dewaji to send Bhaurao on his own expenses so that one more student from the Scheduled Caste community could benefit from State scholarship and 16 Scheduled Caste students can go rather than just 15.
His leadership qualities were evident from his student days. He was elected the Secretary of the Madhya Pradesh Scheduled Castes Students Federation from 1943-1945. At the young age of 27, he was elected as the President of the City Council of Chandrapur District. During his tenure from 1952-55, he carried out several developmental works in the city. He was also elected as the Chairman of the Nagpur State Scheduled Castes Federation in October 1953.
Rajabhau had great organizational and team building capabilities. Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, spotting this talent, had entrusted him with the election campaign and the campaign for conversion to Buddhism, which he completed successfully. After the death of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, Rajabhau Khobragade was instrumental in bringing together the leaders of the Dalit movement and forming the Republican Party of India, to fulfill the wishes of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, and became its first General Secretary.
At the age of 33, in 1958, he was elected to the Rajya Sabha and again for a second time in December 1966. He had the honour of being the Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha from December 1961 to April 1972. Rajabhau was a member of the Rajya Sabha for 18 years.
He had a firm conviction that giving land to landless farmers would reduce unemployment and boost the production of foodgrains. To achieve this objective he started Satyagraha in 1961.
He had contested two Lok Sabha elections, first, when he contested from Bhandara in 1957 and got 105758 votes against a Congress candidate and was 2nd in position on the Scheduled Caste Federation (SCF) ticket; next, when he fought from Nagpur in 1977 which was an anti-Congress election and again came 2nd taking 130457 votes on a Republican Party (Khobragade) ticket.
Another area of his interest was the education of the downtrodden. Realizing that good education alone can uplift downtrodden people and bring all-round growth and development, he opened schools and colleges. He advocated free education for all children from the age of 6-14 years.
He also started a weekly newspaper, Prajasatta, using it as a vehicle to put across his views.
He visited many countries like Ireland, France, Switzerland, Italy, Germany, USA, Hong Kong, China, Bhutan, Thailand, and Ceylon. In September 1965, on the invitation of the American government, Rajabhau visited USA where he met Martin Luther King Jr with whom he discussed civil rights issues.
Rajabhau Khobragade was a revolutionary leader who worked tirelessly for the upliftment of the poor and downtrodden till he died on 09.04.1984.
Dipankar Devesh Kamble is a student at National Law University, Nagpur, and Management member of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Education Society, Bramhapuri. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org