Rajkumar Daulatrao Kamble
January 4, 1954 – August 16, 2018
Rajkumar Daulatrao Kamble was born on January 4, 1954 in Nagpur, Maharashtra, India. A fearless visionary, Raju Kamble, as he was known more popularly, was a towering Ambedkarite who was relentless in his commitment to take forward the caravan of justice for all oppressed castes. Raju Kamble was the glue that bound all international Ambedkarites together. His magnetic personality, erudite and cultured demeanor, selflessness, infallible commitment towards the Dalit cause and last but not the least, tremendous Ambedkarite knowledge electrified our movement.
It is a testimony to Raju Kamble’s unparalleled contribution to our struggle that he never retreated from the battle to end caste apartheid but rather brought the movement to the globe inspiring NRI Ambedkarites for decades to unite and forge into a formidable force outside India. This also includes the seeds he sowed for promoting Buddhism as a facet of India’s heritage and creating a global cultural platform for Ambedkarites.
A scientist by training, Raju Kamble was a successful Chemical Engineer who did his B.Tech in Chemical Engineering from LIT, Nagpur and a postgraduate degree in Chemical Engineering from IISc, Bangalore, INDIA. His work as a Senior Process Engineer in the field of oil exploration, oil refining and petrochemicals for the last 37 years gave him the opportunity to work across the world – from the U.S.A, Canada, Italy, U.A.E to Malaysia.
Raju Kamble was defined by his activism and it was through his tireless commitment that he was able to co-found Dr. Ambedkar International Mission Inc. (AIM) It was his belief that Dalits of the diaspora had powerful responsibility to payback to society and remain committed to Ambedkar’s vision wherever they are in the world. This commitment, rooted in love for all Ambedkarite people, helped AIM grow its international impact for the last 24 years. Through AIM he organized several international Dr. Ambedkar conventions beginning in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (1998) and (2011), and Paris, France (2014), and an upcoming convention in Japan (2018) for which his work was in full swing. It was through his leadership that AIM grew to having chapters all around the world including US, Canada, Japan, Middle East, and across Europe.
He was also instrumental in setting up an annual Dr. Ambedkar Memorial Lecture at Columbia University, the alma mater of Dr. Ambedkar, from 2009 in collaboration with South Asia Institute/Barnard College, Columbia University. He also organized in 2013 an International Conference at Barnard College, Columbia University, New York, to commemorate 100 years of arrival of Dr. Ambedkar to Columbia University in 1913, a landmark turning point, in the liberation of untouchables in India. These efforts also included Dr. Ambedkar memorial lectures through Canada most notably at the University of Calgary. He also worked closely with international Buddhists to host a groundbreaking International Buddhist conference in Nagpur that helped connect international Buddhists from around the world. Finally, the last jewel in his cap was the International Conference at Barnard College, Columbia University to commemorate 125th Birth Anniversary of Dr. Ambedkar – a milestone event in 2016 that still continues to impact Ambedkarites today.
Throughout all of this work Raju Kamble with his exemplifying mentorship connected Dalits of all nationalities to cultivate a global network of Ambedkarite movement. His hospitality was legendary and there was never a gathering too far or time too inconvenient for him to create any opportunities for the Ambedkarite community. He was so committed to the life and writings of B. R. Ambedkar that he kept a supply of his books and would ship them anywhere in the world so that Ambedkar’s words could travel the world. In addition to AIM, he mentored and lifted up leaders from many other Ambedkarite organizations including but not limited to Nagloka, Ambedkar Association of North America, Ambedkar Buddhist Association of Texas, Ambedkar International Center, Equality Labs, Friends for India’s Education, International Commission on Dalit Human Rights, Ambedkar King Study Circle, India Solidarity Network, Boston Study Group, and Federation of Ambedkarite and Buddhist Organisations UK. The strength and diversity in the Global Ambedkarite community is due in no small part to his humility in investing and building a new generation of Dalit leadership around the world.
Beyond his public works, Raju Kamble personally supported many Dalit students in their studies offering them scholarships and helping them with their test preparation fees so that promising students from across India could pursue education and better lives for themselves, their families, and their communities. It was a powerful testament to his legacy that many of these students continued to excel onward in their fields through the significant financial, emotional, and inspirational support he offered.
As we consider the impossible world where we must continue forward in this work without Rajkumar Kamble, we want to honor and remember how his legacy lives on in all of us. His unfortunate and untimely demise leaves a huge void in our movement. But we should keep him in our thoughts and draw motivation from his life and continue to strive in taking Babasaheb’s caravan further, as a fitting tribute to him and his values which he instilled in many of us as a mentor.
He is survived by his wife Nanda and two daughters, Prachi and Shaily. His work is due in no small part to the enormous love, compassion, and faith of these incredible women. His and his family’s personal sacrifices have ensured that the Ambedkarite movement outside India has blossomed over the years, and in his memory we will continue to grow it until we indeed see the end of Caste Apartheid once and for all. In honor of this tremendous man and his remarkable family, we offer them our deepest respect and gratitude. Wishing them only love and peace as we hold them all in our thoughts in this very difficult time.
~ Message from Ambedkar Association North America on their Facebook Page.
In 1995, Raju Kamble Uncle distributed BAWS (Dr.Babasaheb Ambedkar’s Writings And Speeches) Volumes to 21 State Government Libraries in Tamil Nadu, free of cost. In those days, 15 volumes had been released. He was a big time believer in distributing Babasaheb’s literature, and most of the times with his own money.
The following is the YouTube video of his Interview in 2015 where he was speaking about his initiatives and Ambedkar International Mission.
Raju Kamble uncle was instrumental in organising the First World Dalit Convention in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in 1998, where Kanshi Ram gave his famous speech. He wanted to make this significant and since he was an active BAMCEF person, he ensured Kanshi Ram graced the stage.
Raju Kamble would many times pay from his own pocket for exam fees of GRE, TOEFL, GMAT, IELTS, JEE, etc for Bahujan folks who could not afford to pay. Not sure how many ever returned it back, but he would never be disheartened nor stop. Such dedication and humility he had.
“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.“
~ Maya Angelou
Raju Kamble embodied this like no one else. He made every person he touched special, with his words and deeds. He was one of my role models. When I was a teenager, he told me to do a job which will link to your purpose. That was a special advise for me to decide what career I would like to chose. He was a giant and very kind hearted person.
He told me his personal story once. He said he told his wife and his in-laws that he won’t allow touching of feet by anyone to anyone in his marriage, which in fact almost led to his own marriage breaking off at that time.
I can go on and on about his contributions. But most importantly he made someone like me who was lacking confidence feel special and encouraged me to pursue higher studies rather than doing regular jobs. I owe a lot of whatever limited success I have had, to him. He would do wonders do instill confidence in our folks.
In the end, sharing a screenshot from the comments section of his YouTube Interview. In the comment, someone is thanking him for the support provided in 1998.
Vinay Shende works in the Corporate Sector.
Pictures courtesy Dr. Ambedkar International Mission facebook page.