Friday, March 04, 2011

Ram Kumar: a dalit activist

 Mr.Ram Kumar is my ideal to follow as Dalit activist for democratisation of India through Dr. Ambedkar ideology.

Ram Kumar: a resume


Childhood formations: social and filial context

Born in 1963 in an ordinary Dalit (flaying) family of Mominpur village in Unnao district of Uttar Pradesh, the childhood formation of Ram Kumar was shaped up by the sight of slaining of his father, when he was barely five years old. This was a part of series of killings by Brahmin landlords in the region.


After this incident, he was sent to a local primary school. With no wherewithal in the family, he could not continue his education. A couple of years after, one maternal uncle came to his rescue and took him along. This is how he could resume his studies and accomplished with a graduation degree from Kanpur 'Varsity in the year 1984.


Mass mobilization and organization

While at college, way back in 1983, he plunged into political action. The formation of Pragatishil Chatra Sangathan, a student organization, in Kanpur, which continued to fight for democratic rights of students for three years under his leadership, happened to be his first assignation with socio-political activism. After finishing degree, he returned back home and found himself in the midst of agrarian labourers. His mobilization strategies led to the organization of Kisan Mazdoor Sangathan, Unnao in 1985 to fight against the killings of Dalits by Brahmanic forces. A number of strong movements were organized under this banner, followed by a series of arrests, including that of the Secretary, Ram Kumar. He was jailed as well.


The quest for livelihood brought him to Saharanpur in 1986, where he organized Ghar Kshetra Mazdoor Morcha, and became his founder secretary. He led several movements for the rights of forest communities, with explicit focus on oppressive system of contract in forest areas. The movements of forest communities soon expanded to encompass Rajaji National Park, which he led from the front, with explicit focus on upholding the traditional and natural rights of forest dwellers.


In the beginning of 90s', while continuing the ongoing struggles, the problems of both urban and rural youth, the question of their rights and self-respect appeared on the map of activities. The formation of Dalit Naujawan Adhikar Morcha in 1990 at Saharanpur enabled the youths, the Dalit youths in particular, organize and educate themselves and wage democratic struggles for upholding their rights and ensure participation in the development of the society. This thrust was further articulated in the organization of Uttar Pradesh Voluntary Action Network (UPVAN), a State level composite platform of voluntary agencies (NGOs), in 1990 itself, as the founding member of the network, Ram Kumar has actively been involved in strengthening the outfit for advocacy of social and organizational issues. In the same breath, he took initiative to respond to the challenges of communalization of polity and society as the aftermath of Babri Mosque demolition in 1992 by organizing the civil society organizations, social and political activists, media personnel, artists and writers groups etc. The organization of Sampradayikta Virodhi Abhiyan, Uttar Pradesh and its quarterly journal, Sarokar : these are still being reckoned as the most effective intervention. This shall be remembered as one of the biggest milestones of his career.


 In 1995-96, after the onset of the regime of globalization marked by social and ideological crises, when the disruptive forces of Brahmanism and capitalism had their sway, Ram Kumar found himself involved in organizing democratic forces. This is how Janshakti Manch, Uttar Prtadesh was formed through collective efforts under his leadership. The formation of Janshakti Manch created and enabling environment  for greater mobilization of Dalits, Muslims and Backwards and bringing them together with the broader objective of the development of 'social democracy'.  It was, thus, in 1998, a network of civil society groups and mass organization – the Dynamic Action Group (DAG), Uttar Pradesh – was formed and Ram Kumar was elected its Founding Coordinator, a position which he continues to hold till date through subsequent elections.


The formation of DAG created enormous rooms for the process of Dalit assertion and democratization of society. There were, therefore, spurts of activities. The Public Hearing (October 2001) on Land Rights (October 2001), Mass Rally (December 2001) against land-related atrocities and, again, a Public Hearing (October 2004) on atrocities against Dalit women etc.: These are some of the most significant milestones of his organizational work.


The discovery of Public Hearing as the powerful medium of educating and organizing Dalits for future course of struggles enabled him to continue with this program. The subsequent  Hearing was , therefore, organized in 2008, with focus on 'Dalit atrocities'.Besides, his organizational and leadership role in the state chapter of Dalit Swadhikar Rally (January 2005) was largely evidenced by the success of the program. This Rally was flagged off by the then President, KR Narayanan from Delhi and finally converged in the World Social Forum, held at Mumbai.


Finally, there remains two more organizational works of Ram Kumar, which are worth mentioning: The first being the organization of state level platform of Dalit women, Savitribai Phule Dalit Mahila Morcha (2007) and, the second one has been a mass organization of rural agricultural labourers, the Uttar Pradesh Gramin avam Khetihar Mazdoor Union (2007). He was also elected as its General Secretary. There was yet another state level public hearing on Right to Food (2007) in his organizational leadership.


Participation in international conferences

Ram Kumar has also been active on international front s right since January 2003, when the first Conference of Asia Social Forum was held at Hyderabad. The participation in this Conference obtained for him a space to socialize the issues of descent-based discrimination and atrocities on international level. Further, in June 2003, he addressed a session of a UN Conference on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in Chiangmai, Thailand. The World Social Forum (January 2006), Paulo Ellegra in Brazil was another major event which solicited his participation.


Memberships of national/international human rights organizations

NCDHR (National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights): this was the first major human rights organization to have recognized his leading role in building an enabling environment for Dalit assertion of rights and nominated him as the State Coordinator in December 2004. Subsequently, in 2006, he was nominated as the executive member of the Coordination Committee for the National Forum for Land Rights. Again, in the year 2009, the State unit of PUCL took him on the board as the Vice President.  He is also the State Committee member of the Right to Food campaign since 2009.


Project coordination/team leadership

The Oxfam-sponsored project – Anti-Communalism Campaign (1994-2001) was the first program which he implemented in the professional capacity of Project Director. It followed the Dalit Empowerment Project (2000-2003) under his Coordinator-ship with the support of Billance, Netherlands. As the head of implementing agency, he was also in-charge of the EDHR (2007-2009) project of the European Union. Presently, there are two projects on Dalit Empowerment, being implemented under his direct supervision. The first one was initiated with the support of Christian Aid in 2005 and the other one came in 2009 from IPUP funds of DFID. And both of them are still continuing.


Institutional experience

Ram Kumar commenced his professional career as social activist with Vikalp Social Organization, a Saharapur based development agency in 1985-86, and graduated to the level of 'Treasurer' in 1995 – a position which he held until 2003, the year when he shifted over to Lucknow and organized a development group, the Society for Aid in Development in 2003. He continues to work with this organization as the Secretary and Executive Director.


Present contact


Dynamic Action Group (DAG)

301, Sukrat Enclave,

Old RTO, Latouche Road,


Mobile: +919412233057








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