Baldev Ram, who fought for Dalits and landless people, dies at 67

- ABDhESH KUMAR JHA, RAJBIRAJ

Aug 2, 2017-

Baldev Ram, a Dalit leader who spearheaded a movement against a practice that forced Chamars, one of the country’s most persecuted castes, to dispose of cattle carcasses, died on Tuesday. 

He was 67. Baldev Ram was admitted to BP Koirala Institute of Health Sciences in Dharan on July 24 after he suffered a heart attack. On Sunday he returned home in Madhupatti, Surunga Municipality, Saptari where he died.  

He is survived by his wife, two sons and two daughters. 

“Baldev Ram first resisted the practice of forcing Dalits, particularly Chamars, to dispose of animal carcasses in July 1999, and since then he was involved in creating awareness about education and employment and uplift of Dalits and the marginalised. He had emerged as a strong voice of landless people in the country,” said Jagat Deuja, a land rights activist,  who worked with Baldev Ram during his struggle for land rights.

Born in 1950, Baldev Ram was involved in various social awareness campaigns  as a young man.

When he launched the campaign against the practice of forcing Chamars to deal with carrion in his village Madhupatti in Saptari, the entire community was boycotted. 

But he did not give up and the movement continued, gaining media attention, with Kantipur and the Post carrying reports on his crusade against the scourge. The movement also drew the support of civil society.

The protest leaders insisted if the practice were to continue, it should but only on more respectable and professional terms. An agreement then was reached, which not only said social boycott was inhuman and should end but also prohibited from forcing anyone to dispose of cattle carcasses. It was a great victory for a person like Baldev Ram who came from a community which is put on the bottom of social stratification. 

The victory also encouraged him to become involved in people’s land rights. He went on to become the founder chairman of the National Land Rights Forum and Haruwa Charuwa Rights Forum to fight for the rights of landless people. 

Baldev Ram’s demise is an irreparable loss to the Dalit and landless movement, said rights activists. 

In recognition of his struggle for the rights of Dalits and landless people, Baldev Ram was conferred with the Ambedkar International Award, a prestigious award given to those who have make contributions for social change. He was honoured with more than a dozen national awards. 

Baldev Ram’s final rites were performed on Tuesday. 

Published: 02-08-2017 07:05

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