* Madhu Chandra
Dr. Udit Raj’s life is a story of socio-economic transformation brought by the education through reservation and the power of the English and then become a crusader. It bridged first the social gap between him and his wife, who come from a higher caste family.
The Tarasya Productions has produced a documentary film on the life for Dr. Dr. Udit Raj, Member of Parliament from Delhi North West Constituency, who is also the National Chairman of All India Confederation of SC/ST Organizations.
Mr. Luo Zhaohui of People’s Republic of China’s Ambassador to India said about him, “A man from the bottom of the society, who became a crusader for India’s downtrodden people.” Truly, Dr. Udit Raj became a crusader nationally and internationally, specifically to protect and ensure the reservation facilities to the members of Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes provided by the Indian Constitution.
My memoirs begun when I heard his name for the first time, while he was leading one of the largest Dalit mass movement after Independence India held on 4 November 2001. Hundreds of thousands of Dalits from all over India were coming to the national capital, where Dr. Udit Raj along with thousands decided to convert to Buddhism. The permission given earlier to have the event at the Ram Lila ground in Delhi was cancelled at last hour by then the government in the center. Then the event moved to Ambedkar Bhavan in Delhi, where Dr. Udit Raj converted to Buddhism and changed his name from Ram Raj along with thousands of India’s oppressed people.
Thereafter, I met him for the first time in Chandigarh on 14 April 2003, where he had Dr. B R Ambedkar’s Birthday celebration, where hundreds of Valmiki community leaders performed Buffalo Worship and converted to Buddhism. The news of the Buffalo worship instead of worshiping cow was a huge challenge for high caste communities.
The story of Dr. Udit Raj, a man from the bottom of the downtrodden society, who later become a crusader is a living legend of what the reservation and the power of English can do to India’s marginalized people.
Dr. Udit Raj was born to Dalit parents and brought up in a small village called Ram Nagar, 15 km away from Allahabad in North India. His schooling begun in a primary school near his village and did his graduation from Allahabad University. He used to ride bicycles from his village to the nearby Railway Station to Allahabad, then walk up to his college. He was good in his studies and at the same time involved in the students and labor union movement from his early schooling.
In 1980, he got admission in India’s one of the finest Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi with three hundred rupees his father took loan and did his post-graduation. While he was studying at JNU, he applied for Union Public Civil Examination. He went to Meerut to write the exam, but ended up joining the farmers protest on the day there and came without writing the examination. He wrote it the following year and succeeded.
He was selected for the prestigious Indian Revenue Service in 1988. He met his wife Seema Raj, who was also undergoing the probation Indian Revenue Service training at Nagpur. They both fell in love and married on 24 March 1990. Seema Raj came from high caste family. Her parents accepted the marriage proposal and wanted to have it big, but Dr. Udit Raj objected spending a lot of money in the marriage, rather use the money for social causes. Dr. Udit Raj and his wife Seema, after their marriage work in Income Tax in Uttar Pradesh then in Delhi.
Dr. Udit Raj came across many caste prejudices in his life, beginning from his early schooling. He was unlike the other Dalit children, who suffer the caste prejudice silently. He and his brothers confronted any caste prejudice faced in the school and in the society. During his college, he joined the struggle faced by the farmers and labor unions and involved in the student wing. Later, after moving to Jawaharlal Nehru University, he joined Students’ Federation of India.
His struggle did not end even after entering the prestigious profession in the Indian Revenue Service. The government of the time begun formulating anti reservation policies in the order from Department of Personal and Training (DOPT) in 1997 barring the reservation in promotion. The DOPT’s anti reservation order sparked the fire among the SC/ST Employees and unions begun mobilizing a national platform where the anti-reservation could be confronted.
The SC/ST Employees, when they began meeting, urged Dr. Udit Raj to take the lead of the mass movement. Under his leadership, All India Confederation of SC/ST Organisations founded in 1997. Thereafter the campaign to protect reservation begun and continue until today.
Under the banner of the Confederation, the first rally was held on 26 November 1997, second on 16 November 1998, third on 13 December 1999 and the fourth on 11 December 2000 in Delhi. Due to these rallies, an environment of revolution gripped the country, and the Government bowed down before the movement. Indian Parliament had to bring Bill to ensure the reservation for SC/ST and other backward classes.
Dr. Udit Raj carried the leadership of national mass movement and the challenges of the reservation become more serious after the privatization. The public and private sector of the employment has sea changed since the independent. When India got the independent, there was about 15% private sector and 85% public sectors. Now, after 60 years of independence, India has about 85% of private sectors and 15% of private sectors. There is no reservation in private sectors, which brought down the economic and employment for SC/ST communities. Dr. Udit Raj resigned from the government job in 2003 and continued to carry the mass.
He always believes in the people’s mass movement and the participation in the parliament system. He attempted mobilise politically by starting the India Justice Party but not succeeded. He believes nothing will work without going to the parliament; therefore, he contested Parliamentary election in 2014 from North West Delhi Constituency and elected in BJP ticket. Since then he has raised the issues and challenges, including the introduction of private member’s bill of Reservation in Private Sectors.
Dr. Udit Raj is on move every day from one corner to another, strengthening and expanding the branched of All India Confederation of SC/ST Organisations in different states. The masses are following his leadership in different parts of India.
Dr. Udit Raj believes the power of people movement that can bring pressure on the government. Nationwide Protest on 2 April 2018 against the Supreme Court order on SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act is the recent event that he often refers and through which the central government had to bring a bill to ensure the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities act is intact. He looks forward to the Mega Rally scheduled on 3 December 2018 in New Delhi.
In the documentary, the politicians across the political parties and oversea dignitaries and friends said highly of Dr. Udit Raj. Former Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh says, “He is a man with a mission to uplift the marginalized people. Former Bharatiya Janta Party President – Nitin Gadkari and now Union Minister says, “The politics of socio-economic empowerment is his aspiration.” Former Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dixit says, “He helped me to understand the political concerns for Dalits.” Former Chief of Indian Army and now Union Minister Mr. VK Singh says, “He is a political leader who is a friend across the political differences.”
Lastly, not the least is the kind of the family he has. Seema Raj, his wife having come from the higher caste stood firm along with Dr. Udit Raj for the social cause. In spite of her heavy responsibility in Indian Revenue Service, she shared the platform along with her husband on many occasion and supported him in his struggle for Dalits.
Seema Raj understood the social and political aspiration of Dr. Udit Raj even before their marriage. She supports his social concern for women empowerment and gender equality. She stood along with him when he wanted to give up his prestigious government job in 2003 to move into politics and lead the masses under the banner of All India Confederation of SC/ST Organisations.
I have sat through days in his office and saw the help he extends to poor and rich, small and big. He writes to the government hospital for poor patients who came to seek help. He writes to the concerned department, seeking his help for job transfer or injustice done to the employees.
The greatest help, the North East communities living is Delhi was the support he gave when we founded North East Helpline in Delhi. Our girls were targeted for sexually harassment and our men racially. In 2007, he inaugurated North East Helpline at Press Club of India, which extended help to North East communities.
Truly, Dr. Udit Raj is a man from the bottom of the society, who became a crusader, particularly to save the reservation, which Dr. B R Ambedkar gave through Indian Constitution. Truly, he is a crusader for the masses, help for the needs, a good husband, and a good father at home.
*Madhu Chandra is National Secretary of All India Confederation of SC/ST Organisations based at Hyderabad.