Waman Meshram: fighter for the downtrodden

Have you ever seen a mass or even a local Muslim leader, social, religious, political or otherwise, who doesn’t mind standing in a long queue with his cadres and followers waiting for his turn to fill his plate from the buffet table? Probably a rare thing to expect from Muslim community leaders despite being born with an egalitarian concept and tradition. But for Waman Meshram, the President of the ‘Bharat Mukti Morcha’, a strong organization of Scheduled Castes which has massive and committed following in not less than six lakhs villages across the country, standing in a queue like an ordinary person and exchanging views and ideas with ordinary activists of his organization is a moment of joy, privilege and enlightenment. It is where he proves to be more a Muslim endowed with the golden values of Islam than many of our own so-called Muslim leaders who would raise eyebrows if asked to stand, sit and eat with ordinary persons.

Born in Maharashtra’s Aurangabad district, Meshram (55) started contemplating to join public life when he still was in Baba Saheb Ambedkar college at Aurangabad in the early seventies. At that time, Dalit Panther movement in Maharashtra was strong and had a deep impact on the hearts and minds of Scheduled Classes youths. Young Meshram too had curious and disturbing questions in his mind that had no immediate answers.

The personality who inspired and charged Meshram most was none other than the founder of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) Kanshi Ram. It so happened that when he was in the first year of Law,  Kanshi Ram was invited by the college students’ association to deliver a lecture. Kanshiram, apparently, was not a stereotype speaker who would dramatise more than deliver his message. He didn’t believe in histrionics and always called a spade a spade, nay shovel. He chose the black board of the classroom instead of the mike to address the issues his downtrodden community was facing. It was somewhat a unique experience for the promising Meshram to learn from the visionary.

The process of getting ‘anointed’ continued when he, during studies, joined telecom department as an apprentice. His tutor Mr. Patil, who was to train him about telecommunications, was a committed BAMCEF activist who used to talk about the movement even during lunch hours. With Patil, Meshram started attending meetings of BAMCEF, shared views with even detractors of the movement from his own community, learnt more about the early visionaries and their lifelong struggles and also came to know that Kanshi Ram, the harbinger of the mass political revolution, forsook every possible comfort and luxury and lived a simple life, never married or had a house of his own in order to achieve his task of empowering the Scheduled Castes.

After that there was no looking back. Working 24/7 became his norm. He travelled extensively almost every day and met thousands of people belonging to his part of society. During the last 35 years, Waman Meshram delivered thousands of public lectures with an average of two a day. His theme was to condemn Brahmanism, awaken Bahujans including Muslims whom he calls ‘Mulnivasis’ (Indigenous) to rise above the religious barriers. He exhorted them to unite and form a strong anti-Brahminist base to fight against Brahminical hegemony.

“The massive setback to the Muslims of India came from partition, for Muslim League leaders were not only competent and very powerful but understood much better the shrewd tactics of the Brahmins of the Congress Party than the present ones,” he says. “Gandhi’s insistence to pay Rs. 55 crores to Pakistan was also a shrewd tactic to emotionally blackmail and hijack Indian Muslims and make them a permanent votebank for the Congress. With this crafty conspiracy, Muslims of India not only became leaderless but they also became easy scapegoats for the Congress which conveniently used and misused them for its own vested interests,” he comments decisively.

While Meshram has genuine sympathy for Muslims and he strives hard to see that they get their deserving share of power and dignity, he is equally critical of their suicidal political and social approach. He is of the view that when Muslims know that the only political party responsible for their miserable condition is none but Congress, why do they vote for Congress and bring it to power? Muslims talk of discriminations, riots and State-sponsored marginalization but little do they realize that it is not Scheduled Castes or Scheduled Tribes that plan to attack Muslims. It is the age-old Brahminical conspiracy to spontaneously “anoint” all Bahujans as “Hindus” injecting in them poisonous and unfounded fears about Muslims’ rising populations and instigate them against Muslims to serve their own vested interests.

The problem of riots according to Meshram, is more a problem of Scheduled Castes youths than Muslims because ultimately it is the Scheduled Castes who end up being thrown into the jails for the conspiracy actually hatched by the Brahmins. Why can’t Muslims, equally prejudiced, befriend with Dalits and Scheduled Castes who happen to be their “blood brothers” and have been suppressed for thousands of years and who understand well what’s meant by the systematic marginalization and targeting of an entire community, he asks.

Waman Meshram is extremely critical of the Indian judiciary. In many of his bold and courageous talks, he took on the system for the “quality” of the judgments passed by even the apex court. He is  upset with the exorbitant ratio of Brahmins as compared to their population in every sphere of the system, be it judiciary, bureaucracy, finance, policy-making, Intelligence, internal as well as foreign affairs and the media that, in the guise of the “Mainstream”, so much so that this system has totally dedicated itself to the interests of the “Brahmin-Bania” nexus.

According to him, the only solution to the collective problems of the Muslims and Scheduled Castes is to enter the corridors of the system through excellent education, skills and unmatched expertise.

Waman Meshram emphasizes on historical analysis of the political situation in India. According to him, despite Brahmins not being more than 3 percent of the country’s population, they are having four national-level political parties, i.e., Congress, BJP, CPI and CPI(M) as well as some regional parties like Trimunal Congress, AIADMK - both are headed by Brahmin ladies. So, he says, “politically, we need to become more vigilant and intelligent as to whom we are voting for and bringing to power?

He tries to practise what he believes in and preaches. His penchant for quality literary books, mainly on the revolutionaries and visionaries of the world, his deep thirst to expand his knowledge base, his endless curiosity to learn more, and his rigorous passion to get justice to the victimised ‘Mulnivasis’ have helped him have a comprehensive view about the totality of our fast failing system.

Meshram is all praise for the strong movement run by the people of Malegaon under the auspicious leadership of ‘Kul Jamati Tanzeem’ headed by Maulana Abdul Hameed Azhari. “It is due to his consistent and tireless efforts that the government of Maharashtra decided to replace ATS chief and the results are for all of us to be seen. Hemant Karkare changed the entire scenario and exposed the real culprits with their nationwide syndicate of terror.” He is of the view that if Muslims want to fight against the “State-sponsored terrorism” unleashed on their innocent youths, they should join hands with other ‘Mulnivasis’, that is Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and OBCs who have been the target of systematic violence and terror for centuries together.

Today, after having served his community selflessly and fearlessly for more than thirty years, Meshram is still fresh and energetic and ready to take on, in the larger interest of his community, the most powerful and mighty without any fear. He believes in dialogue and avoids violence for, according to him, violence can’t be a lasting solution to an age-old menace called casteism.

Meshram is loved and admired by millions of Scheduled Caste people including Muslims across the country who consider him to be their present-day social messiah. After each public meeting, he is offered land, gold, money by his admirers to be used and materialised for the well-being of the organisation, Bharat Mukti Morcha. The level of acceptance, the spirit of acknowledgement and the essence of popularity that he enjoys can’t be dreamt by even a national-level political figure. Yeh us ki den hai jisay parvardigaar dey (This is purely a divine blessing).

Mushtaque Madni is editor, Usool, Pune