Dalit Panthers of India founder member Arun Kamble, who was also a Marathi professor at Mumbai University, dropped a hint he’d commit suicide in a speech he gave hours before he went missing
By Dipti Sonawala and Vinay Dalvi
Posted On Monday, December 21, 2009 at 02:30:43 AM
However, as Kamble’s body was found in Hyderabad’s Hussain Sagar Lake on Sunday afternoon, his friends and followers were devastated as they joined the dots.
Kamble – who is suspected to have committed suicide – was the founder member of the Dalit Panthers of India, a people’s movement and political party, and was a professor of Marathi at the University of Mumbai. He is survived by a wife and two sons.
The 56-year-old, who was in Hyderabad for the convention, was put up at Alekhya Residency. Around 4 am on December 14, a security guard happened to notice that Kamble – who was on his way out of the hotel – dropped his mobile. The guard handed over the damaged phone to him, and Kamble left. There had been no trace of him since.
A missing complaint was filed by his colleagues at the Saifabad Police Station. Their agonising wait for news ended six days later, as his decomposed body was found floating in the lake.
They were able to identify him only by his clothes.
Hari Narke, author and research personnel in Mahatma Phule literature, who was Kamble’s roommate at the hotel, says he looked depressed and tired throughout the convention. “I even asked him if I should call a doctor, but he refused, saying he was already on a medication.”
In hindsight, says Narke, there were several signs something was terribly wrong: “On the first day of the convention, December 12, we were surprised he did not come out of his room all day, not even to attend the convention. The next day, he did attend, as he was to give a talk on socio-economic, literary and cultural philosophy of Dr B R Ambedkar.
However, though he was expected to speak for an hour, he barely spoke for five minutes. Initially, we thought he was tired, and none of us realised the last line he spoke:
‘This is my last speech’. When I woke up on the morning of December 14, I found that Kamble sir was missing and informed the others.”
Kasi Krishna, a Dalit Panthers activist, said, “I met Kamble sir after almost 10 years at the convention, but he looked very tired and upset. I tried talking to him, but he was reserved. We are all shocked; we have lost a true intellectual.”
R Shridhar, police inspector of the Ramgopal Peth Police Station, said, “The body was taken to Gandhi Hospital in Musheerabad for a post-mortem. After preliminary investigations, it appears to be a suicide, but we are awaiting the report. We will handover the body to relatives on Monday when they reach the city,” said Shridhar.Who was Arun Kamble? Arun Krushnaji Kamble, born March 14, 1953, was a senior activist of the Dalit Panthers in the 1970s and later formed the Bharatiya Dalit Panthers or Dalit Panthers of India. Kamble was active during the movement to demand renaming of Marathwada University after Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar. He is known for his books on Ramayana (in which he wrote about the cultural conflicts), Ambedkar’s conversion and the Dalit movement. He had also been associated with V P Singh and had joined
the Janata Dal; he was once the Janata Dal state general secretary.