Nagpur/Prayagraj- The curtains have closed on the 40th National Convention of BAMCEF (All India Backward (SC, ST, OBC) and Minority Communities Employees Federation), held concurrently in Nagpur and Prayagraj on December 27, 2023. Marked by diverse perspectives and voices, the two major factions delved into crucial issues plaguing the marginalized sections of society.
As the acronym suggests, BAMCEF has been a pivotal socio-cultural organization in India, striving to address the challenges faced by socially and economically disadvantaged groups, including Scheduled Castes (SC), Scheduled Tribes (ST), Other Backward Classes (OBC), and minority communities. Established in 1978 by visionaries Kanshi Ram, D K Khaparde, and Dina Bhana, BAMCEF has played a significant role in advocating for the rights, equality, and empowerment of marginalized communities.
This convention, however, wasn't just a reflection of the organization's history and ideals but also a platform to discuss contemporary issues and future directions. The conventions held in Nagpur and Prayagraj concurrently touched upon several critical topics, including the integrity of the electoral process with discussions on Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) and VVPATs, challenges faced by laborers and factory workers, concerns over the Minimum Support Price for farmers, and the intricacies of Women Reservation in Parliament, specifically addressing the absence of a separate quota for SC/ST/OBC.
Moreover, the discourse extended to significant societal aspects, such as the debate over the Uniform Civil Code and the perceived imposition of Brahminical dharma over SC/ST/OBC communities. The conventions also scrutinized attempts to suppress the voices of marginalized communities through social media restrictions.
BAMCEF was founded by Kanshi Ram, D K Khaparde, and Dina Bhana in 1978. Kanshi Ram was also the founder of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), a political party in India that primarily represents the Bahujan Samaj, referring to the majority of the population that includes SC, ST, OBC, and religious minorities. The organization advocates for the rights and upliftment of marginalized communities, working towards social justice, equality, and empowerment. BAMCEF has been involved in various activities, including organizing seminars, workshops, and campaigns to raise awareness about the challenges faced by backward and minority communities. It has also been active in promoting education and leadership development among these groups.
Later, after 1984, following the formation of BSP, Kanshiram and Khaparde decided to handle separate responsibilities as Kanshiram found it difficult to manage BAMCEF and Bahujan Samaj Party simultaneously. In fact, the organization didn’t have any convention in the period from 1982 to 1987. Finally, in 1986, Khaparde resigned from his service (with at least 13 years remaining in his service) to work full-fledgedly to expand BAMCEF parallel to its political wing, i.e., BSP. After taking over the reins of BAMCEF, he got it registered in 1987.
Jor Singh, a veteran of BAMCEF, says, “Being an employee organization, people found it easier to confine themselves to zones and later districts as they were restricted by their government jobs.” Jor Singh, a BAMCEF veteran and now a retired employee, mentions that there are at least a dozen other factions, and all of them claim to be working for the rights of marginalized people and swear by the ideals of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar and Kanshiram. Today, the organization has been divided into different factions, with the one led by Waman Meshram, considered the most effective and grounded, having its convention in Nagpur, while the other major faction, founded by B.D. Borkar and led by Nitin Ganorkar, organized its convention in Prayagraj, Uttar Pradesh.
Suresh Dravid, the organizing secretary of BAMCEF, known as the Borkar faction, said, “It is wrong to categorize BAMCEF into Borkar and Waman Meshram factions. BAMCEF has been made for the SC/ST/OBC and religious minorities; to associate a single person with an organization is hero-worshipping. People can have a role to play and can act as a guiding light, like Borkar ji is for our organization. Kanshiram ji, Khaparde sir, Deena Bhana are our idols, but it is wrong to credit one person, be it Kanshiram or someone else.
Waman Meshram, the president of BAMCEF, courted controversy by declaring ahead of the convention in Nagpur that a ground at the venue of the convention would be named after the slain right-wing leader of Karni Sena, Sukhdev Singh Gogamedi. Most people were taken by surprise because Gogamedi was a known Dalit-baiter, and in one of his videos, he openly declared that he would chop off the legs of SC/ST people if they file false cases under the Prevention of SC/ST atrocities act.
The reason cited by Waman Meshram for this step was that “Sukhdev Singh Gogamedi ji was fighting for all the natives.” In one of his video interviews, he had also supported the demand for caste, while in another video, he had also raised the slogan of “Jai Mulnivasi.” BAMCEF claims that the change of heart in Gogamedi was made possible because of the outreach made by Waman Meshram. It is not the first time that Meshram has courted controversy for supporting controversial figures; earlier in 2017, Bhindrawale had found a place with Ambedkar on some posters at the Amritsar convention of the organization.
A professor who has been observing BAMCEF for the last 25 years says, “BAMCEF does so to mobilize maximum groups in what they hope is anti-Brahmin polarization, but I think that is not needed; abusing the RSS, BJP, and the Brahmins has only strengthened the Brahminical forces since 2014.”