Mr. Bhagwan Das was born in an Untouchable family at Jutogh Cantonment, Simla (Himachel Pradesh) India on 23 April 1927. He served in the Royal Indian Air Force during World War II and after demobilisation served in different capacities in various departments of Government of India at Saharanpur, Simla and Delhi. He did M.A. in History (Punjab University) and LL.B from Delhi University. He did research on the ‘Indianisation of the Audit Department from 1840-1915. He had been contributing articles and short stories to various papers and journals published in India.
His father Mr. Ram Ditta was fond of reading newspapers and a great admirer of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar. Inspired and encouraged by his father, Mr. Das worked with Mr. T. R. Baidwan of Simla who was the most prominent leader of the Untouchables in Simla Hills, and joined the Scheduled Castes Federation at the tender age of 16. Since then he had been actively associated with the Ambedkarin movement and had done a great deal to promote the ideas of Babasaheb Ambedkar and to unite and uplift the downtrodden not only of India but also of other countries of Asia. Mr. Das was associated with many organisations of lawyers, Buddhists, Scheduled Castes and Minorities in India. General Secretary, United Lawyers Association, Supreme Court, New Delhi; General Secretary. Bouddh Upasak Sangh, New Delhi; Founder Chairman, Ambedkar Mission Society, which has branches in many parts of the world; Revived Samata Sainik Dal (Vounteers for Equality) founded by Dr. Ambedkar in 1926-27; Regional Secretary (North). Indian Buddhist Council; Founder, Society for the Protection of Non-Smokers. Founder President of Society for Promoting Buddhist Knowledge; Edited Samata Sainik Sandesh (English) 1980-1990.
Mr. Das had been associated with the ‘Peace Movement’ since the end of World War II, in which he served on the Eastern Front with the R.A.F. under South East Asia Command. He was one of the founder members of the World Conference on Religion and Peace (India) and had participated in the Conferences held in Kyoto, Japan, 1970; Princeton USA (1979), Seoul, Korea (1986); Nairobi. Kenya (1984); Melbourne Australia (1989). He was appointed Director, Asian Centre for Human Rights (Asian Conference on Religion and Peace) in 1980 and continued to serve in this capacity till 2004 monitoring the news of violation of human rights in Asian countries and organising camps for training of human ‘ rights workers, speaking and writing for the cause.
Mr. Das was invited to deliver a lecture on ‘Discrimination by the Peace University, Tokyo (1980) and also addressed several meetings organised by the Burakumins
of Japan. Gave testimon before the United Nations in regard to the plight o Untouchables in South Asia, in the meeting of sub-committee on Human Rights held at Geneva, Switzerland in August 1983. He visited England in 1975. 1983, 1988, 1990 and 1991 in connection with lectures and seminars. He participated in the seminar held in ‘Hull University in 1990 as a representative of the Ambedkar Centenary Celebration Committee UK and also held a seminar on Human Rights in India at London University, School of Asian and Oriental Studies in February 1991.
He was invited to deliver Ambedkar Memorial Lectures in Milind Mahavidyalya, Aurangahad (1970), Marathwada University (1983); Nagpur University, PWS College, Nagpur; Ambedkar College, Chanderpur, Amrraoti University 1990.
Mr. Das also visited Nepal (1980 and 1990), Pakistan (1989), Thailand (1988), Singapore (1989) and Canada (1979) to study the problems f deprived and disadvantaged members of society, women and children. Delivered lectures in Wisconsin University (USA) 1979 and North- field College (USA) on Castes in contemporary India. He was invited to give lectures on Dr Ambedkar at the Institute of Oriental Studies, Moscow in June, 1990.
Mr. Das practiced law in the Supreme Court of India. With a view to improving the professional competence of and helping upcoming advocates belonging to Untouchable and indigenous groups he founded Ambedkar Mission Lawyers Association and Legal Aid Society in 1989. He was General Secretary of ‘Professions for People’, an organisation founded in Delhi to elevate professional standards.
Mr. Das was invited to preside at the Dalit and Buddhist Writers Conference held at Akola in 1989 and was closely associated with various organisations of Dalit Writers.
Mr. Das had written more than five hundred articles, papers for seminars, short stories for various newspapers and journals. His papers on ‘Revival of Buddhism’, ‘Some problems of minorities in India’, ‘Reservation in Public Services’ have been published in Social Action brought out by Indian Social Institute, New Delhi and Delhi University Buddhist Department. He wrote many papers on Reservation and Representative Bureaucracy, Discrimination against the Dalits in Public Services, Minorities, etc.
He was a member for the ‘Committee for evolving new strategies for the development of Scheduled Castes and Tribes - VIII Plan’ set up by the Government of India and also a member of Ambedkar Centenary Committee of the Government of India. Mr. Das had written many books in Urdu, English and Hindi on Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar, Untouchables, Scavengers and Sweepers, Human Rights, Discrimination, etc. Prominent among them are Thus Spoke Ambedkar (Vol I to V, Ed); Ambedkar on Gandhi and Gandhism (Ed); Ambedkar Ek Parichey Ek Sandesh (Hindi); Main Bhangi hoon, the story of an Indian sweeper told in the first- person (this book has been translated into Punjabi, Kannada and Marathi and German), Valmiki aur Bhangi Jatian (Hindi); Valmiki (Hindi); Dhobi (Hindi). He translated into Urdu former President of the USA Lyndon Johnson’s ‘My. Hope for America’, Dr Ambedkar’s ‘Ranade, Gandhi and Jinnah’in to Urdu besides editing Bhadant Anand Kaushalyayan’s Gita ki Buddhivadi Samiksha.
Other books in print were Reservation and Representative Bureaucracy in India; Untouchables in the Indian Army (Mahar, Mazhbi, Chuhra, Pariahs, Mangs, Dhanuks, Dusadhs, Chamars, Kolis, Bheels); Mandal Commission and the Future of Backward Classes; Twenty-Two Oaths of Buddhism and Conversion; Ravidassis and Balmikis of Northern India; Buddhism and Marxism; Ambedkar as a Religious Leader.
Mr. Das had toured almost the whole of India to study the problems of Hindu-Muslim riots, religious conflicts, atrocities committed on the Untouchables and tribal people, with the group ‘Threat to Diversity’, ‘Swaraj Mukti Morcha and as Chairman, Samata Sainik Dal.
We were expecting much more from Mr. Bhagwan Das but he suddenly departed from us on 8.11.2010. It was a great loss to the followers of Baba Saheb.I think to work on his guidelines for carrying forward the Ambedkarite movement will be a true tribute to him.