RS Praveen Kumar is the president of the Bahujan Samaj Party’s Telangana unit. An alumnus of Harvard University, Kumar served in the Indian Police Service. He quit the IPS, to join the BSP in August 2021. Kumar also served as secretary at the Telangana Social Welfare Residential Educational Institutions Society, which runs government-funded educational institutions. During his tenure as secretary, he started a movement called SWAERO—SW stands for social welfare and aero for the sky. The movement aims to be a social-assertion revolution for the Dalit community and started by appending SWAERO as a suffix to people’s names. As of today, there are around ten lakh SWAEROs across southern India.
On 6 March 2022, away from the media glare, Kumar flagged off the Bahujan Rajyadhikara Yatra from Khilaspur, a village in Telangana’s Jangaon district. The march, led by Kumar and a dozen supporters, planned to cover five thousand villages in the state over a period of three hundred days. In a conversation with Sagar, a staff writer at The Caravan, on 13 January, Kumar said that the yatra was an outreach to the entire Bahujan community in the state, to acquaint them with what it means to be Bahujan and the importance of being a unified political entity. This approach was first implemented by the Bahujan icon Kanshi Ram, in Uttar Pradesh during the early 1980s. Within a decade, Kanshi Ram was able to stitch together the most marginalised castes into a political force and form a government. Kumar said that, over the years of his administrative service, he observed that all political parties were led and run by dominant castes and benefited only the ruling classes. Kumar shared his vision for Bahujans in Telangana, what a Bahujan state would constitute, the challenges in uniting Bahujan communities and the relevance of Bahujan ideology as a national alternative, among other issues of relevance to India’s oppressed castes.
Sagar: What is the Bahujan Yatra? When did you start it and what was the idea behind it and its objectives?
RS Praveen Kumar: It’s not just Bahujan Yatra, it is Bahujan Rajyadhikara Yatra. Bahujan includes Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Other Backward Classes, religious minorities and the poor among upper castes. Bahujan Rajyadhikara Yatra ignites the idea of the poor becoming the rulers—the deprived and the most neglected, the marginalised and the oppressed. This is what Manyavar Shri Kanshi Ram worked on. And I'm trying to follow in his footsteps under the leadership of Behenji Kumari Mayawati. So Rajya is raj, the ruling, Adhikara is authority. It’s to educate and take the ideology of the BSP to the masses.
Kanshi Ramji, after he started his movement in Uttar Pradesh, he focussed more on Madhya Pradesh and, in the south, he came to Andhra Pradesh. He spent a lot of time in Andhra Pradesh. But, somehow, he was not successful for various historic reasons. Bahujan, as an ideology, remained only in the minds of urban middle class and activists. I was left with another six-and-a-half years of active police service. I quit my job and, without another thought, I joined BSP on 8 August 2021, in Nalgonda. I visited most of the districts and found the party ideology hasn’t really gone to people. That’s why I started this yatra.
In Telangana, we have a lot of Bahujan icons. But their history was never known to people of their communities. We discovered that there was a Bahujan ruler 352 years ago. His name was Sardar Sarvai Papanna. He fought the Mughal emperors and established his small kingdom in Telangana. He was assassinated, punished by the Mughal rulers. His body was hung from the main entrance of Golconda Fort to teach a lesson to marginalised communities.
On 6 March 2022, we started the Bahujan Rajyadhikara Yatra. Our format is slightly different. Generally, all the yatras, including Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra, select a route and go on padayatra [march on foot], then local cadres mobilise common people, in buses. I can’t afford that much expense. Instead of bringing people to yatra, we should go to people. This is cost-effective and convenient to both.