• 369
  • Ambitious

Jagjivan Ram’s successful organisation of a workers’ rally in Calcutta brought him to the attention of leaders like Subhas Chandra Bose. In 1934 Jagjivan Ram was involved with relief work in the aftermath of the Bihar earthquake. In 1935 he was nominated to the Bihar Council. He decided to join the Congress.

Babu Jagjivan Ram, a Union Minister, freedom fighter and Dalit leader, was born on 5 April 1908 in Chandwa village, present-day Bhojpur district of Bihar to a Dalit family. His father, Shobhi Ram, was in the British army but later resigned, bought farmland in Chandwa, and settled there.
Jagjivan Ram was sent to the village school but soon after, his father died. His mother, Vasanti Devi, however, made sure that his education continued. In 1922 when he joined Arrah Town School, he realised that discrimination against Dalits was still rife. He protested against the school’s shocking decision to have separate pitchers of water for so-called ‘untouchable’ students.Later, a meeting with the renowned nationalist leader Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya, who had come to visit the school, inspired him.He went on to study at the prestigious Banaras Hindu University (BHU), and later secured a B.Sc. degree from the Calcutta University. Caste discrimination was unfortunately prevalent in those days in BHU as well. In 2007, when Jagjivan Ram’s daughter Meira Kumar, the then Union Minister for social justice and empowerment, was invited to speak about her father’s days at the BHU — during the inauguration of the Babu Jagjivan Ram Chair — she said that he was even denied haircuts by local barbers.