Driven by a cause, a doctor chooses life on Delhi’s streets

Dr. Rama Indra Kumar in New Delhi.   | Photo Credit: Photo: S. Subramanium

Gaurav Vivek Bhatnagar

NEW DELHI: Inspired by the life and mission of Jayaprakash Narayan and a chance encounter with the socialist leader years ago, Rama Indra Kumar, who did his Ph.D. in literature from Delhi University in 1991, has been carrying on with a series of hunger strikes for the past 13 years here in the Capital.

Sitting on yet another strike right now at Jantar Mantar off Parliament Street, he wants to “change the system” and promote the ideals of “socialism” so dear to his heart.

For a man well-versed in over a dozen languages and dialects, the struggle for socialism has not been easy. After completing his doctorate on “Study of the Doha Kosh”, Dr. Kumar, who hails from Lakhisarai in Bihar, even worked as a research associate, equivalent to assistant professor, at a Central university and drew a handsome salary. But his obsession soon got the better of him and he lost his job.

Before that he had also worked in a government school and as a Hindi lecturer at Sanatan Dharam Inter-College in Ghaziabad next door to Delhi. But from 1997 onward he has only been trying to promote socialism and make his voice heard against “the forces of capitalism and imperialism”.

“I know people do not think highly of me. But I have always considered myself close to the poor and nothing would stop me from raising my voice for them,” he says with conviction.

So how does this frail-looking man cope with the strain of repeated hunger strikes?

“I usually fast for 24 or 48 hours and then take a meal. Once when I was on a fast unto death in November 2002, I was forcibly removed by the police from Jantar Mantar and got injured in the process,” he says.

He also claims to have been beaten up by some persons in April 2008 and shows how his left upper arm was broken then.

Speaking in fluent English, he expounds: “My idea is to highlight and build up a movement against corruption, poverty and crime in society. I am also trying to create awareness against imperialism and capitalism and raise issues concerning the poor and the downtrodden.”

But 13 years after he undertook his first campaign, Dr. Kumar appears to have found little support. Undeterred nevertheless, he carries on with what he thinks is right.