Shri Raybir was one of the few dalit activists in contemporary India to have founded and led several organisations with support cutting across social spectrum. He began his political life in his college days as an activist of the socialist movement in India and contested asembly election as a Janata Party candidate in 1977. In the 1980s he led a major social and political movement of the dalits and advisis of North Bengal under the banner of UTJAS (Uttar Bango Tapsili O Adivasi Sangathan). This was one of the few attempts to bring dalits (mainly sons of the soil Rajbanshis) and advisasis (mainly migratns from Jharkhand) together. Jugalda was convinced that peoples movements cannot have a future unless they connect with one another and become more political in their orientation and strategy. To this end he was instrumental in establishing many organisations. He was one the founders of the Janandolan Samanvaya Samiti (1991, a coordination of various Janandolans from across the country), the founder-President of Samajwadi Jan Parishad (1995, a political party committed to alternative politics and model of development) and the inspiration behind the formation of Swayattashasi Sangram Manch (coalition of seven organisations in north Bengal for regional autonomy) and Samata Kendra (an experiment in alternate living, an insitution founded near his village on land donated by him).
Jugalda stood out in the politics of north Bengal for highlighting the regional deprivation that the region suffered from, for focussing on teh conditions of dalits and adivasis wihtout giving up the aspiration to bring together all the sections of society and for demanding a solution in terms of regional autonomy rather than in ethnic terms. He stood out among the dalit leaders for his attempt to combine Ambedkar and Gandhi, for his attempt to build social coalitions and for his insistence on interrogating the received model of 'modern' and 'industrial' development. His politics stood out for its commitment to democratic and non-violent means in the face of repression unleashed by the state and the ruling party in West Bengal.
Mortal remains of Shri Jugal Kishore Raybir were kept at Samata Kendra for thousands of his comarades, followers and well wishers to pay their last respects. Many of his colleagues from different parts of the country joined his last journey alongwith hundreds of people form the region. The National Alliance of Peoples Movements, Orissa Krishak Sangathana, Sampoorna Kranti Manch Haryana, Kisan Adivasi Sangathan MP joined Medha Patkar and Gopal Krishna Gandhi, Governor West Bengal is sending condolence messages on his demise.
-- Yogendra YadavSenior FellowCentre for the Study of Developing Societies29 Rajpur Road, Delhi 110054