Arun Kamble, leading Dalit activist and professor of Marathi at Mumbai University, who was missing for almost a week, is suspected to have drowned in Hyderabad's Hussain Sagar lake.
Kamble, 55, had reached Hyderabad on December 12 to participate in a seminar at the BM Birla Science Centre. He was staying at a lodge at Lakdi Ka Pul. After participating in the seminar on December 13, Kamble returned to the lodge. He later went out in the wee hours and wasn't seen since.
On Sunday, the Hyderabad police recovered a decomposed corpse, believed to be that of the professor, from Hussain Sagar. "The face is completely decomposed and beyond recognition," an officer investigating the matter said. "We have called Kamble's family members to Hyderabad to identify the body."
According to the police, the watchman of the lodge had seen Kamble going out. The seminar organisers did not realise until much later that the professor was missing. They then filed a missing complaint. "That complaint is still being investigated," the officer said. "Prima facie it looks like the body that was fished out on Sunday is of the professor."
The police said Kamble's son is on his way to Hyderabad. "By Monday afternoon we will be able to confirm the identity of the body," the officer said.
A thorough academician, Kamble was known for his study of Ambedkar. He had written several books and poems, among them Ramayan Sanskrutik Sangharsh, Dharmantarachi Bheemgarjana, and Chalvaliche Diwas. He had also translated works of other authors.
News of his suspected death in a mysterious manner came as a major shock to his friends in socio-political circles. Along with poet Namdeo Dhasal, Kamble was a founder of the militant Dalit Panther organisation. Later, he became a general secretary of the Janata Dal and worked with prime minister VP Singh. Kamble was also in the forefront of the agitation demanding the renaming of Marathwada University as Ambedkar University.
Noted Dalit writer Arjun Dangle said, "It's a big loss as he was a committed Ambedkarite. His contribution in academics and Dalit agitations was immense. His sudden death is a shock to me."
Said Tusshar Jagtap, "He was a brilliant academician and champion of the Dalit cause. He told me how he wanted to donate some rare books on Ambedkar to the university. I am deeply shocked to hear the news."
A close aide of Kamble revealed that the professor had been complaining of ill heath for a while. At the seminar in Hyderabad he was supposed to deliver an hour's lecture on Ambedkar's philosophy. But he spoke for just five minutes and returned to the lodge, complaining of uneasiness and asking to be left alone.