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MISSIONARY TO THE DALITS OF BIHAR

Remembering Dr. JOSE KANANAIKIL, S.J. (83/62)
Founder Director, Bihar Dalit Vikas Samiti (BDVS), 1982-2007 & Retired to XTTI, Patna: 2008



As I look at the face of Fr. José with closed eyes, I can visualize clearly a smiling face. That is the way he had faced life all through his life. He had to face many a misunderstanding, harsh criticisms and of course curses for his undying support for the rights of the Dalits. He paid the price for his stand but he faced it all with a smiling face. Known as the messiah of the Dalits, José loved a really simple life, fighting for the rights of the Dalits. He identified himself with the suffering Dalit brothers and sisters and gave them a dignity as human beings. He built a powerful organization which had the support of the government. His annual DALIT DIWAS attracted many an agency and also government ministers and officials. |It also gave a chance for the Dalits to voice publically their urgency to have equal rights and live a life of dignity. Though he was hailed as the messiah of the Dalits, Jose lived a humble and committed life till the end. Jose could sit for hours and listen patiently to the struggles of his people.

Jose was born in Kundanoor in Kerala on 25th of May in 1934 in a devout catholic family of 5 brothers and two sisters. After passing the S.S.L.C. in 1951, Jose worked in some government jobs. Jose entered the Society of Jesus in 1955. He was ordained a priest in 1963. He did his M.A in Indian Philosophy and Religion in the University of Pune. He joined the newly formed community of Navdeepti Sadan in Patna and also did his field work. His desire to work for the Dalits was very strong and though he lost all his hard-earned field work when he lost all the papers, (which fell from his motor cycle somewhere on the road) he never gave up. He did his M.A. in Sociology from the University of Chicago and also did his Ph.D. there in Sociology. On his return from USA, he joined the Indian Social Institute in New Delhi and served as the HOD, Programme for Scheduled Castes and Director of Publication for two decades. He started a Hindi magazine- ‘Hum Dalit’ a voice of the voiceless. Then he founded the BIHAR DALIT VIKAS SAMITI in Barh in 1982 which really brought the thousands of Dalits in Bihar to unite and work for their own dignity. Many agencies took up helping Jose to make the organization a success. He started centres in various places in Bihar and opened up the leadership potentialities of the Dalits.

Jose retired from active participation in BDVS in 2007 and handed over the responsibility to others. Slowly his health also deteriorated and he moved to XTTI where he had been well looked after. Father Jose Kananaikil peacefully closed his eyes in death on Friday, the 12th of January at the new house called Xavier Bhawan on Digha-Ashiana road at 7.45 pm. He had been suffering for the last many years but the end was peaceful.

We pray that the life of Jose gives hope to thousands of Dalit brethren who will fight a united battle for justice to their community. May Jose be their strength

Josey K. Kunnunkal, S.J.



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