Kanshi Ram

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Kanshi Ram
Founder and National president of the Bahujan Samaj Party
In office
14 April 1984 – 18 September 2003
Succeeded byMayawati
Member of the Indian Parliament
for Hoshiarpur
In office
1996–1998
Preceded byKamal Chaudhry
Succeeded byKamal Chaudhry
Member of the Indian Parliament
for Etawah
In office
1991–1996
Preceded byRam Singh Shakya
Succeeded byRam Singh Shakya
Personal details
Born15 March 1934
Rupnagar district, Punjab Province, British India
Died9 October 2006 (aged 72)
New Delhi
Political partyBahujan Samaj Party
Websitewww.bamcef.info/manyawar-shri-kanshiram-ji.php

Kanshi Ram (15 March 1934 – 9 October 2006), also known as Bahujan Nayak[1] or Saheb,[2] was an Indian politician and social reformer who worked for the upliftment and political mobilisation of the Bahujans, the untouchable groups at the bottom of the caste system in India.[3] Towards this end, Kanshi Ram founded Dalit Shoshit Samaj Sangharsh Samiti (DS-4), the All India Backward and Minority Communities Employees' Federation (BAMCEF) in 1971 and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) in 1984. He ceded leadership of the BSP to his protégé Mayawati who has served four terms as Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh.

Early life[edit]

Kanshi Ram was born on 15 March 1934 in Hoshiarpur district, Punjab, British India. Some sources say his birthplace was the village of Pirthipur Bunga[4] and others that it was Khawaspur village. Although his family were Ramdasia Sikhs, an untouchable sect, in Punjab at that time there was relatively little stigma attached to being an untouchable.[5][6]

After studies at various local schools,[7] Ram graduated in 1956 with a BSc degree from Government College Ropar.[8]

Career[edit]

Kanshi Ram joined the offices of the Explosive Research and Development Laboratory in Pune[5] under the government's scheme of positive discrimination. It was at this time that he first experienced caste discrimination[8] and in 1964 he became an activist. Those who admire him claim that he was spurred to this after reading B. R. Ambedkar's book Annihilation of Caste and witnessing what he perceived to be discrimination against a Dalit employee who wished to observe a holiday celebrating Ambedkar's birth.[9]

Ram initially supported the Republican Party of India (RPI) but became disillusioned with its co-operation with the Indian National Congress. In 1971, he founded the All India SC, ST, OBC and Minority Employees Association and in 1978 this became BAMCEF, an organisation that aimed to persuade educated members of the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Other Backwards Classes and Minorities to support Ambedkarite principles. BAMCEF was neither a political nor a religious body and it also had no aims to agitate for its purpose. Suryakant Waghmore says it appealed to "the class among the Dalits that was comparatively well-off, mostly based in urban areas and small towns working as government servants and partially alienated from their untouchable identities".[10]

Later, in 1981, Ram formed another social organisation known as Dalit Shoshit Samaj Sangharsh Samiti (DSSSS, or DS4). He started his attempt of consolidating the Dalit vote and in 1984 he founded the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). He fought his first election in 1984 from Janjgir-Champa seat in Chhattisgarh.[11] The BSP found success in Uttar Pradesh, initially struggled to bridge the divide between Dalits and Other Backward Classes[12] but later under leadership of Mayawati bridged this gap.[13]

In 1982 he wrote his book The Chamcha Age, in which he used the term chamcha (stooge) to describe Dalit leaders such as Jagjivan Ram and Ram Vilas Paswan.[5] He argued that Dalits should work politically for their own ends rather than compromise by working with other parties.[14]

After forming BSP Ram said the party would fight first election to lose, next to get noticed and the third election to win.[15] In 1988 he contested Allahabad seat up against a future Prime Minister V. P. Singh and performed impressively but lost polling close to 70,000 votes.[16]

He unsuccessfully contested from East Delhi (Lok Sabha constituency) in 1989 and came at fourth position. Then he represented the 11th Lok Sabha from Hoshiarpur,[17] Kanshiram was also elected as member of Lok Sabha from Etawah in Uttar Pradesh. In 2001 he publicly announced Mayawati as his successor.

In the late 1990s, Ram described the BJP as the most corrupt (mahabrasht) party in India and the INC, Samajwadi Party and Janata Dal as equally corrupt.[18][19]

Proposed conversion to Buddhism[edit]

In 2002, Ram announced his intention to convert to Buddhism on 14 October 2006, the 50th anniversary of Ambedkar's conversion. He intended for 20,000,000 of his supporters to convert at the same time. Part of the significance of this plan was that Ram's followers include not only untouchables, but persons from a variety of castes, who could significantly broaden Buddhism's support. However, he died on 9 October 2006.[20]

Mayawati his successor said "Saheb Kanshi Ram and I had decided that we will convert and adopt Buddhism when we will get "absolute majority" at the Centre. We wanted to do this because we can make a difference to the religion by taking along with us millions of people. If we convert without power then only we too will be converting. But when you have power you can really create a stir".[21]

Death[edit]

Ram was a diabetic. He suffered a heart attack in 1994, an arterial clot in his brain in 1995, and a paralytic stroke in 2003.[22] He died in New Delhi on 9 October 2006 of a severe heart attack at the age of 72.[23] He had been virtually bed-ridden for more than two years.[24] According to his wishes,[25] his funeral rites were performed according to Buddhist tradition, with Mayawati lighting the pyre.[22] His ashes were placed in an urn and kept at Prerna Sthal, where many people paid their respects.[26]

In his condolence message, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh described Ram as "one of the greatest social reformers of our time .. his political ideas and movements had a significant impact on our political evolution ... He had a larger understanding of social change and was able to unite various underprivileged sections of our society and provide a political platform where their voices would be heard." Under Ram's leadership, the BSP won 14 parliamentary seats in the 1999 federal elections.[27]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Kanshi Ram should be given the Bharat Ratna: Mayawati". DNA. 15 March 2016. Retrieved 2016-04-24.
  2. ^ Singh, Rajesh Kumar (30 July 2015). "This bard wants Kanshi Ram loyalists to spread wings". Hindustan Times. Retrieved 2016-10-16.
  3. ^ Narayan, Badri (11 May 2012). "Ambedkar and Kanshi Ram - so alike, yet so different". The Hindu. Retrieved 2016-05-15.
  4. ^ "Kejriwal to visit BSP founder Kanshi Ram's family". hindustantimes.com. 2016-03-07. Retrieved 2018-05-20.
  5. ^ a b c "The man who saw tomorrow". The Indian Express. 24 May 2014. Retrieved 2016-10-16.
  6. ^ Dua, Rohan (23 April 2014). "Will never vote for BSP, vow Kanshi Ram siblings". The Times of India. Retrieved 2016-10-16.
  7. ^ Narayan, Badri (2014). Kanshiram: Leader of the Dalits. Penguin UK. p. 25. ISBN 9789351186700.
  8. ^ a b Bose, Ajoy (2009). Behenji: A Political Biography of Mayawati. Penguin UK. p. 35. ISBN 9788184756500.
  9. ^ Waghmore, Suryakant. Civility against Caste: Dalit Politics and Citizenship in Western India. Sage. p. 39.
  10. ^ Waghmore, Suryakant. Civility against Caste: Dalit Politics and Citizenship in Western India. Sage. p. 40.
  11. ^ Bagchi, Suvojit (2013-11-17). "Chhattisgarh polls: Towards a photo finish". The Hindu. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 2018-08-09.
  12. ^ Rawat, Ramnarayan (23 October 2006). "The Dalit Chanakya". Outlook. Retrieved 2016-10-16.
  13. ^ Lal, Ratan Mani. "17 castes included Shakyas, Rajbhar, Saini, Maurya and others members of this community are more inclined towards Mayawati and her BSP".
  14. ^ "Return of the chamcha age". The Indian Express. 3 November 2014. Retrieved 2016-02-27.
  15. ^ "a new party loses the first election, gets noticed in the next and wins the third, these are Kanshiram ji's words - Yogendra Yadav".
  16. ^ SUBRAHMANIAM, VIDYA. "A quarter century of Kanshi Ram & Mayawati".
  17. ^ "Biographical Sketch of Member of XI Lok Sabha: KANSHI RAM, SHRI B.S.P. - HOSHIARPUR (PUNJAB)". IIS Windows Server. 15 March 1934. Retrieved 2016-05-02.
  18. ^ "Continuity of govt policies may be a casualty as BJP, BSP take turns to rule". India Today 15041997. 15 April 1997. Retrieved 2016-04-24.
  19. ^ "Rediff On The NeT Elections '98: BSP to vote against Vajpayee". Rediff.com. 20 March 1998. Retrieved 2016-04-24.
  20. ^ "Kanshi Ram cremated as per Buddhist rituals". The Hindu. 2006-10-10. Retrieved 2016-10-16.
  21. ^ Mayawati claims Saheb Kanshi Ram's legacy
  22. ^ a b HT News
  23. ^ Hevesi, Dennis (2006-10-10). "Kanshi Ram, 72, a Voice for India's Outcasts, Dies". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2018-05-20.
  24. ^ "Kanshi Ram breathes his last". dna. 2006-10-09. Retrieved 2018-05-20.
  25. ^ "Kanshi Ram's ashes will not be immersed: Mayavati". Rediff.com. Retrieved 2012-08-04.
  26. ^ "Maya gives city traffic blues!". Hindustan Times. 19 October 2006. Retrieved 2012-08-04.
  27. ^ Indian Dalit leader passes away

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