|Saheb Manyawar Kanshi Ram|
|Founder and National president of the Bahujan Samaj Party|
14 April 1984 – 18 September 2003
|Member of the Indian Parliament
|Preceded by||Kamal Chaudhry|
|Succeeded by||Kamal Chaudhry|
|Member of the Indian Parliament
|Preceded by||Ram Singh Shakya|
|Succeeded by||Ram Singh Shakya|
|Born||15 March 1934
Pirthipur Bunga village of Rupnagar district, Punjab, India
|Died||9 October 2006 (aged 72)
|Political party||Bahujan Samaj Party|
Kanshi Ram (15 March 1934 – 9 October 2006), also known as Bahujan Nayak or Saheb, was an Indian politician and social reformer who worked for the upliftment and political mobilisation of the Bahujans and Dalits, the untouchable groups at the bottom of the caste system in India. 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.
Saheb Kanshi Ram was born to Bishan Kaur and Hari Singh in the Ramdasia Sikh (dalit/Chamar Sikh) community of the Scheduled Caste group, which is the largest group in Punjab, India, at Pirthipur Bunga (his maternal village), in Rupnagar district  of Punjab. Living in Khawaspur village, Saheb Kanshi Ram's father, who was to some extent literate, made sure that all his children were educated.Saheb Kanshi Ram had two brothers and four sisters, out of them all, he was the eldest and most highly educated with a BSc degree. He completed his bachelor's degree in Science (B.Sc) from the Government College at Ropar affiliated with Panjab University. In 1958, after completing his graduation,Saheb Kanshi Ram joined the Department of Defence Production and took up the position of scientific assistant in Pune, Maharastra India
Saheb Kanshi Ram joined the offices of the High Energy Materials Research Laboratory (HEMRL), then became part of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) in Pune. During his tenure in the DRDO in 1965 he joined the agitation started by SCEWASTAMB (All India Federation of Scheduled Caste/Tribes Backward Class & Minorities Employees Welfare Associations) of Government of India to prevent the abolition of a holiday commemorating B. R. Ambedkar's birthday. It was after he joined the struggle against the abolition of Ambedkar's birthday as a holiday, in 1965, that his career in the fight for the oppressed communities started. He studied the entire caste system and the works of Ambedkar closely and came up with many efforts to help the oppressed.
In 1971 he quit his job and together with his colleagues established the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Other Backward Classes and Minorities Employees Welfare Association. The Association was registered with the Pune Charity Commissioner. Through this association, attempts were made to look into the problems and harassment of the above-mentioned employees and bring out an effective solution for the same. Another main objective behind establishing this association was to educate and create awareness about the caste system. This association turned out to be a success with more and more people joining it. In 1973,Saheb Kanshi Ram again with his colleagues established the BAMCEF: Backward And Minority Communities Employees Federation. The first operating office was opened in Delhi in 1976 with the motto-"Educate Organize and Agitate". This served as a base to spread the ideas of Ambedkar and his beliefs. From then on Saheb Kanshi Ram continued building his network and making people aware of the realities of the caste system, how it functioned in India and the teachings of Ambedkar. Wherever he travelled he did the same and had many followers. In 1980 he created a road show named "Ambedkar Mela" which showed the life of Ambedkar and his views through pictures and narrations.
In 1981 he founded the Dalit Shoshit Samaj Sangharsh Samiti or DS4 as a parallel association to the BAMCEF. It was created to fight against the attacks on the workers who were spreading awareness on the caste system. It was created to show that workers could stand united and that they too can fight. However this was not a registered party but an organization which was political in nature. In 1982 he wrote his famous book The Chamcha Age (an Era of the Stooges) and in it he used of the term chamcha (stooge) for Dalit leaders who for their selfish motives work for parties like Congress such as Jagjivan Ram or Ram Vilas Paswan and for Bharatiya Janata Party keeping in ethical context with Babasaheb Ambedkar’s book What Gandhi and the Congress Have Done to the Untouchables to the politics of Dalit liberation. In 1984, he established a full-fledged political party known as the Bahujan Samaj Party. However, it was in 1986 when he declared his transition from a social worker to a politician by stating that he was not going to work for/with any other organization other than the Bahujan Samaj Party. During the meetings and seminars of the party, Kanshi Ram stated to ruling classes that if they promised to do something, it would pay to keep the promise, or else just accept that they were not capable of fulfilling their promises. In late 1990s he described Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as most corrupt (mahabrasht) party in India and Congress, Samajwadi Party and Janata Dal as equally corrupt.
In 1973 he formed the, BAMCEF, a non-political, non-religious and non-agitational organisation. Laterm he formed another social organisation known as DS4. He started his attempt of consolidating the Dalit vote in 1981 and by 1984 he founded the Bahujan Samaj Party. The BSP found success in Uttar Pradesh but struggled to bridge the divide between Dalits and Other Backward Classes.
He unsuccessfully contested from East Delhi (Lok Sabha constituency) in 1991 and came at fourth position. Then he represented the 11th Lok Sabha from Hoshiarpur, Kanshiram was also elected as member of Lok Sabha from Etawah in Uttar Pradesh. In 2001 he publicly announced Mayawati as his successor.
Announcement for conversion to Buddhism
In 2002,Saheb Kanshi Ram, announced his intention to convert to Buddhism on 14 October 2006, the fiftieth 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. But, he died 9 October 2006. 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 two will be converting. But when you have power you can really create a stir," she said.
He was already a diabetic and he suffered from a heart attack in 1994 followed by the formation of a clot in the brain artery in 1995. He had suffered a brain stroke in 2003. From around 2004 or so, Kanshi Ram stopped appearing publicly as he was suffering from various health problems. He convalesced at the home of Mayawati.
On 9 October 2006, he died of a severe heart attack in New Delhi. Kanshi Ram, who suffered from multiple ailments such as stroke, diabetes and hypertension, was virtually bed-ridden for more than two years.
According to his wish, last ritual were performed as per Buddhist tradition, the pyre of Kanshi Ram was lit by his sole heir Mayawati. His ashes were placed in Urn and kept at Prerna Sthal, with huge procession accompanied by lakhs of supports.
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," Singh said. Under Ram's leadership, the BSP won 14 parliamentary seats in the 1999 federal elections.
Saheb Kanshi Ram cremated as per Buddhist rituals
The body of Saheb Kanshi Ram was consigned to flames with Buddhist rituals. The last rites were performed in the presence of his two brothers and sister. BSP president Mayawati personally supervised the last journey of her mentor. Earlier, the body was brought to the party office around 1 p.m. and kept there for an hour for people to pay homage. Several national and State leaders, including Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, paid their tributes at the party office. Then the body, wrapped in the tricolour, was taken to the Nigam Bodh Ghat in a glass casket mounted on a flower-decked vehicle. The cremation took place around 4 p.m.
Vice-President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, Congress president Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul Gandhi, the former Prime Minister I.K. Gujral, and Bharatiya Janata Party leader Sushma Swaraj were present at the funeral.
During the funeral procession, party workers and followers raised slogans hailing Kanshi Ram as "the leader of the Dalits." A group of Buddhist monks accompanied the procession.
As per Saheb Kanshi Ram's wishes, his mortal remains would not be immersed in any river but would be kept in the party offices in Delhi and Lucknow, Ms. Mayawati said.
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