Today March 15 is the birth anniversary of Babu Kanshi Ram (March 1934 – October 2006), a visionary leader of the dalits in the contemporary times after Baba Sahib Bhim Rao Ambedkar. Babu Kanshi Ram was a legendary personality, in the socio-political firmament of India during his life time and will remain so in the years to come. The dalits, rightly and sincerely, address him out of reverence, as Manyawar, Sahib, Babuji, etc. If the social media organs like the Face Book are any indication of the standing of the person, I think Babu Kanshi Ram has a definite space and place in the emerging dalit consciousness. It is a biggest and befitting tribute to the memory of Babu Kanshi Ram.
Babu Kanshi Ram belonged to an ordinary and simple family of district Ropar in Punjab. After graduating in science he joined one of the established governmental scientific laboratories to earn his bread and butter. He had no political inclination in the early formative years of his life but it seems that he must be fully alive to the socio-political ground realities. These ground realities did not allow him to continue with his job. Babu Kanshi Ram revolted, studied and analyzed Mahatma Phule and Dr. Ambedkar and also Lord Buddha and jumped into the public life to cajole the fellow dalits to stand up and ask for their due share n the power structures of India. His commitment and involvement was total. He sacrificed the comforts of life to inculcate the sense of self esteem and shed the feeling of inferiority complex among the dalits. He voluntarily undertook and said “I will never get married, I will never acquire any property, I will never visit my home, and I will devote and dedicate the rest of my life to achieve the goals of Phule-Ambedkar movement “. From 1965 onwards to 1978, he worked tirelessly to gear the dalit community for the bigger things to capture political power. In 1978 he launched his first organization: Backward and Minority Communities' Employees' Federation, popularly known as BAMCEF. Three years later, he founded another organization: DS-4 (Dalit Shoshit Samaj Sangharsh Samiti). And finally on 14 April 1984 ( birth anniversary of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar) , Babu Kanshi announced the formation of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) to realize and achieve the goal set out by Dr. Ambedkar , "Understand our ultimate goal. Our ultimate goal is to become the rulers of this country. Write this goal on the walls of your houses so that you will never forget. Our struggle is not for the few jobs and concessions but we have a larger goal to achieve. That goal is to become the rulers of the land." Babu Kanshi Ram left no stone unturned and within a few years made the BSP a force to reckon with. Babu Kanshi Ram reiterated this goal at the International Dalit Conference and said “We must become the rulers instead of being ruled”.
All said, it is matter of regret that Babu Kanshi Ram arrived but could not reach. The caravan was to be carried forwarded by the followers and dalit masses. It appears that the forces of ‘ divide and rule’ are gaining upper hand. The leaders made and supported by Kanshi Ram himself have gone berserk. The time and the tribulations may correct the course in due time. But the legacy of Babu Kanshi Ram will remain. His mission and vision is as good as today as it was before and it will remain so till the dalits don’t get their due space and share in the social, economic and political structures of India. In a poetic parlance, Babu Kanshi Ram’s message to dalits is:
तुम अस्मां में भी सुराख़ कर सकते हो;
जरा जोर से जूता उछालो तो सही !