Today, October 9, is the death anniversary of Babu Kanshi Ram (March, 1934-October, 2006), the Mesiah of dalits after Dr. B.R. Ambedkar in the contemporary times. Babu Kanshi Ram was an ordinary man in the formative years of his life and career. After education in Punjab, he joined one of the defense research laboratories and started his professional career as a scientist. He did not have any political leanings to begin with. The discriminatory and Manuwadi working environment at the work place motivated and attracted Kanshi Ram to Ambedkar’s mission and philosophy. He resigned his well placed job and joined fulltime public life to integrate and organize the Bahujan Samaj (as against the minority Brahamnical order).
Kanshi Ram’s first priority was to engage and streamline the Government and organized sector employees. In December, 1978, He floated Backward and Minority Communities Employees Federation (BAMCEF) for the purpose. It was a success and he could establish himself in the educated and well-to-do employees belonging to dalit and backward communities. He marched further on his chartered course and established Dalit Shoshit Samaj Samiti (DS4) in December, 1981. With the experience, he graduated and initiated a full fledged political party named Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) in April, 1984. Kanshi Ram worked hard with unprecedented zeal. In no time, BSP became a force to reckon with. I recall the famous columnist and journalist, M.J. Akbar observed in one of his articles in the late 80s that ‘He (Kanshi Ram) has arrived but is yet to reach’. He did reach, not at the goal during his life time, but certainly near the goal. Kanshi Ram’s untimely demise changed the entire scenario. His followers like Mayawati showed some promise under Kanshi Ram’s leadership to begin with. The dalit masses extended the desired support and understanding but, it appears, that the inheritors of Kanshi Ram’s legacy are unable to sustain the situation.
Coming to the legacy of Kanshi Ram, it will be in order to know his views on some of the vital issues. The things will become clear. He dedicated himself totally to the cause he espoused. He stood for socio-economic change as against the status quo supported by the current political and social order. Kanshi Ram proved himself a game changer. He told his followers to become self reliant and retaliate against oppression. He taught his followers “ Ek Eent Ka Jawab, Do Pathar (for one brick respond with two stones) otherwise they were not his followers. Kanshi Ram wanted for the dalit masses their share in the political and economic structures as a matter of right and not magnanimity of the upper castes. The potent force behind this agenda of Kanshi Ram was his total dedication and self sacrifice. Before he ushered himself to the tortuous journey, Kanshi Ram vowed “I will never get married. I will never acquire any property. I will never visit my home. I will devote and dedicate my life to achieve the goals of Phule-Ambedkar movement.” He stood by the vows he took throughout his life. He never cared for is personal comforts. This total involvement and dedication of Kanshi Ram made him dear to the suffering and oppressed masses. He could establish and register his presence in the political and social spheres of life. He became a living legend. His political outfit, BSP became a strong cadre based political party by its own right. Thus, Kanshi Ram proved himself a powerful leader with vision. His legacy is relevant and important and will remain so in the years to come till a just and equitable social order is established.
Let us watch and see. The situation is taking a different turn. The opponents of Kanshi Ram in the major political parties like Congress and the BJP are willing to own Kanshi Ram on account of his following and political weight on one hand and his political heirs like Mayawati (no second name comes to my mind) are losing their steam and relevance, of late. The followers of Kanshi Ram are getting disgruntled and tired. It is a sad and bad commentary on the legacy of Kanshi Ram.