Today, October 9, is the death anniversary of Babu Kanshi Ram
(March 15 – October 9,
2006) leader of the down-trodden and the under-privileged – the Bahujan Samaj
in the contemporary times. His followers rightly called him Manyawar or Sahib.
He earned and deserved these salutations by sheer dedication and tireless
efforts towards safe-guarding the interests of dalit masses and the under-dogs
of the society. Babu Kanshi Ram was born in an ordinary dalit family of a
village in Punjab with no political background and interest. Like any other young
man, he joined Government service as a junior scientist in 1957 after his
studies. He was fully engaged in his scientific work in one of the laboratories
in Kirki till he got attracted towards Dr. B.R. Ambedkar by reading books
gifted by his colleagues. He slowly, consciously or otherwise, started taking
interest in community and political activities in the late 1960s. Further
developments engulfed him fully and he resigned his plush job. Babu Kanshi Ram
devoted himself to the issues related to the dalit communities and weaker
sections of the society.
|Babu Kanshi Ram|
His agenda and mission was dalit empowerment and to get their equal participation in power structures. He believed in aggressive politics, prima facie blended with pragmatic approach to gain access to state power. On the one hand he propagated the idea of powerful retaliation and said, “Ek Eet Ka Jawab Do Pathron Se (two stones for one brick)” and on the other cobbled up governments with the Congress Party, BJP and Samajwadi Party at his will and convenience. Babu Kanshi Ram was a master strategist and a visionary. In the run up to his ultimate goal to grab political power, he launched an outfit of dalit employees, backward and minority communities in 1978 called BAMCEF. He floated yet another organization of dalit and socially exploited communities in 1981 and named it DS4 and graduated to form a full fledged political party on April 14, 1984 (birth anniversary of Babasaheb Ambedkar) and named it Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). M.J. Akbar, a known journalist and columnist, summed up the arrival of Babu Kanshi Ram and said, ‘He has come but yet to reach.” He reached too during his life time and transformed the BSP to a ruling party in UP, the biggest state of India, under the stewardship of his protégé Mayawati not once but four times. BSP sent a good number of MPs to parliament and a number of state legislatures. BSP became one of the several national parties under the arrangements of the Election Commission.
Babu Kanshi Ram became synonymous with dalit empowerment. He stood against status quo in politics and wanted fundamental change by gaining access to power with equal share. He criticized the system of reservation as started with the Poona Pact in 1932 signed between Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. B.R. Ambedkar. Babu Kanshi Ram said that these arrangements of reservation, in place of separate electorates for Scheduled castes as stipulated in the Communal Award of PM Ramsey MacDonald, have created a gap between “genuine and counterfeit” leadership of the depressed classes and termed them as Chamchas (stooges) of the political outfits they represent.
Coming to the legacy of Babu Kanshi Ram, let me quote from one of his speeches and it will set the matter in its perspective. He said, “I will never get married. I will never acquire any property. I will not visit my home. I will devote and dedicate the rest of my life to achieve the goals of Phule-Ambedkar mission.” He proved himself true to his word till his untimely death in 2006 leaving a rich legacy for the politics and social set-up of India. He proved that dalits could become a ruling class, if they recognized their own inherent strength and acted accordingly. He established without doubt that political power and social equality would not come by begging but by asserting. He showed during his life time that sheer dedication and selflessness in public life is certainly recognized and rewarded by the masses. He was a leader of sterling worth without any bank balance and property. He sacrificed the comfort of family life and devoted himself fully to the common cause of poor people. One of the important and relevant aspects of Babu Kanshi Ram’s legacy is his effort and success in instilling a sense of confidence among the youth of the marginalized sections of the society. He will be remembered for his immense contribution to the social and political transformation of the Indian society and polity.
I conclude this as a tribute and homage to the memory of one of the greatest leaders of India on his death anniversary by an Urdu couplet of Allama Iqbal:
हज़ारों साल नर्गिस अपनी बेनूरी पे रोती है;
बड़ी मुश्किल से होता है चमन में दीदावर पैदा !
PS: I wanted to post this yesterday, October 9, but due to a technical hitch could not do so.