Kanshi Ram was a great Indian politician and a social reformer who fought his entire life for the rights and honor of that particular part of the Indian society who were at the bottom of the Indian caste system. He worked for the upliftment and the social equality of Bahujans, the lower cast, or backward people in India.
He never married just to devote his entire time for the growth of the backward people who were in the majority but deprived of their rights.
- Name: Kanshi Ram
- Also Known As: Kanshiram, Bahujan Nayak, Saheb, Yugpurush, Manyavar Kanshiram
- Famous As: Social Reformer, Politician
- Born On: 15 March 1934
- Place Of Birth: Ropar (now Rupnagar), Punjab, British India
- Died On: 9 October 2006
- Parents: Shri Hari Singh (Father), Shrimati Bishan Kour (Mother)
Saheb Kanshi Ram Ji (15 March 1934 – 09 October 2006) was one of the greatest Indian politician and a social reformer who worked his entire life for social equality and the upliftment of Bahujans. He was known by many other names like Bahujan Nayak, Saheb, and Yugpurush.
He came into politics to provide the Bahujans and the Dalit Samaj equal power in the society. Following his journey, Kanshiram founded Dalit Shoshit Samaj Sangharsh Samiti (DS-4), All India Backward and Minority Communities Employees’ Federation (BAMCEF) in the year 1971 and finally the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) in the year 1984. Mayawati, who had been handed over the leadership of BSP by Kanshi Ram, served the Uttar Pradesh for four terms as Chief Minister.
Early Life of Kanshi Ram
Kanshi Ram was born on 15th March 1934 in Ropar District of Punjab (India). His early life was quite normal just like all the other kids. He grew up with his siblings and his parents, Shri Hari Singh and Shrimati Bishan Kour.
When he was born, the midwife placed him in a tray made up of Kansa metal and from there he got the name Kanshi. He was the eldest among his siblings. He belonged to the scheduled cast group called Chamar or Ravidassia.
Despite being a low cast, he continued his studies. He completed his primary education from various local schools and his graduation with a BSc degree from the Government College Ropar.
After completing the studies, Kanshiram joined the office of the Explosive Research and Development Laboratory (ERDL) in Pune (1957) under the government’s scheme of affirmative action. This job brought a revolutionary change in his life. This was the first place where he realised caste discrimination.
Shri Kanshi Ram Ji quit his job after witnessing Shri Deena Bhan’s case at his workplace. Shri Deena Bhan, a senior colleague of Saheb Kanshi Ram, was a scheduled cast employee who got dismissed from his workplace. His fault was to protest against the ERDL’s management decision of cancellation of the holiday on B.R. Ambedkar‘s birthday.
After he came across this type of caste discrimination, he decided to work for caste equality. And from that particular moment, he never looked back. In the year 1964, he became a social activist and fought for the upliftment of the lower caste people. He was greatly inspired by B.R. Ambedkar and his books especially the one called the Annihilation of Caste.
Arrival in Politics
From the very beginning, Saheb Kanshi Ram had the idea that power is very essential to raise the voice and to fight for the rights of the lower caste and backward people of India. And he was well aware of the fact that unity is power. Therefore, to unite the lower caste and backward people and to raise the voice for their rights, he entered into politics.
He initially supported the Republican Party of India (RPI) till its co-operation with Indian National Congress.
In the year 1971, he founded the All India SC, ST, OBC and Minority Employees Association which, later on, became BAMCEF in the year 1978. This organisation aimed to connect the literate people of the Scheduled Castes and Other Backward Classes with the Ambedkarite principles.
In the year 1981, Kanshi Ram Ji founded another social organisation called Dalit Shoshit Samaj Sangharsh Samiti (DSSSS or DS4). He, later on, started to unite the Scheduled Castes and Other Backward people and initiated collecting their votes. Finally, in the year 1984, he formed the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP).
His initial political career was also full of challenges and failures. But, most importantly, he never gave up. His planning and thought process could be understood by his words. He said in one of his speeches that the party would fight its very first election to lose, next one to get noticed by others and the third election to win.
He fought his first election from Janjgir-Champa seat in Chhattisgarh in the year 1984. He came in the fourth position when contested from East Delhi (Lok Sabha constituency) in 1989. Nextly he represented the 11th Lok Sabha from Hoshiarpur. He was also elected as a member of Lok Sabha from Etawah in Uttar Pradesh.
Throughout his entire political journey, Saheb Kanshi Ram Ji was still searching for the breakthrough. Finally, that moment came when he publicly announced Mayawati as his successor in the year 2001 who served four terms as the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh.
Affection towards Buddhism
Kanshi Ram Ji was also attached to Buddhism. He had the plans to convert himself to Buddhism but not in the usual way. He wanted to make this moment historic by including 50,000,000 of his followers to convert to Buddhism at the same time to significantly broaden Buddhism’s support.
In the year 2002, Manyavar Kanshiram Ji announced his intentions for conversion in the future on the 50th anniversary of Ambedkar’s conversion i.e, on 14th October 2006. However, this dream of Kanshi Ram Ji could not come true as he died just before this moment on the 9th of October 2006. His attachment towards this religion could be understood by his wish to conduct his funeral as per Buddhism tradition.
Illness and Death
During his journey, Kanshi Ram Ji fought a battle against his health issues as well. He was not completely free from health issues. He was a diabetic, he suffered a heart attack in the year 1994, an arterial clot in his brain in the year 1995 as well as a paralytic stroke in the year 2003. Despite these difficulties, he continued to serve people along with his political journey.
At his last times, he had been bedridden for around two years. Finally, he died of a severe heart attack in New Delhi on the 9th of October 2006 at the age of 72.
His funeral was performed as per Buddhism tradition according to his wish, with Mayawati lighting the pyre. Thousands of people paid respect at Prerna Sthal where his ashes were placed in an urn. In his condolence message, the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh also admired Kanshi Ram Ji and described him as one of the great social reformers.
Books Associated with Manyavar Kanshiram
In the year 1982, he wrote the book “The Chamcha Age (The Era of the Stooges)”. In this book the term Chamcha i.e, Stooge is used to describe the Dalit leaders whom he alleged to have selfish reasons to work for the parties like the Indian National Congress and Bharatiya Janta Party.
He also wrote “Birth of BAMCEF” which got published later on.
His biography was written by Badri Narayan Tiwari namely “Kanshiram: Leader Of The Dalits”.
During his journey, Kanshiram Ji gave many valuable speeches which were compiled in many different books from time to time. Some of those books are;
- Bahujan Nayak Kanshiram Ke Avismarniya Bhashan by Anuj Kumar,
- Writings & Speeches of Kanshiram compiled by S.S. Gautam and
- The Editorials of Kanshi Ram by Bahujan Samaj Publications (1997).
Due to his sincere honest efforts, Kanshi Ram Ji remains immortal in everyone’s heart. There is a memorial at his birthplace, Pirthipur Bunga Sahib, with his statue in it. There are many Government schemes, programs, and public institutions named after Kanshi Ram in Uttar Pradesh. Manyawar Shri Kanshiram Ji Green Eco Garden has also been named in his memory in Lucknow.
Lesser-Known Facts about Saheb Kanshi Ram
- When he was born, the midwife placed him in a tray made up of Kansa metal and from there he got the name Kanshi.
- He had eight siblings and he was the eldest of them.
- He first saw Mayawati when she was giving a speech at the Government school where she was a teacher. That moment created a positive impact in his mind and he took Mayawati in the BSP.
- Kanshi Ram Ji was an expert in making personal relationships with people. He had great communication skills with genuine simplicity.
- He had a great interest in chatting with people. In his free time, this was his favourite activity.
- Although Kanshi Ram Ji was highly inspired by B. R. Ambedkar, the way of living of both of them was quite different. Where Ambedkar Ji was always wearing proper well-dressed formal and suits, Kanshi Ram had an interest in kurta-pajama and simple shirts.
Despite his birth in a lower caste and a lack of facilities, he had never chosen to give up. He had not only made himself capable to stand for himself but for the entire backward and lower cast community. Saheb Kanshi Ram Ji has proven the fact that if the determination is strong, one could achieve anything he/she wants despite his current situations.
Written By: Avishekh Tiwari