Kanshi Ram

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Kanshi Ram
Founder and National president of the Bahujan Samaj Party
In office
14 April 1984 18 September 2003
Succeeded by Mayawati
Member of the Indian Parliament
for Hoshiarpur
In office
Preceded by Kamal Chaudhry
Succeeded by Kamal Chaudhry
Member of the Indian Parliament
for Etawah
In office
Preceded byRam Singh Shakya
Succeeded byRam Singh Shakya
Personal details
Born15 March 1934
Rupnagar district, Punjab Province, British India
Died9 October 2006 (aged 72)
New Delhi
Political party Bahujan Samaj Party
Website www.bamcef.info/manyawar-shri-kanshiram-ji.php

Kanshi Ram (15 March 1934 – 9 October 2006), also known as Bahujan Nayak [1] or Saheb, [2] was an Indian politician and social reformer who worked for the upliftment and political mobilisation of the Bahujans, the untouchable groups at the bottom of the caste system in India. [3] 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.

Untouchability, in its literal sense, is the practice of ostracising a minority group by segregating them from the mainstream by social custom or legal mandate. The term is most commonly associated with treatment of the Dalit communities in the Indian subcontinent who were considered "polluting", but the term has also been loosely used to refer to other groups, such as the Cagots in Europe, and the Al-Akhdam in Yemen. Traditionally, the groups characterized as untouchable were those whose occupations and habits of life involved ritually polluting activities, such as fishermen, manual scavengers, sweepers and washermen.

Caste system in India class in Hindu society

The caste system in India is the paradigmatic ethnographic example of caste. It has origins in ancient India, and was transformed by various ruling elites in medieval, early-modern, and modern India, especially the Mughal Empire and the British Raj. It is today the basis of educational and job reservations in India. It consists of two different concepts, varna and jati, which may be regarded as different levels of analysis of this system.

The Dalit Shoshit Samaj Sangharsh Samiti, abbreviated as DS-4 or DSSSS was founded on 6 December 1981 by Kanshi Ram to organise dalits and other oppressed groups of India. It was related to BAMCEF.


Early life

Kanshi Ram was born on 15 March 1934 in Ropar district, Punjab, British India. Some sources say his birthplace was the village of Pirthipur Bunga [4] and others that it was Khawaspur village. Although his family were Ramdasia Sikhs, an untouchable sect, in Punjab at that time there was relatively little stigma attached to being an untouchable. [5] [6]

Punjab Province (British India) former province of British India

Punjab, also spelled Panjab, was a province of British India. Most of the Punjab region was annexed by the East India Company in 1849, and was one of the last areas of the Indian subcontinent to fall under British control. In 1858, the Punjab, along with the rest of British India, came under the direct rule of the British crown. The province comprised five administrative divisions, Delhi, Jullundur, Lahore, Multan and Rawalpindi and a number of princely states. In 1947, the partition of India led to the province being divided into East Punjab and West Punjab, in the newly created Union of India and Dominion of Pakistan respectively.

The Ramdasia are a Sikh sub-group that has originated from the Hindu caste of weavers known as Julaha. According to Paul Ghuman, Ramdasias are also Chamars who have converted to Sikhism.

After studies at various local schools, [7] Ram graduated in 1956 with a BSc degree from Government College Ropar. [8]

A Bachelor of Science is an undergraduate academic degree awarded for completed courses that generally last three to five years, or a person holding such a degree.


Kanshi Ram joined the offices of the Explosive Research and Development Laboratory in Pune [5] under the government's scheme of positive discrimination. It was at this time that he first experienced caste discrimination [8] and in 1964 he became an activist. Those who admire him claim that he was spurred to this after reading B. R. Ambedkar's book Annihilation of Caste and witnessing what he perceived to be discrimination against a Dalit employee who wished to observe a holiday celebrating Ambedkar's birth. [9]

The system of reservation in India consists of a series of measures, such as reserving access to seats in the various legislatures, to government jobs, and to enrollment in higher educational institutions. The reservation nourishes the historically disadvantaged castes and tribes, listed as Scheduled Castes and Scheduled tribes by the Government of India, also those designated as Other Backwards Classes (OBCs) and also the economically backward general. The reservation is undertaken to address the historic oppression, inequality, and discrimination faced by those communities and to give these communities a place. It is intended to realise the promise of equality enshrined in the Constitution.

B. R. Ambedkar Indian polymath and the architect of Indian Constitution

Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, popularly known as Babasaheb Ambedkar, was an Indian jurist, economist, politician and social reformer who inspired the Dalit Buddhist movement and campaigned against social discrimination towards the untouchables (Dalits), while also supporting the rights of women and labour. He was independent India's first law and justice minister, the architect of the Constitution of India, and a founding father of the Republic of India.

<i>Annihilation of Caste</i> book by B. R. Ambedkar

Annihilation of Caste is an undelivered speech written in 1936 by B. R. Ambedkar who fought against the country's practice of untouchability. It was later self-published by the author.

Ram initially supported the Republican Party of India (RPI) but became disillusioned with its co-operation with the Indian National Congress. In 1971, he founded the All India SC, ST, OBC and Minority Employees Association and in 1978 this became BAMCEF, an organisation that aimed to persuade educated members of the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Other Backwards Classes and Minorities to support Ambedkarite principles. BAMCEF was neither a political nor a religious body and it also had no aims to agitate for its purpose. Suryakant Waghmore says it appealed to "the class among the Dalits that was comparatively well-off, mostly based in urban areas and small towns working as government servants and partially alienated from their untouchable identities". [10]

The Republican Party of India (RPI) is a political party in India. It has its roots in the Scheduled Castes Federation led by B. R. Ambedkar. The 'Training School for Entrance to Politics' was established by Ambedkar in 1956 which was to serve as an entry point to the Republican Party of India (RPI). The first batch of the school consisted of 15 students. Its first batch turned out to be last batch as the school was closed after Ambedkar's death in 1956.

Indian National Congress Major political party in India

The Indian National Congress(pronunciation ) is a broadly based political party in India. Founded in 1885, it was the first modern nationalist movement to emerge in the British Empire in Asia and Africa. From the late 19th century, and especially after 1920, under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi, Congress became the principal leader of the Indian independence movement. Congress led India to independence from Great Britain, and powerfully influenced other anti-colonial nationalist movements in the British Empire.

Later, in 1981, Ram formed another social organisation known as Dalit Shoshit Samaj Sangharsh Samiti (DSSSS, or DS4). He started his attempt of consolidating the Dalit vote and in 1984 he founded the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). He fought his first election in 1984 from Janjgir-Champa seat in Chhattisgarh. [11] The BSP found success in Uttar Pradesh, initially struggled to bridge the divide between Dalits and Other Backward Classes [12] but later under leadership of Mayawati bridged this gap. [13]

Bahujan Samaj Party Political party of India

The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) is a national political party in India. In terms of vote-share in the 2014 general election, it is the country's third-largest national party, even though it did not win any seats in the Lok Sabha. It was formed mainly to represent Bahujans, referring to people from the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Castes (OBC), as well as religious minorities that together, according to Kanshi Ram at the time he founded the party in 1984, comprised 85 percent of India's population but was divided into 6,000 different castes.

Janjgir-Champa Vidhan Sabha constituency is one of the 90 Vidhan Sabha constituencies of Chhattisgarh state in central India.

Chhattisgarh Central-east state in India

Chhattisgarh is one of the 29 states of India, located in the centre-east of the country. It is the tenth-largest state in India, with an area of 135,191 km2 (52,198 sq mi). With a 2011 population of 25.5 million, Chhattisgarh is the 16th-most populated state in the country. A resource-rich state, it is a source of electricity and steel for the country, accounting for 15% of the total steel produced. Chhattisgarh is one of the fastest-developing states in India.

In 1982 he wrote his book The Chamcha Age, in which he used the term chamcha (stooge) to describe Dalit leaders such as Jagjivan Ram and Ram Vilas Paswan. [5] He argued that Dalits should work politically for their own ends rather than compromise by working with other parties. [14]

After forming BSP Ram said the party would fight first election to lose, next to get noticed and the third election to win. [15] In 1988 he contested Allahabad seat up against a future Prime Minister V. P. Singh and performed impressively but lost polling close to 70,000 votes. [16]

He unsuccessfully contested from East Delhi (Lok Sabha constituency) in 1989 and came at fourth position. Then he represented the 11th Lok Sabha from Hoshiarpur, [17] Kanshiram was also elected as member of Lok Sabha from Etawah in Uttar Pradesh. In 2001 he publicly announced Mayawati as his successor.

In the late 1990s, Ram described the BJP as the most corrupt (mahabrasht) party in India and the INC, Samajwadi Party and Janata Dal as equally corrupt. [18] [19]

Proposed conversion to Buddhism

In 2002, Kanshiram announced his intention to convert to Buddhism on 14 October 2006, the 50th 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. However, he died on 9 October 2006. [20]

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 too will be converting. But when you have power you can really create a stir". [21]


Ram was a diabetic. He suffered a heart attack in 1994, an arterial clot in his brain in 1995, and a paralytic stroke in 2003. [22] He died in New Delhi on 9 October 2006 of a severe heart attack at the age of 72. [23] He had been virtually bed-ridden for more than two years. [24] According to his wishes, [25] his funeral rites were performed according to Buddhist tradition, with Mayawati lighting the pyre. [22] His ashes were placed in an urn and kept at Prerna Sthal, where many people paid their respects. [26]

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." Under Ram's leadership, the BSP won 14 parliamentary seats in the 1999 federal elections. [27]

See also

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