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A Tribute To Kanshiramji

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat

10 October, 2006

SP's founder President Mr Kanshi Ram died last night out of a heart attack. He was 72. Kanshi Ram's death had been ailing for the past two years and was confined to bed at BSP president Mayawati's house.

If India's politics has grown through a radical change with Dalit becoming the mainstream political force, the one man who made is possible was Kanshi Ram. He worked diligently and religiously to develop a cadre who could bring the party to National mainstream and ultimately to the power in Uttar-Pradesh. In the Indian political scenario, the gap left by Dr Baba Saheb Ambedkar was difficult to fill. Ambedkar was a giant, a man of great character and quintessentially an ideologue. Kanshiram was a great mobiliser, he understood the issue of self respect and participation of the communities. Those close to him always remember how he worked hard to build up BAMSEF and DS-4. He would cycle down to streets and town, sleep on the floor and converse with the activists. Kanshi Ram understood very well how communities under represented in our Parliamentry system crave for representtion. If in Uttar-Pradesh, communities like Pals ( Shephards), Nishads ( fishermen), Rajbhars have developed highly political thoughts, it is because of the BSP and its strength. Ofcourse, for the Jatavs and Chamars in Uttar-Pradesh, BSP became a 'mission ka kaam'. No other community or political party in India till date can claim such loyal supporters such as BSP, where the workers would go at their own and bring other people to the polling booths. Dalits in Uttar-Pradesh along with most backward communities are today thoroughly politicised, a matter of envy for the South Indian part where the NGOs are working in large number yet they do not enjoy that political power, social dignity as in Uttar-Pradesh.

Therefore, Kanshiram in true sense was a revolutionary who changed the political equations and gave new dimensions to Dalit politics in India in general and UP in particular.

Whatever may be his draw backs, Kanshiram revived the strong Ambedkarite sense of dignity, self respect in the masses who had once upon a time became vote bank of the upper caste leadership of different political parties. Kanshiram changed the perception. " Jiski jitni Sankhya Bhari, uski utni bhagidari' and with the concept of Bahujan Samaj, Kanshiram went beyond Ambedkar in political stretagy. He was not confined to Dalits but spread to most backward communities as well as Muslims in India. For the first time, we saw a rainbow coalition of the Bahujan Samaj emerging in the north that shook the power structure.

His was a sharp mind. In the initial phase he knew it well that people would always question him as what was the mass base of the party. Yet, BSP would contest all the seats. He remarked once : We may not win all the seats but we are in a position to change the equations and responsible for some one else's defeat'. That stretagy resulted in Congress Party grounded in different elections in Uttar-Pradesh. No talk of developmental drama would take away people from Kanshiram. The parties like BJP would talk of ultra nationalism and Hindutva while Congress talked about secularism but were ultimately decimated in Uttar-Pradesh. Dalit-bahujans of Uttar-Pradesh remained loyal to him. In Kanshiram's UP, Dalit representation became the main issue. It was the struggle between the Manuwadi parties and Dalit representative parties. Ultimately people chose BSP. Today, BSP is growing stronger and stronger in the state and all set to stage a come back. Kanshraim would have been happy to see return of his party. Alas he is no more.

Kanshiram's death is a big blow to the Dalit movement. He was icon whom the Dalits of the country looked for guidance. He was down to earth and lived for the society. He kept his words. He life was an example for many other political leaders who amassed huge wealth and are involved in family business and red tapism. Family for Kanshiram was the Dalit samaj. Though in his last days, the issue of his health and confinement was challenge by his family yet one should know that Kanshiram virtually was a man for his society. He rarely talked about his family. Such example are very rare in Indian politics.

Life of Kanshiramji will always remind the people of India and particularly the Dalits to struggle for their democratic rights by bringing together all the marginalised forces of the country and have their government at the centre. Kanshi ram dreamt of a Dalit prime minister leading the country. One hope that his dream would come true one day. Yes we all need such thinkers and stretagist, honest man who considered the society as their 'parivar' . That Bahujan Samaj has to claim the rightful place in the polity and society of the country and lead it to next century. It is not utopian to say that the next century would be the century of Dalits, the followers of Ambedkar. This dream will definitely be realised and one person who could rightully claim to have changed the entire system and brought us close to realising Baba Saheb dream would always be Kanshiram.

For the Dalits all over the country, it is time to rededicate themselves to the cause of Dalit Bahujan Alliance which was perceived by Kanshiram. This Dalit Bahujan Alliance should be led by the Dalits, the follower of Baba Saheb. Ofcourse, there are many contradictions with some of the lathi weilding backward communities who hit the Dalits yet Dalits are in a position to lead the movement and provide a philosophical, cultural leadership to all. India's battle is not just a political battle. It is a fight against the brahmanical socio-cultural values and the Dalits vision is an answer to that. A vision which challenge the sancitity of religion, dogmas, text books and even Gods. No religion has the power to challenge Gods and the books allegedly written by the Gods. It is only the Dalit vision which can rightfully claim to challenge the authority of Gods and Godsons. One hope that in this holy months, which is already being celebrated all over the country as a mark of Dr Ambedkar's conversion, all the followers of Baba Saheb will rededicate themselves to socio cultural empowerment of Dalits in the country. Kanshiramji may not be here physically but his life would always remain a source of inspiration for millions of people who saw him build an organisation and a movement that ultimately changed destiniy of 170 million Dalits in India.

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