- Kanshi Ram was born on 15 March 1934 in Ropar district, Punjab, British India.
- Kanshi Ram’s father, who was to some extent literate, made sure that all his children were educated.
- After studies at various local schools, Ram graduated in 1956 with a BSc degree from Government College Ropar.
- Kanshi Ram had two brothers and four sisters, out of them all, he was the eldest and most highly educated with a BSc degree.
- Kanshi Ram joined the offices of the Explosive Research and Development Laboratory in Pune under the government’s scheme of positive discrimination.
- It was after he joined the struggle against the abolition of Dr. Ambedkar’s birthday as a holiday, in 1965, that his career in the fight for the oppressed community started.
- He studied the entire caste system and the works of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar closely and came up with many efforts to help the oppressed class rise from the ditches of poverty.
- Finally in 1971 Kanshi Ram quit his job and together with his colleagues established the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Other Backward classes and Minorities Employees Welfare Association.
- Kanshi 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.
- Later, in 1981, Kanshi Ram formed another social organisation known as Dalit Shoshit Samaj Sangharsh Samiti.
- He started his attempt of consolidating the Dalit vote and in 1984 he founded the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP).
- The BSP found success in Uttar Pradesh, initially struggled to bridge the divide between Dalits and Other Backward Classes but later under leadership of Mayawati bridged this gap.
- In 1982 he wrote his book ‘The Chamcha Age (an Era of the Stooges)’ where he lampooned Dalit leaders who, for their own selfish motives, worked for parties like the Congress. On realising the Dalit movement cannot gain momentum without a political base, Kanshi Ram launched the Bahujan Samaj Party in on 14 April 1984, 28 years after Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar’s death. He used the Pali word ‘Bahujan’ to assimilate all minorities under one banner.
Formation of Political Party
- However, it was in 1986 when he declared his transition from a social worker to a politician by stating that he was not going to work for/with any other organization other than the BSP.
- During the meetings and seminars of the party, Kanshi Ram stated to ruling classes that if they promised to do something, it would pay to keep the promise, or else just accept that they were not capable of fulfilling their promises.
Formation of Bahujan Samaj Party(BSP)
- After forming BSP Kanshi Ram said the party would fight first election to lose, next to get noticed and the third election to win.
- 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.
- 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.
- At the onset of the 90s, Kanshi Ram had aggressively campaigned against the Manuwadis and upper castes. But soon he realised the importance of all castes and garnered support from Brahmins, Banias and even the Muslims. As a result he effectively wiping out the Congress vote bank in the 90s.
- Under Ram’s leadership, the BSP won 14 parliamentary seats in the 1999 federal elections.
- People of Etawah elected Kanshiram to Lok Sabha from Etawah in Uttar Pradesh. In 2001 he publicly announced Mayawati as his successor.
- In 2002, Kanshi Ram 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 before he can execute his plan.
Death of Kashi Ram
- Health Problem and diabeties plagued Kanshi Ram. He suffered a heart attack in 1994, an arterial clot in his brain in 1995, and a stroke in 2003. After the stroke, he was virtually bed-ridden till his death.
- In 2002, Ram had announced his intention to convert to Buddhism on 14 October 2006, the 50th anniversary of Ambedkar’s conversion; however, he died just a few days short, on 9 October 2006, of a severe heart attack.
- His funeral rites were performed as per Buddhist tradition. Mayawati lighting the pyre, and his ashes were placed in an urn and kept at Prerna Sthal in Noida UP.