Manyavar kansi Ram
Kanshi Ram (15 March 1934 – 9 October 2006), also known as Bahujan Nayak or Saheb, was 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. 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.
Kanshi Ram was born on 15 March 1934 in Khawaspur village, Ropar district, in a Ramdasia Sikh family. The Ramdasias are a Dalit sect in Punjab.
Kanshi Ram joined the offices of the Explosive Research and Development Laboratory in Pune. In 1964, during his time there, he joined the agitation started by All India Federation of Scheduled Caste/Tribes Backward Class & Minorities Employees Welfare Associations of Government of India to prevent the abolition of a holiday commemorating B. R. Ambedkar's birthday.
In 1978, Ram formed BAMCEF, a non-political, non-religious and non-agitational organization with wings like BVF, Brotherhood Center and Buddhist Research Center.
Later, in 1981, Ram formed another social organization known as Dalit Shoshit Samaj Sangharsh Samiti (DS4). 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) and in it he used of the term chamcha (stooge) for Dalit leaders who for their selfish motives work for parties like the Indian National Congress (INC) such as Jagjivan Ram or Ram Vilas Paswan and for Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) keeping in ethical context with Ambedkar's book What Gandhi and the Congress Have Done to the Untouchables to the politics of Dalit liberation.
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, 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.
After forming BSP 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 against a future Prime Minister V. P. Singh and performed impressively but lost polling close to70,000 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, Kanshiram was also elected as member of Lok Sabha from Etawah in Uttar Pradesh. In 2001 he publicly announced Mayawati as his successor.
Proposed conversion to Buddhism
In 2002, Ram announced his intention to convert to Buddhism on, 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 before the set date of conversion.
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 two will be converting. But when you have power you can really create a stir".
Ram was a diabetic. He suffered a heart attack in 1994, an arterial clot in his brain in 1995, and a stroke in 2003.
He died in New Delhi on 9 October 2006 of a severe heart attack. He had been virtually bed-ridden for more than two years.
According to his wishes, his funeral rites were performed as per Buddhist tradition, with Mayawati lighting the pyre. His ashes were placed in an urn and kept at Prerna Sthal, where many people paid their respects.
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.