After BR Ambedkar, the second biggest name considered in Dalit movement is Saheb Kanshiram. Fondly known as the Bahujan Nayak, Kanshiram founded the Bahuja Samaj Party in 1948, which went on to form the government in Uttar Pradesh.
An Indian politician and a social reformer, Kanshiram worked for the upliftment and political mobilisation of the Bahujans, the untouchable groups at the bottom of the caste system in India.
It was Saheb Kanshi Ram who turned UP to Bahujan Pradesh from Brahmin Pradesh. He broke the Brahminical hegemony that had ruled in Uttar Pradesh.
Born on 15 March 1934, Kanshi Ram was a Dalit from the Chamar Ramdasia community of Khawaspur village in Ropar district (now Rupnagar), Punjab.
Kanshi Ram didn’t care about how does he look like or how does he dress up. He was one of the simplest people ever lived which makes him the great personality. His clothes were torn sometimes but for him, Bahujan movement was more important than clothes. He ate sitting outside roadside dhabas, not like Brahmin leaders who dine at 5-star hotels.
He said, till there is caste I’ll use it for the benefit of my community. If you have a problem, end caste system.
In one of the interviews in 1986, Kanshi Ram said, we will win the UP within 10 years. He turned that into reality by forming the government in UP with next 10 years.
Kanshiram won people’s heart when he said, “I will never get married, I will never acquire any property, I will never visit my home, I will devote and dedicate the rest of my life to achieve the goals of Phule -Ambedkar movement.”
Kanshi Ram was a visionary, he knew the importance of media and Dalit-Bahujans’ history. He established various magazines such as Oppressed India and visited Dalit historical places such as Bhima Koregaon. He learnt and picked good aspects of different Dalit-Bahujan movements across India and shaped the new political movement.
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.