Hundreds of Thousands people assembled today in Lucknow to remember Kanshiram and pay their tribute to the great leader. It is shocking to see how every decision of the BSP government has been rescinded by the current dispensation of Uttar-Pradesh. Kanshiram's legacy remain everlasting, stronger and powerful today.
The mainstream media has no time to remember a man who changed the politics of India and actually did India a great favor by not really turning it into another organized chaos as we are witnessing today. Yes, one is shocked to see political and intellectual dishonesty of Indian elite pretending its fight against corruption and yet keeping conspicuous silence on the biggest corruption which it faces, the issue of the rights of Dalits, minorities and aadivasis. The anti-corruption agenda is being fixed by the corrupt corporate and their cohorts in the media and hence we need a complete scrutiny of it in a separate article. Many of us know well how the corporate funded anti-corruption movements ignore the issue of identities and diversity in our society.
Kanshi Ram, the founder of Bahujan Samaj Party changed the face of Indian politics. Actually, he changed it positively. He builds up the DS-4 movement and later started BAMSCEF and turned them into powerful organ to spread the movement of social change. The movement which remained on the margins after the Death of Baba Saheb Ambedkar was politically established by him in the largest state of Uttar-Pradesh and gave hope to millions others in rest of the country. Today, the Dalit polity is not an attachment to the so called mainstream politics but it has fixed up agenda for mainstream politics, much to the disdain of the middle classes, corporate elite and media which has been persistently trying to undo that agenda of social justice.
Kanshiram was a sharp learner and understood well the contradictions of our society and different castes. He was simple in his approach and was never a rebel rouser in the public. He spoke from his heart and did not hide his personality behind the garb of artificial arguments and fictitious propaganda. His focus was more on the community and its empowerment through political action. One thing which many of Ambedkarite blame him was not really following Buddhism as a precondition for changing the system. Even when technically both Kanshiram and Mayawati did not embrace Buddhism yet none can actually say that they followed 'Hindu rituals'. In fact, the most positive aspect of kanshiram was that he never ever believed in brahmanical rituals and was totally committed to the cause of Dalit empowerment through political action.
His experiments with the most marginalized communities in Uttar-Pradesh, is an example for other to follow. He picked up young political activist and trained them for future. His simplicity never allowed him to be away from his people and develop a distance from them. That he learnt from his vast mass contact programme all over the country. He had a sharp brain to catch up political activist and that helped him build up the party of committed cadres.
Kanshiram was never media savvy and treated it with utter disdain that it deserves. He knew well about media's caste biases against Dalits and that is why it did not matter even when he had a physical scuffle with the media in front of his residence in Delhi. Media might have been loudmouth in condemning him yet at the end of the day, the 'famous' journalist who got beaten up by Kanshiram became his 'follower' later.
In the beginning, kanshiram would ask the upper castes to leave the venue of the BSP meetings. He asserted with great courage but that was never a threat to the upper caste monopoly of Indian state and our villages. Tilak, Taraju and Talwar actually do not assert with violence these days but with 'sam-daam-danda-bheda'. It is with brutal power in the villages as well as politics of cooption that Indian elite works altogether. He joined hand with Malayam Singh Yadav and both Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party formed a coalition government in Uttar-Pradesh in 1993 but that coalition lacked social cultural programme to integrate the Dalit Bahujans hence it collapsed under its own contradictions. Kanshiram and Mulayam were using these contradictions for their own benefits and realized that being together was difficult for them as Mulayam Singh Yadav and his Samajwadi Party is not the product of Bahujan Samaj movement of Ambedkar, Periyar and Phule. I do not even feel that they understood Lohia well as Samajwadi party is a political outfit like any other middle class party and has no specific socio cultural programme for the Bahujan masses. In fact, one is not even sure whether Mulayam Singh Yadav likes the term Bahujan or not.
Kanshiram's biggest mistake was in getting BJP support for BSP government in the state but if we see the historical legacy then it was important to understand as why he did it. Given the nature of intrigues in the Indian politics by caste politicians, he knew well that an independent government of BSP was impossible at the moment and he wanted to install the government of Mayawati at all cost. The positive side was that it helped BSP and others understand political compulsions without compromising the basic principles of their political ideologies. Ofcourse, BSP could not honor Periyar in the hinterlands because of the BJP's aversion to Periyar. The same BJP did not say anything to its alliance partners like DMK or ADMK who swear by Periyar's ideology. Hence some time, political ideologies are great humbug to create a fictitious agenda and stop the most marginalized people to bargain power politics.
Kanshiram used the opportunism to the favor of Dalit polity though it may not always be productive. Now the BSP is engaged in dealing with upper castes also though it has completely abandoned the agenda of social change. Kanshiram used to say that he want to put the Manuwadi social order to upside down but later realized that it is virtually impossible to erase a structure. The best thing is to create better alternatives and initiate a change which is a slow process yet bound to happen.
When I was sitting at the Genocidal museum in Phnom Penh where Pol Pot's horror regime executed thousands of innocent people, one thing came in my mind. How would people react to such a situation in India? Was it possible to start from ground zero and undo everything to provide a level playing field as Pol Pot wanted and what happened at the end? Ideologies were at war with each other and all of them were actually part of power elite. The strength of BSP or Kanshiram lies in the fact that it believe in political change and it learnt its lesson well from each passing day that at the end of the day, the Dalits can change their own fortunate through political participation. Kanshiram did not talk of greater 'ideologies' accept the path of Baba Saheb Ambedkar and even that he was not a cranky theoretician pushing his people to sacrificing table. No, he was a pragmatist who developed new theory of participation in power structure. He made the Dalit believe in themselves and providing a political alternative to all. It was not the 'elite' class leading the battle of the marginalized but they develop their own leadership. Many may have complexes and questions about Mayawati and Kanshiram's theories and everybody is free to accept them or not. The fact is that Kanshiram never went to the upper castes for votes though Mayawati is going to them. In politics, a party changes its positions, learn from the past and have to go to people. Rigidities of righteousness do not work in political work which is basically art of managing contradictions and making impossible thing work together.
Kanshiram is no more today. His contribution needs a careful analysis. One cannot ignore the ray of hope that he ignited among the vast masses all over the country. It is sad that the current dispensation of Uttar-Pradesh has calculatedly started targeting Dalits and their great cultural icons. Sad, because, Mulayam Singh Yadav and his son could focus positively on the agenda of the state and work for the betterment of the people. Mulayam and his Samwajwadis can learn a lot from the work of kanshiram. The Cultural Revolution unleashed by Jyotiba Phule, Baba Saheb Ambedkar, Chhatrapati Shahuji Maharaj and Periyar is not just for Dalits alone but for vast Bahujan masses as well as secular humanists too. It is ironical that a party which should have used Kanshiram's legacy to reach the Dalit Bahujan masses is actually trying to discredit him and pleasing the caste based forces in Uttar-Pradesh. Kanshiram should be honored for making dalits believe in India's political system and making it a stronger democracy.
When I see world around and how lunatic political class used the poorest of the poor in the name of power to the people, the innumerous killings of people to protect the 'identities of people', where people forgot humanities and yet without result, Kanshiram's empowerment to his people is an example for everyone to understand. Today, we remember him for his enormous contribution to our political system where Dalits are not just an object to get the votes but their philosophy, ideology and thinking matters and using it systematically and intelligently they can definitely form a government of their own as happened in Uttar-Pradesh which can bring positive changes in their lives. . Dalits are asserting their presence everywhere politically and have made radical changes in Indian system through political interventions. Political parties are following them and yet they remain powerful and perhaps that is the biggest legacy of Kanshiram that he made Dalit believe in themselves and strength of their power.
Vidya Bhushan Rawat
Visit my blog at
For information on the issues, movements and priorities of Scavenger community in India please log on to
For information on civil society initiatives on Muslims in UP please log on to
Follow me on twitter at freetohumanity
Skype at vbrawat
For Social action, land rights, right to food and hunger issues support Social Development Foundation at www.thesdf.org