15 May, 2021

A Noun, Not A Verb

Could Kanshi Ram in ’84 have imagined the BSP of ’09?

A Noun, Not A Verb
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+05:53

In 1984, Kanshi Ram founded the Bahujan Samaj Party, just in time for his young colleague Mayawati to stand for a parliamentary seat in a byelection the next year. Twenty-five years on, the electoral achievements of the BSP and of Mayawati herself have been extraordinary. It is doubtful that in 1984 Kanshi Ram could have done so much as even daydream of dominating the politics of India’s largest state. With the limited exception of the still young Ram Vilas Paswan from Bihar, at the time there was no strong, independent Indian leader of Dalit origins.

Kanshi Ram was already middle-aged in 1984 and a veteran organiser in Maharashtra, the heartland of Dalit politics of the 20th century. As a young science graduate, he had moved to Pune from Punjab—his family was Raedasi Sikh, from a Chamar community converted to Sikhism—to take up a position reserved for the scheduled castes in the defence production industry. In Pune, he soon gravitated towards associations of the Dalit followers of Ambedkar. D.K. Khaparde, who became...

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