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Kanshiram Venerated as a dalit icon Kanshiram 1934 2006 is regarded as being next only to Ambedkar today This book illuminates his journey from the early years in rural Punjab and with Ambedkarites in Pune to his launching BAMCEF an umbrella organization uniting backward castes scheduled tribes dalits and minorities and eventually the Bahujan Samaj Party in 1984 Drawing on myriad oral and written sources Badri Narayan shows how Kanshiram mobilized dalits with his homespun idiom cycle rallies and uniuely the use of local folk heroes and myths rousing their self respect and how he struck opportunistic alliances with higher caste parties to seize power for dalits Evocatively described is his extraordinary relationship with Mayawati right until his death and the role she has played in fulfilling his vision during and after his lifetime Contrasting the approach of the two men Narayan highlights the turn Kanshiram gave to Ambedkar s ideas Unlike Ambedkar who sought its annihilation he saw caste as a basis for forging a dalit identity and a source of political empowerment Authoritative and insightful this is a rare portrait of the man who changed the face of dalit society and indeed of Indian politics The book portrays Kanshiram in a light that he ought to be portrayed in The author acknowledges the zeal with which Kansiram has worked towards the larger cause of emancipating the oppressed castes and creating an egalitarian society He believed that this journey would be possible only when the marginalised castes gain political power So in pursuit of this power he created and led the Bahujan Samaj Party to the seat of power Even though it came with a lot of limitations it can be said that he changed the landscape of politics in Uttar Pradesh with repercussions across India His focus on creating an alternate culture for the Dalits and the oppressed Bahujan castes is noteworthy He understood the importance of fiction and myths in the public consciousness and he strove to create an alternate sense o cultural history and identity for the oppressed castes This was done meticulously with considerable success across UP His organisational methods and his ability to mobilise people are top notch; a lot of lessons to be learned from him on organisingAs opposed to DrAmedkar's dream of annihilating caste the author opines that Kanshiram leveraged caste consciousness to gain politically I disagree with the author here It is significant to note that Ambedkar wanted to channelise the political power of the oppressed castes as a means to the end of annihilating caste It has to be understood that Kanshiram engaged in and worked towards the same dream by creating awareness about the hierarchical system which oppressed the Dalitbahujans He politicised the Dalits and introduced them to their own history and culture while infusing a strong sense of dignity and self respect in them The politicisation of Dalitbahujans cannot be labelled as casteism unless you're using that brand of politics to discriminate against others on the basis of caste To create awareness about their plight local folklores and history cannot be dismissed as another form of casteismKanshiram spoke about converting to Buddhism but it never materialised because of the political impracticality of it After having mobilised people around their uniue caste based folklores and heroes it would have been fruitless to convert to Buddhism But Manyawar Kanshiram did symbolically stay committed to the ideals of Buddhism by having his funeral rites conducted as per Buddhist rites His concept of Sarvajan which was all encompassing was manipulated by the Brahmins to destroy the reputation of the party His views on reservations are a matter of concern because he viewed it as an affront to dignity and self respect I wish he would have realised that reservations are a matter of right and that they are the only tool to fight underrepresentation and discrimination that rises out of caste Mayawati's support to the Economically Weaker Section Reservation could be a conseuence of this flawed stance adopted by Kanshiram Kanshiram's alliances with the BJP should be viewed in light of the political expediencies of the time and the ultimate need to capture political power Sometimes such compromises are inevitable but the BSP should be judged by their commitment to their ideological core values Unfortunately judging by recent happenings BSP's support to EWS Reservation and the Abrogation of Art370 the BSP seems to have forgotten the values that Kanshiram dedicated his life for Everything said and done it is an undisputed fact that Kanshiram would go down in the annals of history as one of the tallest leaders of the oppressed Dalitbahujan castes He did not reduce his vision to the emancipation of the Dalits alone Instead he extended his long term vision to the creation of a casteless egalitarian society This vision motivated him to steer his party to represent all marginalised group minorities and backward castes His deep sense of justice empathy and compassion; his commitment; his selflessness and his earnestness will endear him to all believers of social justice May his ideals live forever If this book gets a good rating first and foremost is because of writing about a personality like Kanshi Ram who received very little attention from English speaking scholars So if the book is not rich with many details one can forgive the author for Kanshi Ram had little that had left for further research and exploration The Chapter on 'Early Years' is a touching tale One has to see it to believe it the kind of dedication Kanshi Ram had for his cause What i find problematic is the chapter with 'An agenda beyond Ambedkar ' to deal with such a subject is another book in itself It needs larger understanding of caste anti caste struggles before one can conclude that Kanshi Ram differs with Ambedkar on the subject of annihilation of caste Even if it so it needs a better argument In the end its entirely worth reading and remembering the life and times of arguably India's original politician of 21st century A uote from the bookIn 1962–63 when I Kanshiram got the opportunity to read Ambedkar’s book Annihilation of Caste I also felt that it was perhaps possible to eradicate casteism from society But later when I studied the caste system and its behaviour in depth there was a gradual modification in my thoughts I have not only gained knowledge about caste from the books but from my personal life as well Those people who migrate in large numbers from their villages to big cities like Delhi Mumbai and Kolkata take no possessions with them but their caste They leave behind their small huts land and cattle etc in the village and settle in slums near sewers and railway tracks with nothing else but their one and only possession—their caste If people have so much affection for their caste then how can we think of annihilating it? That is why I have stopped thinking about the annihilation of casteRead the full review at

  • Hardcover
  • 256 pages
  • Kanshiram
  • Badri Narayan
  • English
  • 10 May 2016

About the Author: Badri Narayan

बद्री नारायण गोविन्द बल्लभ पन्त सामाजिक विज्ञान संस्थान इलाहाबाद में सामाजिक इतिहाससांस्कृतिक नृतत्वशास्त्र विषय के प्रोफेसर तथा सामाजिक विज्ञान संस्थान मानव विकास संग्रहालय एवं दलित रिसोर्स सेन्टर के प्रभारी हैं।यूजीसी आईसीएसएसआर आईसीएचआर तथा इंडियन इंस्टीटयूट ऑफ एडवांस्ड स्टडीज शिमला 1998 99 के अलावा इंटरनेशनल इंस्टीटयूट ऑफ एशियन स्टडीज लाइडेन यूनिवर्सिटी द नीदरलैंड 2002

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