Politics is the most difficult of life skills, and those who remain reluctant to master this art are condemned to remain as obedient slaves while the masters of politics enjoy undiminished supremacy in all human relations. History bears testimony that civilization developments have been made possible by the leadership of the political genius and by the labor of the politically ignorant. Indian history stands out as a glaring example of the dominance politically conscious groups’ exercise over non-political masses. The perfect political consciousness would never allow its victims to realize their subjugation lest they attempt upheavals and transformation. Whatever hardships and misery one has to go through, as a result of being non-political, is projected as the outcome and consequences of some supernatural, natural incidence in the past, as misdeeds in past births or due to low levels of competency, caliber and capabilities in the present and is translated as duty of the enslaved.
A glance at the pathetic perpetuation of the untouchables’ slavery and its institutional manifestations for centuries together in the form of poverty, denial of human rights, unemployment, illiteracy, self abnegation etc. demonstrate total hegemony of the caste beneficiaries and lack of political consciousness amongst the caste victims. The consciousness of maintaining domination over others remains the basic instinct of a political group and the efficient use of this consciousness to meet certain purposes shall measure its correctness.
A group bereft of political correctness or moral righteousness uses power in a selfish and imperious manner and puts humanity to shame as demonstrated by the brahmanical propensities in India. In the process, the hegemonized masses of untouchables and touchable Bahujan have to perpetually fight to retain/regain self-esteem, dignity and self-respect as they are forced to languish in the most dehumanized abject conditions. With no dreams of liberation in their sight, the caste victims stay resigned to their ‘divine destiny’ as destitute, degraded and disparaged, from time immemorial subjected to the choicest of insults, ignominy and humiliations accompanied by physical hardships and discomfitures of bonded slavery.
The struggle against the ‘cold blooded and calculated poverty’ of political consciousness remains inconclusive historically. Most of the attempts to politicize the oppression in the Indian subcontinent could never be brought to its logical culmination of emancipation, empowerment and enlightenment. The annihilation of obscurantist primordial liabilities and superimposed disabilities remains distant. As a result, casteism thrived on the shoulders of its very opponents and those who initiated the process of dismantling the caste structures ended up upholding the caste hierarchies more diligently with greater aggression and vigor. Caste shamelessly accommodated its erstwhile opponents to the ever bourgeoning ‘Shudras turned practical others’ through the process of Brahminisation or Sanskritization. But this process of settling down at the lowest rung of caste stratification had never been accepted by the untouchables unlike the Shudras and therefore the Dalits remained the agents of principal contradiction with the powers that be. Besides, being outside the cultural contours and control of the brahamanics, the untouchables or Dalits, possess the inherent quality and hunger to be the harbingers of transformation of social relations, to infuse an egalitarian and saner ethos into society, if they choose an appropriate strategic trajectory.
For being most oppressed, and therefore most needful and hence most desirous of smashing the caste hierarchies, the untouchables are the natural leaders of this struggle of social transformation. The very use of the phrase ‘annihilation of caste’ by Dr. Ambedkar speaks volumes of this revolutionary appetite; the untouchables have and assumed enormous ideological and political significance in contrast to the mild terminology used by so-called caste reformers.
In such an undemocratic and oppressive soil, the sowing of seeds of democratic institutions was the most challenging task performed by the makers of the constitution. To the satisfaction of non-political masses it was difficult to realize the enormous potential of this seed by the short-sighted myopic living conditions they were subjected to at that point of time. Being socially oppressed, economically exploited, culturally excluded and politically subjugated they had no idea of what a mighty tree this seed would transform itself into in the future.
As Ambedkar once observed: “Men are mortal, so are ideas. An idea needs propagation as much as a plant needs watering. Otherwise both will wither and die.” The idea of democracy or politicization of masses does not suit the ruling castes and they do their best to stop the trickling down of political consciousness right to the grassroots. With all the socio-economic and culture-religious power at their disposal, the tyrannical brahmanical minority did their best to successfully obstruct democracy for the masses for four decades at least. How procedural has been the democracy, to use the Schumpeterian term can be gauged by the fact that in 2012 government had to accept the necessity of right to food for 2/3rd population after conceding that 77% of Indian population is starving at below Rs. 20 a day. With less than 50% population denied safe drinking water and ¾ deprived of hygienic sanitation facilities, rampant illiteracy and unemployment, the historical responsibility of extricating the masses from the yoke of political ignorance remains largely with the politically conscious Bahujan communities.
The dawn of Bahujan Samaj Party on the horizon of the political arena in 1984, with Kanshi Ram at the helm of affairs, changed the canvas of the body politic of the country, bringing in hitherto unconventional and somewhat unbelievable grammar of politics with fresh idioms and terminology. ‘Our ultimate aim is to rule India’ thundered Kanshi Ram, who became a phenomenon within no time. Coming from a community of politically indifferent people, Kanshi Ram set afire the imagination of the untouchables who could suddenly visualize an objective alternative to their purposeless wanderings over which Gandhian, Marxian and brahamanics claimed perpetual ownership. The Chamars, supposedly one of the most recalcitrant of the untouchables, were the first to own the historical responsibility of bringing justice to the masses and legitimacy to democracy that was highly content deficit.
Soon a secret was unearthed by the educated elites and the intelligentsia that the call given by Kanshi Ram to capture the political power was nothing new and Ambedkar had already advised Dalits to write on the walls of their homes that they have to be the ruling community of this country one day. But Ambedkarite literature remained inaccessible even to the educated ones not to mention the uneducated ones. But the uneducated ones proved themselves to be great learners and captured the zest of the matter unmistakably. The rural masses of Dalits, with no food in their bellies began to queue up behind the elephant, the election symbol of BSP, which was used by Dr. Ambedkar also for political mobilisation and consolidation. These supporters had great hunger and unquenchable appetite in their eyes for self-respect, dignity and empowerment. With pristine emphasis on ‘own ideology, own leadership and own organisation’ Kanshi Ram instilled self confidence in the enthusiastic new political recruits taking great moral postures on contemporary political issues and confronting the most powerful personalities like VP Singh and Rajiv Gandhi. These symbolic fights were great moral boosters with unique mobilisation strategies. The much needed initiation was performed and the neediest started learning and using the political means for their liberation with the agenda of social transformation and economic emancipation.
As a master strategist Kanshi Ram used mammoth rallies as a ‘confidence building mechanism’ for a community that was scattered, resource-less and heavily dependent on dominant castes for its every day survival at micro level in the village setting. Being part of these rallies attended by millions or more provided him a great feeling of belongingness and superior strength, convincing him that there were so many like him and he was not alone. It was a great empowering strategy executed with meticulous perfection and alacrity. Also Kanshi Ram dissuaded local cadres not to contest PRI elections lest they may have to confront the dominant power at the village level with no weapons i.e. education, wealth, arms and local organisations, running the risk of demoralisation. Also these elections are used as a ploy to demoralise the most powerful untouchable community by propping up political stooges from numerically insignificant untouchable groups completing the evil design of Poona Pact at the village level.
In the initial years of the BSP, Kanshi Ram at the beginning of his address, used to advise ‘political others, the opponent Manuwadis’ to leave the rally ground for they might not like some of his observations and more since he was interested in a self respect movement, in building a Bahujan Samaj with its own strength and support, and therefore there was no need for their support. It was plain thinking and even plainer talking. Some of the people did leave the meetings and he used to address them for hours together, the audience mesmerised, listening in pin drop silence with total concentration. What an impact it had on an historically excluded community which was used to everyday abuse and humiliation, scolded and booted out from every possible position and premises of prominence!
They were witnessing nothing short of a miracle happening in front of their eyes: at least one of them was so powerful and mighty that he could command the commanders, he could ask them to leave the hall, so far only they were asked to leave or not to enter but now the process had started to reverse, they could expect better things and larger things to happen. It worked as a great morale booster in the on-going psychological warfare, as at the ground and material level, conditions were otherwise utterly hostile. It was another master stroke with which Kanshi Ram prepared his cadre of highest conviction, unflinching commitment and stunning courage. The political seed of emancipation and empowerment started getting the right fertilizer, light and water. The journey for reclaiming the fullest humane personality began in right earnest discarding the politics of dependency and demoralisation. Kanshi Ram emerged as the symbol of articulation, assertion and emancipation for the historically despised humanity. The politics of North India was never to remain the same again. The Dalits declared their arrival as conscious, capable catalysts of change and transformation of Indian politics and consequently socio-cultural structures, with democratic élan. The next two decades witnessed intense politicisation of eager masses that were determined to change: ‘Vote Hamara, Raj Tumahra, Nahi Chalega‘ to ‘Vote Se Lenge CM PM, Aarakshan Se SP DM‘.
By the process of awakening the masses and inducing them into meaningful involvement in the democratic process, Kanshi Ram was able to convince the Dalits, Backwards and converted religious Minorities, whom he collectively called as Bahujans, that political power has great transformative potential and was a great facilitator for destroying socio economic inequalities. The right to vote is the most precious possession of the Bahujan Samaj and they must exercise it with utmost efficiency to bring the desired political change. As all other resources i.e. education, wealth and power are not in their favour they must realise the significance of vote as their numerical preponderance was decisive in the majority driven democratic system. The very name ‘Bahujan Samaj Party’ of the organisation was a marvel of socio-cultural philosophy and political stewardship. The idea of Bahujan explains the origin, status and objectives of the party. Not only does Bahujan signify the philosophy, perspective and programme but positively sets the agenda for the mission as it is widely called, in the form of ‘Jati Todo Samaj Jodo‘.
Graded inequality with hierarchic and hostile castes as warring factions have remained the backbone of brahamanical supremacy as the Bahujan Samaj was divided into more than 6700 subgroups. Kanshi Ram called them as caste victims and on the basis of collective victimhood started mobilising them, providing alternative notions of identity, history and culture of India, extensively using Buddha, Phule, Periyar, Ambedkar and many more social revolutionaries who fought for change and self-respect of the Bahujan Samaj. In contrast to the brahamanical traditions of keeping the masses in the dark and utter ignorance, this mobilisation was enabling, empowering and enlightening the Bahujans and specially the neediest ones desirous of change and transformation in its initial years.
Kanshi Ram made a feverish pitch to be an honest claimant to represent the constituency of both Chaudhry Charan Singh and Jagjivan Ram and up to some extent Abdulla Bukhari. It was nothing less than a political coup in the Indian subcontinent and brought caste and its related debate to the fore and changed the agenda for Indian politics. The Bahujans were unleashed from their great political slumber and hibernation and having been being there for centuries together had developed an enormous appetite for reclaiming their lost glory and positions. The great democratic principle of power to the people starting taking its toll on the hegemonic caste status quo and the participation and representation of Bahujan started assuming substantial proportions.
The Lok Sabha accounting for less than ten Other Backward Classes members in early 80’s was made substantively representative to the tune of 200 members coming from this huge group constituting half of the India’s population. As a hard core democrat, having complete faith in the efficacy of constitutional means for the salvation of the innocuous masses, Kanshi Ram infused great enthusiasm and versatility into otherwise pale and procedural democracy in the hands of brahamanical tyrant minority. The faith poised by the caste victims in the Indian constitution and political democracy paved way for the widening and enrichment of democratic élan of the system suffering from the caste disease. One of the political novelties introduced by Kanshi Ram was the declaration of ‘Indian constitution as election manifesto’. Till date the BSP does not bring out an election manifesto and swears by the constitution alone. Kanshi Ram by bringing in masses as real actors provided grassroots support system dismantling the core, mantle and crust of the essentially undemocratic society. Rightly, Kanshi Ram earned the reputation of ‘greatest social democrat’ of modern times.
Handling caste in politics largely remained the exclusive preserve of the caste Hindus in the post-47 era, paying great political dividends to the hegemonic control of the Brahmanics. Kanshi Ram successfully used caste to the benefit of the caste victims, as an effective and powerful tool of consolidation and mobilisation of the Bahujan majority. Those enjoying the fruits of casteism for centuries started feeling the heat of their own creation and started crying ill about caste in politics. Caste victims having realised the importance of democratic polity and their numerical advantage, initiated the process of correcting the historical imbalance putting the wheel of democracy on the tracks and in this way bringing power back to the people. This was a great move towards extricating the caste victims from socio-political dependence, realising their humane potential for empowering enlightenment. This process of Bahujan empowerment restores the dignity and self-respect of the great masses kept politically enslaved by the brahamanical conspiracy. The actualization of their democratic propensities with critical faculties set in motion the questioning of their ‘divine dependence’– the Bahujan declared their resolution for restoring the great Buddhist philosophy of rational egalitarianism as ‘Atto-deep-Bhave‘, self-enlightenment as the basic principle of human relations and social reorganisation.
The movement started by Kanshi Ram gave enormous grassroots fillip to the Buddhist socio-cultural proliferation in the country. Each Bahujan cadre is the embodiment of liberating consciousness and exemplary courageous convictions determined to mend vicious minds and constructing compassionate humane relations. Liberating Bahujan Samaj from the self-abnegatory mental bondage and by creating perennial training channels of innumerable insurmountable ‘self-motivated-activated’ human resources, Kanshi Ram unleashed the great humanity into meaningful action, fast leading the path to emancipation, empowerment and enlightenment. It is appropriate, for his unprecedented contribution to the cause of humanity and civilizational development, for him to be acknowledged as greatest contemporary Buddhist or modern Buddha.
As an epitome of sacrifice, struggle and success, Kanshi Ram established unparalleled standards for the liberative Bahujan movement in modern India. His is a simple example of how a single individual can make his mark on his times and be instrumental in changing the course of history. Indian democracy suffering from the brahmanical virus lacked legitimacy and credibility for almost four decades. Kanshi Ram brought the masters of democracy, the masses into action and made them the real, substantial actors doing away with the democratic deficit. With highest conviction, unflinching commitment, ruthless dedication and meticulous executions with absolute focused approach, Kanshi Ram created phenomenal results in transforming Dalits into dynamic and diligent future rulers of the country abandoning their docile, diffident, dependency, by declaring that ‘our ultimate aim is to rule India‘.
Raj Kumar is Associate Professor, Political Science, Dyal Singh College, Delhi University.
[Pictures courtesy: the internet]