Kanshi Ram: Fighter for an equal conversation

By Shivam Vij

First published in Tehelka issue dated 21 October 2006

Whether or not Ambedkar’s birthday should be a holiday is a decided issue today; in 1965 it was not. At the Department of Defence Production in Pune, where he worked as a scientific assistant on a reserved seat after completing his B.Sc, Kanshi Ram found himself in the middle of an agitation by Scheduled Caste employees to prevent the abolition of the April 14 holiday. Although born in a community of Punjabi Chamars converted to Sikhism, Kanshi Ram moved in an educated urban ethos where there was little discrimination against dalits. But this incident shook him: he read Ambedkar’s Annihilation of Caste thrice in one night.

Along with his friend DK Khaparde, Kanshi Ram began to think of an organisation that would work for dalit officers but also mobilise them to give back to the community. As the political mobiliser took shape, he lost interest in his government service and abandoned his engagement and decided to dedicate his life to a new Ambedkarite movement of his own making. Continue reading “Kanshi Ram: Fighter for an equal conversation”

Understanding the BSP’s silence on atrocities against Dalits

By Shivam Vij

First published by Tehelka on 24 March 2007

Raju Pal, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) legislator from Dhumanganj Assembly seat in Allahabad, was murdered in January 2005. Mohammad Ashraf and his brother, Samajwadi Party (SP) MP Atiq Ahmed, were arrested and later released on bail. Since then, four more BSP functionaries in Allahabad have been gunned down. In what was widely seen as retaliation by the BSP, there was an unsuccessful attempt on SP leader Suresh Yadav’s life in September 2005.

The violence is seen as linked to BSP’s increasing influence in the Allahabad area and the SP’s attempts to retain its hold on the seats here. The BSP has tried its best to draw political mileage from the murders, staging dharnas and walkouts in the Vidhan Sabha in Lucknow. Continue reading “Understanding the BSP’s silence on atrocities against Dalits”