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