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, uniquely, 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.