Sahib Shri Kanshi Ram was born on March 15, 1934, in Khawas Pur village of Ropar District of Punjab (India). He was the eldest of eight siblings. He belonged to the Ramdassia (Ad Dharmi/Mulnivasi) community of the Scheduled Caste group, which is the largest group in Punjab. He was named Kanshi because after his birth the midwife placed him in a tray made of kansa metal. His father owned some land and his uncles were in the armed forces. In Sahib Shri Kanshi Ram’s own words, “I was born and brought up amongst those who sacrificed themselves but never betrayed the country…” Despite his low caste background, he earned a bachelor’s degree in science from the Government College at Ropar (Punjab).
His upbringing was modest. During his education years there was nothing special about him to suggest that he would mature into great social revolutionary. It was only after he took up a government job in the western Indian state of Maharashtra that he began to be influenced by the writings and life of Baba Sahib Dr. Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar who voiced the concerns of India’s low caste community and worked hard throughout his life for their empowerment. Soon after his graduation, Sahib Shri Kanshi Ram Ji joined the research staff of Kirki’s Explosive Research and Development Laboratory (ERDL) in Pune 1957. While working in Pune, he quit his job after becoming involved in the famous Deena Bhan case. Shri Deena Bhan, a Rajasthani Scheduled Caste employee and senior colleague of Sahib Shri Kanshi Ram Ji was suspended. His fault was that he protested against the decision of ERDL management for the cancellation of holidays for Baba Sahib Dr. B. R. Ambedkar and Lord Buddha Jayantis and their replacement by the Tilak Jayanti and one additional holiday for Diwali. Sahib Shri Kanshi Ram Ji decided to fight against such a caste ridden and dictatorial behavior of the management. The fighter in Sahib Shri Kanshi Ram got the suspension orders of Shri Deena Bhan revoked and Dr. Ambedkar and Lord Buddha Jayantis holidays were restored.
This was the beginning of the long battle for the emancipation of the Dalits in the country that Sahib Shri Kanshi Ram had to lead till his last breath. He resigned from his job and totally dedicated his entire life for the cause of the community. He never married nor visited his home since then. His struggle was not for the home and family. He devised a new strategy to regain the lost glory of the original (Adi) inhabitants of Bharat (India). He gave utmost importance to the culture of work and democratic method of struggle. He also expanded the circle of the Dalits by incorporating other Backward Classes and Minorities into it.
He criticized the post-Ambedkar leadership of Dalits in India. For that he declared “Poona Pact” as the main reason. He said that “Poona Pact” made Dalits helpless. By rejecting separate electorate, Dalits were deprived of their genuine representation in legislatures. Several and various kind of chamchas were born in the last fifty years. As and when India’s so called high caste Hindu rulers felt the need of chamchas and when the authority of the upper castes got endangered by real and genuine Dalit leaders, chamchas were brought to the fore in all other fields”.
In his “The Chamcha Age”, a well argued and polemical tirade against the pseudo Dalit leaders, Sahib Shri Kanshi Ram Ji sharpen the contradiction for the legitimate acquisition of political power by the downtrodden in electoral democracy in India. In, the Chamcha Age, “he focused very much on the Poona Pact which was a point of a rather decisive Gandhian victory over Dr. Ambedkar after a long duel between the two at the Round Table Conference”. In the mid-1960s, Sahib Kanshi Ram Ji began to organize Dalit government employees to fight against what he saw as the deeply entrenched prejudice of higher caste peoples. It was around this time that he decided that he would not marry and dedicate his life to the cause of Dalit improvement. Finally he decided play a crucial role in the politics of the country.
The result was, Sahib Shri Kanshi Ram Ji launched his first organisation on December 6th, 1978: All India Backward (SC, ST, OBC) and Minority Communities’ Employees’ Federation, popularly known as BAMCEF. Three years later, on December 6th 1981, Sahib Shri Kanshi Ram Ji founded another organisation: DS-4 (Dalit Shoshit Samaj Sangharsh Samiti) and on April 14th, 1984, Sahib Shri Kanshi Ram Ji announced the formation of the Bahujan Samaj Party (the Common Man’s Party). As a politician, he became very popular among his people, who found a new hope and vision in his style of functioning and sincerity. Suddenly he became a national figure. He was a master strategist and a meticulous organiser. He used his strengths to carve out a niche for Dalits. This was done by deploying an often combative and aggressive strategy, with virulent attacks on other political parties which he claimed only represented the interests of higher caste Hindus. He was sharply different from other politicians of the mainstream. He used to communicate before he spoke.
In 1996 Sahib Shri Kanshi Ram Ji elected to the Lok Sabha from the Hoshiarpur constituency, from where 50 years ago Great Ghadri Baba Babu Mangu Ram Mugowalia Ji founder of the “Ad Dharm Movement” had been returned to the Punjab assembly in 1946. Interestingly, it was at Hoshiarpur, the strong hold of “Ad Dharm”, that the BSP celebrated the 75th year of the “Ad Dharm Movement” on February 18th, 2001 . On this occasion Sahib Shri Kanshi Ram Ji exhorted the Bahujan Samaj to follow the principles of the “Ad Dharm Movement” of which the BSP has now become the torch-bearer.
He was one of the few great leaders of Independent India who actually expanded the limits of Dalit politics. His political vision was never confined to Scheduled Castes only, as is often thought about him. All of the political organisations he founded were meant for the downtrodden of all sorts – SC, ST, OBC and Minorities. It would not be an exaggeration to say that he was the one who took a lead in making Indian democracy more competitive and practically open to the Dalit-Bahujan Samaj.