Thursday, October 12, 2006

On Kanshi Ram

The Hindu's Political Editor, Harish Khare, who FYI is a PhD in Political Science from Yale University, came up with a very good article in The Hindu about Kanshi Ram, after the latter's death.
I had a few things to say about the article and wrote a letter to The Hindu.
The original unedited letter goes as follows:
Subject: Apropos the Article, "The Debt we owe Kanshi Ram" by Mr. Harish Khare.

Mr Khare succinctly points out Kanshi Ram's legacy in forging an independent political identity for the Dalits. In making this point, Mr Khare points out that two seminal developments, that of Market Reforms and the Mandir agitation were responsible for the sudden rise of the BSP, through the means of realignment of forces. Kudos to Mr Khare for this analysis. Mr Khare however, in my opinion, has missed the most important of developments that resulted in strengthening of the "Bahujan" forces, the Mandal Commission Implementation.
Together, the three Ms (Mandir, Mandal and Market) changed the political discourse in India forever. Its a pity however that the "Bahujan" consolidation, that was Kanshi Ram's dream frittered away, because of the nature of the parties that the Samajwadi Party and BSP eventually turned out to be, under the leadership of Mulayam Singh Yadav and Mayawati. Far from forging together a representative identity of the historically marginalized, thereby challenging the hold of the upper castes, the two parties went on to articulate the OBC and Dalit identities as requisites for power rather than for genuine redistribution and social change. BSP, under Mayawati therefore has disappointed those who hoped this party would realize the Ambedkarite vision of "Annihilation of Caste". Uttar Pradesh politics of late has only seen a shifting of caste alliances rather than a roadmap for caste-dissipation.

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