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Dalit leader Kanshi Ram cremated
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, October 9
Dalit leader Kanshi Ram, who passed away early this morning, was cremated in the afternoon amidst slogans from his followers at the Capital’s Nigam Bodh ghat. He bequeathed a grand legacy to her closest follower, Ms Mayawati, whom he helped in catapulting to the post of the Chief Minister of the biggest state of the country leaving a permanent imprint on the national politics.

Kanshi Ram’s body was consigned to flames in the presence of top political leaders and a large number of his supporters.

Two of his sisters and a brother and some other relatives were also present with police protection ordered by the Delhi High Court after the family sought his body for the last rites after a post-mortem, suspecting foul play in his death.

The cremation of the 72-year-old BSP leader, who died early morning today due to a stroke at his official residence here, was carried out according to the Buddhist tradition.

Top leaders from across the political spectrum, including Vice-President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, former Prime Minister I.K. Gujral, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, her son Lok Sabha MP Rahul Gandhi and BJP leader Sushma Swaraj attended his funeral.

He is survived by his two brothers and two sisters.

Announcing his death, Ms Mayawati said, “His death was an irreparable loss to the party and to the cause of the social justice”.

Before cremation, Kanshi Ram’s body was kept at the party headquarters at 12, Gurdwara Rakabganj Road, to enable the public to pay their last respect to the late leader.

In a condolence message, President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam said the nation had lost a leader who played an important role in post-Independence India for the rights of underprivileged.

Dr Kalam said, “In his passing away, the nation has lost a public leader who always had the interests of the downtrodden close to his heart”.

Just before leaving on a two-nation visit, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh went to the 11, Humayun Road, and placed a wreath on his body. He said in a message that Kanshi Ram was an important voice of the Dalits.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi, who came along with son Rahul Gandhi and Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil, spent some time at Ms Mayawati’s residence.

Mr Advani, whose party BJP ran a short-lived government with the BSP in Uttar Pradesh, also laid a wreath on the body. He recalled his first meeting with Kanshi Ram and noted that he was an “original thinker and a complete political organiser”.

It was Kanshi Ram who brought B.R. Ambedkar’s views to the mainstream in the post-Independence era when there was an attempt to pull him back from the national conscience, Mr Advani said. The opposition leader also credited Kanshi Ram with making the BSP a national party. Union Chemical and Fertilisers Minister Ramvilas Paswan, who did not share a cordial relationship with the BSP leadership, called the departed leader a ‘Dalit messiah’ who cared for the poor people.

Railway Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav said the country had lost a “great leader” who inspired Dalits to lead a respectful life. “We have lost a big leader and all of us have to carry forward his views,” he said.

Former Prime Minister V.P. Singh, BJP leaders Arun Jaitley, Kalraj Mishra and Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi and JD (U) leader George Fernandes were other prominent leaders who paid respects to Kanshi Ram.

CPM general secretary Prakash Karat, his wife and party Politburo member Brinda Karat and RLD chief Ajit Singh paid tributes to the departed soul. A scores of BSP activists also paid last respects.

His sister, Gurcharan Kaur, was the only relative who went to Ms Mayawati’s residence.

Hundreds of party workers gathered at Ms Mayawati’s residence soon after the news about the death of Kanshi Ram spread. A group of Buddhist monks also paid tributes.

Kanshi Ram had been suffering from multiple ailments like stroke, diabetes and hypertension and was virtually bed-ridden for more than two years.

He was born in Khawaspur village of Ropar district in 1934. In an attempt to promote the interests of government employees belonging to weaker sections, Kanshi Ram formed an organisation of government employees— The Backward and Minorities Employees Federation (BAMCEF)” in 1973. He transformed it into a political outfit in December 1982 when he formed the “Dalit Soshit Samaj Sangharsh Samiti (DS4)”.

It was finally transformed into the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) in 1984 with the aim of organising Dalit classes into a political force.

The party first established as a political force in Uttar Pradesh in 1993 when Ms Mayawati headed the coalition government with Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party.

Kanshi Ram declared Ms Mayawati as his political successor at Lucknow on December 15, 2002.

The BSP first entered the election fray in 1984 but fared badly, losing 207 seats.

The party first came into limelight when Kanshi Ram fought the Allahabad Lok Sabha byelection in 1987 against Mr V.P. Singh, but lost it.

Members of his family had alleged that Ms Mayawati had been essentially holding him captive in order to control the BSP. Finally, the Supreme Court in its decision of April 8, 2005, ordered a team of doctors to examine his physical and mental condition.

The fight between Kanshi Ram’s family and Ms Mayawati over his treatment in his last days trailed him even after his death when his cremation was advanced suddenly.

His body, which was to be brought to the party headquarters on the Gurdwara Rakabganj road by noon, actually arrived more than an hour later when Ms Mayawati told party workers that the cremation should be completed before 3 pm and asked them to go to the Nigam Bodh ghat.

In the morning, she announced that Kanshi Ram would be cremated in accordance with the Buddhist rites around 4 pm. She also announced that as per his wishes the ashes would not be immersed in the Ganga or the Yamuna but be kept in the party offices in Delhi and Lucknow.

However, amidst reports that Kanshi Ram’s brothers and sister might stake claim to the body and may move the court, Ms Mayawati decided that the body was taken a little before 2 pm to the Nigam Bodh ghat on the banks of the Yamuna.

Earlier, Kanshi Ram’s sister Swaran Kaur along with her brother Harbans Singh sought a direction from the Delhi High Court for post-mortem. They alleged in their plea to the court that the BSP leader was subjected to “slow poisoning” and it should be probed. They had also pleaded for handing over the body for the last rites.

Rejecting their plea, Mr Justice S.N. Agrawal did not agree with the manner the issue was raised by the siblings of Kanshi Ram. He told them to go and participate in his last rites. “It is an unusual petition. We can’t permit this.....let his soul rest in peace now........after death he should not be subjected to post-mortem.” the court observed.

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