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Kanshi Ram, 72; Founded India's Most Powerful Low-Caste Political Party

October 11, 2006|From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Kanshi Ram, 72, the founder of India's most powerful low-caste party, died Monday of a heart attack.

Ram, who had been receiving treatment for diabetes, hypertension and several other ailments for more than two years, died at his official residence in New Delhi, said the president of the Bahujan Samaj Party, Mayawati, who uses only one name.

Ram founded the party in 1984 amid growing dissent among India's low-caste Hindus that their interests had been ignored by the country's mainstream political parties.

Many low-caste Hindus -- also known as "dalits" or untouchables -- often compared Ram with B.R. Ambedkar, who fought against caste discrimination and was the architect of the Indian Constitution, which provides for affirmative action.

Although it has a presence across the country, the party's stronghold is in the most populous state, Uttar Pradesh.

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