Friday, May 25, 2012

SANT RAMANANDJI of DERA SACHKHAND BALLAN



Today is the death anniversary of Sant Ramanandji of Dera Sachkhand Ballan. He was assassinated by some radical Sikhs in Vienna (Austria) in a shoot out in a Gurudwara on May 24, 2009. Sant Ramanandji succumbed to the bullet injuries in a hospital in Vienna the following day that is May 25. The followers of the great Sant observe May 25 as ‘Sant Ramanand Shaheedi Diwas’ to pay tributes to him. I happened to meet and know Santji personally. It was my good fortune. I humbly join the followers of Sant Ramanandji in remembering the great Sant and recalling his services to dalit communities and the society at large.


Dera Sachkhand Ballan is an important centre and a leading venue for the social and spiritual awakening and well-being of the dalit communities in the doaba region of Punjab. Sant Ramanand was one of the leading lights of the Dera. After graduating from Doaba College Jalandhar Ramanand, on encouragement and initiation by Dera Chief Sant Hari Dass and later Sant Garib Dass and Sant Niranjan Dass, gave himself fully to the Dera in the service of the community. He was a visionary totally devoted to the spiritual and social upliftment of the dalit communities of the area and the Dera followers abroad. Sant Ramanand helped the Dera in creating magnificent buildings and facilities at Ballan which is increasingly becoming the Mecca of the community. He made Dera to lead the campaign to build and get recognition of the birthplace of Guru Ravidass at Seer Goverdhanpura at Varanasi. Sant Ramanad was instrumental in organizing the spread and propagation of the mission and philosophy of the great Guru Ravidass and other Gurus and Saints and also of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar by his appealing sermons and meditational recitals and singing of Guruvani. He contributed and motivated the Dera to undertake educational projects and start welfare activities like hospitals etc. Sant Ramanand appreciated the efforts of missionary writer and singers and encouraged them. He toured and made the Dera Chiefs to visit foreign countries to make an international net work for the mission and programme of the Dera Sachkhand Ballan. He motivated the youth of the community and made them alive to prevailing situation and cajoled them to stand up on their feet with dignity and respect. The legacy of Sant Ramanand is great. It will remain a guiding force for the community in the years to come.

The aftermath of Sant Ramanand’s martyrdom on May 25, 2012 is, unfortunately, not very consoling. The followers of Sant Ramanand and the Dera, obviously, were up-set and shocked not only in Punjab but throughout the country and abroad. It resulted in violence in some places. Some community activists got killed in the resultant clashes which were unfortunate. The dalit assertion was clearly visible on the street and corridors of power. With or without Dera Sachkhand Ballan, the situation has taken a different turn which is not conducive to the health of community. The soul of Sant Ramanand may not, I think, be at peace with the state of affairs. Our vision is blurred. Our goal is not clear. Our efforts are negated by the self styled leaders for their own selfish ends. Dera Sachkhand Ballan seems helpless or may be indifferent. I will write about this aspect separately.
 Today, I pay my tribute to the memory of Sant Ramanand, a great leader of men and also the other Shaheeds of the movement ( least we forget them). Let us make introspection and rectify the situation for the betterment of the community. The leaders of the community shall listen to the concerned and even ask the educated and intelligent members of the community to come along in the great and big task ahead. Sant Ramanand’s legacy dictates that.  I conclude:

नहीं मिनत कशे ताबे सनिदन दास्ताँ मेरी;
ख़ामोशी गुफ्त्गुह है बेज़वानी है जुबान मेरी,
यह दस्तुरे जुबंबंदी है कैसा तेरी महफ़िल में;
यहाँ तो बात करने को तरसती है जुबान मेरी ! 

8 comments:

  1. Dear Ramesh Chander Ji:

    Kudos to your for tribute to Sant Rama Nand Ji. However, please be advised that our Ravidassia community is not in any doldrums or without aims. Our aims are clear, our vision is not blurred and Dera is by no means helpless. Ravidassia is a national/international religion, not a religious group comprised of people speaking a particular language and belonging to a particular region.

    I would rather you do some introspection Sir to see if your vision is blurred or goals are not clear. Us following Amrit Bani doesn't mean our respect for other granths is gone. What it implies is that we have to have our own path, we can't be at the mercy of others and take dictations from other religions/leaders to tell us how to follow our guru and grow our community.

    You have been a bureaucrat for long and a dalit bureaucrat on top of that. Dalit public servants are known for not taking bold decisions/ disturbing the apple-cart (I am not implying you are one such) and you Sir may have your own reservations about Amrit Bani step, but us youths are very comfortable and appreciative of the change. Sant Rama Nand's mission in life was to spread Guru Ravidass Ji's glory around the world, have a sense of pride and come across as a community, which can't be repressed anymore.

    It is also very common for some bureaucrats to suddenly develop a strange egalitarian view of everything after retirement to get acceptance in different circles of society, and in this process it is very easy to forget what our people have gone through in the past. I would advise you that we should follow Ravidassia path and respect other religions. Without a specific identity, we will always be "faceless" people.


    Best Regards,
    Jaswinder Singh

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  2. thanks jaswinder singhji. first of all i am happy that someone has resonded to blog and the concerns expressed therein. otherwise, our crowd comprises only of those who only confine themselves to 'jai sant di' or jai gurdev' etc. But,unfortunately, your observations are misplaced and you have deviated from the issue one sense anf yet in another you have raised the subjects which i myself wanted to touch at some other appropriate occasion as i wrote in my blog. i write my blog in my personal capacity. i don't know about you wheather you write in your personal capacity or on behalf of the dera sachkhand ballan or some other outfit. now i come to your comments.

    you said that Ravidassia Dharam was a national/international religion. Galib said "mallum hamain bhi hai zanat ki haqkeekat lakin; dil ko khush rakhane ka galib yahi khaial acha hai" there is no restriction im india in floating a religion and following it like you, i believe has done. but doing so you cannot make that religion national or international. Akbar being a muslim also founded a religion called 'din-e-ilahi'. how many of us know about that religion ? we are either hindus or sikhs if we remain what we were born. we may, however, choose to become muslims, christians, buddhists etc. it is a hard reality. ad-dhram was founded by babu mangoo ram others. with great difficulty and struggle, they got recognition for ad-dharam in the british days later in independent india. ravidassia dharam is yet to reach that stage or it may never reach. now a question - what is difference between ad-dharam or ravidassia dharam ? I have nothing against ravidassia dharam but we shall not be living a make belief situation. I have nothing against amritbani per se. who is the author of amritbani ? i have not said that those who believe amritbani are against any other granth or compilation. nobody is challenging your right to follow your guru or granth. rather i am all for that. my sole concern at this stage is how to carry everybody along to creat and forge unity among the various streams in the community. the self rightousness or sense of superiority of one outfit or a few individuals cannot help in this regard. that is why i said involve the intelligentia and the educated in the process.

    you have clubbed all by saying 'strange egalitarian views of retired bureaucrats' which is not correct. most of retired bureaucats are fully concerned. they want to do something. but how ? they have seen life. they have experience and wherewithal. they need to be associated and recognised. they would, i think, happily engage themselves with the community. let me tell you, at the risk of leaving much needed humality, during my career as a diplomat, i have met and interacted with dalai lama, mata anand mai, sri sri ravi shankar, baba ramdev, swami mahaweshwaranda and many more down the line. i would love and like to share my experience in some constructive and positive engagement. obviously, one shall not expect me to go to some dera, stand in the crowd, touch feet of the sant, donate a few bucks, take prasad, eat langar and come back. i think most of the experienced and retired bureacrats feel the same. i have decided to open up. kindly bear with me. i am all for debate and dialogue without any accrimony or ill-wiil. i have no personal agenda.

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  3. Dear Ramesh Chander Ji:

    Once you go through above Sir, I will try to present differences between Addharam and Ravidassia religion as you asked and why would it survive?

    I am not expecting you to touch anybody's feet etc. or go to any dera please. I think community as a whole is above any institution and those issues are besides the point we are discussing. I find this presumption bit annoying in tying Ravidassia to any dera etc.

    I don't go to any particular dera/shera too. Don't have time for it. I am in my late 30s, Chamar and not very highly educated.

    Best Regards,
    Jaswinder Singh

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  4. My comments seem to be disappearing. I guess some system issue
    BEst Regards,
    Jaswinder Singh

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  5. Dear Ramesh Chander Ji:
    I am not a representative of Dera Ballan. This was a funny assumption by you Sir. I am completely writing in my personal capacity. I am merely a scheduled caste who happens to be from Punjab and takes pride in my Addharmi caste certificate. Your citing of Ghalib is smart but is a defeatist in nature, and is typical of most dalit bureaucrats who like to sit at the sidelines, and when things have been ironed out, slowly drag their heels and join the crowd. Nothing personal against you, it is typical of many dalit bureaucrats. As you pointed out that dalit diplomats also need recognition, and may I ask you, recognized for what? One can address Hindu/Sikh function and get recognized, while you may not get same level of recognition at a Ravidassia function, which, you pointed out is in its infancy. Is it your own inner sense of recognition, which drives your decision making and observations? Almost all dalit intellectuals these days think of themselves of no less than Aristotle or Plato. This is unfortunate. I agree with your comment, that with age we get experience but whether that experience has come from taking risks, bold decisions and challenging the status-quo is another matter altogether. Experience is very subjective concept.
    You have talked about Hindusim/Sikhism and being born into it and possibly changing to Islam, Buddhism etc. if one wishes. First of all, it is cliche but true that we are never born into a religion and secondly, what you tend to forget is that every religious movement has origins somewhere. You have talked about Addharmi movement. I am fully familiar with the movement, more so than so-called experts of this movement and dealt with prominent researcher Dr. Mark Juergensmeyer, who happened to interview Baba Mangu Ram Ji and his contemporaries for his research. How it got recognition and how it flourished and how it died is all you can find int the research by Prof. Juergensmeyer. It was a great movement which, through a twist of fate got recognition from British despite strong resistance from Sikhs. Addharam was never a religion, it was a social movement with religious aspirations and turned into a socio-political movement which eventually led to its downfall. The followers of the movement after Baba Mangu Ram Ji were self-serving who had no interest at grass roots level. Baba Mangu Ram Ji also wrapped up the movement when Babasaheb came on horizon. It is true doaba progressed further than malwa, majha etc because of addharami movement. However, Addharam Granth never gained acceptance and people in the forefront merely engaged in either bickering or criticizing other progressive initiatives. Considering the basics of this movement, howsoever good-willed it was, it would never have survived as a religious movement, considering the stratification in dalit castes/sub-castes.
    Many chamars complain that Ravidassia means Chamarism, but they forget that if during Ravidass's times, other castes, when castesystem was rigid, follow him then why not now? It is our own mental slavery that keeps us tied to Hinduism and Sikhism. You may get more glory, acceptance there as "chaudhary sahib" (as Jatts call hifi chamars) and get laurels but you are still a dalit for them, who rose on quota. I respect that you reached where you reached, you must have worked hard for it. Now is the time when community has chosen a path and it is responsibility of the educated ones to see it through as success. How would you want to be recognized as "low-caste sikh" or "low caste Hindu" or as Ravidassia. We shouldn't shirk away from Chamar identity. We have to come out of closet now. We haven't been able to erase this identity of ours for centuries. Now we think, why should we run away from it? As they say "if you can't defeat them, join them". We will only reach somewhere if we become comfortable with ourselves which we haven't been for 5 millennium.
    Please don't take my comments personally Sir.
    Best Regards,
    Jaswinder Singh

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  6. Dear Ramesh Chander Ji:

    Now I know how to enter comments properly.

    There is nothing personal here Sir. As you can guess that I am not very educated or subject-matter expert. However, I do try to keep myself update by reading a lot and when I say lot, I mean a lot. I may be vitriolic sometimes but nothing personal against you Sir. I like to learn lot from you.

    I come from village Bhattian Kalan from Sangrur district. My father names was Gian Chand Mehmi. We didn't know much about Ravidass until Sant Rama Nand was killed. Now many youths in our locality have committed to follow Ravidassia dharam. Addharam reached here but very little. My father migrated to Sangrur from Hoshiarpur almost 50 years ago.

    I currently work in Chennai in software area.

    Best Regards,
    Jaswinder Singh

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  7. thanks jaswinder. you have written in some detail. it is good. first let me put the things in perspective.

    i did't say that you represented dera ballan. i took the dera in good esteem as i said in my blog. i have nothing against the dera as such. my only concern is that the dera, knowingly or otherwise, is getting off the mark. that is what i feel. it is a subject required to be discussed separately. second, i did not want any recognition for myself. i have enough on my plate. i am invited not only by the dalit outfits but also by many others to speak to them. what i said was for all senior bureaocrats in general. there is no harm in bringing them along. next, i started writting my blog when i was still in service holding the post of an ambassador. i have no complex. i generally post my blogs on the facebook for everyone to read. but at the sametime, i fully know that i am not an intellectual or know-all person.

    now coming to the crux, the community is standing on the cross roads of history. sant ramnand's sacrifice resulted in further awakeness. the unbeidlled energy was visible on the streets in the aftermath. but can energy be stored ? no, it has be chenallised and transmitted for use. the dalit will go waste if not transmitted and used. i am not against identity rather i yearn for it badly. but how ? i will love to listen from you about the difference between addharam am ravidassia dharam.

    thanks for giving some personal details. i am from jalandhar and on my retirement have come back to my roots. my personal e-mail Id is: rc2345@yahoo.com we may be in touch. regards.

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  8. Why are you talking about different sects among the Scheduled Castes? There should not be any further distinction between them. I think Chamaar of UP is as good as Chamaar of Punjab or Mahaar of Maharashtra. Dear Sirs, please work in the direction of removing any further divide between dalits. It is my lack of knowledge that I don't know much about the Gurus of Punjab much less follow them. Now, I want to know about them but I have decided that I will not follow any human being ever born from a human. Even, for Babasaheb I am not a blind follower because I have been in condition much better than he was. I follow principles. And principles I choose from my rational mind, they may be from anywhere though Lord Budhha and Babasaheb have highest influence on me as their principles are easily realised by me and much suitable for the betterment of humanity. I don't categorize my self as religious, atheist or agnostic. I just want to be free from any bondage, learn new things everyday, respect the nature and be a good human being.

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