Today, May 25, is the death anniversary of Sant Ramanand of Dera Sachkhand Ballan. He was assassinated by fundamentalists in a mindless and tragic shoot out in Vienna in May, 2009. The dalits consider him a Shaheed of the community and rightly so. Sant Rama Nand was the leading light of Dera Sachkhand Ballan which was increasingly becoming the nerve centre of the dalit community in the recent years. He was instrumental in adopting the agenda of social and educational upliftment and awakening among the dalit youth while spreading the lofty philosophy of oneness and equality of Guru Ravidassji. He attainted the position of reverence and acceptability in the community with his relentless efforts to provide a sense of confidence. It was not a small job. Sant Rama Nand will be remembered for his sterling contribution in this regard.
In the aftermath of Sant Rama Nand’s death, it was felt that the dalit community will understand and get united. The immediate fall out of the Shaheedi of the Sant was an outburst of pent up feelings of the community against the treatment and high handedness of the upper castes against the poor dalits. The dalit community clearly demonstrated that they were in no mood to tolerate any longer the snobbish and unbecoming behavior of the so called Thekedars of the society. But this reality was short lived. Alas!
The leadership could not rise to the challenge. The opposite social and political forces succeeded in their nefarious agenda in dividing the community. It was unfortunate, to my mind, Dera Sachkhand Ballan which enjoyed unprecedented support and following, could not lead from the front to channelize the energy of the community. The Dera got bogged down in matters which added to further confusion. The issue of granth ‘Amritvani’ as counter to ‘Shri Gurugranth Sahib’ and establishment of ‘Ravidassia Dharam’ as counter to Sikhism, to my mind, are the two acts of the Dera which were taken without debate and thought. Though the Dera and the proponents of Amritvani and Ravidassia Dharam would not admit that these two steps were taken as ‘counter’ measures to establish separate identity of the dalits yet the reality remains and speaks loud and clear. These steps proved counterproductive. The community got divided. The Deras got divided. The unity got shattered. It is confusion all around. It seems that we are traveling in a rudderless ship. I am writing this with a heavy heart with all humility and have no intention to hurt the feelings of anyone. My humble request is to kindly sit and ponder over the existing sorry state of affairs of the community, with a view to find out some way out. Otherwise, things would get more difficult in the years to come.
The soul of Sant Rama Nand may not be in peace. He wanted unity. He strived for a strong and enlightened community. Let us think and shed false ego and work for much needed unity and sense of purpose. Today is Budh Purnima also. May Lord Buddha guide us in choosing the right path.