Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Remembering Babasaheb Ambedkar

I was born in a politically and socially alive family of Bootan
Chetna March in Jalandhar on April 13, 2015
Mandi in Jalandhar which has been a hub of dalit socio-economic and political awakening. The messiah of dalits and other weaker sections of the society at large, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar visited and stayed in Bootan Mandi in October, 1951 when I was only two years old. Later during my school days, the family elders including my grand-parents and parents instilled in me a feeling of reverence and respect for Dr. Ambedkar in a routine way of daily living. In and around Bootan Mandi, there were two groups with political orientations – one were the followers of Dr. Ambedkar under the flag of Schedule Caste Federation and later Republican Party and the second were the followers of Babu Jagjivan Ram of Congress Party. The political rivalry often generated considerable political and social heat.  Dr. Ambedkar was yet to get wide recognition even among dalits. My family has been an ardent follower of Dr. Ambedkar. My father, who was politically and socially alive, tended to talk about and discuss current affairs at home quite often. The only mouthpiece of Ambedkar’s mission those days was a local weekly “Bheem Patrika” edited and published by a staunch Ambedkarite, Lahori Ram Balley. Both the Urdu and Punjabi editions of the Bheem Patrika were regular at our home and I was almost addicted to reading it. It is gratifying to note that Bheem Patrika is still published and its Editor Shri Balley is a respected senior in the community.

Ambedkar Jyanti generally falls on the next day of Baishakhi, a great festival of Punjab. In good old days, Baishakhi was celebrated with great fun and frolic with Bhangra on Dhol beats. In Bootan Mandi too the celebrations used to be held for at least two days. Many a times, I accompanied my father to join the Jaloos (Yatra) on Ambedkar Jayanti starting from the Mandi. On the evenings of April 13, Baishakhi and April 14, Ambedkar Birthday, there used to be musical melas of community songs and qawwalis under the patronage of Kartara Ram Madhas, Pritam Ramdaspuri, Seth Dhannu Ram and more. I vividly remember inspirational and devotional qawwalis by Badhan Group of Ram Nagar and Tumbi songs by Lal Chand Kamla, particularly the song written by Charan Dass Nidhadak “Jhanda Chak Baghawat Da Tu Baghi Hona Das Giya” Some of the buildings were also illuminated and fireworks displayed. I still cherish those memories.

Having left Bootan Mandi in 1970 in pursuit of my career, I came back to my roots in Jalandhar in 2011, after retirement. The stock of Dr. Ambedkar has gone up and rightly so over the years. His acceptance and relevance has been widely recognized and appreciated even by his erstwhile opponents and ignorant critics. The community and the followers of Ambedkar have also come a long way in the journey of development and prosperity. More and more people talk of Dr. Ambedkar. The statues are garlanded, functions are held, media coverage has increased of Ambedkar Jyanti. But I don’t find that enthusiasm of the years gone by. Something is missing. Somehow, I feel, the community is lagging behind in owning the great legacy of the great leader. Why so? The political parties like BJP and Congress are falling on each other to encash the name of Ambedkar in attracting the solid vote bank but the parties like BSP, the so called flag bearers of Ambedkar’s caravan are losing ground. Again the question remains why so? Somebody is needed to provide answers to these Whys.

Chhupa Kar Aastin Mein Bijliyan Rakh Li Hain Gurdu Ne;
Anadil Bagh Ke Gaafil Na Baithein Ashianon Mein !

Greetings and congratulations on Ambedkar Jyanti

Postscript: While I am concluding my piece, I find that this year Bootan Mandi is decked up with decorations to celebrate the birth anniversary of the great leader Babasaheb Ambedkar. It is a matter of satisfaction. A Chetna March (Yatra) will be taken out in the afternoon of April 13 by a number of outfits having allegiance with Dr. Ambedkar. On April 14 again, Ambedkar Mission Society will conduct a Chetna March and conclude the celebrations with a function to pay tributes the Messiah of Dalits at Ambedkar Bhawan at Nakodar Road, Jalandhar.

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