Friday, April 30, 2010

india's soft power-some thoughts

india is a big country with over one billion people. india is the biggest democracy in the world. india is one of fast emerging economies of the world. india has come a long way in its development since its independence in 1947 but it has arrived if not yet reached.

besides political, economic, diplomatic aspects of india's standing in the world, india has enormous soft power of culture to recon with. some of these, like spirituality, yoga, ayurveda, fine arts ( classical music and dance), could easily be passed as indian brands. indians should be proud of this and shall exploit this soft power of india in attaining the desired space and place in the international coommunity at large.

i mention here about two recent events in minsk. the indian embassy organised 'rangoli- a concert of indian music and dance' at the belarus state academy of music on april 17, the anniversary of establishment of diplomatic relations between india and belarus. the concert was fully performed by the local belaruian artists. the auditorium was full to capacity. the concert was coordinated by the two young artists: ms alena sipach who studied kathak and ms. ludmilla khatuleva who mastered bharatnatyam in india under the sponsorship of the indian council of cultural relations some years before. these two beautiful accomplished ladies run dance schools in minsk which are popular and sought with more than 150 students. the of yoga demonstration and sitar vadan with tabla, again by the local talent only, provided perfect interludes at the concert which climaxed, with thunderous applause, with the bollywood song 'थोड़ा सा पगला, थोड़ा सयाना ! the second, in quick succession, was the concert of the 'art of loving' of the world famous sri sri ravi shankar. it was conducted by mata urmila devi from switzerland on april 27. there was a total devotion in the crowd of 700 plus at the concert. i felt that the mission of love and human values of the 'art of living' was the need of the strife torn society. india is well placed to take the lead, with its tradition and culture, in contributing to the peace and harmony through the soft power and cultural diplomacy. i conclude with a couplet of urdu poetry:

चिस्ती ने जिस जमीं पे पैगामे हक सुंनाया ;
नानक ने जिस चमन मैं वहदत का गीत गाया ;
मेरा वतन वही है, मेरा वतन वही है !

Saturday, April 24, 2010

remembering babu mangoo ram mugowalia


babu mangoo ram mugowalia (1886) was not only a patriot to the core but also a great leader of the dalits. his contribution and sacrifice to the freedom of india, as one of the prominent ghadri babas who challenged the might of the colonial rule from out side india ( america where he had gone in 1909), was huge. it will be written in bold letters in the history of the freedom movement of india. he was given death sentence for smuggling arms to india for the ongoing fight against the british imperialism. but it was destined to be a different story. somebody else was hanged, as i have read, erroneously. babu mangoo ram was to do more and something great back home for the dalit community to which he belonged.

babu mangoo ram came back to india from the usa in 1925. he belonged to one of the well to do families of the chamars in the village mugowal in the hoshiarpur district. on his return, he found that the dalits were still out castes and untouchables in the main stream of the society. the revolutionary spirit in him over took. he started yet another fight and that was to liberate the dalits from the tyranny, suppression, oppression and inhuman treatment of the society. babu mango ram in co-operation with some other prominent dalit leaders founded the ' ad-dharm' mandal in 1926. he announced that the dalits were neither hindus nor muslims nor Christians nor sikhs but the original inhabitants of india. he said that the dalits were to get freedom not only from the colonial rule but also the chaturvarna, the stratified social order of the indian society. he wanted to create an identity and also political, social and spiritual space for the dalits. babuji extended all support to the efforts and struggle of dr. b.r. ambedkar. my father told me, which is an oral history, during the roundtable conferences in london, that dalits sent telegrams to the british government, under the guidence and aegis of babu mangoo ram, to support ambedkar's submissions and demands on behalf of the dalits. the community leaders like seth kishan dass, my fellow bootanmandian, master gurbanta singh who later became a senior minister in punjab joined hands with babu mangoo ram.

i had the privilege to meet and know swami shudranand, who was a close associate of babu mangoo ram in forming the ad-dharm mandal, during my young and formative years in bootan mandi. swamiji and also chanan lal manak, a dalit activist and a poet narrated to us the stories of the struggle and mission of ad-dharm. these narrations contributed considerably in moulding my mind and strenghthening my commitments towards the community. babuji's mission got good backing and recognition and rightly so. the ad-dharm mandal was renamed as ' ravidas mandal' in 1946. babu mangoo ram was elected, along with his associates, to the elected political bodies before india's independence in 1947. i am an' ad-dharmi schedule caste' in my credentials to indicate and specify my caste identity, with other millions. it certifies the success of the mission and agenda of babu mangoo ram. the efforts of babu ram succeeded in getting recognition and identity of the dalits. subsequently, dalits outside punjab, taking que from the ad-dharm movement, started the 'mool-niwasi movement'. recently, the ravidassia community of punjab under the leadership of the 'dera ballan' has started a new denomination called' ravidass '. the air of punjab is filled with a thought provoking song by the famous and beautiful singer miss pooja, i understand a dalit herself, which goes like this:

हुन सारे कर लो एका, बेगमपुरा वसौना आं ;
न हुन आसे पासे जाबो, वखरा पंथ चलौना आं !

the impact of the ad-dharm mandal on the social, spiritual and political awareness of the dalit community was great and will remain. i remember, in my young days, the shobha yatra/nagar kirtan which was called jaloos ( जलूस) that time, on the birth anniversary of guru ravidass, used to start from bootan mandi, jalandhar. it would climax at the headquaters of the ad-dharm mandal in mohalla kishanpura near the jalandhar railway station, by hoisting the flag of the ad-dhram. the first ever school of the dalit community named after guru ravidass was established at the same venue. master gurbanta singh played a leading role in running the school. recently, dr. ronki ram, dean of the department of political science of the panjab university, chandigarh, has written a book 'dalit chetna - sarot te saruup' which gives an indepth analysis the role of babu mangoo ram and the ad-dharm in the awakening of the dalits. i think the emerging empowerment and awakening of the socially, economically and politically depressed and neglected segments of the society would play a big role in shaping the social and political scenario of punjab and india at large in the years to come. it is a befitting tribute to babu mangoo ram.

the april 22 was the death anniversary ( he died in 1980) of babu mangoo ram. his memory will remain in the hearts of the dalits.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

without comment

i remained somewhat busy in connection with the visit to minsk by hon'ble chief justice of india k.g. balakrishnan, an embodiment of simplicity and the 'rangoli' - a concert of indian dance and music which the embassy of india in minsk arranged on april 17 fully casted and performed by the local belarusian talent. the concert was well received. there is a lot of interest in indian dance and music in belarus. thanks to bollywood.

just to share something more with you, i quote some recent interesting takes which i read:

i) prime minister manmohan singh talking to press- ' we are to realise that our real problems are at home. whether removing poverty, illiteracy and disease or uniting politically. we need to get our act together quickly'.

ii) ambassador ishrat aziz in a recently launched publication 'diplomatic square' - ' three things are easy to start but you have no control on maintaining them to the end: a war, a business and an affair'.

iii) communist leader sitaram yechury: - though the reformers like ambedkar, mahatma phule and periyar fought for social equality yet the impact could not not be sustained. social change will not occur by change of heart alone, it needs economic empowerment'.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

remembering dr.ambedkar - april 14

today is the birth anniversary of dr. b.r. ambedkar, father of the indian constitution, champion of the rights of the downtrodden, a great social reformer and intellectual of standing - a great son of india. dr. ambedkar's contribution to the contemporary india is enormous. he was an exponent of peoples democracy. india is, today, to realise his vision, the largest popular democracy in the world. ambedkar stood for the rights of the weaker sections of the society so that the dalits of india could afford to live an honourable life and belong to the main stream of the society, dr. ambedkar's agenda of social reform, though slow, is taking shape in india with the legal framework for the empowerment of woman, right to education etc. being brought in and set in motion. it is a matter of satisfaction.

it is also gratifying to note that, in spite of the initial unfounded bias on account of both ignorance and design, dr. ambedkar's role and solid contribution in preserving the unity of india, reforming the society, laying the foundation of a secular and progressive state is being increasingly recognised by the indian society at large. this is a befitting tribute to the memory of the worthy son of india. the real tribute to the memory of dr. ambedkar would be paid when a caste less society and a way of life which recognises the principles of liberty, equality and fraternity, as enshrined in the constitution, is established. dr ambedkar rightly said said that ' what we must do is, not to be content with mere political democracy, we must make our political democracy a social democracy as well.'

dr. ambedkar was an icon for the empowerment of the oppressed and depressed in india. today, april 14, we have with us in minsk (on an official visit), hon'ble chief justice of india k.g. balakrishnan, a living example of ambedkar's legacy. dr. ambedkar was father of the indian constitution and chief justice k.g balakrishnan is today the custodian and gurdian of the constitution. it is a full some tribute to dr. babasaheb ambedkar.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

the baisakhi - april 13

the baisakhi or vaisakhi is a vibrant festival of north india, the states of punjab, haryana and the neighbours, which falls on april 13. it is an important festival both for joy and solemnity for the punjab and the neighbouring region, the baisakhi, traditionally, is a harvest festival. the crop, particularly wheat, gets ready for harvesting. the Farmer is happy. he celebrates it with dance and music-gidda and bhangra- जट्टा आई बैसाखी। there are a few other aspects of the baisakhi:

i) the khalsa panth was founded by guru gobind singh, the tenth guru of the sikhs, in 1699 on the baisakhi day at anandpur sahib in punjab. it was an historic development with important implications and far reaching consequences for the society. the khalsa panth was an amalgamation of the high and low castes of the stratified indian society. it was an important step towards establishing a casteless society. the five choosen ones - पंज प्यारा belonged to different castes, low and high. the guru baptised them to the khalsa panth and got himself baptised by them to usher the unique concept that the guru and the follower are the same - आपे गुरु आपे चेला । unfortunately, these days, the lofty ideals of the khalsa panth established by the great guru gobind singh, are being eroded and negated by some narrow minded religious bigots. the caste less society, as visualised by the great gurus, is still a far cry. the mission of the guru remains unfulfilled. the khalsa panth and all of us need to look at the ground realities.

ii) the arya samaj was established by swami dayanand in 1875 on the day of baisakhi. the arya samaj is a reform movement of the hindus.

iii) the gautam budhda attainted enlightenment on the baisakhi day. it is an important and auspicious day not only for the budhists but also for the entire humanity.

iv) the baisakhi, april 13, is in important day in freedom movement of india. the massacre of jallianwala bagh in amritsar on this day in 1919 was a turning point in the struggle for independence. we remember and salute the martyrs of the jallianwala bagh on this day.

v) the baisakhi also an important day for the ravidasia community, the followers of guru ravidas. i have read recently in the vernacular weekly 'begumpura shehar' being published from jalandhar that guru ravidas, to demonstrate to the brahmins, the so called high caste of the society that even a low caste could attain and obtain blessings of the almighty god by good actions and meditation, made the stones sail/float in the ganga at haridwar - हर की पौड़ी on the baisakhi day. guru ravidas did so to demolish the false and unfounded pride of the high castes and give a message of equality.

lets us celebrate baisakhi in its true spirit by living in harmony and peace not only with ourselves but also with all our fellow beings. i wish you all happy baisakhi with a couplet of dr. iqbal:

आ गैर्रिअत के परदे इक बार फिर उठा दें ,
बिस्ड़ों को फिर मिला दें , नक्से दुई मिटा दें !

Saturday, April 10, 2010

the panch sheel in diplomacy

i have read recently 'my china diary' written by k. natwar singh.

the panch sheel-the five principles of co-existence signed in 1954 is said to be the edifice of sino-india relations. the mention and reiteration of these principles are made, invariably, in all important meetings between china and india. natwar singh's book gave an extensive account of the visit of premier chou en lai to india in april1960. the relationship of 'hindi chini bhai bhai' came under 'grave crisis'. the visit of chou en lai was the turning point. the author who was closely associated with the visit as a young diplomat, with reference to these developments, says 'for the first time in fourteen years our prime minister was confronted with the darker side of the diplomacy.'

the panch sheel, as usual, found a repeated mention in almost all the meetings and negotiations during the visit of chou en lai. china appeared to be taking shelter under the lofty ideals of the panch sheel but the indian side was not impressed. morarji desai sermoned the chinese leader that 'panch sheel has now become one sided.' gobindballabh pant told chou en lai that the five principles of co-existence 'were not being followed.' jawaharlal nehru was not enthusiastic to refer to the panch sheel in the joint communique of the chinese visit. referring to this, as mentioned in the book, primer chou en lai said ' perhaps, according to your excellency, these principles have been shaken. but it is not so.' explaining the position, prime minister nehru told primier chou that ' as regards, five principles, we believe in them, even if they are not acted upon. but a reference to them in the present context will be criticised. the people will say that these principles have been broken and still we were talking about them.' anyway, the two big countries of the world and also neighbours moved on, in spite of huge difficulties. india and china understand each other better. diplomacy is at work.

the question which comes to my mind - is the panch sheel relevant in the changed scenario and the fast changing rules of the game called diplomacy ? a thought provoking assertion of dr. b.r. ambedkar on the subject is relevant. speaking at a gathering of students of the lucknow university on november 8, 1951, he said ' the governments foreign policy failed to make india stronger. why should not india get a permanent seat in the un security council ? why the prime minister has not tried for it ? dr. ambedkar disagreed with the policy on tibet. though ambedkar was one of the prominent buddhists yet he had a dig at the panch sheel signed between india and china in 1954. he said 'if mao had any faith in the panch sheel, he certainly would treat the buddhists in his own country in a different way. he elaborated that ' there is no room for panch sheel in politics.'

it is food for thought for the practitioners of indian diplomacy.  we need to adopt a pragmatic approach to deal with china, our big neighbour.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

thoughts on education

the right to education has become a fundamental right in india from april 1, 2010. it is a positive development of far reaching implications for the country. our leadership was aware of the importance of education. but considering the feasibility and complexities of the issue, educational needs of the country were addressed in the directive principles of the state policy of the constitution of india.

it took almost 62 years to come to this stage to give due importance and weight to the right to education. it is a matter of satisfaction that we are on track. even in the UK, a relevant case for india, free compulsory education was introduced in 1870. traditionally, in europe, education of children was the responsibility of parents and the church. neither the american declaration of independence (1776) nor the french declaration of rights of man (1789) protected the right to education as a basic right. but in the wake of these important declarations, education was established as a public function and involvement of the state in education was considered necessary. with this, today education is considered an important function of the state and it is seen as its chief provider through allocation of substantial budgetary resources as enshrined in the international covenant on economic, social and cultural rights of 1966. the realisation of the right to education may be achieved through compulsory or more specifically free compulsory primary education as stipulated in the universal declaration of human right 1948.

keeping in line with these requirements, right to education has been made a fundamental right in india. it is yet another mile stone in development and progress of india. the primary education of children of 6-14 years of age will be taken care of by the state. it is estimated that 93 % investment in this regard will be made by the government. a substantial amount of rs.25000 crores over the next five years have been ear marked for the purpose. it is a good beginning. but at the same time, it is a huge task to address the issue of 100 million children who are never enrolled or drop out and do not complete 8 years of compulsory education. there is scepticism. there are reservations. but if there is a will, nothing is difficult for india. india will be more empowered in the years to come with these progressive inputs.

one of the important provisions of the right to education is that unaided and special schools will have to admit 25 % children at class 1 level from the deprived sections of the society from their neighbourhood for their education till class 8. it is further stipulated that no school can charge capitation fee nor it can use any special admission procedure like interviews of children and their parents. these provisions would tend to integrate the society at the grass root level. the private sector and all stake holders are to join hands with the government in realising the educational goals as was visulalised in the world declaration on education for all, adopted at the 1990 world conference on education for all states that " partnerships between government and non government organisations, the private sector, local communities, religious groups and families" are necessary.

the importance of education was underlined by prime minister manmohan singh in his address to the nation on the subject on april 1, 2010. he said " i was born to the family of modest means. in my childhood, i had to walk a long distance to go to school. i read under the dim light of kerosene lamp. i am what i am today because of education"

majority of the 100 million children who are unable to make to school belong to the under privileged and economically and socially marginalised segments of the society, the right to education will go a long way in addressing the educational needs and empowering them to get a dignified space in the society. dr. b.r. ambedkar, father of the indian constitution and champion of the rights of the suppressed and oppressed in india, attached great importance to education in his struggle and plan of action as stressed in his famous message to the community "Educate, Organise and Agitate." dr. ambedkar realised that the education was the first step to move forward.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

poets of the underdog

i wrote on pritam ramdaspuri last week. let me pick up from that thread.

there were a few more poets of the pritam ramdaspuri genre. the names, off hand, come to my mind are: Gurdas Ram Alam, Narender Khedi, Khushi Ram Pagal, Hazara Singh Mustak, Charan Singh Safri, Sucha Ram Jakhmi Jalandhari, Charan Das Nidhadak, Hans Raj Bhukha and some more. i have the pleasure to listen to most of them in my younger days in jalandhar. i have no information wheather their writings are available in print or not except those of (some of the works) Gurdas Ram Alam and Charan Singh Safri. many of them remained unsung in their life time. it will be good, if something is done to collect and bring to light the poetry of these worthy sons of of the punjab. their contribution and thoughts will remain, nevertheless, as Dr. Iqbal said:

उडाए कुछ बरक लाला ने कुछ नर्गिस ने कुछ गुल ने, चमन में हर तरफ बिखरी हुई है दास्ताँ मेरी ,
उड़ाई कुछ कुमरिओं ने तुतिओं ने अन्दलिबो ने चमन वालों ने मिल कर लूट लि तर्जे फुगहन मेरी !

poets are, to my mind, are not ordinary people. they say extra ordinary things with ease. i think there is a need to remember them. they contributed immensely to the cause of the downtrodden and the vision of Guru Ravidas and also to the lofty ideals and mission of Dr. Ambedkar in transforming the indian polity and society from a political democracy, as stipulated in the indian constitution, to social and economic one.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

indian diplomats write

let me do some justice to the name of my blog, diplomatic titbits.

indian diplomats have been writing their memoirs, about their experiences, diplomatic happenings and so on. the names of KPS Menon, TN Kaul, PN Haksar, Jagat Mehta, KR Narayanan, Natwar Singh, JN Dixit, Kiran Doshi, Prem Budhwar immediately come to my mind in this regard. i have read some of their books in the course of my diplomatic functioning and education. many of the diplomats namely G. Parthasarthy, Kanwal Sibal, Salman Haidar, MK Bhardrakumar, B Balakrishnan, TP Srinivasan, KC Singh, currently contribute regularly, through their columns in the print and electronic media, on topical matters and issues pertaining to diplomacy and diplomatic interaction. i tend to read them and benefit from the educative and thought provoking articles.

today, i would like to make two small comments:

i) the memoirs 'A little work, A little play' of Hardit Singh Malik, a fighter-pilot turned diplomat have been launched recently. Hardit Singh Malik served as india's ambassador to canada and france. he was also the prime minister of the princely state of patiala. he was also a keen player of cricket and golf. why i thought of commenting on this, even without reading the book, is that Hardit Singh Malik started writing the memoirs in 1960 and finished it in 1972 ( as mentioned in the review by Rakesh Rao in the Hindu), he died in 1985, his daughter Harsimran Malik, octogenarian herself, took pains to get the memoirs published in 2010. it is a befitting tribute to the untiring spirit of Hardit Singh Malik by a worthy daughterof great Hardit Singh Malik.

ii) i did not mention above the name of Mani Shankar Ayiar in the list of diplomat writers. he is one of them. i like his writings, both the style and thought. recently, the president of india has nominated him to the rajya sabha, a well deserved position by his own right. i read some years before an opening piece in his book 'Pakistan Papers'. it was a poem in urdu by a pakistani poet Rais Amrohi which was translated into english by Mani Shankar Aiyar. i revisited the book and read the poetry of culural oneness between india and pakistan. i quote a stanza from that poem:

ऐ हिंद की बहारो , तुम को सलाम पहुंचे
बिसड़े हुए नजारो तुम को सलाम पहुंचे
भारत के चाँद तारो तुम को सलाम पहुंचे
बरसों के बाद यारो तुम को सलाम पहुंचे
यह नामा इ मोहब्त यारो के नाम ले जा
ओ हिंद जाने वाले मेरा सलाम ले जा !