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.


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