Sunday, May 30, 2010


The 150th birth anniversary of Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore ( May 1861 - August 1941) is being celebrated this year ( May 2010-11) to pay a befitting tribute to the memory of the great son of India. Rabindranath Tagore is as relevant today as he was yesterday and will remain so tomorrow. One can make out the importance of the anniversary commemorations from the fact that Government of India has set up a high-power committee headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh himself to chalk out the programme for the celebrations not only in India but also in other prominent cities of the world.

Rabindranath Tagore was a renowned poet, novelist, musician, playwright and painter. He was a social thinker with universal approach. He was the first non- European to win the Nobel Prize for Literature for his poetry book ' Gitanjali ' in 1913. The Gitanjali and other works of Tagore have since been translated into all important languages and rightly so as he was a universalist to the core. Gurudev Tagore had the rare honour of authoring of the National Anthems of two countries - i) Jana Gana Mana of India & ii) Amar Sonar Bangla of Bangladesh. He was a nationalist of a different hue like Dr. Ambedkar. Tagore was not convinced of the efficacy of the Satyagarha of Mahatma Gandhi. He was not a supporter of the Swadeshi and Charkha. But as a humanist of the first order, Tagore renounced and returned the title of 'Knighthood' in protest against the massacre of the JallianwalaBagh in 1919. His politically charged compositions ' Chitto Jetha Bhayshunyo ' - WHERE THE MIND IS WITHOUT FEAR and ' Ekla Chalo Re ' - WALK ALONE made a strong mass appeal to realise and recognise the pride of India.

Gurudev also played a positive role in bringing about understanding and agreement between Mahatma Gandhi and Dr.Ambedkar in negotiating and signing of the 'Poona Pact' in 1932 with regard to the electoral rights of the dalits. Tagore wanted to ' free villages from the shackles of helplessness and ignorance '. He targeted India's ' abnormal caste consciousness ' and untouchability and created dalit heroes in his poems and dramas and gave the message of equality and fraternity and just social order.

I am happy to write that I have had the pleasure to get associated myself to some of the activities pertaining to Rabindranath Tagore. In Delhi, when I was the Director of the Central Asia Division of the Ministry of External Affairs in 2000, the then Prime Minister of Turkey Bulent Ecevit was honoured by the Viswa Bharti at Shantiniketan with an honorary degree for his translation of the Gitanjali into the Turkish language. I got the chance to meet the Turkish PM and deal with the Vice Chancellor of the Viswa Bharti in making all logistical and protocol arrangements. Gurudev visited Prague ( Czech Republic) in the twenties and befriended a famous CzechIndologist Vencenc Lesny who later visited and stayed at the Viswa Bharti at Shantiniketan for many years. The adjoining park to the place of stay of Tagore in Prague has been named as ' Thakurova Square '. A majestic Bust of Rabindranath Tagore adorns the Park at one of the prominent spots in Prague. The Bust was provided by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR). It fell on me as the Charge d' Affairs of the Embassy of India in Prague to inaugurate and unveil the Bust of Tagore along with the Mayor of Prague in May 2004. Even at my current station of posting - Minsk (Belarus), I found that Tagore is well known. The main entrance the National Art Gallery of Belarus adorns a life size statue of Rabindranath Tagaore. In my humble tribute to the memory of Gurudev, i quote an urdu couplet:

हजारों साल नर्गिस अपनी बेनूरी पे रोती है; बड़ी मुश्किल से होता है चमन में दीदाबर पैदा !

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Contemporary Dalit Heroes - 2 - The Great Khali

The Great Khali, the king of wrestling, is also known as Giant Singh. His real name is Dalip Singh (August 1972) son of Shri Jwala Ram of village Dhirana in Himachal Pradesh. The Great Khali belongs to a poor dalit family. He could not afford to have formal schooling. He had to work as a daily wager as a stone broker on road construction projects to support his family. I have learnt from the media that he is a follower of Guru Ravidass, the champion of work, worship and brotherhood. The great Guru's teachings (वाणी ) says ' नीचों उच्च करे मेरा गोबिंद ' and khali rose and became a phenomenon in the world of wrestling, breaking all warriers. He was picked up by a senior officer of the Punjab Police and recruited him in the police. Khali's determination, hard work and his god fearing up-bringing in utter poverty motivated him to scale greater heights in his pursuits to be a sports person par excellence. Khali was a player of repute of Heavy Weight Lifting and Basketball and won the titles of 'Mr. India' for two successive terms before registering himself at the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) in the USA. He was the first Indian professional wrestler to do so. Khali has also acted in a couple of Hollywood and Bollywood movies.

With his professional success as a world class wrestler, khali remains a humble family man. He tries help the poor and needy at his native and other places. His wife Harminder Kaur daughter of Shri Banta Ram Kainth of Jalandhar confirms that khali is a normal human being with a soft heart, inspite of rumours to the contrary. I myself saw him recently on the India TV programme 'Aap Ki Adalat- आप की अदालत ' hosted by Shri Rajat Sharma. Rajat Sharma, commenting on the performance of khali said that he was not sure before the shooting of the show whether Khali would be able to withstand the grilling at the Adalat but to his entire satisfaction Khali came out nicely with confidence and earthy sense of a worthy son of the soil.

The young generation of India and Punjab particularly of the dalits and poor segments of the society should learn from the life and struggle of Khali (Dalip Singh Rana) and emulate him in their own pursuits to achieve their goals.

कर खुदी को बुलंद इतना की हर तकदीर से पहले, खुदा बन्दे से खुद पूछे बता तेरी रजा क्या है !

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Request for Information Sharing - Contemporary Dalit Heroes


Dear All,

I intend to write in my Blog about the contemporary dalit heroes. In fact, i have already started doing so with the first entry on May 23, 2010. The information is scarce and not readily available. The obvious reason, to my mind, is caste stratified society resulting in inferiority complex on the part of the dalit personalities on the one hand and willful neglect by the media on the other. I will try my best to fill the gap. The focus would be on art, culture, education, sports etc. to begin with.

I shall be grateful, therefore, for information and ideas on the subject. You may like to co-operate and share the requisite information at the following E-Mail IDs:

(1) (2)

With regards,

Yours sincerely,

(Ramesh Chander)

Tuesday, May 25, 2010



today, the may 25, is the first death anniversary of sant ramanand who got fatally injured in a shoot out on may 24 at a gurudwara in vienna, the capital city of austria and died late in the night. it was a mindless and brutal assassination of the sant by some the fanatics. sant ramanand's killing, in the violence, was a tragedy not only for the entire punjabi community but also equally to the all embracing sikh community. it was all the more painful as sant ramanand himself was a great follower and preacher of the guruvani, enshrined in the sri guru granth sahib. he understood the tenants of religion and more so of the sikh faith of guru nanak and guru gobind singh along with that of guru ravidass whose vani is an important and integral part of the great granth.

sant ramanand was an enlightened, spiritual and social personality. he was highly respected and revered by the society at large particularly the dalits and other less privileged not only in punjab but also else where in india and abroad. he was a simple soul with an added flare for making people at ease and comfortable in his interaction with them. he was easily approachable. he has the ability to provided much needed spiritual and moral solace to the followers in these days of strife and conflict. the guruvani came to him naturally in its recital, narration and even singing to the utter contentment of the large audiences which he used to have at various congregations at the dera sachkhand ballan and else where. the content and focus of his message was to attain self contentment and awareness of social and spiritual needs of the society in general and particularly of the dalits as a true follower of guru ravidass and the guru's philosophy of lofty ideals of equality and fraternity. with the concerted efforts of sant ramanand, the dera sachkhand ballan became an epic centre of social and spiritual awakening among the dalits to enable them to join the main stream of the society. sant ramanand's stand alone contribution in this regard was immense. he was instrumental in promoting and spreading the message of guru ravidass and mission of dr. b.r. ambedkar for uplifting the down trodden and suppressed segments of the society. sant ramanand was the first to realise the comparatively growing economic and financial standing of the dalit NRIs of punjab and the role they could play in the empowerment of their families back home. he started to explore these opportunities and visiting foreign countries along with the chief - गद्दी नशीन - sant of the dera sachkhand ballan to start with the uk. it will not be out of place to mention, as i personally know, that in the initial days, more than two decades before, shri swaran bangar of the uk and shri d.c. kumar of new delhi ( both the close followers of the dera and belonging to the village ballan) played an important role and extended all possible help and assistance to sant garib dass and sant ramanand and facilitated their visits to the uk and other countries.

the efforts of sant ramnand and his total dedication to the cause of social and spiritual empowerment of dalits, under the patronage and blessings of the dera chiefs from sant sarwan dass, sant hari dass, sant garib dass to the current chief sant niranjan dass, made the dera sachkhand ballan an established centre of these affirmative actions and activities. it is a matter of gratification that the dera runs a number of educational and health institutions in punjab and also spiritual and charitable trusts. under the patronage and direction of sant garib dass, sant ramanand contributed greatly in bringing ' seer goverdhanpur ' ( kanshi - varanasi), the birth place of guru ravidass on the national and international map as a holy place of pilgrimage for the followers of guru ravidass. it is very much appreciable and praiseworthy. sant ramanand was instrumental in promoting the mission of guru ravidass through the print and electronic media by publishing books, bringing out dvds and launching a weekly paper 'begumpur Shaher'. it was not an easy job. the impact of it is visible with the songs like ' सारे कर लओ एक़ा, बेगुम्पुरा वसौनां आं ! ' ranting the air of punjab. the greatest contribution of sant ramanand, to my mind, is that during his life time he succeeded in bringing about much needed awareness of the hidden potential among the dalits to stand up and face the challenges of life and live a dignified life. it is a matter of great satisfaction, of late, the community is getting empowered increasingly. but still much remains to be done.

coming to my personal association and interaction, i have had the honour to meet and know sant ramanand. though, due to my service conditions, i remained out of india most of the time yet we in the family remained connected with the dera sachkhand ballan both for social and spiritual needs. i met sant ramanand at our home when he came with sant garib dass at the' bhog ' ceremony of my father shri sodhi ram's death in april, 1986. sant ramanand led the kirtan of guruvani. the sabad of guru ravidass ' जल की भीत पवन तू थुम्बा, रक्त बूंद का गारा ' sung by him still echos in my ears. i could not control my emotions and wept like a child. sant ramanand had the ability and capacity to sway the audiences at such functions. my second encounter with sant ramanand was yet another kindness of sant garib dass in the summer of 1989. sant garib dass was not well and was admitted to a hospital in delhi. i went to see him with my brother in law d.c.kumar. we requested sant garib dass to bless us at our apartment in pitampura after the release from the hospital. he very kindly agreed and visited us with sant ramnand. after talking to them over a frugal lunch, i realised that both the sant had a special corner in their hearts for the upcoming ( if i could join that category) members of the community. they humbled me further. sant ramanand and sant niranjan dass visited us at our flat in kalkaji in delhi in 1999. they were in transit in delhi for one of their trips abroad. we spoke at length on many issues of interest and concern pertaining to the community. i tended to be frank but with total respect and regard. sant ramanand was sharp and quick to knew my mind. sant niranjan dass is an embodiment of simplicity. while getting up and leaving, he enquired, whether i consume alcohol. on my affirmative answer, sant niranjan dass advised, in a saintly tone and manner, that i shall not do so and added, in a child like simplicity, that you have a great responsibility and some vested interests could make you sign certain things under the influence of intoxicants. sant ramanand saved the situation and moderated by saying that there was nothing to worry as i knew it well. i said that i would be careful. but, to be truthful, i still like a drink or two. my last meeting and interaction with sant ramanand alongwith sant niranjan dass happened in vienna in the autumn of 2006. i was posted in prague and was on a private visit to vienna. i came to know that the sants were also in vienna. i spoke to them on phone and requested for a brief meeting, if poosible, whereever they were staying. sant ramanand was kind enough to suggest that they would like to come to me rather i go to them. it was an honour. they came to the residence of my brother in law hussan lal where i was putting up. my respect for them was further strengthened. it provided me yet another close opportunity to discuss matters of mutual interest. i recognised and appreciated the good work being done by the dera sachkhand ballan particularly by sant ramanand. i suggested that it will be appropriate if an opportunity could be explored and created for sant ramanad to participate at one of the international inter-faith conferences/dialogues with view to provide exposure to the work and mission of the dera sachkhand ballan. sant was appreciative of the suggestion and instructed one of his associates to make note of the suggestion. i also spoke my mind and concern about the security and the time schedule of the sants. i reiterated that, with growing involvement of the dera and personally of the sants in various social and spiritual activities of the community, it is important to take care of these aspects. the vested interests were bound to get envious and and might develope hostility towards our interests. it was also equally important to be careful of some of the self styled leaders of the community who might hijack the agenda for their own purposes. i said that some regulation and proper monitoring was needed. i felt that sant ramanand was not oblivious of these requirements. but it appeared that he was the man in a hurry to complete the agenda and, to his mind, an open and flexible approach was more functional to achieve early results. unfortunately, it worked the other way and proved tragic.

all said and done, the community is on the cross roads again. the anguish and pain felt by the dalit community, in the removal of sant ramanand by force of the gun by the radicals, was visible in the after math of the vienna tragedy of may 24-25, 2009. the timely action and damage control measures taken by the authorities saved the situation and from further injury to the social fabric of the society. the dalit community has started, as rightly wished by the sant, asserting its identity to find due and dignified space in the society. in a recent write-up in the tribune, shri vinod sumbly, commenting on these matters, rightly wrote ' it marks the beginning of a new era when those at the bottom of the ladder have dared to ascend to the top.' sant ramanand's great contribution in bringing about this much needed change should be noted and recorded with gratitute, it will make a befitting tribute to the memory of the great sant. the awareness and energy generated by sant ramanand and the dera sachkhand ballan and all others concerned should be identified, channelised and exploited to the greater good and empowerment of the community. it would be another tragedy, if the positive and affirmative energy is wasted mindlessly with half waked ideas and directionless strategy. the need of the hour, to my mind, is to think and act with a pragmatic approach and to ward off the possibility of hijacking the agenda and the mission by some vested interests for their own selfish designs. the following couplet says the thinking of sant ramanand:

तू पहले बात फिर बात का अंदाज पैदा कर;
फिर जमाने में तुजे कोई नज़र अंदाज कर नहीं सकता !

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Contemporary Dalit Heroes - Ms. Mamta Sodha

The social landscape in India is changing, of late, and rightly so. The hitherto weaker sections of the society are slowly getting empowered to match, compete and belong to the main stream of the society. it is a matter of great satisfaction.

It has been reported today, May 24, 2010 that Ms. Mamta Sodha of Kaithal town of Haryana, a dalit young lady, has scaled the mighty Mount Everest. Ms. Sodha is a lecturer at a college in Kurukshetra. She is a trained in mountaineering as a member of the National Adventure Club and an alumnus of the Nehru Institute of Mountaineering at Uttarkhand. She is a keen player of Handball and represents the Kurukshetra University at various sports events. Mamta deserves to congratulated and felicitated on her great achievement. Her mother, Ms.Mewa Devi, and others members of the family have also earned due recognition for providing encouragement and support to the worthy daughter of the family.

It is good to note that the authorities in the Haryana administration and also business people like Shri Naveen Jindal, Member of Parliament of the area extended financial help in the process of Mamta's mission. Let us hope that others learn from this and help the up-coming young people of the weaker sections of the society in pursuit of high goals. It will further strengthen our democratic credentials.

The fete of Mamta attains greater importance as it would tend to send positive and right signals to the Khap Panchayats and the caste ridden society of Haryana. The young girls of the society at large and those of the dalit community would look towards Ms. Mamta Sodha as a contemporary hero and get inspired.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Addendum - The Panch Sheel in Diplomacy

I wrote ' the panch sheel in diplomacy ' on april 10, 2010 in my blog. Some more relevant information has come to light. Shri Ashok Parthasarthy, who was the Scientific Advisor to Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, wrote in ' Nehru - the other side Revealed ' in the magazine ' Defence & Security Alert ' ( October 2009 issue ) that Jawaharlal Nehru revealed his mind in March 1958 to Shri G. Parthasarthy, who was appointed as India's Ambassador to China. It goes like this as written by Shri G. Parthasarthy in his diary:


So G.P., when has the foreign office told you Hindi Chini bhai-bhai ? Don't you believe it. I don't trust the Chinese one bit, despite Panchsheel and all that. The Chinese are arrogant, devious, hypocritical and thoroughly unreliable.


It is self explanatory.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

the 65th anniversary of the victory day- WW-11

The allied forces formally accepted the unconditional surrender after the defeat in the world war 11. the act of military surrender was signed in reims (france) on may 7 and ratified on may 8, 1945 in berlin (germany). in the soviet union, it was may 9 because of the time zone. the victory day is observed on may 7-9 every year in various parts of the world.

belarus, where i am located these days, had witnessed many conflicts in its history. the most ferocious was the period 1941-1945 ( german-soviet union war) in the over all connect of the world war 11. belarus had to face one of the strongest groups of hitler's army in its thrust to reach and capture moscow. more than 8 million civilians and 900,000 the soviet prisoners of war (pow) were administered by the nazi forces for almost three years from the occupied territories in belarus. the nazis, to superimpose the occupation, adopted the policy of terror and executions. belarus became the theater of an extensive fight against the nazis under the 'patrisan movement' in which the forces of poland, czechoslovakia, yugoslavia and france participated, along with the soviet and belarusian people. belarus suffered the most in the war than any other country of europe. the country was fully plundered. it is estimated that about 3 million belarusians got killed, one third of the entire population of belarus. the city of minsk was honoured with the title 'hero city' and the the breast fort as the' hero fort '. the contribution of belarus was recognised by the international community. in april, 1945, belarus (under the soviet arrangement) became one of the founding members of the united nations (un).

the 65th anniversary of the victory day was celebrated in minsk. the wreath laying ceremony at the victory square ( monument to remember the soldiers with a burning flame), on may 7, was led by president of belarus alexander luckashenko. i, the indian ambassador, had the honour of joining the president as one of the chosen head of diplomatic missions, to represent the diplomatic community at the wreath laying. there was a military parade at the main vista of the 'pobeditelei avenue' ( winners' avenue) at the 'minsk hero city' memorial on may 9, followed by a colourful procession by the young students and players. the minsk city was made up like a bride. a urdu couplet comes to my mind:

शहीदों की चिताओं पर लगेंगे हर वर्ष मेले,
वतन पर मिटने वालों का बाकि यही निशान होगा !

india, a british colony at that time, was made to participate in the war by default. but the contribution of indian brave soldiers was no less. infact, the indian contingent of the fighting forces of the allies was the biggest. indian soldiers wan 30 victoria cross gallantry medals in the ww 11. there is another aspect of indian participation in the war. the militant elements in the struggle of indian independence joined the axis forces from japan and other countries of east asia under the ' azad hind sena' - आजाद हिंद सेना of netaji subhash chandra bose. it is a co-incident that the japanese forces surrendered to the allies under the american command on august 15, 1945 and india got indepence on august 15, 1947. i served in the embassy of india in tokyo. the indian independence traditional reception is not held in tokyo, keeping in view the japanese sensibilities. a 'singto shrine' called 'yasukuni shrine' where the condemned japanese soldiers
( involved in war crimes ) were buried, is just across the road from the indian embassy.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

the guru of joy

mata urmila devi of the ' art of living ' of sri sri ravi shankar was in minsk last week. she gifted me the biograhy ' the guru of joy ' of sri sri ravi shankar written by a french journalist francois gauitier who lives in india.

i glanced through the book. it has, as usual in such books, a liberal spread of phrases and words like spirituality, morality, human values, compassion, religion, meditation, love, joy, smile etc. the gurus of the standing and calibre of sri sri ravi shankar, it may be appreciated, have mastered the art of saying simple things in such a way that sounds good, even if one does not understand the meanings. i quote some of these words: - (i) 'utter love' which is an 'undying smile'. (ii) life is 'sacred'. celebrate it. life is a 'mystery'. it has to lived and not understood. (iv) meditation is seeing god in yourself. (v) love is seeing god in the person next to you. (vi) knowledge is seeing god every where. i have had the privilege to meet sri sri ravi shankar in tokyo some years before. he is soft spoken and knowledgeable guru with an impressive personality. not surprisingly, the ' art of living foundation ' is one of the largest' NGOs ' and has its presence in more than 140 countries in the world. !

these are the lofty thoughts of the gurus. but still the question remains. in spite of these globe trotting gurus, why the world at large is in turmoil ? indian culture and tradition is rooted in the vedas and the gita and ramayana. our heritage spans from gautam budha to guru nanak, from rama krishna paramhans to gandhi, from swami vivekananda to osho rajneesh and mahesh yogi and the contemporary gurus and swamis like sri sri ravi shankar and swami ramdev and many more. but the question remains. why the divisive and fundamentalist tendencies are rising in india ? in spite of the legal and constitutional frame work, why we could not establish a caste less society ? why we could not have egalitarian and humane society ? the gurus in the business shall think and engage themselves with the indian society more and more rather than with international community to address these questions. it would be a good and positive contribution to the indian thought and philosophy. a poetic expression of mohamad iqbal comes to my mind:
मस्जिद तो बना दे सब भर में, इमां की हरारत वालों ने ;
मन अपना पुराना पापी है, वर्षों से नमाज़ी बन न सका !
incidentally, while studying the book and interacting with the followers of the ' art of living', i found a somewhat surprising similarity with some other social and community outfits. the mode of greetings ' jai gurudev ' जय गुरुदेव of the 'art of living ' reminded me of the 'ad-dhram mandal' which was established in punjab in 1926 by babu mangoo ram mugowalia (my blog of april 24 refers) as a socio-religious-political movement for the upliftment of the dalits also have the same mode of greetings/saluting. it appears that the 'ad-dharam' movement might have influenced sri sri ravi shankar while deciding the mode of greetings. more recently, the newly formed 'ravidassia' sect under the aegis of a famous ' dera of sachkhand ballan ' of jalandhar (punjab), has also adopted जय गुरूदेव as the mode of wishing and greeting each other.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

first may - the labour day

the 1st may is observed the labour day or the international workers day through out the world. the general perception is that it is mostly commemorated in the communist/socialist or developing countries. but it is not the case.

the may day had its roots in Chicago (usa). the federation of organised trade unions started a labour movement in 1884. it gave a strike call on 1st may, 1886 for having 8 hours work schedule. the idea, as the story goes, was to divide the 24 hours in three equal slots - 8 hours for work, 8 hours for recreation and 8 hours for sleep. you may be aware that 8 hour work is the standard by now in most of the countries. in due course, it became an international phenomenon and a labour movement. it was decided in 1889 to declare 1st of may as the labour day and 1st may 1890 was commemorated as such for the first time.

the labour day is observed in india, generally under the banner of labour unions on the 1st may. there is yet another important day 'vishwakarma puja' in india which is dedicated to lord vishwa karma, the divine architect of the universe, according to hindu mythology. the labour force worships vishwa karma, on this day, and pray for a better future, safe working conditions and success. dr. b.r. ambedkar recognised the needs of the labour class under the aegis of the independent labour party, he established in 1936. later, dr. ambedkar was made the labour member of the viceroy's executive council from 1942-45. he was instrumental in bringing several labour reforms including establishment of employment exchanges.

before coming to belarus, i was the consul general of india to scotland. the 1st of my has special significance in the history of scotland. on 1st may, 1707, the 'act of union' was signed between england and scotland to form the 'kingdom of the great britain. the day is celebrated in saint andrews (scotland), young people gather on a beach late in the night of april 30 and run into the north sea on the 1st may, mostly naked. in edinburgh, the beltane fire festival is held on the 1st may eve at the calton hill.

the may day in minsk was a normal and quite day. there was a function in the gorky park, one of the oldest parks of minsk but a low key affair. i was told that it used to be a big day of celebrations in the soviet time before 1991. the clock of history goes on ticking. the important becomes ordinary and nothing becomes something. it is life.