Saturday, March 26, 2011

India - Pakistan Cricket Diplomacy

The Cricket World Cup is being played. Both India and Pakistan are the two important teams in the game. India's share and position in the international sports hierarchy is not high. It is much to be desired given the size of the country, home of a billion plus people. But it is gratifying to note that cricket is very popular in all the segments of the society. The performance of India is being watched with a lot of expectation. The Team India has done well so far. It has already made to the semi-final match of the Cup in the coming week. India can boast of Sachin Tendulkar, the best batsman, the cricket has produced. A number of other Indian players, the likes of legendary Lala Amarnath, have made a mark on the scene. Though I don't know much about the game yet would like to add with a sense of affinity that I was the contemporary of Mohinder and Surinder Amarnath, who were the leading national and international playes, in my school years at the Saindass School in Jalandhar. One of the semi-finals will be played at Mohali between India and Pakistan on March 30. It has generated and rightly so much expected interest and heat in the game, India and Pakistan the two adversaries not only in the game but otherwise also in all the meanings of the word. It is known fact. The people are interested on both the sides. The fever is getting high by the day. The Governments are not oblivious of the ground realities. PM Manomohan Singh has taken the initiative and made the first diplomatic move to invite President Zaradari and PM Gilani of Pakistan to Mohali to witness the semi-final between the two cricket giants. The idea is to lessen the tensions between the two otherwise estranged neighbours and bring the people together in the spirit of the game. India has been doing so every time as and when such an opportunity arises. PM Rajiv Gandhi invited President Zia-ul-Haq and PM Manmohan Singh President Musharaf in the earlier events. Though these gestures are only symbolic as a part of diplomacy yet these are important and appreciated. It is said that you need two hands to clap. Let us hope Pakistan that Pakistan understands this. PM Atal Vajpayee, taking a dig at Pakistan on such exchanges, said in his usual poetic way:


India may win or loose in the game at the World Cup। But it will remain in the game of diplomacy aimed at improving relations between the two ountries - INDIA and Pakistan. I am reminded of Dr. Iqbal's thought provoking poetry:

आ गैरियत के परदे इक बार फिर उठा दें ; बिश्डों को फिर मिला दें, नक़्शे दुई मिटा दें !

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Babu Kanshi Ram - a Tribute

Today, March 15, is the birth anniversary of Babu Kanshi Ram ( March 1934 - October 2006 ), a great dalit leader of contemporary times. Babu Kanshi Ram belonged to an ordinary family in Ropar district of Punjab. After getting B.Sc. degree from the Punjab University, he joined the DRDO (a Ministry of Defence organisation) for the bread and butter and did not have any political inclinations. His posting in Pune exposed him to Dr. B.R. Ambedkar and his mission. The caste based discrimination and high handedness of the system touched and moulded the young scientific mind and temperament of Kanshi Ram. He started taking part in social and community activities. Based on the dictum of Dr. Ambedkar " Educate, Organise and Agitate ", Kanshi Ram along with other activists, established Backward and Minority Community Employees Federation (BAMCEF) in 1978. He consolidated his activities and floated another outfit the Dalit Soshit Samaj Sanghrash Samiti (DS4) in 1981. Gradually these efforts came a full circle and he founded the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) in 1984 to fight the ' forces of status qua ' and start the ' politics of transformation '. It was a one man army to begin with but slowly with his followers like Ms. Mayawati, who is currently the Chief Minister of UP state, and others, the BSP became a political force to reckon with in the emerging political battlefield. He pronounced with regard to his missionary approach and involvement " I will never get married, I will never acquire any property. I will never visit my home, I will devote and dedicate the rest of my life to achieve the goals of ' Phule - Ambedkar Movement'. With the vision and strategy of Babu Kanshi Ram, the dalits and other under privileged came around. The much needed awakening and realisation to take a due share in the governance, not as a charity but by their own right, was generated by the untiring efforts of Kanshi Ram. The BSP could make a big dent and make its mark in UP and many other states and also could succeed in sending their representation to the Indian Parliament. Babu Kanshi Ram, in his life time, emerged as the symbol of growing political role for the dalits in the current scenario. Let me put it in a poetic parlance:

अकेले हे चले थे जानिबे मंजिल, लोग साथ आते गए और कारवां बनता गया !

Babu Kanshi Ram gave the potent message of social change through the political route. Dr. B.R. Ambedkar was an intellectual and a visionary who started the empowerment of the dalits much before India's independence in 1947 and also by his positive and major contribution in the making of the constitution of India. Kanshi Ram carried forward Ambedkar's mission to complete the unfinished agenda by organising the dalits and other weaker sections of the society by making them realise that they were the masters of their destiny in the democratic polity of India and they should realise their strength. This message of Kanshi Ram changed the character of Indian politics and dalits became a formidable political force. I read some years before in one of Indian magazines what a leading and renowned political commentator and columnist M.J. Akbar wrote about Kanshi Ram - ' He has come but yet to reach '. It is so. But reach they must. Babu Kanshi Ram died in October, 2006 after a prolonged disability due to a brain stroke and other ailments. His agenda of social and political transformation is still incomplete and would need further concerted efforts. It would be a true tribute to the memory of the worthy son of India Kanshi Ram who is called, out of reverence, Babuji or Manyawar or Saheb, by his followers and rightly so.

I did not have the privilege of meeting Babu Kanshi Ram personally. I could see and listen him at a function he organised at a community centre near the Ambedkar Bhawan at New Delhi sometime in 1976 at the formative years of his and mine career. But I heard quite a lot about Kanshi Ram from my friend Prem Shant and my brothers in Jalandhar. Kanshi Ram was a simple man but was down to earth in public matters. My brother Kishan told me about a public meeting in Jalandhar in mid 80s which Babu Ram Kanshi Ram was to address. There was a lot of enthusiasm among the people। Kishan as a community activist was much interested in the success of the function and he went to see the arrangements some hours before the actual time of the public meeting. He found that Kanshi Ram himself, who was already a respected and recognised leader of the community, was personally supervising the erection and construction of the stage in disguise or incognito. The meeting was huge and unprecedented. There was no place even to stand. The sea of humanity inundated the arrangements and Babu Kanshi Ram finally arrived in an impressive but simple manner as a proud leader. It was his dedication and relationship with the masses. He was not not a sofa sitting leader who worked from the cosy drawing rooms. Babu Kanshi Ram belonged to the people whose destiny he wanted to control and guide.

अपना मुकदर आप बनाते हैं अहले दिल, हम वोह नहीं जीने जमाना बना गाया !

Friday, March 11, 2011


The Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyato, has announced his decision to relinquish his political role in the matters related to Tibet. The announcement, which has created ripples in China and the other quarters concerned with the Tibet issue, came on the 52nd anniversary of the Tibetan uprising of March 1959 against the high handedness of the regime in Beijing. The Dalai Lama, the spiritual and political leader of Tibet, escaped to India along with his large number of followers. India welcomed and sheltered him as an 'honoured guest'. The Tibetans formed a Government in exile with headquarters in Dharamshala in the State of Himachal Pradesh in India. Since then, the Dalai Lama and his followers supported by many democratic states and governments and also civil societies throughout the world have been struggling to get the right place and recognition for Tibet in the Peoples Republic of China. But the issue remains. The decision of the Dalai Lama will tend to focus the issue again. China would need to look into the issue afresh to find a just and agreeable solution. The Dalai Lama would no more be available with his sobering and compassionate approach. The concerned, particularly the Chinese authorities, would have to deal with the new Tibetan leadership.

The Dalai Lama remains a source of inspiration for more than 400 million Buddhists around the world. Before his coming to India in 1959, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar had already embraced Buddhism in 1956 which came a milestone for the revival of Buddhism in India. The Dalai Lama ignited the urge and strengthened the Buddhist thought and philosophy. The Chinese government has termed the decision of the Dalai Lama to handover the political leadership of Tibet to an elected Tibetan leader ' a trick to deceive the international community. ' On the other hand, keeping in line with his mind and mission, the Dalai Lama said in his announcement " China has a huge potential to contribute to human progress and world peace. But to do that, China must earn the international community's respect and trust." It is the Dalai Lama. The government of India has commented that the Dalai Lama may continue to enjoy the hospitality as an 'honoured guest' in India and rightly so. The message of the the Dalai Lama's decision to handover power and wanton voluntarily shall not go unnoticed in India and many more countries. The scent of 'Jasmine Revolution' underway in West Asia is potent enough to touch the other shores too.

I had the honour and privilege to meet the Dalai Lama two times during my diplomatic interaction. I met him and lunched with him in Tokyo sometime in 2003. I was impressed with his simplicity and charmed humility. He is an embodiment of love and compassion. The second time, I met the Dalai Lama was in Prague in 2005. He spoke at the inter-faith forum on human rights. It was an extempore delivery and a free wheeling inter-action with the audience. The Dalai Lama stole the show with his simple but straight exposure and presentation. I vividly remember his stopping and greeting me particularly in the crowd after the function. I will cherish the warm handshake with the Dalai Lama.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

International Women's Day

Today, March 8 is the International Women’s Day. The Day is celebrated all over the world to celebrate the importance of women in the society and empowerment of the so called weaker sex. It is the century year of the women’s day. It was observed in Europe in the year 1911 for the first time in Germany. The Working Women’s Day was an important day in erstwhile Soviet Union and the Soviet bloc countries in Eastern Europe. I personally witnessed and participated in the celebrations in Prague and Minsk during my diplomatic assignments.It became the International Women’s Day in 1977 when the UN observed it as the year of Women Empowerment and declared it as the Day of Woman’s Rights and International Peace. Since then March 8 is observed with all fan fair and solemnity it deserved and rightly so.

The International Women’s Day is also celebrated in India but still it is cosmetic and is confined to metropolitan cities and that to only in the elitist circles. It is a matter of gratification to note that in India women enjoy, legally and constitutionally, equal rights and status. The ground realities are different. The woman equality and empowerment is still an important issue which needs to be addressed both by the society and the administration with concerted efforts. We are yet to go a long way. The father of the Indian constitution said long before “I measure the progress of the community by the degree of the progress which women had made” and fought relentlessly to make the necessary provisions in the constitution for the equalality and empowerment of women. According to the Hindu philosophy woman is considered the ‘Greh Lakshmi’. Guru Nanak, the great Sikh Guru, spoke against the ill treatment of the women folk and said ‘ so kiyon manda akhiye jis jame rajan’. Mahatma Gandhi wished that the President of the India shall be a woman and that too one from the dalit communities. The outcome is not bad and is rather encouraging Indira Gandhi remained the Prime Minister of India for almost two decades. President of India is Pritabha Patil. The strongest political personnality is Sonia Gandhi. Meira Kumar is the Speaker of the Lok Sabha (Lower Chamber of the Indian Parliament), The Chief Minister of one of the largest state of India Uttar Pradesh is none other than Mayawati, a dalit, the Head of the Indian Foreign Service (Foreign Secretary), of which I was a humble member till recently, is Nirupma Rao. Not only in India, have the Indian women made big strides even abroad. Many of them made to the high and coveted positions in the Parliaments and Governments of important developed countries like the USA, UK, and Canada. It is a tribute to the Indian democracy.

Much needs to be done। The girl child has to accepted and respected in the families. The woman in the house is too respected and loved. It will help in getting happy families and harmonious society. The world would become a better place to live. I conclude in the words of a famous Indian poet:

एक नहीं दो दो मात्रI नर से बढकर नारी

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Home Coming

It is almost one and a half month I wrote in my blog after our return to India in the first week of January, 2011. It was cold. The systems are not in place in India to meet the winter. One feels shivering cold. We also suffered the cold and frosty weather. The traffic is chaotic and the public transport is no yet fully trustworthy. One needs to adjust. We moved into our small flat at the IFS Apartments in Gurgaon (a satellite town of Delhi). Though the residential complex is well maintained yet it is too dusty and dirty outside as Gurgaon is one of the fast developing town and the infrastructure is yet to come up fully. Obviously one has to live with it. Notwithstanding all these small problems, we were back home after a long stint abroad. Our family received us with great joy and gusto. The retirement in India particularly in the northern India is considered to be a good and happy occasion and accordingly everybody tended to congratulate us. We accepted the situation as it came, no regrets, as we have come a long way and not fared badly.

After a month or so in Gurgaon/Delhi, we went to Jalandhar, our home town in Punjab. My brothers and other kith and kin eagerly waited for us to welcome and congratulate us on our final home coming. We were touched by the welcome ceremony at home. It was a festive season at my home place- Bootan Mandi on account of the Gurupurab - the birth anniversary of Guru Ravidassji. We enjoyed and witnessed these celebrations after about one and a half decade. We were keen and excited. It was over whelming for us to see the scale and enthusiasm in which the occasion is celebrated. It was also satisfying to note that the the community and the followers of Guru Ravidass have registered a good progress and made a space for themselves in the society. But on the other hand, I was pained to feel and see that some of the self appointed leaders of the community were fighting with each other for their own selfish and limited agenda. It would do a great harm to the common cause of the community and take the caravan backward. I think, it will be a total negation of the teachings and mission of the great Guru Ravidass and the leaders like Dr. B.R. Ambedkar. It is time, to my mind, to think and mend ourselves for the greater good of the society.

We came back to Gurgaon on February 20. The following week our heavy baggage came from Minsk - a container load which was the accumulation of more than 10 years abroad. It happened to be a headache, as expected, as our flat is not as big to contain the huge baggage. There is no way. We would manage to keep the lady of the house, my wife Vidya, happy as she had some emotional attachment to her collections from various places. I will be failing if I don't add that the things at the official levels are much better. My employer, the Ministry of External Affairs, promptly did all the paper work and action to settle my retirement matters. The customs clearance and delivery of the baggage always gave me some additional worry. But this time, I must say with a lot of satisfaction and gratitude that things were totally smooth and there was no difficulty. All the concerned officials both in the Ministry of External Affairs and the Customs at the Container Depot at Tuglakabad were fully cooperative, helpful and courteous. Obviously it made our home coming all the more happy. We are in the process of settling down. The life continues.