Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Malice towards None - As I Feel -2

I continue with my disappointment with my people in Jalandhar. In spite of the fact that Guru Ravidass Jayanti was celebrated with a lot of fan fair and gusto, as usual like every year, by the people themselves but the so called leaders or organisers ( if there was one as the outpouring and participation was spontaneous by the masses) failed to add anything positive to smoothen the flow of humanity in the town in shape of Shoba Yatra and participation in the Kirtan Darbars and other related functions. I don't think that anybody deserves any credit for this except the people themselves. The high spirits and the enthusiasm among the followers of the great Guru was a clear indication of the growing power of the community and the space they had created for themselves in the society. But as the electricity generated cannot be stored and it has to be transmitted and used it is so for the spirit and energy of the human activity also. I only pray that the energy of the community is utilised and channelised to the larger good before the natural resultant fatigue sets in. Our leaders must understand that. I request for their consideration and action before it gets late.
I again went to Jalandhar in April. I mostly remained busy in settling down and getting my flat functional and did not try to specially reach out to my friends. The visit coincided with the Ambedkar Jayanti on April 14. Bootan Mandi again for almost 5 decades remained the centre for Ambedkar's mission and philosophy.I recall as a cherished memory when as a student I along with my father participated in the Jaloos ( Shoba Yatra) to observe the Jayanti which used to start from the Mandi. I was impressed by the speeches of Lahori Ram Balley and others like Charan Dass Nidhadak and also community songs by Lal Chand Kamla on the traditional Punjabi music instrument called Tumbi. The poetic flair and touch was given by Pritam Ramdaspuri and Jakhmi Jalandhari on the occasion. I distinctly remember the Qwali evenings at Bootan Mandi under the sarparasthi ( stwerdship ) of Kartara Ram Madhas and the nearby Ambedkar Bhawan. Till the 70's, unfortunately, Ambedkar did not find favour with common Congressman. He was considered a political leader of the political outfits opposed to the Congress. The situation changed and rightly so as the mission and work of Dr. Ambedkar was potent enough to embrace one and all of the oppressed segments of the society. The ground realities of the vote bank politics compelled the Congress and the others like BJP and Akalis not to neglect Ambedkar and sensivities attached to his name and work. The acceptability of Ambedkar and his recognition is great and more than ever. It is a matter of great satisfaction. But again the menace of selfish and limited agenda of the self appointed leaders and self seekers was prevailing. The Shoba Yatra started from Bootan Mandi was again a divided lot. Others joined on the way. I also participated but with a sense or remorse. The public participation was spontaneous but the political presence and participation was more symbolic and under somewhat compulsion. It was almost lifeless except the sound and fury of the hired Bandbaza. There was no slogans. There was no song and dance. The only difference from the old days to that of the new was that there were Langars on the way and on the conclusion of the Yatra. I think, it demonstrates economic wellbeing and prosperity of the community. The public meetings took the backstage and one or two meetings on the occasion were poorly attended. There are lessons to learn if we intend to remain in the reckoning. We may ignore Ambedkar but at our own perils. The leadership is much to be desired. The younger generation particularly the educated shall come forward. There is no other way. Let me close with an Urdu couplet:
तू पहले बात फिर बात का अंदाज़ पैदा कर;
फिर तुजे ज़माने में नज़र अंदाज़ कर नहीं सकता !
PS: Just today, I have seen a video on the Youtube of a function at the Ambedkar Technical Institute at Jalandhar. The bust of Ambedkar was washed with milk and water before it was garlanded. It is a good symbolism but we shall not get too ritualistic. That is what I feel.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Malice towards None - As I Feel

I retired from the Indian Foreign Service (IFS) on December 31, 2010. We returned to India in January, 2011 from Minsk from my last station of posting as Ambassador of India to Belarus. As a matter of routine, I tended to keep track of the community matters particularly of my home town Jalandhar. Though we have a flat at the IFS Apartments in Gurgaon to live in yet I thought of having a small establishment in Jalandhar too and acquired a flat at the Silver Residency Apartments at Nakodar Road ( renamed as Ambedkar Marg), near my native place Bootan Mandi. The idea was to integrate and associate myself with the community, as my post retirement activity, in whatever small way I may be able to do, in tandem and cooperation with my old colleagues and friends who are living in and around Bootan Mandi. I visited Jalandhar and as usual stayed with my brothers in Bootan Mandi in February, 2011. I was totally disappointed, to be frank, with the state of affairs and the behaviour of some of my friends and fellow Bootan Mandians whom I always held in high esteem. I tried to get in touch with them and establish contact. But to my utter surprise, the response was lopsided and rather negative. The community leadership was divided with their own personal agenda of either business interests or family feuds. It was an unfortunate situation which was detrimental to the interests of the society and community affairs. Obviously, I was not interested in joining the group politics but could not help associating myself with the fair and bonafide activities to some extent. One of the groups assumed and decided to completely ignore me and my presence on groundless assumptions. I could not get the chance to sit with them and speak my mind in spite of the fact i tried my best to send my message across with a view to strive for unity and togetherness. It was the height of self righteousness.
The major event in February was the Gurpurab - Guru Ravidass Jayanti. Bootan Mandi is considered to be the hub of the celebrations in the area and rightly so as Bootan Mandi always acted as the torch bearer or the flag bearer of the spiritual and social activism by the community. Guru Ravidass Dham, a nicely conceived project, was in utter neglect as the so called Kartadhartas (leaders) were fighting for control of the project for their selfish ends. The irony of the matter is that the Guru Ravidass Welfare and Education Trust which is headed by only one person for about a decade did not do anything in the past except chairing the functions arranged with public money and has neither any welfare scheme nor it has any educational project in hand. The name of the Trust itself has no justification rather it is negation of welfare and education.. It is some food for thought of some of my educated friends who are associated with the so called Trust.. The Dham, naturally, is the property of the community and shall be open to one and all. But I was told that the Seths who control the project allow or deny the access to the Guru Dham on their whims and fancies and political orientations. It shall be totally unacceptable. The Dham is not a personal property of any Seth or his/her cronies. I think a democratically elected Committee shall be formed and the project handed over to it. It will be unfortunate if the project gets stalled in the process because of the selfish agenda of the self seekers.

Even the great Guru has been divided The Gurpurab was fragmented. The respective groups held separate functions including the Langar and the Shoba Yatra. The public money collected for the purpose by both the groups was spent mindlessly. The sense of one-up was prevailing which tended to increase heat and acrimony. I spoke at one of the functions and pleaded for unity in the larger interest of the society. But it seemed that the line of divide was getting deeper and bigger. The false ego and money power was getting stronger. The people and the society is bound to suffer and the struggle for empowerment of the dalit masses will get weak in the prevailing situation. The movement and mission of the Guru has been compromised by the so called followers themselves. The image of Bootan Mandi has been tarnished.May Guru Ravidass provide and grant us sense and sanity.

हर शाख पे उल्लू बैठें हैं अंजामें गुलिस्तान क्या होगा

(To be concluded)