Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Ambedkar’s Parinirvan Diwas – December 6

On December 6, I wrote about the relevance of Ambedkar in the India of today. It was further amplified by the speakers on the tributes giving function on December 6 by the Ambedkar Bhawan Trust at the Ambedkar Bhawan itself. It was a successful function but I am sorry to say that I expected more in the audience. The fault does not pertain to the organizers but the fragmented society at large. Ambedkar Bhawan, I recall vividly, was started sometime in early sixties by the followers of Ambedkar under the flag and banner of the then Republican Party. Ambedkar was still not accepted as a leader of standing, as he clearly deserved, by the Congress Party and the likes of the Jan Sangh/BJP and others. It was a flawed thinking. It is satisfying to note that by now and by his own right Dr. B.R. Ambedkar got must needed and well-earned recognition in the later years. Dr. Ambedkar was a great son of India. It will be only befitting if his mission and thought becomes regular curricula in the schools and universities. It will not only strengthen the democratic edifice of the country but also will help greatly in creating a just social order. Ambedkar Bhawan at Nakodar Road is a center of community activities. I only wish that it comes as a magnificent place befitting to the memory of Dr. Ambedkar. Nevertheless Ambedkar Bhawan Trust under the stewardship of Lahori Ram Balley, Gian Singh Bal, Ramesh Chand Paul and others and also its current President RPS Pawar are doing well and they deserve appreciation for good work done.

Coming to the function, Member of Parliament Mohinder Singh Kaypee was the Chief Guest. President of the Ambedkar Bhawan Trust RPS Pawar welcoming the guests made very valid points that it was only because of the struggle of Dr. Ambedkar that we (the empowered members of the society holding official positions) could reach, where we were, in caste ridden and unequal social set up. He also referred to the vast majority of the Dalit and backward communities in the State of Punjab and said that unfortunately they were not united and as such could not get both in politics and otherwise as it shall be. Pawar cajoled the political leaders of the society to think and fight for the due space and place for them in the establishment. It was a delight to listen to Lahori Ram Balley. I was happy to see that, in spite his ripe age of around 80 plus, the spirit and delivery was just excellent and convincing. His tributes to Ambedkar were first hand as he had the good fortune to work with Dr. Ambedkar. He told me during my interaction with him that he resigned from a lucrative job on December 6, 1956, the day Ambedkar died and joined the mission whole heartily. RC Paul and Dr. Ram Lal Jassi also spoke at the function. Chief Guest Mohinder Singh Kaypee spoke, to my mind without conviction and involvement, if I may say so. He announced a grant of Rupees two lakh for the Ambedkar Bhawan Trust from the MP’s Fund. It was good of him. During my tete-e-tete with him over the lunch after the function I told the young MP Kaypee that he should come out of the shell and strive for higher responsibilities in the Punjab politics including the position of the CM. He was, as expected, non-committal. On the other hand, frankly nobody would make anybody the CM. One has to fight and earn that position. It is the hard ground reality. The community at large shall get united and bring about the change. Dr. Ambedkar had done his part by giving us the right to vote. Now it is up to us to prove ourselves.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Relevance of Ambedkar in the India of Today

Since independence in 1947 and becoming a constitutional democracy in 1950, India has come a long way in its development and progress. Today, India is the largest democracy of the world. India is one of the fastest growing economies of the world it could become possible only because of the constitutional arrangements made by our fore fathers spearheaded by Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, father of the Indian constitution and initiator of socio-economic-moral reform and up-turn in the society at large. . India has arrived but it is yet to reach.

Today is the Mahaparinirvana Diwas ( death anniversary ) of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar. Let us have a fresh look at the relevance of Dr. Ambedkar in the changing scenario on this day. I think Ambedkar is as relevant today as it was before. In fact, the internal progress and development and also due recognition in the international and regional matters and fora could be achieved and attained because of the political stability ushered through the constitutional arrangements made by the visionaries like Dr. Ambedkar. The constitutional mechanism is on track and India is on rails. It is tribute to Dr. B.R. Ambedkar and his thought aptly explained by him when he said “My social philosophy may be said to be enshrined in three words: liberty, equality and fraternity. My philosophy has roots in religion and not in political science. I have derived them from the teachings of my master, the Buddha."

The relevance of Ambedkar will remain – democratic system is working, institutions are getting strength, caste system is getting negated though slowly, dalits are increasingly getting their say and rightly so, social integration is coming around. All these positive traits in Indian system and establishment have come about due to sound edifice given by Dr. Ambedkar. The 2G scam and some wrong doing by the system are being pin pointed and checked by the CAG and other watchdog agencies. Dr. Ambedkar speaking in the Constituent Assembly highly placed the office of the CAG. The judiciary is active proactive. The executive is afraid of the parliament. The system of checks and balance is working. India has started asserting itself, as visualized by Dr. Ambedkar long before the relations with China and Pakistan went sore after our independence. Dr. Ambedkar’s thinking on our China policy was to assert on the issue of Tibet and sit and negotiate with Pakistan on the basis of ground realities on the border. These important aspects of our foreign policy have to given a fresh look. It is satisfying to note that the elections are being held regularly though not yet fully free from faults.

But all said and done, there are some dangers lurking around. One is to resort to extra constitutional methods to terrorize the duly elected government of the day. The Anna Hazares of India shall think it over and ward of the system of the “Grammar of Anarchy” as explained by Dr. Ambedkar to save the democratic system. The elected representatives shall also think and consider Dr. Ambedkar’s advice in this regard that ‘“Despotism does not cease to be despotism because it is elective”. Second the growing muscle and money power in the elections. We should try to eliminate and negate these ugly influences on our polity. It will be a good tribute to the memory of the greatest democratic Dr. B.R. Ambedkar. Thirdly the hero worship in democratic politics is the undoing of the system. Dr. Ambedkar warned ‘Do not lay liberties at the feet of a great man; in politics, bhakti or hero-worship is a sure road to degradation. Make political democracy a social democracy; resolve the contradictions, else they will undermine, or blow up, democracy itself.’

Sunday, December 4, 2011


Dev Anand, Devsaab to millions, is no more. Devsaab was an ever green hero of the Indian cinema. I am not a cinema buff. Even if I see a film in parts, I tend to forget quickly. In my college days in mid 60s, I distinctly remember seeing ‘Jewel Thief’ in one of newly opened theater ‘Cine Palace” in Jalandhar and later ‘Guide’ somewhere in Delhi. But I don’t remember much except some song sequences. Nevertheless, I do know that Devsaab a living legend in his life time. He was most handsome hero of the Bollywood.

It was my good fortune to meet Devsaab in Scotland in 2008 when I was the Consul General of India there. He was famous in Scotland due to the fact that one of his movies ‘ Mein Solah Bars Ki ‘ was shot at Edinburgh and some other places in the Highlands. Devsaab’s fans invited him to Inverness, a beautiful city in the Highlands, famous for Scotch whisky for the release of his Memoirs – Romancing with Life – and Indian films festival. I was the chief Guest at the inaugural function of the Indian Films Festival and the release of the autobiography of Devsaab. It was a rare honour to meet and join Devsaab at this function. I found Devsaab, at the ripe age of 86 at that time, vivacious, dynamic and fully energetic. His charming smile was really infectious. He was a hero but had the quality to make friends instantly. At the informal drinks after the function, Devsaab autographed the book for the benefit of its purchasers. My son Naresh in Stockholm had requested me to get a copy of the Memoirs of Devsaab for him. I told Devsaab of Naresh’s wish. Devsaab autographed and gave me a copy of the book for Naresh with ‘Good Wishes’ which I still find in bookshelf at Naresh’s home.

The next day, President of the Highlands Indian Association Dr. T Reddy and his gracious wife hosted me and Devssab and his son Sunil Anand for an informal lunch at their residence. It was cold but sunny. Devsaab was in his elements. He was a big hit with the guests with his unassuming manners and personality. On knowing that I am a Punjabi from Jalandhar, Devssab occasionally spoke to me in Punjabi too. Devsaab told me that he enjoyed simple Punjabi food and relished Dahi-Pakori (Devsaab’s own expression) which we call Bundi Raita these days.

I would cherish memories of my meeting and interacting with Dev Anand in the years to come. India has lost a great and worthy son.