Friday, May 25, 2012


Today is the death anniversary of Sant Ramanandji of Dera Sachkhand Ballan. He was assassinated by some radical Sikhs in Vienna (Austria) in a shoot out in a Gurudwara on May 24, 2009. Sant Ramanandji succumbed to the bullet injuries in a hospital in Vienna the following day that is May 25. The followers of the great Sant observe May 25 as ‘Sant Ramanand Shaheedi Diwas’ to pay tributes to him. I happened to meet and know Santji personally. It was my good fortune. I humbly join the followers of Sant Ramanandji in remembering the great Sant and recalling his services to dalit communities and the society at large.

Dera Sachkhand Ballan is an important centre and a leading venue for the social and spiritual awakening and well-being of the dalit communities in the doaba region of Punjab. Sant Ramanand was one of the leading lights of the Dera. After graduating from Doaba College Jalandhar Ramanand, on encouragement and initiation by Dera Chief Sant Hari Dass and later Sant Garib Dass and Sant Niranjan Dass, gave himself fully to the Dera in the service of the community. He was a visionary totally devoted to the spiritual and social upliftment of the dalit communities of the area and the Dera followers abroad. Sant Ramanand helped the Dera in creating magnificent buildings and facilities at Ballan which is increasingly becoming the Mecca of the community. He made Dera to lead the campaign to build and get recognition of the birthplace of Guru Ravidass at Seer Goverdhanpura at Varanasi. Sant Ramanad was instrumental in organizing the spread and propagation of the mission and philosophy of the great Guru Ravidass and other Gurus and Saints and also of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar by his appealing sermons and meditational recitals and singing of Guruvani. He contributed and motivated the Dera to undertake educational projects and start welfare activities like hospitals etc. Sant Ramanand appreciated the efforts of missionary writer and singers and encouraged them. He toured and made the Dera Chiefs to visit foreign countries to make an international net work for the mission and programme of the Dera Sachkhand Ballan. He motivated the youth of the community and made them alive to prevailing situation and cajoled them to stand up on their feet with dignity and respect. The legacy of Sant Ramanand is great. It will remain a guiding force for the community in the years to come.

The aftermath of Sant Ramanand’s martyrdom on May 25, 2012 is, unfortunately, not very consoling. The followers of Sant Ramanand and the Dera, obviously, were up-set and shocked not only in Punjab but throughout the country and abroad. It resulted in violence in some places. Some community activists got killed in the resultant clashes which were unfortunate. The dalit assertion was clearly visible on the street and corridors of power. With or without Dera Sachkhand Ballan, the situation has taken a different turn which is not conducive to the health of community. The soul of Sant Ramanand may not, I think, be at peace with the state of affairs. Our vision is blurred. Our goal is not clear. Our efforts are negated by the self styled leaders for their own selfish ends. Dera Sachkhand Ballan seems helpless or may be indifferent. I will write about this aspect separately.
 Today, I pay my tribute to the memory of Sant Ramanand, a great leader of men and also the other Shaheeds of the movement ( least we forget them). Let us make introspection and rectify the situation for the betterment of the community. The leaders of the community shall listen to the concerned and even ask the educated and intelligent members of the community to come along in the great and big task ahead. Sant Ramanand’s legacy dictates that.  I conclude:

नहीं मिनत कशे ताबे सनिदन दास्ताँ मेरी;
ख़ामोशी गुफ्त्गुह है बेज़वानी है जुबान मेरी,
यह दस्तुरे जुबंबंदी है कैसा तेरी महफ़िल में;
यहाँ तो बात करने को तरसती है जुबान मेरी ! 

Monday, May 14, 2012


On May 13, the 60th Anniversary of the Parliament of India was commemorated. “We the people of India” enacted, adopted and gave it ourselves the constitution on November 25, 1949.  The constitution of India came into effect on January 26, 1950. The Day is observed as the Republic Day. Under the new constitution, elections to the Lok Sabha were held and the first Lok Sabha was constituted in April, 1952. The first meeting of the Lok Sabha was held on May 13, 1952.  Over the long 60 years, India is the largest democracy in the world representing 1.2 billion people with more than 700 million voters. It is not a small achievement.  It is gratifying to note that India is on the rails. The credit for the success goes to the people of India as Speaker of the Lok Sabha Meira Kumar in her address to the Special session of the Lok Sabha on May 13, 2012 rightly said “Simple and neglected people who work every day for survival also take part in the elections with great fervor. The faith of such faceless Indians is the reason for the success of our democracy.”

I watched the televised proceedings of the special sessions of both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha on May 13. The writ of the fore-thought and wisdom of the framers of the constitution particularly of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar was running deep in the speeches of all prominent MPs.  Speaker Meira Kumar took the lead and said “It is an irrefutable truth that democracy and caste system cannot go hand in hand. Democracy is based on equality while caste system on differences between socially inferior and superior.  One of the two systems has to die. Today when we are collectively glorifying democracy with full zeal, we should also root out caste system with all the might at our command.” Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley described social justice as one of biggest challenges faced by the Indian democracy as parliament celebrated its 60th anniversary. BSP leader Maywati and others like Lalu Prasad Yadav and Sharad Yadav also spoke about the social justice and the under privileged. Sharad Yadav, referring to the often raised call for ending reservations, said that those coming up with the demand would have to justify the continuance of caste superiority. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Leader of the House in Lok Sabha Pranab Mukherjee and Leader of the BJP Krishan Advani spoke about tolerance and disagreement etc. which is the very essence of democracy.  These sentiments found resonance across the political spectrum in the two houses of parliament.

I was reminded of the last speech of Dr. Ambedkar I the Constituent Assembly on November 25, 1949 before the constitution was finally passed and adopted. His tone was jubilant yet somber and reflective.  The warnings he gave - place peaceful political protest in democracy, hero- worship or blind following of charismatic leaders and poltical democracy to become social and economic one retain their relevance perhaps more today than in 1949.  Ambedkar advised to abandon bloody methods of revolution and hold fast to constitutional methods.  He pleaded to observe caution and quoted Johan Stuart Mill not ‘to lay lay their liberties at the feet of even a great man or to trust him with powers which enable him to subvert their institutions.’ Ambedkar asserted “Bhakti in religion may be a road to salvation of the soul. But in politics, Bhakti or hero worship is a sure road to degradation and to eventual dictatorship.” Ambedkar added in his historic speech that we must not be content with mere political democracy.  We must make our political democracy a social democracy as well.  Ambedkar asked “What does social democracy mean?” and answered himself “It means a way of life which recognizes liberty, equality and fraternity as principles of life.  These were the reflections made by the architect of the Indian constitution which found mention in one way or the other in the special session of the parliament on May 13.  Let me conclude with a poetic parlance of Allamah Iqbal to the thoughts of Ambedkar which got sprinkled in the celebrations of the 60th Anniversary of the Indian Parliament:

उडाए कुछ बरक लाला ने कुछ नर्गिस ने कुछ गुल ने;

चमन में हर तरफ बिखरी हुई है दास्ताँ मेरी !

उड़ाई कुछ कुमारिअनो ने तुतिओं ने अन्द्लिवो ने;

चमन वालों ने मिलके लूट ली तर्जे फुग्हन मेरी !  

Saturday, May 12, 2012


An old cartoon of 1949 vintage by Shankar Pillai on the slow pace of making the Indian constitution reproduced in the textbook of NCERT rocked the Indian parliament on May 11. The politician followers of Ambedkar decry the cartoon as an insult to the leader and his contribution.  The intelligentsia on the other side terms it as an attack on the freedom of speech and liberty.  Given the sensibilities of the issue, particularly the vote bank aspect, the Government is cautious. HRD Minister Kapil Sibal apologized and Leader of the House and Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee intervened to pacify the Members of Parliament.  It is both unfortunate and heartening, to my mind.

It is unfortunate that we are becoming excessively intolerant which is not good for the society at large. Only the Dalit politicians taking up the issue tends to confine Ambedkar as a Dalit icon alone which is not correct. Ambedkar was a national leader of India.  Ambedkar himself was a liberal democrat. He was against the blind following of charismatic leaders.  Obviously any attempt to belittle Ambedkar and his service to the nation will be countered and rightly so.. It is heartening that the relevance and potency of Ambedkar is as good today as it was before and will remain so in the years to come. The uproar in the parliament on the cartoon is demonstrative of the reality on ground.

The NCERT textbook for the students of Higher Secondary under the chapter “ Indian Constitution at Work” says that the cartoon notes the ‘snail’s pace’ at which the constitution was made and asks the students what they think were the reasons the making of it taking so long.  It is not difficult to find the answers. In fact Dr. Ambedkar himself had provided those answers in his historic speech, one of the best speeches of modern India, delivered on November 29, 1949 in the Constituent Assembly before the constitution was finally passed.  Ambedkar provided details of the sittings and work done. He gave comparative information in this regard on the constitutions of other countries and asked “Is there any justification for this complaint?” and asserted “Having regard to these facts the charge of dialatoriness seems to me quite unfounded and this Assembly may well congratulate itself for having accomplished so formidable a task in so short a time.” The redeeming factor which is also a tribute to Ambedkar is that the Constitution is working and working well. In his intervention , Leader of the House Pranab Mukherjee tried to assuage the sentiments of leaders by saying the cartoon was totally wrong and Ambedkar was “Ved Vyas of Indian Constitution without whose tireless efforts the biggest Magna Carta of socio economic transformation would not have been possible to achieve in a record time of three years.” The matter may rest there.

Thursday, May 10, 2012


Buddha Jayanti – Buddha Purnima fell and was celebrated on May 6. My friends at the Buddha Vihar at Sidharath Nagar (Bootan Mandi) at Jallandhar special Ram Lal Kainth and Darshan Bodhi had invited me to be the Guest Speaker at a function to observe the Day at the Vihar. I accepted the invitation in principle but could not make it as I had to come to Delhi/Gurgaon on some urgent personal engagement. I felt sorry and my hosts were also disappointed.  I shall catch up with them in due course on my return to Jalandhar. 

But yet another opportunity was in store for me. The followers of Dr. Ambedkar in and around Gurgaon under the aegis of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar Sabha headed by Dharambir celebrated the day at the Ambedkar Bhawan in Sector 4 of Gurgaon. My friend Paramjit Saroya was aware of my presence in Gurgaon and on his suggestion the Sabha invited me to be the Chief Guest at the function which I gladly accepted. I was doubly happy as my daughter Vaishali was also born on the solemn day of Buddha Purnima in 1975.  It was a well-organized programme, started a little late in the evening, attended by a well-meaning and disciplined audience.  A missionary musical group of Rajaram from Rohtak regaled the attentive audience with numbers dedicated to Ambedkar and Buddha and their mission.  A well-educated, professional veterinary doctor, Bhikshu (Bhante) from a Vihar in Palwal was the chief guest speaker. He spoke well and with conviction.  I am no authority either on Ambedkar or on Buddha. But my abiding interest and ardent wish to follow Ambedkar keep me alive to the relevant situation and concern. I based my brief speech, on the contents of D.C. Ahir’s book “Ambedkar and his legacy” as to how Buddhism was different from Christianity, Islam and Hinduism.  Ambedkar’s immense contribution in reviving Buddhism in India was recalled. The function was concluded with a nicely done and arranged Preeti Bhoj (Langar).

Let me make a couple of observations which may be interest to the readers of my blog. After my retirement about a year before, I attended and spoke at many such functions pertaining to Guru Ravidass and Dr. Ambedkar in and around Jalandhar. I was given to understand and somehow I also felt that the community audiences and the organizers were comparatively good and better placed in Jalandhar which has a good concentration of, both economically and educationally, community.  My participation at the Gurgaon function was the first.  It was a good education for me. The function was nicely conducted by the Master of Ceremonies.  The audiences were nicely seated on clean white covered chairs. The audience was attentive and participatory. The musical group of Rajaram was applauded and rewarded (mostly by hundred rupee notes), liberal monetary contributions were made to the Sabha for the function, the preeti  bhoj was well prepared and nicely served. I was awakened from the wrong notion that the dalits of Punjab were ahead of their brethren in Haryana. May God bring them more success and prosperity?