Monday, April 27, 2015

Ambedkar Mela at Randhawa Masandan Jallandhar

Special issues of Ambedkar Times and Desh Doaba released
It was a great event to pay tributes to Dr. B.R. Ambedkar. Dr. B.R. Ambedkar Educational and Welfare Trust, Randhawa Masandan, a prominent and progressive village in the periphery of Jalandhar, celebrated the birth anniversary (April 14) on April 26, 2015 and organized a grand missionary mela and a seminar on the life and mission of the great leader. It may not be out of place to assume that the motivation behind this well organized function must be the great community activist and missionary poet and lyricist Rattu Randhawa who is a native of the village. Ram Murti Mal, a retired Telecom Divisional Engineer, one of the leading organizers and his associates, did a good job and must be complimented and appreciated as it requires a lot of planning and effort.
Paramjit Mahey being honoured

My brother Paramjit Mahey who himself is quite active in such community matters persuaded me to join him at the function. I turned out to be a good experience. Not only did the organizers honour and recognize me but also gave me an opportunity to speak and pay my humble tributes to Babasaheb Ambedkar. It was an honour which I fully relished with gratefulness. My friend Dr. Gian Chand Kaul was the Chief Guest and rightly so. The function was attended by many intellectuals and community leaders namely Advocate S.L. Virdi, Engineer Jaswant Rai, Prof. Kuldeep Sodhi, Assistant Registrar Sandeep Mehmi, SDO Raghubir Singh among others. All the speakers spoke with conviction and paid glowing tributes to Dr. Ambedkar.

The second aspect of the function was even more praiseworthy and commendable. The cream of dalit writers, poets and lyricists of Punjab and also some established and up-coming missionary singers and performers regaled the dedicated audience with their poems, songs and compositions. It must be a rare occasion where the likes of Rattu Randhawa, Chan Goryanwala, Sohan Sehjal, Madan Jallandhari among others might have graced the occasion at one go. Similarly, it must be a special opportunity to see and listen to the singers of the first genre on one stage. They were, inter alia, Joginder Dukhia, Surinder Laddi, Dalvinder Dyalpuri, Roop Lal Dhir, Ginni Mahi, Prem Lata, Dalbir Haripuria, Bhottu Shah and many more. Some of the known Punjabi comedians led by Bhottu Shah provided the much needed comic relief with their jokes and comedy in the hot and sultry weather.

The book “Mann Ki Katiyae Mael”, anthology of religions, written by Mal Singh and the Special issues of Ambedkar Times and Desh Doaba, periodicals published from California (USA) by Prem Chumber were also released at the function.

It is gratifying to say that there is no regret. I enjoyed the programme fully. The underlying current of the speeches and poetic renditions were that of dalit unity to meet the challenges of the future. It will be a big tribute to the memory of the great leader Dr. B.R. Ambedkar.

Friday, April 24, 2015

SPEED Computer Centers

I wrote in this blog earlier on Society for Poor’s Educational and Economic Development (SPEED). In keeping with its agenda and programme, SPEED has opened and is running at least four computer centers in and around Jalandhar.  I myself witnessed and participated in the inaugural functions of its computer centers at Basti Danishmanda and Ambedkar Bhawan at Nakodar Road. The feedback on these centers has been good and I wished to go and see for myself. My friend Ram Lal Kainth, an active member of SPEED, told me that in a short period of a month or so, there were more than 200 students at the Ambedkar Bhawan Center. It was gratifying to know.

The other day, April 23, Janak Raj Chauhan, one of the leading members and functionaries of SPEED, telephoned and invited me to Ambedkar Bhawan Center. I immediately agreed, as I myself was interested in visiting them. On reaching there, Janak suggested that it would be good, if I could speak to the young students and motivate
them. I said that it will be my pleasure. Since the classes are divided into sessions, due to constraints of space, there were about 50 young boys and girls with two fully groomed ladies as trained Instructors. We assembled around the big library table of the Bhawan.  The young audience was a disciplined lot. Janak introduced me to the students. I found them curious and interested in listening to me. In turn, with a view to make them comfortable, I said that I will not make a speech but will speak to them informally. I gave my humble background and told them that I was one of them. Giving an overview of the importance of computers and English language, I told them that apart from their class syllabus and curriculum they would need to get educated in computers and English language to succeed in life. I added that given the social and economic background of most of them, it was all the more important for them to become pro-active with extra-curriculum activities not only in their schools and colleges but also otherwise in and around their periphery. I advised them to read newspapers and listen to news on radio and television regularly. It would be good for them to develop a habit of consulting a dictionary to know the meaning of difficult words and phrases. I must say that it was a good and satisfying brief interaction.

I also informed the young students about my humble effort in starting Jalandhar School of Careers and Opportunities at Bootan
Mandi, not very far off from Ambedkar Bhawan and invited them to visit us.

It will also not be out of place to thank and congratulate SPEED for this yeoman’s service to the community at the doorsteps.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Remembering Babasaheb Ambedkar

I was born in a politically and socially alive family of Bootan
Chetna March in Jalandhar on April 13, 2015
Mandi in Jalandhar which has been a hub of dalit socio-economic and political awakening. The messiah of dalits and other weaker sections of the society at large, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar visited and stayed in Bootan Mandi in October, 1951 when I was only two years old. Later during my school days, the family elders including my grand-parents and parents instilled in me a feeling of reverence and respect for Dr. Ambedkar in a routine way of daily living. In and around Bootan Mandi, there were two groups with political orientations – one were the followers of Dr. Ambedkar under the flag of Schedule Caste Federation and later Republican Party and the second were the followers of Babu Jagjivan Ram of Congress Party. The political rivalry often generated considerable political and social heat.  Dr. Ambedkar was yet to get wide recognition even among dalits. My family has been an ardent follower of Dr. Ambedkar. My father, who was politically and socially alive, tended to talk about and discuss current affairs at home quite often. The only mouthpiece of Ambedkar’s mission those days was a local weekly “Bheem Patrika” edited and published by a staunch Ambedkarite, Lahori Ram Balley. Both the Urdu and Punjabi editions of the Bheem Patrika were regular at our home and I was almost addicted to reading it. It is gratifying to note that Bheem Patrika is still published and its Editor Shri Balley is a respected senior in the community.

Ambedkar Jyanti generally falls on the next day of Baishakhi, a great festival of Punjab. In good old days, Baishakhi was celebrated with great fun and frolic with Bhangra on Dhol beats. In Bootan Mandi too the celebrations used to be held for at least two days. Many a times, I accompanied my father to join the Jaloos (Yatra) on Ambedkar Jayanti starting from the Mandi. On the evenings of April 13, Baishakhi and April 14, Ambedkar Birthday, there used to be musical melas of community songs and qawwalis under the patronage of Kartara Ram Madhas, Pritam Ramdaspuri, Seth Dhannu Ram and more. I vividly remember inspirational and devotional qawwalis by Badhan Group of Ram Nagar and Tumbi songs by Lal Chand Kamla, particularly the song written by Charan Dass Nidhadak “Jhanda Chak Baghawat Da Tu Baghi Hona Das Giya” Some of the buildings were also illuminated and fireworks displayed. I still cherish those memories.

Having left Bootan Mandi in 1970 in pursuit of my career, I came back to my roots in Jalandhar in 2011, after retirement. The stock of Dr. Ambedkar has gone up and rightly so over the years. His acceptance and relevance has been widely recognized and appreciated even by his erstwhile opponents and ignorant critics. The community and the followers of Ambedkar have also come a long way in the journey of development and prosperity. More and more people talk of Dr. Ambedkar. The statues are garlanded, functions are held, media coverage has increased of Ambedkar Jyanti. But I don’t find that enthusiasm of the years gone by. Something is missing. Somehow, I feel, the community is lagging behind in owning the great legacy of the great leader. Why so? The political parties like BJP and Congress are falling on each other to encash the name of Ambedkar in attracting the solid vote bank but the parties like BSP, the so called flag bearers of Ambedkar’s caravan are losing ground. Again the question remains why so? Somebody is needed to provide answers to these Whys.

Chhupa Kar Aastin Mein Bijliyan Rakh Li Hain Gurdu Ne;
Anadil Bagh Ke Gaafil Na Baithein Ashianon Mein !

Greetings and congratulations on Ambedkar Jyanti

Postscript: While I am concluding my piece, I find that this year Bootan Mandi is decked up with decorations to celebrate the birth anniversary of the great leader Babasaheb Ambedkar. It is a matter of satisfaction. A Chetna March (Yatra) will be taken out in the afternoon of April 13 by a number of outfits having allegiance with Dr. Ambedkar. On April 14 again, Ambedkar Mission Society will conduct a Chetna March and conclude the celebrations with a function to pay tributes the Messiah of Dalits at Ambedkar Bhawan at Nakodar Road, Jalandhar.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Qufar Toota Khuda Khuda Karke

Babasaheb Ambedkar

DR. Babasaheb Ambedkar’s 125th birth anniversary falls on April 14, 2015. The main political parties viz. BJP and Congress are fallingon each other to own the legacy of Dr. Ambedkar by celebrating and observing the anniversary in a big way. Whereas the traditional political outfits like RPI and BSP etc. who professed Dr. Ambedkar as their icon and mentor have lost or are increasingly losing their position in the changing political and social scenario in the country. The relevance and acceptance of Dr. Ambedkar is on the rise and rightly so. The likes of Arun Shourie, Mulayam Singh and some others must be sulking. That is why the heading of this piece is ”Qufar Toota Khuda Khuda Karke” – The tyrants who were not afraid of anybody are falling while remembering God (Khuda).

Throughout his life Dr. Ambedkar remained a principled opponent of Congress and Mahatma Gandhi on the one hand and orthodox Hinduism and Manuwad on the other. There was no love lost between Ambedkar and the likes of Hindu Mahasabha, RSS, Jan Sangh and other communal outfits like Muslim League etc. Towards the last years of his life, Dr. Ambedkar tried his bit to cobble around a union of secular and socialist forces, in cooperation with Ram Manohar Lohia, Jaya Prakash Narain and others to meet the challenges of development and progress of the infant Indian nation but that was not to be and he died prematurely in December, 1956. The likes of Mulayam Singh, Giriraj Singh and a few others with feudal mindsets may not understand this as of now. But the coming times belong to the mission and philosophy of Dr. Ambedkar. It is for sure. Dr. Ambedkar was a hard core nationalist. His thought emanated from the universal and humane dictum of “Bahujan Hitaye; Bahujan Sukhaye” of Buddhist philosophy. He said in one of his speeches, “My philosophy may be said to be enshrined in these three words: Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. These principles of my philosophy have its roots in the teachings of my master,  Lord Buddha.”  The lofty ideals of his thinking are well embodied and stipulated in the constitution of India in the form of Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, Justice, Harmony as the fundamentals of Indian polity and society.

As we say in India ‘ Der Ayat Darust Ayat’, Congress Party, in the face of crushing defeat in electoral politics, has realized that their salvation lies with Ambedkar and his followers, particularly the dalits. The Congress Party has decided to observe the year 2015-16 as the 125th anniversary year of Babasaheb Ambedkar. They have constituted a high power committee headed by its President Sonia Gandhi for the purpose, as reported in the media.  The Convener of the Ambedkar Birthday Celebration Committee, K Raju said, “Our biggest challenge is to clear the misconceptions about Ambedkar and the Congress. His ideology has been projected as antagonistic to the Congress whereas it was a partnership between the two.” BJP and RSS have initiated a concerted plan to embrace the legacy of the dalit icon Dr. Ambedkar with a view to grab dalit votes. The RSS leadership is all geared up to join hands with the Narendra Modi Government to unleash the agenda to own Dr. Ambedkar on April 14, the 125th birth anniversary of the great leader. It has been reported in the media that PM Narendra Modi will inaugurate a Rs. 200 crore project of a research centre and a library in Delhi dedicated to the life and message of Babasaheb Ambedkar. The RSS mouthpieces the Panchjanya and the Organiser are coming out with special issues on the anniversary of Dr. Ambedkar. BJP has directed its party machinery to organize functions to celebrate the occasion at each block throughout the country. Paying glowing tributes to the leader, RSS Prachaar Parmukh Manmohan Vaidya said, “Ambedkar is a national leader not just of a particular group. The complete Ambedkar needs to be brought to the people and efforts will continue to be made in that direction.” RSS is in the process of re-writing history to woo dalits. One of the dalit BJP leaders Vijay Sonkar Shastri has recently written three books on Chamars, Khatiks and Valmiki denominations (Jatis) which were released by the RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat. In the Foreword of these books, the RSS leadership claimed that these castes had come into existence due to atrocities by foreign invaders and did not exist in Hindu religion earlier. The war has just begun. Let us see how things happen. Let us also hope that these onslaughts do not remain merely political rhetoric to garner votes. It will do no justice either to the country or Dr. B.R. Ambedkar. I conclude with an apt poetic expression of Allama Iqbal:

Masjid To Bana Di Shab Bhar Mein; Imaan Ki Hrarat Walon Ne,
Mann Apna Purana Paapi Hai; Barson Se Namazi Ban Na Saka!
Iqbal Bada Updeshak Hai; Mann Baaton Se Moh Leta Hai,
Guftaar Ka To Yeh Gaazi Bana; Kirdaar Ka Gaazi Ban Na Saka!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Representation at National Day Functions

The recent controversy on MOS for External Affairs General V.K. Singh’s participation in the Pakistani National Day celebrations (Pakistan Day on March 23) seems unnecessary and uncalled for. The handling of the issue, particularly with reference to the tweets of the MOS, is also not only undiplomatic but also does not conform to the norms of maintaining international relations.  It also appears that the media has played the unsavory controversy out of proportion which has further damaged the already strained relations between the two neighboring countries.
Uzbek National Day Function at theie Embassy in Delhi
Those who know the protocol and accepted international norms in this regard would acknowledge the fact that National Days of countries throughout the world are celebrated and observed as a solemn and sober occasion. Greetings are exchanged between the leaderships and it is generally reiterated to further strengthen bilateral relations, except with those with whom diplomatic relations do not exist. India being an honourable member of the comity of nations, these practices are followed as a routine diplomatic intercourse. Indian diplomatic and consular missions also observe our National Days on January 26 as Republic Day and August 15 as Independence Day all over the globe. The host Governments, as a normal diplomatic courtesy, not only exchange greetings but also participate in the functions and receptions held in this regard.

The norms for these representations change in accordance with the

Indian National Day Function in Prague, Czech Republic
prevailing trends and situations. Being a practitioner of diplomacy, my knowledge and experience in this regard, may be of interest. In the early years of our Independence in 1947, exchange of greetings by the top political leadership and Government representations at the national day functions, were given a lot of importance. The warmth of greeting messages indicated the depth and importance of bilateral relations. Senior Ministers were deputed to represent the Government at the functions. Sometimes the representations were raised to the PM level on specific occasions. It was so, on the basis of reciprocity, an important ingredient in the conduct of diplomatic intercourse, with functions hosted by our Ambassadors and High Commissioners abroad. Until the end of 1980s, in addition to the Chief of Protocol (COP) or his Deputy, Secretary/Joint Secretary of the concerned Division in the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), one of the Ministers was also deputed with the approval of PMO and Cabinet Secretary to attend such functions. Owing to some functional and security reasons, the practice underwent change in the 90s. It was decided that in all national day functions organized by diplomatic missions in Delhi, Lt. Governor will be the Guest of Honour to represent Government of India, in addition to the official level representation from the MEA. Later again, the practice of political level representation at the level of MOS was introduced and it continues. Incidentally, during my diplomatic career, I myself represented the concerned Divisions/Sections of the MEA in such functions in Delhi and also received host representations at functions hosted by the Indian Embassies abroad as and when occasion arose. These are routine activities to carry forward the diplomatic exchanges with countries of the world.

With this background, I think MOS General V.K. Singh’s participation in the National Day function of Pakistan on March 23 (Pakistan Day) was a routine gesture. PM Narendra Modi’s message of greetings to his Pakistani counterpart on the occasion was also a routine diplomatic activity. Indian media, particularly the mushrooming TV channels, have the tendency to over play and sensationalize the news which is not correct.