Thursday, November 26, 2015

The Constitution Day – November 26

The Constituent Assembly drafted, debated, enacted and finally
adopted the constitution of India on November 26, 1949. Government of India has thoughtfully decided to commemorate the adoption of the constitution and to honour its chief architect of, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar as the Constitution Day by devoting a two-day Special Session of the Parliament on November 26-27, 2015. Parliamentary Affairs Minister Venkiah Naidu, announcing the decision said, “Since we are celebrating the birth centenary of Ambedkarji, we have decided this. We will be discussing in parliament the commitment to the constitution and the contribution of Ambedkar to it.” It is a welcome initiative by the Government as it will not only provide an opportunity to the parliamentarians to commit themselves to the lofty ideals and underlying philosophy of equality, liberty and fraternity so laboriously enshrined in the constitution, but also educate the Indian youth to understand and follow the constitutional methods to conduct themselves to take India to further heights. The occasion will also be utilized to remember and pay homage to the memory of the father of the constitution, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, the greatest son of India, in commemoration of his 125th birth anniversary. There was a media report that CBSE has directed all schools and institutions to observe November 26 as the Constitution Day by hosting events to commemorate the constitution and the philosophy of its Preamble. It is an appreciative step which would tend to instill a sense of respect and regard for the constitution of India in the young minds. The decision of the Government would also tend to generate a much needed debate in the parliament and the country at large on the constitution and its philosophy of democracy, secularism, socialism based on the cardinal principles of Equality, Liberty and Fraternity in these days of increasing sense of hatred and strife both in the polity and society. According to media reports, the CPI (M) has endorsed the special session and demanded that Government should come prepared with legislation to extend the provisions of reservation to the private sector “for carrying on the unfinished agenda and vision of Dr. B. R. Ambedkar on the issue of social justice.”

Much water has flown in the Ganges after 68 years of
Independence. We have come a long way but yet to reach our goal which we set for ourselves in the constitution that is to transform India into a democratic, secular and socialist republic in which governance is based on the lofty ideals of equality, liberty and fraternity. Our secularism is under threat. It seems we are working on the assumption, show me the face or tell me the name and I will give and explain the meaning of secularism. It is not what our fore-fathers wanted. As regards, socialism, it is a far cry till date. A vast majority of our people are condemned to live below the poverty line. Income disparities are increasing among haves and have-nots. It was not what our fore-fathers desired. Coming to equality, liberty and fraternity enshrined so wisely in our constitution, we could not realize the magic of these three cardinal words and transform our political democracy into social and economic democracy as visualized by the father of the constitution Dr. B.R. Ambedkar. It seems a casteless society is yet far away.  I hope the parliamentarians, lifting themselves above the party lines, discuss these issues and rededicate themselves afresh in these two days, November 26-27, 2015, of the special session in the 125th anniversary of Babasaheb Ambedkar. It will be a befitting tribute to the memory of the great leader.

In spite of the fact that the underlying current in the country at the
time of independence in 1947 was against Dr. Ambedkar but, it seems, he was destined to make history by coming to the Constituent Assembly. With great opposition and difficulty, Dr. Ambedkar managed to get elected from Bengal, not from his home state Maharastra, with the help of Joginder Nath Mandal who later like Dr. Ambedkar became the first Law Minister of Pakistan. Dr. Ambedkar started his sterling contribution in the making of the Indian constitution. Later when the Congress Party and its leadership realized that it was Dr. Ambedkar alone who was capable to undertake the onerous task of drafting and piloting the constitution, he was helped to retain his seat in the Constituent Assembly from Maharastra. Dr. Ambedkar’s speech on the Objectives Resolution moved by Jawaharlal Nehru set the tone of his mind and soul which he intended to devote to the job. Dr. Ambedkar said, “I know today we are divided politically, socially and economically. We are in warring camps and I am probably one of the leaders of a warring camp. But with all this I am convinced that, given time and circumstances, nothing in the world well prevent this country from becoming one, and, with all our castes and creeds, I have not the slightest hesitation in saying that we shall in some form be a united people.”  Commenting on these developments, the biographer of Dr. Ambedkar, Dhananjay Keer wrote, “The sacrilege had become counsel, and the scoffer had become a friend who cast a spell on the Congressmen. Few speeches have given such a turn to the life of a speaker.” The rest is history. Dr. Ambedkar was made the Chairman of the Drafting Committee to draft, pilot and get passed by the constituent Assembly the new constitution of India. He undertook the job with great élan and completed it in a record time to usher India into the comity of civilized and dignified countries. The constitution was finally enacted and passed and adopted on November 26, 1949 which is today, November 26, 2015, celebrated by the Parliament of India to mark the 125th Anniversary of its Chief Architect, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar. The very opening sentence of the poetic Preamble of the constitution registers the caliber and intellect of its father and I quote, “We the people of India have solemnly resolved to constitute India into a Sovereign, Democratic, Secular and Socialist Republic…” The destiny of India was sealed magnanimously.  Summing up the sentiments of the members of the constituent Assembly, Dr. Rajendra Prasad, President of the Assembly, paid glowing tributes to Dr. Ambedkar and said, “Sitting in the Chair and watching the proceedings from day to day, I have realized as nobody could have, with what zeal and devotion the members of the Drafting Committee and especially its Chairman, Dr. Ambedkar, in spite of his indifferent health have worked (Cheers). We would never make a decision which was or could be ever so right as when we put him on the Drafting Committee and made him its Chairman. He has not only justified his selection but has added luster to the work which he has done.”

Dr. B.R. Ambedkar made a beautiful speech on November 25, 1949, the day before the Constituent Assembly formally finished its work. His tone was jubilant yet somber and reflective. He gave some warnings – place of popular protest in a democracy and termed unconstitutional methods as “Grammar of Anarchy”, the blind following of charismatic leaders and limitations of only political democracy and advised to transform the political democracy established by the constitution into social and economic democracy with delay. These, I think, retain their relevance, perhaps more, today than in 1949.

Greetings on the Constitution Day. Jai Bheem. Jai Bharat

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Bootan Mandi – Its Artistic Heritage

Bootan Mandi is a famous residential and business area of
Guru Ravidass Dham at Bootan Mandi
Jalandhar located at Nakodar Road (Ambedkar Marg). Most of the inhabitants of Bootan Mandi are dalits (Ad-dharmis) who were engaged in traditional leather business. On the out-skirts of the Mohalla, from the 1950s to 1970s, Mirasis, another segment of the dalit society, lived in their shanties/jhuggis. Their main occupation was to sing and cut jokes or do some comedy at marriages and on occasions of birth of a boy or any other auspicious event. Later, some influential  businessmen of Bootan Mandi acquired their prime location on the main road and provided them residential pucca houses at a site nearby. In those good old days, they were living in harmony as an integral segment of the society and inter-mingled with the Bootan Mandi residents.  They considered them as their mentors and depended on them for their bread and butter. Some of them are still living in and around Bootan Mandi. I vividly recall when some Seths of Bootan Mandi used to entertain themselves, off hand and impromptu, with the singing of folk songs by these Mirasis and pay them a few bucks. It is a matter of satisfaction that some of them really saw upward mobility and made a name not only for themselves but also for the society at large. It is a pity that the Seths of Bootan Mandi who claim to be the custodians of the legacy of Guru Ravidass and Dr. B.R. Ambedkar never showed any inclination in owning these Mirasi Musicians who excelled themselves in their labour of love against all odds both social and economic. I have noticed that these renowned musicians also, may be as a conscious or sub-conscious response to their neglect by their benefactors in Bootan Mandi, did not take pride in disclosing their heritage.  It is an injustice to the lofty legacy and ideals of Guru Ravidass and Babasheb Ambedkar. It is just a co-incident that Dr. Ambedkar precisely addressed a mammoth public meeting in October, 1951 at the very location where make-shift shanties of these musicians existed.

The immediate provocation to write about these worthy sons and
daughters of Bootan Mandi is the news that Ustad Puran Shahkoti has been conferred the Sangeet Akademi Award by the President of India, Pranab Mukherjee.  Puran Shahkoti, a living legend of Sufi music, spent his childhood and formative years of his youth in Bootan Mandi. His father Niranjan Dass (Nanjoo) was a good and humble person of the clan. It is a matter of great satisfaction that Puran Shahkoti educated and trained his talented son, Master Saleem, to become a recognized and renowned singer of standing not only of Punjab but also in Bollywood. There is a saying in Punjabi, “Guru Jina De Tapne; Chele Jan Chadap” (disciples excel whose guru is good). Puran Shahkoti is also the guru of world renowned Sufi singer Hans Raj Hans and many more established and budding singers like Jasbir Jassi, Sabar Koti, Parvez Pezi, Dilshan, among others. I take this opportunity to greet and congratulate Ustad Puran Shahkoti and wish him further success and laurels in the years to come.

The story does not end here. Bootan Mandi has the honour of
Nooran Sisters
owning yet another famous name and personality, popularly acclaimed as Bibi Nooran, a Sufi and rustic singer of standing. I have seen her singing both at impromptu sessions to entertain the Seths of Bootan Mandi and also at the Gurupurab celebrations of Guru Ravidass. Her son Karam Chand used to give her company on the harmonium. On recognition of her talent in the 1970s, Chief Minister Giani Zail Singh provided them financial assistance and a pucca house in Bootan Mandi itself. The famous Sufi song “Kuli Rah Vich Pai Asan Tere” which Bibi Nooran sang with aplomb is as good and kicking today as it was before particularly when it is rendered by Nooran Sisters, the great grand daughters of Bibi Nooran. Bibi Nooran’s daughter Swaran Nooran was also a good singer. It seems music was in the genes of Bibi Nooran.  Yet another acclaimed b musician the Mirasi clan of Bootan Mandi produced was Master Girdhari Lal who happened to be blind. He trained many singers and musicians in the area. I am told that, currently, Sonu Sunil of Bootan Mandi has already arrived on the scene and doing well particularly in spiritual and devotional singing. His maiden album cut and released by T-Series has been received well. Though I have not had any occasion to meet and listen to him so far yet I congratulate and wish him further success.

Besides excellence in music, Bootan Mandi, my native place, produced good literary personalities. The best of the lot was Pritam Ramdasspuri, a poet of standing who wrote on social themes in Persian, Urdu and Punjabi. I heard him reciting excellent poetry at various functions. Malind Publications of a fellow BootanMandian, Harmesh Jassal, published Pritam Ramdasspuri’s poetry under the
title “Pritam Kav” which was well received. Hans Raj Bhukha, a trade unionist and a social activist, was yet another poet who wrote revolutionary poetry of sorts. My own uncle (brother of my father), Jai Ram Parwana wrote poetry and songs on social and religious themes. Some of his songs have been sung by the legendary singer Hans Raj Hans and a collection of his works published under the title “Neechon Uch Kare Mera Govind” He had a good flare for drama and acting also. I am told that he formed a drama club and staged dramas against the dowry system which were well acclaimed. Later, a Punjabi film “Daaj” was made which was based on the dramas of Jai Ram Parwana. But
succumbing to intellectual hypocrisy, the film maker did not have the courtesy to ask for permission and give credit to Jai Ram Parwana. I take this opportunity to appreciate and recognize the literary and intellectual personalities of my native place Bootan Mandi. Bootan Mandi is yet to realize and own the rich legacy of its sons and daughters. I conclude this with an Urdu couplet:

हर दर्दमंद दिल को रोना मेरा रूला दे ;
बेहोश जो पढ़ें हैं शायद ऊने जगा दे !