Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Bits and Pieces – As I Please – 12

Bits and Pieces – As I Please – 12

Spiritual Tourism and Guru Ravidass – Indian society is multi-cultural and multi-religious. Caste consciousness has tended to make various communities do something to establish their separate identity. The followers of Guru Ravidass are no exception. They have also started thinking, on the lines of other communities like Sikhs, Jains, Parsees, Buddhists etc. and also the main stream
religions like Hindus, Muslims and Christians, to have their own sites and places where the faithful may go for spiritual pilgrimage. My motivation to write on the subject emanated after my recent brief interaction with the National President of Ad-dharam Mission, Sant Satwinder Singh Hira. He told me that they have explored and identified a place, down south in the city called Tuticorin (Kanyakumari) in Tamil Nadu which Guru Ravidass is believed to have visited in the 15th century during his various spiritual sojourns throughout the country. The place is called “Land of Ellora”. Banta Ram Ghera, a social and spiritual
activist of the Ravidassia community who was closely attached to the Ad-dharam Movement of Babu Mangu Ram Mugowalia did a great job in this regard. It will not be out of place to mention that Banta Ram Ghera was the chief explorer and leading personality to start the development of the birth place of Guru Ravidass at Seer Govardhanpur in Kanshi (Varanasi) in the 1950s-1960s with the active support of Sant Sarwan Dass of Sachkhand Ballan of Jalandhar and the community at large. The foundation stone of the Seer Govardhanpur Dharamasthan was formally laid by Sant Haridass, under the patronage of the great Sant Sarwan Dass. The rest is history. Now Seer Govardhanpur Dharamasthan has become a hub and catalyst of Ravidassia religious and social identity under the administrative control of Dera Sachkhand Ballan. The political big-wigs remain on the lookout for an opportunity to pay obeisance at the holy place. President K.R. Narayanan was the first to set the ball rolling. Mayawati and Kanshi Ram followed suit. Eyeing the Ravidassia community as a potential vote bank, PM Narendra Modi and CM Aditya Nath Yogi, obviously, could not afford to skip and visited the Dharamasthan in recent successive years at the Guru Ravidass Jayanti. And rightly so. President Ram Nath Kovind may not
be far behind. Minar-e-Begumpura and Charan Chhoh Ganga at Khuralgarh at Hoshiarpur in Punjab has already been identified and developed as a centre of pilgrimage by the followers of the great Guru Ravidass. Sant Hira told me that they were planning to develop some other places in J&K, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and in Himachal Pradesh to make it as a “Guru Ravidass Trail” for the benefit of the followers of the Guru to meet their spiritual and cultural needs. It is not a bad idea to consolidate the positive influence of the lofty Bani of Guru Ravidass to create social harmony and spiritual fulfillment of the community and the society large. I would like to suggest in this regard that the Ad-dharam Mandal should endeavour to engage not only the governmental authorities but also all well meaning dalit outfits to achieve this goal.

Relevance of Allama Iqbal – Muhammad Iqbal, philosopher poet and ideologue, of erstwhile united India and later Pakistan, is as relevant today as he was before even though some of the narrow-minded and communal quarters both in India and Pakistan have tried to suppress and marginalize the lofty ideas and philosophy of the great thinker and writer of our times. Though Iqbal is not a favourite of the ruling elite because of the pseudo-nationalism they
profess yet surprisingly these days, the ones who generally discount him, the right wing Hindus, say of the RSS family, often quote him to convey the importance and relevance of Allama Iqbal by referring to his very thought provoking poetic expression on the culture and tradition of Hindu India, particularly in which he termed Shri Ram as “Imam-e-Hind”:

है राम के वजूद पे हिन्दोस्ताँ को नाज़,
अहले-नज़र समझते हैं उसको इमामे-हिन्द
In this regard in a recent debate on a “Cheer leader” TV channel, the spokesman of the BJP was happily quoting the above mentioned couplet and advising Muslim stakeholders to handover the Babri Masjid site to Hindus as Iqbal called him “Imam-e-Hind”. One of the Muslim panelists on the debate countered him and quoted another gem of Iqbal’s “Na samjhoge to mitt jaoge eh Hindustan walon; tumhari dastan tak bhi na hogi dastano mein”. It worked as a red rag to the bull. The BJP spokesperson challenged Iqbal and questioned who he was to say this. How can anybody say that India could be finished? Not that the BJP spokesperson did not understand the context of Iqbal’s expression but it was clearly evident that he was in no mood to admit that Iqbal was a great man of vision. It is unfortunate and sheer narrow-mindedness.

Iqbal was a great thinker of all times. I like his “Qalaam” as a lay man. His many renditions and expressions clearly demonstrate and establish that he was a staunch nationalist and proponent of India and her tradition and culture. What happened later in his life time is history which most of us know. Some of his famous and thought provoking poetic compositions still make us stand in spirited pride and patriotic fervor and well placed nationalism. Let us accept this reality as Allama Muhammad Iqbal will remain relevant in the years to come as he was before. Can we ignore and forget the everlasting tarana “Sare jahan se accha Hindustan hamara”? No, we cannot. Will we not laud him when he says “Yunanon misro roma sab mit gaye jahaan se; ab tak magar hai baki naamo nishan hamara”? Will we not acclaim him when he says “Nanak ne jis chaman mein vaihdat ka geet gaya; mera watan vahi hai”? Did he not lament the erosion of Buddha’s message of peace when he wrote:

“Qoum Ne Pegham-e-Gautam Ki Zara Parwa Na Ki
Qadar Na Pehchani Na Apne Gohar-e-Yak Dana Ki

(The nation could not care less about Gautama’s message—It did not know the price of its unique pearl!)
Much more could be said but I will contend by quoting only one more:

गैरियत के परदे; इक बार फिर उठा दें,
बिछ्ड़ों को फिर मिला दें;नक़्शे दुई मिटा दें.
सूनी पड़ी हुई है मुद्दत से दिल की बस्ती,
इक नया शिवालय इस देश में बना दें.

Happy Valentine’s Day – Today is Valentine’s Day. My hearty greetings to you all. Generally, I don’t practice any excessive rituals on this day and view it as any good and happy occasion in these days of strife and conflict. But Valentine’s day remains in my psyche after the year 2001. I fell seriously ill with a brain haemorrhage while in office in Tokyo on February 12, the so called Hug Day. I almost hugged death. On February 12-13, I was in the ICU, almost kissing death, the so called Kiss Day. But God is great. I was saved and was moved to a designated room in the hospital on the morning of February 14, the Valentine’s Day. My wife Vidya
was alone with me as my daughter Vaishali and my son Rupesh had gone to Stockholm to oversee the birth of my grandson Arvind who was born on February 4 that year. Vidya did not remember the V Day. My office aide, Chander Prakash came to see me and wished me well but without mentioning the word V. But a pleasant surprise was to come. After the close of the day at the Embassy, the entire local staff i.e. Japanese, Filipino and Indian came and filled my room with profound and hearty Valentine’s Day wishes and greetings with chocolates and variety of roses to share. Many young and gracious girls kissed me spontaneously. After the hugs and kisses with death, I felt I was flying in the sky of love on that Valentine’s Day of February, 2001. It will remain with me as a cherished memory.
 Happy Valentine’s Day.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Begumpura International Business Conclave

Begumpura International Business Conclave

Scheduled Caste Entrepreneur Empowerment Forum (SCEEF) - an organization, still in its infancy, organized its 1st Begumpura International Business Conclave, 2018 at Jalandhar on February 6, 2018. The motto of SCEEF “Stepping towards Social Transformation through Economic Empowerment” itself explains the purpose of the Begumpura International Conclave. It was a modest effort to begin with but a successful one with good participation from abroad which included known and prominent personalities of dalits like owners and promoters of Kanshi TV (UK) Hans Raj Banga, Bibi Bholi Randhawa, Raj Bangar, Balbir
Kaler, entrepreneurs namely Tilak Bagha, Desh Raj Mehmi from Germany, Italy, UAE, among others. They keenly interacted with the executives of SCEEF and its members to explore, identify ideas and opportunities to establish mutually beneficial business ties. It was a matter of satisfaction that, of late, dalit entrepreneurs have started to understand the nuances of good business and are slowly getting prepared to join the mainstream to not only earn their bread and butter with dignity but also to contribute to the betterment and empowerment of the socially and economically weaker sections of the community and the society at large. I am confident that SCEEF will play a good facilitatory role in this regards. The proceedings of the function was ably conducted by the Working Chairman of the SCEEF, Jiwan Singh.

I was invited to preside over the function which was an honour for me. SCEEF treats me as their Chief Patron. Former Chairman of Punjab SC Commission Rajesh Bagha is the leading light of the SCEEF with a dedicated team of social and political activists like Jiwan Singh, Bhupinder Kumar, Prem Domeli, Prof. Akshay Kumar, Shammi Kapoor among others and duly supported by businessmen, inter alia, Gurdev Mahey, Ishwar Johal, Ajay Kaul and also Manjit Bali who is a Member of the Ambedkar Foundation of the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment. It may not be out of place to mention that SCEEF has explicit support and encouragement by the outfits of the ruling BJP due to Rajesh Bagha and Manjit Bali who are affiliated with the party. As such the government organizations like National Small Industries Corporation, Sports Goods Export Promotion Council, Ministry of Small and Medium Enterprises are extending all due assistant to the SCEEF which is an added advantage. There is no harm in taking advantage of such arrangements as we have nothing to lose but much to gain. The NRI delegates under the stewardship of Hans Raj Banga made brief remarks and registered their appreciation of the initiatives and efforts of SCEEF to promote and support business acumen among the dalit entrepreneurs. As I mentioned earlier, field organizations of the BJP were represented by Dr. Varinder Garg, OSD to the India’s Minister of Health and by Vijay Nadda of Vidya Bharti. Dr.Garg spoke at length on the SC Sub Plan to provide statutory backing to the SC empowerment schemes and programmes. Vijay Nadda underlined the importance and relevance of the ‘Samrasta, Samagrata and Shohaardh’ in the society to integrate the socially and economically weaker segments of the society with the national mainstream. Senior Executives of NCIC and EEPC, Anil Verma and Opinder Singh respectively made brief presentations on the schemes and facilities to empower and support SC businessmen and showed keenness to help the entrepreneurs. Hans Raj Banga, in his characteristic simplicity said that they would be too happy to work with their brethren in Punjab to help them stand-up in their respective businesses and offered the services of Kanshi TV to advertise and promote their business interests. Rajesh Bagha was the lead speaker at the event. He spoke at length about his work and contribution in streamlining the post-matric scholarship scheme during his tenure as the Chairman of the Punjab SC Commission and said that the objective of the newly created SCEEF was to work as a catalyst to facilitate the young entrepreneurs to become “job givers instead of job seekers” to find their due space in the polity and economy of the country. He further said that it was gratifying to note that the first Begumpura International Business Conclave which was planned in a hurry to take advantage of the visit of NRI followers of Guru Ravidass for the Gurpurab was a great success. He announced that next year in February, 2019 to commemorate the Gurpurab a planned and bigger conclave will be held not only to provide a befitting tribute to the great Guru but also to provide a proper platform to the aspiring businessmen of the community both in India and abroad. Let me mention an interesting aspect of the event. It was the participation of the National President of Ad-dharam Mission, Sant Satwinder
Hira, in the Conclave not as a social or spiritual activist but as a business entity. I was impressed by his credentials and performance as a real-estate developer and exporter of skilled and semi-skilled manpower. Sant Satwinder Singh Hira who is an Engineer himself disclosed his wish to motivate and engage at least a hundred budding SC entrepreneurs within a year and make them successful businessmen. I saw an emerging Baba Ramdev of the community in the persona of Sant Satwinder Hira.

In my valedictory remarks to sum-up and close the function, I offered my humble services and experience to the SCEEF not as the Chief Patron but as a Chief Sewak of the community as my meager contribution to ‘pay back to the society’ as my post retirement activity.  I duly appreciated and recognized the good work being done by the SCEEF under the guidance of Rajesh Bagha and his team which, to my satisfaction, is duly supported by their associates like Dr. Varinder Garg, Vijay Nadda, Chief Editor of an Evening daily “Metro Encounter”, Rakesh Shantidoot among others. Referring to the remarks made by one of the NRI delegates
at the Conclave advising the audience that there was no need to seek help from government agencies, I begged to differ and said that there should not be any inferiority complex. These agencies were created for us by our government and we should take full advantage and avail of their services and facilities. These agencies were meant for us. Their assets are our assets as India belonged to us. I added that our icons, Guru Ravidass and Babasaheb Ambedkar stood for equality and fraternity in an inclusive society as enshrined in the bani of Guru Ravidass “Keh Ravidass Khalas Chamara; jo hum shehari so meet hamara” and thoughtfully stipulated in the very preamble of the constitution of India by Dr. Ambedkar, Father of the Indian constitution. Wishing all the best to the SCEEF and participants in the Begumpura International Business conclave, I cajoled them to become self-confident to meet the challenges ahead and concluded with a poetic expression:

तू पहले बात फिर बात का अंदाज़ पैदा कर,
फिर तुजे दुनिआ में कोई नज़र अंदाज़ कर नहीं सकता !