Thursday, December 12, 2019

Kewal Vig Award, 2019 – In Honour of Literary Personalities

Kewal Vig Award, 2019 – In Honour of Literary Personalities

Kewal Vig Award is a prestigious award instituted in 1994 in the sweet memory of renowned journalist Kewal Vig, founder editor of an esteemed periodical being published from Jalandhar  – Janta Sansar – a News and Views Magazine -for the last more than 50 years. Kewal Vig Awards, hosted by the worthy son of Kewal Vig and the current Editor of Janta Sansar Jatinder Mohan Vig, are conferred on the prominent personalities in the field of journalism and literature every year successively on December 4 on the death
anniversary of Kewal Vig. A long list of 55 awardees till 2018 reads like a “Who’s Who” in the intellectual and literary circles of the region and beyond. It is not a small feat. Jatinder Mohan and his associates deserve to be thanked and congratulated for adding meaningfully to the cultural, literary and social calendar of Jalandhar – a city of media and educational excellence.

The Awards for the year 2019 were conferred on two known literary intellectuals – Sardar Harphool Singh, a poet and gazal writer and Advocate Mohan Lal Phillauria, a story writer and a community activist. An excellent choice.

The first part of the award function on December 4, 2019 held at Desh Bhagat Yadgar Hall concluded with the recital of Guruwani with prayers for peace and harmony as a tribute to Kewal Vig. In the second half, famous gazal singers, Surinder Gulson, Pammi Hanspal, among others regaled the attentive and enlightened audience with the gazals written by a sauve personality Sardar Harphool Singh, one of the awardees, proudly sitting on the dias. I was fully impressed by the beautifully worded and sung compositions. It was a betting tribute to Kewal Vig.

I have had the pleasure to participate in the function as one of the Special Guests of Honour along with distinguished personalities like ADC Kulwant Singh, Director Enforcement B.K. Virdi, Retired Director of Languages Chetan Singh and Punjabi Poet Rachhpal Singh Pal. The awards were conferred by the esteemed
Chief Guest at the function DGP Inder Preet Singh Sahota. Being a faceless diplomat for long years, it was a good opportunity to meet and know the cream of the civil society in and around Jalandhar. I must thank Jatinder Mohan and Shiv Kanwar Singh Sandhu for inviting me to the well arranged and nicely conducted event. As a gesture of thanks, I presented a copy of my recently released book "The Bits and Pieces - Reminiscences and Reflections of a Novice" to Editor Jatinder Mohan Vig.The anchor Gagandeep Sondhi did an excellent job in making the function a lively and relaxed evening as the Master of Ceremonies.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Guru Nanak Dev – A Humble Tribute

Guru Nanak Dev  – A Humble Tribute 

Today, November 12, is the 550thPrakash Parv (birth anniversary) of the great Guru, Baba Nanak, a harbinger of love, peace, equality and harmony while living a simple and egalitarian life. The followers of Baba Nanak and the society, both in India and abroad, are celebrating the Day with all solemnity and joy and rightly so. It is a matter of great satisfaction that, on November 9, the Ardas
(Prayer) of the faithfuls for Khulle Darshan Didar of Guru Dhams, came true with the opening of the ‘Kartarpur Corridor’ connecting Dera Baba Nanak on the Indian side and Darbar Sahib Gurudwara in Kartarpur on the Pakistan side. Let us pray the Corridor turns out to be a ‘Corridor of Peace and Harmony’ of which the great Guru was one of the leading proponents. It will be a befitting tribute to Baba Nanak on his 550th Prakash Parv.

During the course of celebrations, much and rightly so, has been written by the scholars and intellectuals on the life, philosophy and mission of Baba Nanak conforming to the words of Bhai Gurdassji – Satguru Nanak Pargatiya; Miti Dhund Jag Chaanan Hoya. I attempt this humble tribute as a layman confining myself to one or two aspects of Guru Nanak Devji’s simple and pragmatic approach to lead a simple but contented life with peace of mind and dignity. These canons of day to day life, Humanistic, Democratic, Socialism, taught by the great Guru, appeal to me the most as a simple human being. As a diplomat and a scholar, Navtej Singh Sarna has written in an article that appeared in the Hindustan Times of November 9 in, “But Guru Nanak’s 550th birth anniversary should not be an occasion for celebration alone. It is also a moment for reflection, for rediscovery and reiteration of his essential message”.

The first lofty ideal of the teachings of Baba Nanak is – Kirat Karo; Naam Japo; Vand Chhako that is Do your Work to earn your livelihood; Meditate in the name of Almighty Waheguru; Share your earnings in charity. The beauty of all this lies in the fact that Guru Nanak practiced these lofty principles of day to day life while living in Kartarpur as a family man with worldly responsibilities.
The second important message was enshrined in the concept of – Dharamsal; Sangat; Pangat and Langar that is Identify or make a place of worship (Gurudwara); Community living Sangat or congregation to sing and listen to the hymns in the praise of Waheguru (Kirtan); Sit in an orderly fashion in the Sangat and eat at the community kitchen (Langar) by sitting in a line with others. These principles were denoted to community living with harmony and brotherhood without any distinction of rich and poor and low or high caste. This lofty philosophy reminded humanity of the Trisharan (triple gems) of Gautama Buddha – Buddham; Dhamam; Sangham. The concept of Langar (Community kitchen) is a unique concept given by Guru Nanak which intended to establish a casteless and egalitarian society without any consideration of social status. That is why I said that Guru Nanak was the harbinger of humanistic and democratic socialism, the order which is the need of the present times to ward of the evils of hate, enmity, divisiveness, and caste distinctions among others. Let us pray that the teachings of Baba Nanak keep guiding us in the years to come. I conclude my humble tribute to the great Guru Nanak Devji by quoting Allama Iqbal who rightly said:-

Phir Uthi Akhir Sada Touheed  Ki Punjab Se
Hind  Ko Ek Mard-e-Kamil Ne Jagaya Khawab Se
(Again from the Punjab the call of monotheism arose:
A perfect man roused India from slumber)

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Talk on Abrogation of Article 370 and its Implications (Guru Nanak Prem Karamsar College Nadala)

Talk on Abrogation of Article 370 and its Implications
(Guru Nanak Prem Karamsar College Nadala)

Dr. Kulwant Singh Phull, Principal of a prestigious educational institution in the Doaba region of Punjab, Guru Nanak Prem Karamsar College at Nadala (Kapurthala), very thoughtfully invited me to visit them and speak to their students on the topical issue of national importance – Abrogation of Article 370 and its Implications – on November 2, 2019. I accepted the invitation and have had a
rewarding opportunity to speak to the students of Political Science of the higher classes and interested faculty members of the college on the given subject. The Talk was arranged by the Political Science Department of the College ably stewarded by Prof. Jagbir Singh as its HOD and was nicely conducted by yet another budding teacher, Prof Daljit Kaur. It may not be out of place to mention that, incidentally, our interlocutor to introduce me to Principal Phull was no other than a recognized and dedicated teacher, my brother-in-law (husband of my sister Lakshmi), Prof. Balbir Chander who retired recently as HOD of the esteemed Doaba College Jalandhar. He also accompanied me to the Nadala College as the Guest of Honour. And rightly so, apart from his academic association with Dr. Kulwant Singh Phull, both Prof. Jagbir Singh and Prof. Daljit Kaur and yet another faculty member of the College, Prof. Amanpreet Kaur, studied Political Science from Prof. Balbir Chander at Doaba College. They were all the more delighted to meet and host their worthy Guru, Balbir. It was a pleasure for me to sit and watch their delightful interaction. It was a matter of satisfaction that the audience was reverential and interested in listening to us in a much relaxed atmosphere. I was happy to know that Guru Nanak Prem Karamsar College was established fifty years ago, now in its Golden Jubliee year, on the auspicious occasion of the 500th Guru Purab of Guru Nanak Devji. It was just a happy co-incident that I was invited and honoured at the College in the days when we were celebrating the 550th Prakash Purab of the great Guru Nanak on November 12. The insignia of the College “Truth is Immortal” represents the lofty philosophy of Guru Nanak.

Prof Balbir Chander set the ball rolling by his crisp but thought provoking remarks on the Abrogation of Article 370 as a teacher of Political Science of long standing. Though he accepted the fact of demolishing the special status to J&K yet was not happy as to how the GOI had taken the decision abruptly without caring for the sensitivities of the people of J&K. I spoke in a layman’s perspective on the issue and gave the historical background of J&K’s accession to India on October 26, 1947 and the roles played by Lord Mountbatten, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Maharaja Hari Singhand Sheikh Abdullah in incorporating Article 370 in the constitution of India conferring the Special Status on the State of J&K. I
also gave an overview of the position and role of the opponents, the right wing Hindu outfits, of the Article 370 led by Syama Prasad Mukherjee with reference to the slogan “Ek Bidhan, Ek Pradhan, Ek Nishan”. Explaining the genesis of the Special Status accorded to J&K, I quoted from the Instrument of Accession “Nothing in the Instrument of Accession deemed to commit me in any way to acceptance of any future constitution of India or fetter my discretion to enter into arrangements with the GOI under any such further constitution”. I added said that obviously the accession was conditional and to satisfy the wishes of Maharaja Hari Singh and Sheikh Abdullah, perhaps, Article 370 was stipulated. It was said to be opposed by Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel as often quoted and flagged by Jan Sangh/BJP/RSS. But to my mind, I added in my Talk, that it was not so. Sardar Patel was a leader of his own standing. If he did not agree with PM Jawaharlal Nehru on such an important issue having far reaching consequences for the nation, he should have registered his opposition and concern by resigning from the Cabinet as the norms of collective responsibility in a parliamentary democracy demanded. But it did not happen. Referring to often flouted PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s middle path to solve the problem – Jamhooriyat, Kashmiryat and Insaniyat, I said that it was a good approach but mostly remained on paper and added that with the BJP and its allies coming to power with absolute majority, the scenario changed immediately and they carried forward their pronounced agenda on August 5 and abolished the special status of J&K. Explaining the Administrative, Legislative and Legal implications of the abrogation of Article 370, I said that it was gratifying to note that the GOI was serious to address the issue head on in order to fully integrate J&K with the rest of the country as PM Narendra Modi said, “New system is aimed at building a strong link of trust.” Concluding the Talk, which was heard by the audience comprising of young students, mostly girls, with patience and engagement, that it was time to make a new beginning? GOI must deliver to address the aspirations of the people of J&K and fulfill the promises made. The leadership and people of J&K must accept the new realities. We need to pay special attention to the issues of civil liberties, human rights and political rights which are to be resorted to the people of J&K to ward off the dangers of attracting undue attention of lobbyists beyond our borders who tend to speak from the roof tops to promote and carry forward their own vested agenda. I added that let us realize the fact on the eternal beauty of J&K registered by non else but Mughal Emperor Jehangir “If there is a heaven on earth, it is here, it is here, it is here” – Gar Firdaus Bar-rue Zamin Ast, Hami Asto, Hamin Ast. It was followed by an informal interaction with the students and the discerning members of the faculty by way of questions and answers which resulted in further clarity to put the things in its right perspective.

It was gratifying to feel from the thanks giving remarks of Principal Dr. Kulwant Singh Phull, a low profile, humble but an erudite intellectual and educational administrator that we could profitably talk and deliberate on an important topic of interest and concern to mutual advantage. I wished Principal Phull and the College all the best and further success in its Silver Jubilee year and the years to come.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Rafta Rafta – An Assortment of Poems

Rafta Rafta – An Assortment of Poems

Rafta Rafta is a fine collection of poems by my respected friend, guide and philosopher Principal JagdishChander Joshi. Though I am a novice in the fine art of poetry yet Principal Jagdish Joshi gifted me a copy of Rafta Rafta with a genuine and gracious approach with the citation under his hand and seal “To the one who is a great lover of poetry – Shri Ramesh Chanderji Ambassador”. He was generous as always.

I must admit that I am not fully qualified to comment on the contents and genre of the poetry book of its learned author “Josh”, the num de plume of Jagdish Joshi. The preamble (Pesh-Lafaz)of the book is written in chaste Urdu of literary caliber and mostly
went over my head. But it seems Josh Sahib was not oblivious of the fact that readers like me would find it difficult to understand and thoughtfully gave the meaning of difficult Urdu vocabulary in the foot-notes on the page itself. The cover of the book rightly and aptly says it in a poetical parlance as to how difficult it is to understand poetry: Manzil-e-Shayari , Door -Bahut Door Hua Karti Hai.

There are 103 poems on varied themes pertaining to human day to day life. The author has aptly explained this in the Preamble of the book. The name of the Book is Rafta Rafta as, in accordance with the circumstances, one passes through these stages of life with ones intellect and understanding. The stage of Youth (Jawani) has its own potent message and that of Middle age (Mutbashist) has its own color. Then comes Old age (Zayafi) and its demeanor is different from the preceding two. Rafta Rafta revolves around these human emotions and stages.

The first ghazal of the book is about love (Mohabbat) followed by many more on the lofty feelings of love:

Mohabbat Jab Bhi Hoti Hai, Mohabbat Hi Hoti Hai;
Ibtda se AkhirTak, Mohabbat Hi Hoti Hai !

 I am reminded of the legendary song of a Hindi Movie – Pyar Ko Pyar Hi Rehne Do, Kuch Naam Na Do !

It seems the author is fully drenched in love as he said in one of the poems – Dhong Mohabbat ka ‘Josh’ Bhi Kar Leta Hai ! and depicted the natural feeling of love as felt by Ghalib“Ishq par Zor Nahin” in yet another beautiful composition:

Na Jaane, Kyon Mujhe, Tum Se Mohabbat Hoti Jati Hai,
Na Jaane, Yeh Mohabbat, Akidat Hoti Jati Hai!

The author ‘Josh Sahib’ describes the free and candid trait of Youth (Jawani) as:

Josh To Josh Hai, Hosh Se Ise Kya Lena !
Hosh Ki Aad Mein Josh Chhupate Kyon Ho ?

I have no mind and capacity to comment in detail on the excellent contents of the book and leave that to the discerning readers. Ghazal No.22 on page 38 impressed me a lot. Jagdish Joshi Sahib had recited the poem to me on telephone a couple of times. One may gauge from this his involvement and magnanimity with friends
Principal Jagdish Joshi speaking at the launch of  The Bits and Pieces
and novices like me. In fact, I had already written about Joshi Sahib’s earthy simplicity and humility in my recently released book “The Bits and Pieces - Reminiscences and Reflections of a Novice”.  His poetry is also laced with earthy wisdom which comes in the Middle age (Mutbashist) as referred to by the author. The Matla (Opening couplet) of one of the Ghazals in the book fully depicts the ease with which Josh Sahib says his mind:

Sadgi Se Jo Keh Dete Hain, Sada Alfaaz;
Gehrai Ka Pata Dete Hain, Sada Alfaaz!

Jagdish Joshi has seen more than 84 springs of life and is still kicking. I wish him many more springs to come. He got nostgalic in the last poem of the book. One can feel that:

Assi Aur Char Guzaar Diye, Maaji Ke Andhere Mein;
Jaane Kitne  Aur Jama Honge, Maaji Ke Andhere Mein!

Before I conclude these remarks of a novice on a book worth reading, let me take this opportunity to wish Principal Jagdish Joshi all the very best for his good health and his forthcoming works – One Hundred Years of DAV College Jalandhar of which we both are the alumni and other books listed on the title page of Rafta Rafta. It is gratifying to note that more than 10 books on Urdu/Hindi poetry of Joshi Sahib already adore the shelves of big and small libraries in the country and beyond. Besides this, a brief profile written by Prof. Sharad Manocha of DAV College Jalandhar which is available on the back cover page of the book fully illustrates the chequered literary and intellectual prowess of Principal Jagdish Joshi. I have nothing more to add except to say that we are determined to keep engaging him to bother us as we like to nullify what he wrote on page 37 of Rafta Rafta:

Josh Ki Be-tuk Ko Samjhne Ki Zaroorat Kya Hai;
Is Be-Akal se to Peeccha Chhudana Hi Accha Hai.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

My Friend Rajesh Bagha – A Young and Dedicated Face in Public Life

My Friend Rajesh Bagha – A Young and Dedicated Face in Public Life

I, as a non-political person, thought of writing about my good friend Rajesh Bagha, a young politician belonging to the BJP who is currently contesting the bye-poll from the Phagwara legislative constituency. The purpose obviously is to lend my support to Rajesh in his maiden electoral debut, as I feel good people with a sense of dedication should enter the temples of democracy i.e. the assemblies and parliament. I did the same some years ago to support yet another young politician PawanTinu of Akali Dal from the Adampur seat. I do so, without any political affiliation, just to support the right people for the right job. Pawan won and delivered successively. I am happy. I am confident that Rajesh Bagha would also make it and stand up to the expectations of the discerning voters of the Phagwara constituency.

Rajesh Bagha is an upcoming politician with a sense of interest and concern for the issues directly affecting the common man, particularly belonging to the weaker sections of the society. A young man, Rajesh made it to the higher echelons of the BJP through the ladder. The party rewarded him for his involvement and dedication in public affairs by appointing him the Chairman of the
Punjab Scheduled Castes Commission in the Akali-BJP coalition government of CM Parkash Singh Badal. Rajesh made his mark and did full justice to his responsibilities as head of an important constitutional outfit. He gave an account of his work and achievements in his book – SC Commission Ch Mere 6 Saal which I reviewed and included in my recently released book – The Bits and Pieces: Reminiscences and Reflections of a Novice. I did so in appreciation of the good work done by Rajesh Bagha.

I came to know Rajesh only after my return to Jalandhar on retirement some years ago. He was an effective Chairman of the Punjab SC Commission. I found him reverential and considerate. In the process of our acquaintances, he desired and suggested that I should be somewhat more active in my public involvements and lend a helping hand to him and his associates with my considerable experience as a senior adviser and a Marg Darshak. I agreed to do so without any political motivation. Our cooperation resulted in the formation and launch of the Schedule Caste Entrepreneurs Empowerment Forum a few years ago. The Forum organized several awareness events for the benefit of the weaker sections of society. I together with Rajesh Bagha extensively interacted and worked with both governmental and non-governmental
organizations like the MSME, NSIC, SC/ST Hub among others to invite and motivate SC entrepreneurs to avail of the government schemes and facilities to encourage SC businessmen to become the ‘job givers rather than job seekers’. He established, and rightly so, institutional link of the Schedule Caste Entrepreneurs Empowerment Forum’s link with the apex chamber of commerce, ASSOCHAM with a view to have a wide reach of the businessmen belonging to the SC communities. Rajesh Bagha was instrumental in initiating and organizing these activities. His pioneering work in helping the SC students in availing of and streamlining the post-matric scholarships was yet another feather in his cap. Rajesh, during the course of his political and social activities, contributed positively in bringing about “Samrasta” in the society as stipulated in the constitution of India and as such integrating the just social order.  I found him always standing in the first row in all social and public causes like blood donation and Swacch Bharat Abhiyan. I know personally Rajesh is a regular blood donor himself. Apart from my interaction with regard to my regular social and community activities, I came to know Rajesh more intimately when, this July; we together visited the RSS Home in Nagpur on the invitation of RSS Sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat. He was not only a good guide to me but also a genuinely reverential hand-holder right from Jalandhar to Delhi by train and from Delhi to Nagpur by flight and back to Jalandhar. I could gauge his depth and clarity about the matters of concern and interest to the community and the society at large. I also realized happily that Rajesh Bagha enjoyed good respect and rapport with the BJP and RSS hierarchy.

Rajesh Bagha or anybody else has not asked me to write this and extend support to him in the election of October 21, 2019. I am doing so on my own volition and will to help and support the right man for an important job to serve the public with responsibility and involvement. Rajesh Bagha fully deserves my humble support. I take this opportunity to wish my friend Rajesh all the very best in the days to come.

Monday, October 14, 2019

A visit to Diksha Bhoomi in Nagpur

A  visit to Diksha Bhoomi in Nagpur

I spent most of my productive years in the diplomatic service of India and as such travelled widely outside the country, mostly on duty. I am not a keen traveler otherwise. Being a humble Ambedkarite, a visit to DikshaBhoomi lingered at the back of mind but on the basis of ‘as it comes’. In July this year, my wish was fulfilled, incidentally, on the invitation of RSS Sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat to visit their Headquarters in Nagpur as a Guest of Honour at one of their annual functions. My hosts asked me if I
would be interested in visiting some places in Nagpur as a sightseeing slot. Obviously, I told them that it would be an honour and pleasure to see and visit DikshaBhoomi as a pilgrimage for me. As such, a senior RSS functionary took me and my associate Rajesh Bagha of the BJP to DikshaBhoomi, where Babasaheb embraced Buddhism on October 14, 1956, in the afternoon of a hot and sultry day.

I will write separately later on my impressions and reflections on my visit to the RSS citadel. Today, I will limit myself to the DikshaBhoomi and register my take on the important site in the history of the revival of Buddhism in India, mindfully chosen by Babasaheb Ambedkar on his momentous and epoch-making decision to embrace Buddhism along with several hundred thousands of his followers. DikshaBhoomi is located in the heart of
Nagpur, not far away from the RSS home. Incidentally, the day of conversion on October 14, 1956 was the Dussehra Day itself which RSS celebrates and observes as their founding day every year since 1925. Was it a deliberate move by Babasaheb or was it just a co-incident?  The scholars and historians would deal with the question appropriately though Babasaheb Ambedkar in his address at the time of embracing Buddhism aptly explained as to why he chose Nagpur and the Dussehra Day for his far reaching decision.

Coming back to Diksha Bhoomi, frankly, I was disappointed to see the magnificent monument otherwise, in a bad shape. Starting from the alighting point, there was no designated and maintained parking.  The pathway leading to the great dome, Sanctum Santorum, was not clean and maintained. The front lawns were not maintained and manicured. In spite of the hot weather, there were hordes of people to see and pay their respect to the greatest son of India and their icon Babasaheb. There was no one to conduct and guide them. The photo exhibition was in disarray. One young man dressed in a coat in the hot weather tried to engage us and pretended to be some designated person to do so. Soon I realized that he was some self appointed man to make his bread and butter. When he found out that we were not much receptive, he could not refrain himself and asked for donations to maintain the place. I felt like crying in despair. Our RSS escort was quite and did not utter a word but I could read his inner feelings. I seek no pleasure in narrating this story. In contrast with the RSS complex and prominent sites pertaining to RSS and their icons, our holy place and a site of pilgrimage for the followers of Babasaheb and the Buddhist faithfuls was nowhere near them. We are to learn something if we want to remain in the run and mere criticism will not pay us any dividend.

On enquiry from my RSS escort, I was told that DikshaBhoomi was run by a private trust. Most of the finances come from either the Maharastra government or the Central government. Surprisingly, I think to gain some mileage and take credit, there was a board just outside the dome where some details of the finances were written. The figure was in several crores. It appeared that the trust responsible to manage and run the site must be a motley crowd of self seekers and vested interests as was the case of most of Ambedkar Bhawans and Dhams and may also be of Budh Viharas throughout the country, barring a few. There is no point in falling prey to the blame game. Let us do something to put the things on rail. It will be a true tribute to Babasaheb. I am sorry to write this with a sense of remorse and concern.

With this uncharitable narration, I, as a humble Ambedkarite, salute Babsaheb Ambedkar and wish his followers all the very best on this day of revival of Buddhism in India, October 14 and I conclude:

Postscript: The great and majestic Bodhi Vriksha (Piple tree) just outside the Great Dome of Diksha Bhoomi demonstrated the abundance of nature as compared to the human conduct and
delivery. One lade Bhikhu sitting the shade of the tree on the fence, on query, informed that the Bodhi Vriksha was planted by the Mahathero Bhandt Anand Kausalyayan subsequent to the great event of Dham-Chakra Parivartna on October 14, 1956

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Gandhi Won but We failed the Mahatma

Gandhi Won but We failed the Mahatma

Today, October 2, is the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, one of the greatest sons of India in contemporary times. Government of India and the indebted nation are celebrating, and rightly so, the occasion in all solemnity and respect. I greet my fellow countrymen and the world at large on this occasion.

I write this piece with a mixed bag of feelings of good and bad. Mahatma Gandhi, like many other great men preceding him, is much revered on one hand and on the other maligned in no less measure for his deeds and thoughts - not so much by the international community but by some sections of his own country that is India. Many people would shy away from telling this ground reality. But, as a novice, Ifelt like saying what I feel with a sense of respect and regard to Mahatma Gandhi.  Mohandas Karamchand
Gandhi did win as a politician,and may be as a nationalist as well, in spearheading the struggle for freedom from the British rule and setting the direction and pace of the politics of free India for many decades which followed. But at the same time, it seems, he failed miserably as Mahatma who professed and followed the dictums of morality, spirituality and humanity. It is a matter of regret to say that we the people of India have failed the Mahatma in Gandhi – be it establishing casteless society, cleanliness (swachata), corruption, environment, non-violence, intolerance, respect for minorities and trusteeship of the rich, inter alia.

Mahatma Gandhi was a man of great understanding and mass approach both for his political goals and also for his social, religious and spiritual agenda. He successfully led the movement for independence and won. Happy ending, India became free on August 15, 1947. He was a staunch Hindu and fought tooth and nail to save Hindu society from disintegration in the wake of the Communal Award of PM Ramsey Macdonald in 1932. Mahatma Gandhi was a wily politician. He made Babasaheb Ambedkar to relent, by hook or by crook, to sign the Poona Pact of 1932 which rejected the Communal award granting separate electorates to the Depressed Classes and the Sikhs. Had the separate electorates prevailed as stipulated in the Communal Award, the political history of India would have been different.  Gandhi won us independence from the British rule. He saved the Hindu society from further division and disintegration. Gandhi became the Father of the nation. His birthday, October 2, is observed as the International Day of Non-violence. He enjoyed unparalleled respect and recognition both at home and beyond. A hardcore Hindu, Nathu Ram Godse removed him from the scene, on account of ideological differences, soon after on January 30, 1948 in a fatal shoot-out in Delhi. It was a sad and bad thing to happen to a person like Mahatma Gandhi and the Indian nation. On the other hand, some analysts feel that providence intervened and saved Mahatma Gandhi from ignominy to see the Mahatma in the persona of Gandhi falling apart and failing in the decades to follow.

Gandhi failed or we Indians failed him as a Mahatma. The country and the society are increasingly becoming non-violent. People are resorting to public lynching and the ruling outfits seem to close their eyes. Corruption has gone to the roots of the system. The cries of Hindu India are getting shrilled by each passing day. The Hindu society is still as cruel and torturous to the fellow dalits as was before. No caste Hindu is still ready to understand and undertake the “spirituality’ lessons of the great Mahatma in cleanliness. Dalits are condemned to do this ‘dirty spirituality’ as before. Casteless society is still a dream even after numerous constitutional provisions to abolish caste based discrimination. Minorities in the country feel threatened. It is a saga of utter failure of the lofty ideals of the Mahatma. It seems that these spiritual experiences of Gandhi proved to be utopian. Take the case of caste and untouchability, Gandhi’s reading differed from that of Ambedkar.  According to Suparna Gooptu, Director of the Gandhian Studies Centre at Kolkata, while Ambedkar preferred rights based approach, Gandhi believed in faith and spirituality. Sometimes, it is felt that Gandhi’s approach to address these issues was half hearted which could not impress or reform the Hindu manuwadi mindset. Dr. Ambedkar in his interview to BBC in 1956 said, “As a politician he (Gandhi) was never a Mahatma”.

The redeeming feature of the scenario, with respect and regard to Mahatma Gandhi on his 150th birth anniversary, is that the current government of PM Narendra Modi has done and is committed to undertake some of the so called spiritual experiences of Mahatma Gandhi for the advantage and benefit of the society such as International Yoga Day, Swach Bharat campaign, Fitness Movement, Plastic Free India among others.

 It is a real tribute to the memory of the great leader Mahatma Gandhi.  Let me conclude with a quote from Martin Luther King Jr., “Christ gave us the goals and Mahatma Gandhi the tactics. If humanity is to progress, Gandhi is inescapable. He lived, thought, and acted, inspired by the vision of humanity evolving toward a world of peace and harmony. We may ignore him at our own risk”

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Arun Jaitley – A tribute

Arun Jaitley – A tribute

A shrewd and able politician who also remained an important Minister in the BJP/NDA governments passed away today, the August 24. Obviously it is a great loss not only to the BJP but also to the country. It is the second such sad happening in a span of just a few days at a comparatively early age counting the recent demise of SushmaSwaraj. I think politics and public life in India is one of the demanding careers. Our politicians, it seems, are not taking good care of their rest and recreation. Willingly or unwillingly, they
are leading a double life. They are expected not to take leave and go on holidays. They are expected not to drink and dance and unwind themselves. They are expected to be available to the public even at unearthly hours. They should not succumb to the common human weaknesses. These things tend to tell poorly on health and usual family life. We need to think and provide politicians and men in public life their due space in this regard and learn from the lives of their counterparts in the developed world.  

I first saw Arun Jaitley, a young student leader or a young professional as a lawyer, campaigning in the elections held in the wake of emergency at a public meeting in R.K Puram in New Delhi. I was impressed by his erudition and enthusiasm with a pleasing personality. Ever since, he remained in the thickness of things in Delhi as a professional legal practitioner and subsequently graduated to hold his sway in India even in public life as a trained and groomed BJP politician. Arun Jaitley enjoyed and wielded a big clout in the corridors of power without claiming to have a mass base which is important in public life. He was an experienced parliamentarian as a member of the RajyaSabha (lost in the Lok Sabha elections from Amritsar in May, 2014, his only effort to enter Lok Sabha), an able administrator and a diligent politician and was rightly considered a trouble shooter in PM Narendra Modi’s government in its first term. Arun Jaitley will leave a big void in the corridors of power in Delhi. 

It was my good fortune to meet and interact with him in Tokyo during my diplomatic assignment in Japan. He came to participate in a multilateral conference as the Minister of Commerce along with Minister of Agriculture Chaudhary Ajit Singh sometime in 2003. It was a rewarding experience. I accompanied him to all the bilateral meetings with Japanese leadership and also with his other counterparts from several countries and found him totally prepared and fully articulate with facts and figures to put across his views and inputs. At social occasions, lunches and dinners, Arun Jaitley was totally alive as a compulsive talker with pleasant demeanour and matching dash. I could feel as to how and rightly so he was a darling of the elite not only in India but beyond.

Arun Jaitley was a great man. It is my humble tribute to him on his sad demise.
Kaun kahtā hai ki mauta a.ī to mar jā.ūñgā
maiñ to dariyā huuñ samundar meñ utarjā.ūñgā

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Protest against Demolition of Guru Ravidass Mandir at Tughlakabad – An Open Letter to the Followers of Guru Ravidass Abroad.

Protest against Demolition of Guru Ravidass Mandir at Tughlakabad – An Open Letter to the Followers of Guru Ravidass Abroad.

Dear Followers of Guru Ravidass living abroad,
I am sorry that I could not write it before. The immediate reason of writing this is that PM Narendra Modi is currently visiting France and will also visit UAE and Baharain in conjunction with the visit. I read in the social media that the followers of Guru Ravidass intend to register their protest against the demolition of Guru Ravidass Mandir at Tughlakabad in Delhi. It their democratic right to do so in an orderly fashion and peacefully in consultation with the local authorities, if the mode of the protest is public. If they intend to register their protest through the diplomatic or consular mission of India, they can do so too in liaison and consultation with the concerned Mission. In fact, there are reports that at many places the followers of Guru Ravidass abroad have already given vent to their pent up feelings and rightly so.

I am writing this as a word of caution and advice and also the procedure to be followed in this regard as one of your fellow followers of Guru Ravidass with a rich experience as a career diplomat. We are to uphold the dignity and name of our country while earning our bread and butter abroad as responsible citizens and followers of Guru Ravidass and Babasaheb Ambedkar. At the same time, you have the right to express your mind in a disciplined and democratic way on issues of concern and interest. My advice in this regard is that you should approach the concerned Indian Mission, preferably through one of your organizations /Associations etc. , and make a request for an audience/meeting with the PM to register your protest or say your mind. The Indian Mission in consultation with the concerned, say MEA/PMO, would fix the requested meeting either with PM or his nominated Minister or high official accompanying the PM. You can register your protest/point either verbally or in writing as appropriate. With a view to get public on the action taken in this regard, you can even go to public media either through a suitable Press Release or through social media. Your point of view or grievance will reach the dignitary and other concerned. If you fail to get cooperation or support of the India Mission, which is unlikely if I go by my own experience, you can think of other peaceful and constitutional means in consultation with the local law and order authorities. Nobody should stop you from exercising your democratic right, least the Indian authorities. We should have faith in our system.

I am sorry to take your time on this routine matter. I have done so purposely as quite often I get reports and complaints from our people abroad that nobody listens to us in the Indian Embassy or nobody came out to meet us when we were demonstrating outside. I tell them the procedure to follow. I am confident that Indian Missions will listen to them and help them in conveying their point of view and complaints to the concerned. Going to the road to register your protest or complaint without informing the concerned Indian Mission and the local authorities is not only undesirable but also ill-advised. At these public protests and demonstrations, one should be peaceful and cultured. Please don’t resort to provocative and derogatory slogans. The vested interests sitting on the fence are all too eager to exploit the situation and fire the shot from your shoulder. Be careful and behave like good Indians as worthy followers of the great Guru Ravidass and the greatest leader in the contemporary times, Babasaheb Ambedkar.

With regards and all the best wishes for your further success and prosperity.

One of your own,
(Ramesh Chander)
Ambassador – IFS (Retired)
Telephone: 9988510940

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

My Wishful Thinking - Guru Ravidass Mandir at Tughlakabad – An Open Letter to PM Narendra Modi

My Wishful Thinking - Guru Ravidass Mandir at Tughlakabad – An Open Letter to PM Narendra Modi

Respected PM Narendra Modi,

This is in continuation of my earlier three open letters on the issue of Guru Ravidass Mandir at Tughlakabd in Delhi which were sent to you through PMO and other policy and decision makers including the Lt. Governor of Delhi and Hon’ble Minister of Urban Development Hardip Singh Puri among others. I take the liberty of writing a wishful letter on the subject while a huge protest by the followers of Guru Ravidass is underway on this day of August 21 in Delhi. What prompted me to write this is your penchant for giving surprises and steal the show quietly and stealthily as ‘Out of the Box’ decisions needed to governor and deliver. I am, Sir, one of your well wishers and I write it as a compliment to your sagacious leadership.

The demolition of Guru Ravidass Mandir at Tughlakabad, whatever the background, to my mind, has greatly perturbed the followers of Guru Ravidass and the dalit communities at large. They are up-in-arms on the issue. Your political opponents and other vested interests have come together to exploit the situation. As of now, as I know, GOI seems to be in a quandary as to what to do or the concerned decision makers are over-confident to kill the problem in one way or the other. But I must hasten to add that, to my mind, situation is going out of hands increasingly. The hapless dalit youth is prone to succumb to the nefarious designs of the anti-national forces that are eager to turn the situation to their advantage. PM Sir, I am sure that you have access to all the relevant information. I need not dwell on it any more.

Now I come to the wishful part of my submissions. You are a leader by your own right. Your government has the honour to enjoy a huge majority in the parliament.  Dalits including the followers of Guru Ravidass clearly supported you and your party in the recent elections. Many of us, like me, are willing to join your lofty programme of – Sab Ka Sath, Sab Ka Viskas and Sab Ka Vishwas and also the lofty ideals of “Samrasta” in the society. You should not be seen sitting tight while a large chunk of the society is forced to be on the road in protest that too not only outside but under the nose of the government in Delhi. No fair minded person, particularly belonging to the under-privileged, would tend to support this. The time is of essence. You would appreciate and agree. A huge crowd of lakhs and lakhs of followers are assembled in Delhi today. Come out please and address their concern publically as you deem fit. Either go to Ram Lila grounds personally breaking all protocols and hesitations or invite the stake-holders to PMO or your residence. Give them a hearing and offer them a solution to the problem to save the situation and bring about harmony and peace in the society. Your sagacious and thoughtful action in this regard will send a strong message and go a long way in assuaging the ruffled sentiments of the community. They will come back satisfied to their homes chanting “Modi Hai To Mumkin Hai” This healing touch will further strengthen the principles and edifice of our democratic country and a humane society as stipulated in our constitution.

As the time is running out, I have no time to go through and correct the mistakes in my letter. I am confident that my submissions would find a fair consideration at your hands and the followers of Guru Ravidass would get the chance to thank you for your right approach and mind.

With personal regards and all the best wishes for your good health and further success.
Yours truly,
(Ramesh Chander)
Ambassador – IFS (Retired)
Tele: 9988510940

Shri Narendra Modi,
Prime Minister of India,
New Delhi

Monday, August 19, 2019

Run up to the August 21 Dalit Protest in Delhi– An Open Letter

Run up to the August 21 Dalit Protest in Delhi– An Open Letter

Dear All,
This is in continuation of two open letters of August 11 and August 13 on the sad demolition of Guru Ravidass Mandir at Tughlakabad in Delhi. The August 13 Bandh in Punjab, it was expected, would awaken the government from the slumber and a right decision to address and undo the demolition of the mandir would be taken by the GOI. Subsequent to the August 13 Punjab Bandh, various delegations, particularly representing the ruling outfits BJP and Akalis, met the Hon’ble Minister of Urban Development and the Lt. Governor. Others representing the Deras, social and spiritual organizations of the followers of Guru Ravidass have been making
Protest at Bootan Mandi Jalandhar
a hue and cry in vain. In spite of the fact that the incident of demolition happened in the capital city of Delhi and the August 13 Punjab Bandh gave a clear indication that the situation was volatile, the media which is blissfully ignorant and silent, regrettably did not take any cognizance of it as a public issue of importance. People are attracted more to the social media which is rife in spreading the truth and more often half-truths and un-truths.

Much water, over the days since the said demolition, has flown in the Yamuna and is already crossing the danger level in these days of rainy weather and also over-flowing with social distrust and acrimony. There is no official reaction or statement in the public domain as to how they propose to address the issue and take into confidence the followers of Guru Ravidass to redress their grievances with regard to the demolition of the mandir. The things are getting hot and heading for avoidable confrontation to my mind. I only hope that it takes a right turn to save the situation. At the same time, I have faith in the ability and sincerity of the concerned Minister Hardip Singh Puri who is at the helm of the issue. If I go by the social media reports, there have been protests in all the major cities like Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Delhi and other prominent towns and cities apart from Punjab which was already
up-in-arms against the act of demolition of the mandir in Delhi. There are also reports that the
Protest at HCI London
followers of Guru Ravidass living in various countries abroad are equally perturbed and angry and have demonstrated in front of our diplomatic missions and submitted memorandums to register their anguish and protest. GOI, in its better judgement, is either confident that nothing would happen and they have some readymade solution in their pocket which would satisfy the people or they are, as usual, waiting to see the strength and impact of the on-going protest. I don’t think it is a right approach. GOI must not be seen as a mere spectator and must decide things on the basis of the destructive and confrontational potential of the peaceful and constitutional protest.

As I warned in my earlier letters, owing to the fact that the protesters are not well organized and divided, the vested interests might be sitting on the fence to exploit the fluid situation to their advantage. I have already seen reports in the social media which indicate Khalistani extremists and some Kashmiri separatists and also outright terrorists were subtly engaging themselves to provoke and entice the hapless dalit youth to come to the streets and take things into their hands.

The purpose of this letter is to forewarn the decision makers and also the protestors to ward off ourselves from the lurking danger of unconstitutional methods which were termed as “Grammar of Anarchy” by Babasaheb Ambedkar. Any laxity or even delay in addressing the issue has the potential of inflicting undue and uncalled for damage to the polity and social fabric of the society. GOI and the civic society, including the important organisations like the RSS, SGPC among others would not sit tight, I believe. And if they do so, it would be at their own peril. Let us listen to the poetic expression of Krishan Bihari Noor in addressing the matter:

आओ सारे मसले  इस रौशनी में हल करें,
तुम भी ज़िम्मेदार हो और हम भी ज़िम्मेदार हैं !
तुम भी अब हाथों के सारे पत्थर फैंक दो,
हम भी सबकुछ भूल जाने को तैयार हैं !

With all the best wishes for peace and prosperity of our country.

Yours truly,

(Ramesh Chander)
Ambassador – IFS (Retired)
Telephone: 9988510940

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Punjab Bandh - August 13 – Guru Ravidass Mandir at Tughlakabad – An Open Letter – 2

Punjab Bandh - August 13 – Guru Ravidass Mandir at Tughlakabad – An Open Letter – 2

Dear All,
I wrote an open letter on August 11 on the demolition of Guru Ravidass Mandir at Tughlakabad in Delhi as a curtain raiser of the protests against the said demolition by the followers of Guru Ravidass. First of all, as the situation unfolded itself, it is a matter of gratification to note that the demolition of the mandir of the great guru has been taken seriously by the community and by the wide political and social spectrum around except by some narrow-minded and politically motivated voices who were found lacking in understanding the issue or their political constraints. Even some highly placed people, including a junior Minister at the Center found faults with the management of the Tughlakabad Mandir and others who tended to raise the banner of protest. The leadership of BJP could not come around and stand by the community as the mandir belonged to Guru Ravidass, a nobody in the caste hierarchy and the fact that the decision makers in Delhi to demolish the mandir were no others but their political masters. The upper-caste Hindu community, in spite of the fact that the followers of Guru Ravidass are mostly Hindus, as usual, was found disinterested or even disdainful. The caste system which was an anathema to Guru Ravidass and is unlawful and undesirable under the constitution of India, it seems is still at work.  It is unfortunate. I think the community will certainly take note of this and respond in due course. CM of Punjab Captain Amrinder Singh took due note of the situation and tried to assuage the ruffled feelings of the community and promised to take up the matter with the concerned authorities in Delhi. President of Akali Dal Sukhbir Badal and the Sikh community at large not only condemned the demolition but also showed their willingness to take up the matter with the concerned Minister Hardip Puri and PM Narendra Modi. It has also been
Protest dharna at Bootan Mandi Jalandhar
reported that SGPC has condemned the demolition of the temple.  Even the Punjab Chapter of the RSS came out with a statement and expressed its displeasure on the said demolition at Tughlakabad.  It would have been good if RSS should have taken a strong and clear stand on the issue and advised the government to desist from the uncalled for and undesirable demolition at Tughlakabad in persuasion of their professed agenda of “Samrasta”. I think, it is still a long way to go in shedding the inherit feeling of social discrimination. 

It is a matter of further satisfaction that the successful bandh, as I write at about 2 in the afternoon of August 13, is by and large peaceful and conforms to the democratic norms of protest and disagreement except some violent happenings at Mukerian in Hoshiarpur. I take this opportunity to appreciate and congratulate the protesters - followers of Guru Ravidass and Babasaheb Ambedkar and their supporters from the society at large for their good conduct and praiseworthy demonstration as law-abiding citizens. I feel the Administration in Punjab was also fully geared and alert to ward off any untoward incident. I was told that the concerned law and order authorities took into confidence all the stake holders including the Guru Ravidass Deras to manage and control the situation. I must hasten to add that the government and the concerned authorities should not take these positive signs lightly in taking the decisions and undoing the damage of the said demolition. It may be a proverbial ‘lull before the storm’, if the authorities fail to understand the issue and redress the grievances of the community with regard to the Tughlakabad Mandir of Guru Ravidass. It is a matter of great worry and concern that the mainstream media has totally ignored the issue in spite of the fact that the mandir was located in the capital city of Delhi. Some days ago when a small and nondescript mandir  near Jama Masjid in old Delhi  was allegedly desecrated, all the national TV channels were making loud but uncalled for noises and were falling on each other to demonstrate their concern for the secular character of the country and their soft attitude towards the majority community. This lopsided and discriminatory approach by an important pillar of democracy tends to divide the society. The media must understand this. The earlier the better. The aggrieved sections of the society are in no mood any more to swallow this.

By the evening of today, it is a matter of satisfaction again, the fire fighting to rectify the mistake and damage control has started in Delhi. The Supreme Court has suo motto intervened and said that ‘it was a serious matter and nobody should try to take shelter under the Supreme Court Orders for political convenience’.  The Administration in Delhi – Lt. Governor, DDA, Police Commissioner were taking recourse to justify the ill-conceived and ill-motivated and faultily executed decision in the name of the courts. Only one question in this regard will make their action hollow. The efficiency shown by the Delhi Administration in implementing the so called order of the Supreme Court in destroying the mandir was unprecedented. The order comes in the evening of August 9 and the mandir is demolished in the morning of August 10.  The GOI through the Minister of Urban development passed the bulk to DDA and Lt. Governor. Home Minister is blissfully ignorant of the happenings and has no time to appreciate the sensitivities of the people who stood by them and contributed considerably to come back to power with an added
majority. No party – the Congress, the Akalis, the BJP, the BSP and others considered it necessary to consider the matter and listen to the management of the Tughlakabad mandir and stand by them while the parliament was in session. After the noises and the Punjab Bandh of today, some of them have woken from the slumber. A delegation of BJP, Akalis and their allies have met the Ministers of Social Justice and Ministers of Urban Development and urged them to reconsider the unjust action by the Delhi Administration. Let us see what happens. I may add here my immediate apprehension that someone might suggest to allot a piece of land for the purpose somewhere else and end the matter. It will be totally unfair and would amount to high-handedness. The traditional and historical character of the Guru Ravidass Mandir at Tughlakabad should be maintained. The followers of Guru Ravidass should not fall prey to these machinations. There should be no duplicity in dealing with such matters. 

I conclude this open letter with the hope that the Delhi Administration under the GOI will take due note of these things and address the issue with all seriousness and sincerity. The followers of Guru Ravidass, on the other hand, should register their protest and demands with cool and pursue the matter with democratic norms as responsible citizens of the country. The incidents of Mukerian should be not repeated to tarnish the image of the great Guru as he said:

Keh Ravidass Khalas Chamara
Jo Hum Sehri so Meet Hamara!

With regards and Greetings on the Independence Day and Raksha Bandhan.

Yours truly,
(Ramesh Chander)
Ambassador – IFS (Retired)
Tele: 9988510940