Monday, April 29, 2019

Before I get tired – International Day of Equality

Before I get tired – International Day of Equality

I have been writing on the captioned subject – International Day of Equality quite often in my blogs and the last reference to it was made on April 13. I have no intension to burden my readers with this as there are, I agree, many other issues of concern and interest which could be or should be taken up. But still I feel strongly to at least expose the lip service of our politicians who fall on each other to own Ambedkar and his legacy for their selfish agenda of votes in the ongoing exercise of elections in India on one hand and the passive attitude of my well to do so-called well settled professionals and intellectuals professing allegiance to Babasaheb Ambedkar. I frankly but humbly feel that we have not done enough to promote and support the proposal of declaring April 14, birthday of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, as the International Day of Equality. It is a matter of regret. Let us rectify our thinking and approach and support the idea to demonstrate and register our indebtedness to the great leader, an epitome and symbol of Equality, Liberty and Fraternity. The proposal is resting with the GOI in the Ministry of External Affairs and is getting dumped in the piles of files. Let me expose the disregard and willful silence on the part of the Government and the political class particularly who swear by the name of Ambedkar before I get tired.

I made the proposal to declare Babasaheb Ambedkar’s birthday, April 14, as the International Day of Equality to EAM Sushma Swaraj in June, 2015 in the run up to celebrate 125th birth anniversary of the great leader. It was duly acknowledged by the MEA. I followed it up and kept the PMO in the loop. Forum of SC
and ST Parliamentarians under the leadership of the then Speaker of Punjab Legislative Assembly Sardar Charanjit Singh Atwal took due note of the proposal and submitted a Memorandum to PM Narendra Modi in November, 2015 in which the proposal on the International Day of Equality, inter alia, was included. GOI decided to celebrate the 125th birth anniversary of Babasaheb at the UN in New York on 13/14 April, 2016. Speaker Charanjit Singh Atwal headed the Indian delegation to the celebrations at the UN. He included the proposal in his speech and urged the GOI to make an official demarche to the UN in this regard. On return from New York, he submitted a report to PM Narendra Modi and briefed him about the proposed International Day of Equality. The Forum of SC and ST Parliamentarians also submitted a Memorandum to Hon’ble Rashrapati Ram Nath Kovind subsequently.  I have been occasionally reminding and following up the issue with EAM Sushma Swaraj and PMO by letters and E-mail messages. With a view to solicit support to the proposal, I wrote to the bigwigs of RSS and BJP including Mohan Bhagwat and Amit Shah and also the Congress leaders Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi and Convener of AAP Arvind Kejriwal. I have had an opportunity to mention about the proposal to Mohan Bhagwat in my personal meeting with him in Jalandhar. Besides these high-ups and decision makers, I have been, both formally and informally, taking up the matter with the political leadership viz. Minister Thawar Chand Gehlot, MOS Vijay Sampla, MOS Ramdass Athawale, MOS Hardip Puri, MP Udit Raj, MP Chaudhary Santokh Singh, MP P.L. Punia, MP Kumari Selja among others. The response unfortunately was almost negligible. I have also been urging some members of the civil society, particularly of the dalit community, to consider and put their weight behind the proposal. I took the liberty of even informally consulting and taking advice of my diplomatic colleagues including our PR to UN in New York. They have been forthcoming and candid in approaching the subject.  Everybody tended to support the idea but nobody came forward to raise the flag. I write this with a sense of pain as we all owe too much to Babasaheb Ambedkar. A gesture of support to the idea is the very least we can do to repay the debt of gratitude.

I leave it here with the hope that the political leadership and also the intelligentsia will listen and act in these last months of the Government. Otherwise, we would consider and take up the mater appropriately with the incoming Government.  I am not tired as yet.
It is a strange fact of contemporary history which comes to mind that the more people tried to sideline or ignore Ambedkar; the more he found space for himself. The legacy of Ambedkar is so potent that it will remain relevant in the years to come not only in India but also in the world at large. The temples of learning throughout the world are inclined to study Ambedkar and recognize him. The young generations in resurgent Africa have, of late, started realizing that they needed Ambedkar more than Gandhi. Let us understand which way the wind is blowing, before it is too late.

Friday, April 26, 2019

Changing Slogans in the of Festival Democracy

Changing Slogans in the of Festival Democracy

We are in the midst of the Festival of Democracy – the ongoing parliamentary elections in India. The media has been fully over-powered by the political players and the charged up audience. The money and muscle power is fully in play in the road shows and public meetings and at the road shows. The campaigns have
stooped so low to bad mouthing without any scruples. The new slogans – Chokidar Hi Chor Hai – Mein Bhi ChokidarHoon – Kaamdar Vs Naamdar–Ali Vs Bajrangbali etc. are raising dust and din and is contributing to the political temperature throughout the country.

The Outlook magazine has brought out in its latest issue the subject of “Slogans Zindabad – The changing poll rhetoric in making of modern India.  It prompted me to write something on the subject. Before moving to Delhi in the early 1970s for my bread and butter, I was keenly watching and witnessing the political slugfest as a young student and observer in Jalandhar. My family was politically informed and alive with a focus on Ambedkar and dalit politics in the region. Some of the prevalent slogans and famous quotes, of those days, are still engraved in my mind and memory. Let me share some of these with a view to update ourselves.

I still cherish the poetic lines, referring to Babasaheb Ambedkar, of a local dalit leader Charan Dass Nidhadak – Jhanda Chuk Bagawat Da Tu Baghi Hona Das Giya (You taught us to raise the flag of revolt). Yet another, regretting the inherit inequality in the society, the rustic Nidhadak’s assertion – RabbaDekhda Mere Insaaf Tanin; Je Mein RabTeTuChamarHunda. In the 1960s, the public road shows, famously called Jaloos, used to come alive with slogans viz. – DhanAurDharti Batt KeRahegi; Raat Andheri CuttKeRahegi, Jo Sarkar Nikammi Hai; Woh Sarkar Badalni Hai. The election campaigns will coin interesting slogans – Jhandianwala Peer – It was coined by Congress leader Master Gurbanta Singh’s team to castigate and ridicule his opponent Piara Ram Dhanowali with reference to his professed support from various parties like the Communists and Jan Sangh etc. and carrying their flags on his vehicles and offices. Hathi (Elephant) was the symbol of the Republican Party. One of the local activists, Hans Raj Bhukha, was the supporter of the Republican Party.  His father-in-law named Magar Ram was living in London and the mother-in –law named Atti was back home in Jalandhar.  Hans Raj Bhukha was a poet of sorts and coined an interesting slogan which I remember exactly – Magar Keh Giya Atti Nu; Vote Pauna Hathi Nu (Magar before going to London advised his wife Atti to vote the Elephant). Lahori Ram Balley contested against Sardar Swaran Singh from Jalandhar parliamentary constituency in the mid 1960’s and lost. There was an interesting slogan – Lahori Ram Balley; Sandukadi Reh Gai Khali (Balley’s Ballot Box turned to be empty).

With the changing scenario, the tone and tenor of slogans also changed. In the 1970s, Babu Kanshi Ram appeared on the political firmament of north India like a hurricane. He graduated from BAMCEF and DS4 to BSP with imaginative slogans – Jitni Jis Ki Sankhya Bhari; Utni Us Ki Baghidari (Share in power in
accordance with the population), Bharat Ki Majboori Hai; Kanshi Ram Jaroori Hai (to come with Kanshi Ram is the fait accompli of India). Succumbing to his radical stance, Kanshi Ram coined a sharp slogan – Tilak, TarazuaurTalwar; Inko Maro Jutte Char (Caste based system should be kicked out) – Brahmin, Thakur Bania Chhor; Baki Hain DS4 (Minorities, Dalits and Backwards should get united against the Upper castes) – Babasaheb Ka Kaam Adhura; Kanshi Ram Karenge Poora (Unfulfilled work of Babasaheb Ambedkar will be completed by Kanshi Ram). The successor and protégé of Kanshi Ram changed track to cater to the changing needs and tried to bring along the upper castes and gave a new moderate slogan – Hathi Nahin Ganesh Hai; Brahma Vishnu Mahesh Hai (The Elephant represents Lord Ganesha and the Hindu iconic hierarchy). It is said that politics is a game of possibilities. There is no permanent friendship or enmity in politics. SP of Mulayam Singh Yadav and BSP of Maywati have come together, after long and bitter days of political and social tussle and animosity, to give a fight to PM Narendra Modi and BJP in the on-going parliamentary elections in 2019.

Aya Rams and Gaya Rams of current dispensation like Navjot Singh Sidhu, Udit Raj, Harinder Singh Khalsa, Hans Raj Hans among others tend to sing with the so-called Sufi performer, frankly a negation of the lofty philosophy of Sufism, Hans’ “Dil Modi Modi  Ho Gya; Hun Ki Karye Ki Karye”

Slogans add to the attractions of the Festival of Democracy, No doubt. But it will be known only on May 23 whether “Dil Modi Modi Modi Hota Hai Jan Phir Dil Totte Totte Hota Hai” – Heart beats as Modi Modi or gets broken into pieces.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

The Dance of Democracy – A Tribute to Babasaheb Ambedkar

The Dance of Democracy – A Tribute to Babasaheb Ambedkar

Nine hundred million, a mind boggling figure, are listed and entitled to vote in the ongoing parliamentary elections in India. The exercise, in the biggest democracy of the world, is rightly called ‘Festival of Democracy’.  The beauty of the matter is that it based in the dictum of “One vote – One value” as described by Ambedkar himself in the constituent Assembly. It is gratifying to note that governments come and go smoothly through the ballot under the constitutional arrangements. It is a befitting tribute to the main
architect of the constitution of India, Babasaheb Ambedkar. We are not to rest here. We are still to go a long way. The dust and din of electioneering, washing of dirty linen in public, polarization on communal lines, caste based vote banks, muscle and money power, immoral and unconstitutional methods to reach power are some of the dark spots and challenges which are haunting us and require to be addressed to transform our biggest democracy into a functional democracy. Moreover, as visualized by Babasaheb Ambedkar the political democracy will have no meaning if it is not transformed into a social and economic democracy. We need to re-dedicate ourselves to achieve this lofty goal. I am confident the awakened young electorate will keep these things in mind while voting or say participating in the on-going dance of democracy.

The legacy of Babasaheb Ambedkar is potent and relevant. It must be adopted and carried forward. With a view to cherish and honour that legacy, I suggested in June, 2015 to the government of PM Narendra Modi to declare April 14, birthday of Babasaheb B.R. Ambedkar, as the International Day of Equality with the cooperation of the UN and followed up the matter occasionally with the EAM Sushma Swaraj and PMO. Much water has flown in the Ganges and the Hudson in New York ( the seat of UN) but the proposal is resting at the desks of MEA and PMO. I reminded EAM Sushma Swaraj through an E-mail message recently on March 26, 2019 as follows:

Respected EAM Sushma Swaraj ji,

I am a retired diplomat of IFS. I take the liberty of re-visiting a subject, International Day of Equality - April 14 - Birthday of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, about which I have been writing to you and other high offices. Though nothing has moved, as far as I know, yet I, as a well wisher of the GOI and MEA in particular,  I thought of broaching up the matter for your kind consideration.  The attached Non-Paper on the subject would provide more details. 

You would appreciate that the time is of essence. Any positive decision by the MEA/GOI under your leadership in this regard will have a an immense and lasting impact in generating  much needed goodwill for you and the GOI among the teeming millions and millions of followers of Babasaheb Ambedkar. The birth anniversary of Babasaheb Ambedkar falls on April 14 and the formal announcement may be made appropriately on that day. But early decision and its public pronouncement well before April 11, for obvious reasons of the beginning of the festival of democracy, will go a long way in addressing the cherished wishes not only of the followers of one of the greatest sons of India, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, but also of the international community yearning to establish a just and equitable world order.

I am confident, Madam, my humble submissions would find a due and just consideration with you.

With regards.

(Ramesh Chander)
Ambassador - IFS (Retired)
Tele: 9988510940

 I also twitted the message to her as I was given to understand that she responds to twitter messages promptly. But it seems that they are too busy in the dance of democracy. I am certain they would rush to the statues of Ambedkar to garland and pay glowing tributes to one of the greatest sons on his birth anniversary on April 14 but has no mind and time to respond to the suggestions and proposals of well-meaning ordinary citizens. By ignoring these ground realities, we would be doing so at our own peril. The legacy of Babasaheb Ambedkar will sustain and survive.