Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Punjab Civil Society


Punjab Civil Society

“No fundamental social change occurs merely because government acts. It's because civil society, the conscience of a country, begins to rise up and demand - demand - demand change.” It is a quote from the President Elect Joe Biden of the USA, the oldest and vibrant democracy of the world. Taking a cue from this, we, some of the residents of Jalandhar and its periphery, decided last week, on December 18 to float an outfit, Punjab Civil Society, to discuss and brain storm matters of interest and concern to Punjab and the society at

large as stake holders in the development and progress of the society. It seems, some of us namely; Community Activists Sanjay Kumar, Rakesh Shantidoot, Raman Kumar among others did the necessary ground work in this regard. My association with this endeavor started recently with my meeting with Sanjay Kumar of Delhi followed by an informal meeting of likeminded fellow citizens on a chili afternoon on December 17 at the spacious home of Raman Kumar which was attended by MLA Pargat Singh, Principal Navjot Kaur, Col. Balbir Singh, Dr. Nachattar Singh, Ravinder Dhir among others, besides initiators of the idea Sanjay Kumar and Rakesh Shantidoot. It was agreed to float Punjab Civil Society as a safety valve in the process of political and socio-economic development of our country. The current issue of the farmer’s agitation – Kisan Andolan was discussed and it was decided to support the just cause of farmers and ward of the possibilities of the situation going out of hand. It was also decided to announce the formation of Punjab Civil Society and give our views and extend support to the ongoing farmer’s agitation over an interaction with media. With this introduction, it will not be fair on my part if I don’t add a line, with a sense of gratitude, to thank our hosts for hot Amla-Honey concoction and Masala tea with assorted dry nuts and other savories to beat the seasonal chill at the cozy home of Raman Kumar.

Accordingly, we met at the Training Institute of Co-operative Bank in the heart of Jalandhar, the venue kindly offered gratis by the Director of the Institute, Dr. Nachattar Singh. It was gratifying to note that it was a well attended meeting represented by cross sections of the civil society and media. Rakesh Shantidoot set the ball rolling by his opening statement giving the purpose and agenda of  Punjab Civil Society and also his views on the Kisan Andolan followed by

brief interventions, inter alia, by Ambassador Ramesh Chander, Col. Balbir Singh, Principal Navjot Singh, Ravinder Dhir, MLA Pargat Singh, Raman Kumar. The meeting turned out to be, as expected, a productive and informative interaction with media. Prominent media personalities like Major Singh, I.P. Singh, Surinder Paul among others welcomed and appreciated the newly floated outfit Punjab Civil Society and gave an overview of the prevailing political and socio-economic situation in the country with particular reference to the ongoing Kisan Andolan. In a handout issued at the meeting, Punjab Civil Society appealed to all Punjabis to come forward to serve and save Punjab and give it a right direction, with their active participation, to come out of the existing difficult situation.

I conclude here with the hope that Punjab Civil Society would succeed in doing its intended work to bring about peace and harmony in the society. My initial interaction with some of the highly placed members of the Society has generated very positive vibrations, I must add. I was reminded of Martin Luther King Junior who said and I quote, "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter”

ਆਗਾਜ ਤੋਂ ਅੱਛਾ ਹੈ; ਅੰਜਾਮ ਖੁਦਾ ਜਾਣੇ !






Monday, December 7, 2020

December 6 – Death Anniversary of Babasaheb Ambedkar


December 6 – Death Anniversary of Babasaheb Ambedkar

December 6 was the death anniversary (1956) which is also known as Parinirvan Diwas in Buddhist parlance. It is a matter of increasing satisfaction, in successive years, Parinirvan Diwas of the greatest son of India, Babasaheb Ambedkar is also observed befittingly as his birth anniversary on April 14. It is enough to guess that how potent and relevant his legacy is not only for India but for the world at large. Both the Indian society and polity consciously ignored Ambedkar primarily due to the fact of “manuwadi mindset”. But it could not be sustained for long – Satya Mev Jayate – Truth Always Trumps. I am reminded of an Urdu couplet:

मुन्करेजात तेरी बहस मुस्सल्लम;

मगर यूँ वह कुछ और नुमाया नज़र आता है !

Rightly so, I remained busy in various functions to pay homage to the great icon of humanity, Babasaheb Ambedkar. The main function to observe the Day in Jalandhar was held at Ambedkar Bhawan, the nerve centre of community activities in the area undertaken by the Ambedkarites, as usual organized by Ambedkar Bhawan Trust in coordination with Ambedkar Mission Society and Punjab Chapter of Samta Sainik Dal. It was a well coordinated and well organized

function held in lawns of the Bhawan on a bright sunny day. The Chief Guest at the function was young and dynamic politician of the community MLA Sushil Rinku who was accompanied by yet another MLA, Rajinder Berry. Dr. Gian Kaul and Dr. Ram Lal Jassi, senior Trustees of Ambedkar Bhawan Trust paid rich and wholesome tributes to Babasaheb and set the ball in motion. Chief Guest Sushil Rinku paying befitting tributes to Dr. Ambedkar made an emotional speech and said if he could not something for the community, there was no point in his joining public life as a true Ambedkarite. He promised to stand with the Trust to do their very best in the further development and progress of the hub of the community affairs – Ambedkar Bhawan. Noticing my presence in the audience as an initiator, he consciously and rightly made a reference to the proposal on April 14, birth anniversary of Babasaheb Ambedkar as International Day of Equality and said that he was confident that these efforts will succeed, sooner than later, in according due space to the greatest son of India. Editor Bheem Patrika, Lahori Ram Balley, a legendary Ambedkarite spoke with conviction, as always, and urged the community and the country to get awakened to meet the challenges

of the near future in terms the lofty ideals and directions stipulated by Babasaheb Ambedkar in the constitution of India and otherwise. Three resolutions were passed by voice vote at the function as a commentary on the prevailing situation in the country – i) Condemning Central Government’s decision to discontinue post matric scholarships to dalit students ii) Supporting ongoing Kisan Andolan and iii) Condemning the so called ‘Love Jihad’ laws.  It was rewarding to be there and listen as a humble tribute to Babasaheb on his Parinivan Diwas.

Babasaheb Ambedkar has been traditionally celebrated and remembered with great sense of gratitude in and around Bootan Mandi in Jalandhar, the epic centre of dalit consciousness for long, even during the life time of the great leader. In the evening, a solemn congregation was held at Satguru Ravidass Dham at Bootan Mandi which was led by Swami Balram Rai Virdi and Presidsent of Shri Guru Ravidass Educational and Charitable Trust, Om Parkash Mahey. After the traditional kirtan, missionary poet Param Dass Heer paid poetic tributes to Babasaheb. It was a matter of great satisfaction that, of late, more and more young girls were
participating in such programmes – Himani and Jyoti and Social Activist Rani Puri made brief speeches followed by a budding missionary song writer and singer Babli Virdi. It was just a coincident that all of them spoke with one voice on the importance and need of  education  in the community as underlined by

Babasaheb and the theme of their presentations was that the dictum ‘Pen is mightier than sword’ as demonstrated by the great icon Ambedkar himself. Social Activist and Trustee Paramjit Mahey spoke with aplomb on the role and contribution of Babasaheb in reforming society and setting the direction of the polity of the country. Finance Secretary of the Trust Amar Nath Ram spoke at length and highlighted the struggle of Babasaheb for the betterment of the society and progress of the country. Prof. Mahesh Chander, as usual, conducted the congregation aptly which was concluded by a Vote of Thanks by President Om Parkash and Adras by Swami Balram Rai Virdi.

 I pay my own homage to Babasaheb for his sterling contribution in instilling confidence in the minds and psyche of downtrodden people as aptly wrote by Charan Dass Nidhadak:

ਜਥੇਬੰਦ ਹੋ ਪੈਰਾਂ ਉਤੇ ਆਪ ਖੜੋਣਾ ਦਸ ਗਿਆ;

ਝੰਡਾ ਚੁੱਕ ਬਗਾਵਤ ਦਾ ਉਹ ਬਾਗੀ ਹੋਣਾ ਦਸ ਗਿਆ

Saturday, November 28, 2020

Constitution Day Celebrations


Constitution Day Celebrations

Constitution Day of India is observed on November 26, the day when the constitution of India was formally and finally passed by the Constituent Assembly of India on November 26, 1949. PM Narendra Modi’s government officially instituted the Constitution Day in November, 2015 and ever since it is observed throughout India and beyond with all solemnity and dedication and rightly so.  Governments are expected to do some more to educate the common people to know and respect the constitution with a view to strengthen the edifice of our democratic and secular setup enshrined in the

constitution and further dedicate ourselves to the lofty ideals of Liberty, Equality, Justice and Fraternity to all the citizens of India. It is all the more important to heed to the cautions and warnings given by the Chief Architect of the Constitution, Babasaheb Dr. B.R. Ambedkar on November 25, 1949 in his last speech in the Constituent Assembly before he moved to pass the Constitution not only to transform our newly established political democracy into social and economic democracy but also to ward off the dangers of putting our newly attained independence into peril if we did not conduct ourselves to ‘constitutional’ means as stipulated in the constitution. It is a matter of satisfaction that PM Narendra Modi, in spite of the perceived perception being spread by some of the opposition parties that BJP and its mentors in the RSS intend to subvert and change the constitution to promote their communal agenda, categorically set at rest these rumors many a times and reiterated that the government will do every best to educate the masses particularly the youth to educate them on the salient features of the constitution with a view to entrench and preserve the cardinal principles and values of the constitution. Speaking on the subject on November 26, 2020 in the Conference of Presiding Officers of Legislatures, PM Narendra Modi gave an analogy of KYC – Know Your Costumer as KYC – Know Your Constitution - to spread the much needed awareness about the Constitution of India. It is time to take these things at their face value rather than expressing apprehensions. The constitution of India is an important and potent document capable of dealing with all untoward eventualities, if such a situation arises.

With this background, I may report that I participated, as an apolitical person, in a function to observe Constitution Day arranged by the SC Morcha of BJP in Jalandhar as a lead speaker. It was a good gesture by the BJP leadership. I wish the other parties would have taken such decisions as the constitution belongs to the nation and not to any one party or two. The Constitution Day is to underline the principles and values of our polity and society and it should be a matter of national interest and concern.  While emphasizing the need to avoid the “Grammar of Anarchy” as warned by Dr. Ambedkar if

we continue to follow the “unconstitutional means” to register our demands and protests, I underlined the need to understand, implement and celebrate the constitution with all seriousness as India was India or Bharat because of the constitution alone. At the risk of offending my hosts, I decided to speak my mind and expressed displeasure on the fact that 99% of the audience, I could guess, comprised of people from dalit communities. Why should it be so?  Does the constitution belong only to dalits? There is a need to change the mindset, if we really want to bring about “Samrasta” in the society as propounded by RSS and its affiliates. Others namely; Former Chairman of the Punjab SC Commission Rajesh Bagha, Former Mayor Surinder Mahey, Community Activist Jiwan Singh and Convener of Jalandhar SC Morcha of BJP Bhupinder Kumar among others spoke at length about the constitution and its Chief Architect Babasaheb Ambedkar. It was a well attended function.

In the evening, Shri Guru Ravidass Educational and Charitable Trust observed the Day at Shri Guru Ravidass Dham at Bootan Mandi with Ardas and prayers for the welfare of the community. It was a matter of gratification to note that the young girls of the community, for the first time, participated and presented themselves in a befitting manner. Kashish read the poetic Preamble of the Constitution with an appreciative flare. Kirtan Trainee Ashwina, Jyoti a district topper

of 10th standard, a budding Mountaineer and student of Post Graduate student Priya Ambedkar spoke with full confidence and dedication on the constitution and Babasaheb Ambedkar. Community Activist Paramjit Mahey was the lead speaker at the occasion. As always, he spoke with conviction and in his impressive brief speech cautioned that any attempt to undermine and change the fundamentals of the constitution may result in bloody reaction and added that, as true followers of Babasaheb, we should try our best to diminish such an eventuality. Poetic interventions were provided by acclaimed poets, Param Dass Heer and Rajinder Thapar. Finance Secretary of the Trust and Former GM of Coal India Amar Nath Ram gave the vote of thanks and spoke at length about the constitution. I, along with Swami Balram Rai, was invited to the podium to honour the poets and young girl participants with Saropas and copies of the Constitution of India which was a pleasure. I will not conclude this piece without appreciating and congratulating the management headed by Om Prakash Mahey, particularly Prof. Mahesh Chander, who thoughtfully chalked out and aptly conducted the programme, the Trust and the Dham for arranging this befitting event and involving the young girls of the community. I wish them all the best for further success.

The Constitution of India will remain and prevail to make India stand up to meet the challenges of 21st century.




Thursday, November 12, 2020

Shree Guru Ravidass Vishva Mahapeeth


Shree Guru Ravidass Vishva Mahapeeth

Shree Guru Ravidass Vishva Mahapeeth is a registered NGO as a Charity organization to carry forward the mission and philosophy of the great Guru Ravidass ji Maharaj with a view to bring about ‘samrasta’ in the society as visualized by our forefathers and stipulated in the constitution of India.  Ever since its inception and formation, my friends and other community activists, have been informally associating me with the Mahapeeth considering my open ended approach to support the good activities undertaken by anyone for the welfare of the weaker and marginalized sections of the society, irrespective of their political affiliations. Shree Guru Ravidass Vishva Mahapeeth professes to be a non-political outfit but it was clear to me that it was backed and supported by the RSS and

BJP and their allies. Still I decided, though I am an apolitical man, to be in their touch for the good of the society as the mission and philosophy of Guru Ravidass is as relevant today as it was before in the context of ‘Samrasta” and ‘Equality, Justice and Fraternity”, the lofty ideals of Babasaheb Ambedkar for the socio-economic well being of the country and the society at large.  Another factor which worked at the back of my mind, when consciously I continued to relate myself with the Mahapeeth, was that the community lacked a well oiled mechanism to carry forward the agenda of the community to integrate it with the main stream of the society and such an outfit was much needed. I thought Shree Guru Ravidass Vishva Mahapeeth would fill that vacuum, created and supported knowingly or otherwise by the ‘Derawad” which tended to generate divisive tendencies, under the aegis of well established and well to do organizations as RSS/BJP among others. At this juncture, I only hope Shree Guru Ravidass Vishva Mahapeeth would provide a much needed platform to the followers of Guru Ravidass all over world to stand and unite to vouch for the interests of the community as a ‘watchdog’ and a ‘pressure group’ to interact with governments/administrations of the day.

The Punjab chapter of Shree Guru Ravidass Vishva Mahapeeth held their first formal meeting to announce its organizational set on November 10, 2020 in Jalandhar. National General Secretary, Rajesh Bagha and Punjab head of the Mahapeeth, Manjit Bali invited me the meeting as a ‘Sarprasth’ or supporter of the Mahapeeth and I humbly accepted the invitation. It was a well organized event at a prestigious

venue at Hotel Kamal Grand as I wished to see and explained above. It was not a public meeting as such only senior functionaries and newly appointed office bearers from all over Punjab participated in it. Some important observers and well wishers of the community like Former Chief Parliamentary Secretary Avinash Chander among others were also present in the meetings. The function started with the traditional ceremony of lighting of lamp and offerings of flowers to Guru Ravidass and Maharishi Valmik. Manjit Bali welcomed the guests and the participants and set the ball in motion by starting the self introduction of all the newly appointed office bearers. It was good to note that it represented cross sections of the community from all over Punjab. It was, to my mind, a good beginning. National Secretary General of the Mahapeeth Rajesh Bagha congratulated the new team of the Mahapeeth and said that he was confident that they would deliver and succeed in uniting the community for the larger good of the society. Vijay Pal, a senior functionary of the Vishva Hindu Parishad committed all support to the Mahapeeth in promoting the lofty philosophy of the great Guru Ravidass ji. National Secretary General of the Mahapeeth, Suraj Bhan Kararia spoke with conviction and said that the Mahapeeth had already acquired a due space in the system in a short time of its establishment and gave a few examples like its reprehensive role in the Tughlakabad Mandir of Guru Ravidass ji in Delhi and added that we would see to it a grand and befitting Mandir would be built as a solemn tribute to the Sant Shiromani Guru Ravidass. He also said that it was a matter of gratification that the current government of PM Narendra Modi considered favorably the suggestions made by the Mahapeeth in appointing SCs to some of the high constitutional posts. Kataria Sahib also announced the appointment of Former MoS Vijay Sampla as the International Vice President and Ambassador Ramesh Chander as the International Spokesman of the Mahapeeth. On his turn, Vijay Sampla Sahib made an impressive and emotional speech and accepted his new assignment in the Mahapeeth. He underlined the fact that we, the so called dalits, had given the family and social life and values to the country and the humanity at large in the form of Mahabharata by Ved Vyas and Ramayana by Maharishi Valmik and added that in the contemporary times Babasaheb Ambedkar gave us the constitution to run the country. He cajoled the community to be proud of this and assert themselves for their rights. Ambassador Ramesh Chander in his brief remarks humbly accepted his nomination as International Spokesman of the Mahapeeth and said it was his pleasure to associate and work, as an apolitical person, with Shree Guru Ravidass Vishva Mahapeeth with an open mind in the efforts to bring about ‘samrasta’ in the society as visualized by Guru Ravidass in his message – Keh Ravidass Khalas Chamara; Jo Hum Sehri so Meet Hamara. National President of the Mahapeeth, MLA of Uttrakhand Suresh Rathore in his presidential remarks thanked the newly appointed office bearers and said that we all will strive to make Shree Guru Ravidass Vishva Mahapeeth under the stewardship of MP Dushyant Gautam a world-class organization to promote and spread the lofty mission and philosophy of Guru Ravidass and Bhagwan Valmik not only in India but also in the entire world. He endorsed the proposal of Rajesh Bagha that the 650th Gurpurab of Guru Ravidass which would fall in the second half of the next decade will be celebrated with all gaiety and solemnity as a befitting tribute to the great Guru with 650 events/functions during the year and asked the office bearers of the Mahapeeth to prepare and get ready for these celebrations. Explaining the rationale of setting up the Mahapeeth he said that we meant “Samvaad” and not Vivaad” to intergrate dalits to the main stream of the society. Welcoming Ambassador Ramesh Chander’ association with the Mahapeeth, he said that there were many IAS, IPS and others with us and it was a matter of satisfaction that now Punjab has given us an IFS, an acclaimed diplomat to work with the Mahapeeth.  The function was concluded with the Aarti of Guru Ravidass – Naam Tero Aarti Majan Murare invoking the blessings of Guru Ravidass followed by a good working luncheon.

Monday, November 9, 2020

Future of Dalits and Minorities in the Indian Democracy


Future of Dalits and Minorities in the Indian Democracy

Jaagda Punjab, a socio-political NGO steered by Prof. Manjit Singh and Dr. Sukhdev Singh Sirsa and others organized a seminar at the prestigious venue in Jalandhar  – Desh Bhagat Yadgar Hall on November 7 on the topical subject “Future of Dalits and Minorities in the Indian Democracy. On information and an open invitation

from my friend Lakhvinder Johal of Punjab Press Club on Facebook, I ventured to get out in these days of self-restraint in the wake of Corona virus to listen to the well placed main speakers – Prof. Apoorva Nand of Delhi University and MLA Pargat Singh. I was not disappointed as the seminar was a well conducted event with well-meaning contents, relevant and of interest in context of the ongoing situation in the country.

Prof. Manjit Singh set the ball in motion with his introductory remarks and informed that Jaagta Punjab was a newly formed outfit to provide a platform to create much needed awareness in Punjab about the prevailing situation in the country and put the things in perspective. Principal Navjot Kaur of Layalpur Khalsa College spoke spiritedly from the Left point of view and lamented that Indian democracy was not in its best of health to communal and sectarian forces gaining strength. She was of the view that the term ‘dalit’ should not be confined to caste/birth based criteria but to economic and political marginalization. The other speakers did not agree with her and said that as long as caste remains a factor all so called low castes would remain dalits. Member of the Punjab SC Commission, Gian Chand spoke and gave a good and clear presentation on the subject. He said that it was a matter of great regret that the lofty vision of our forefathers was willfully being distorted for narrow political agenda. MLA Pargat Singh, a sober and dedicated politician who was rightly introduced as an ‘honest politician’ chose not to speak much on the theme of the seminar but asserted himself on the dismal and worrisome situation in Punjab and the country at large, created by the wrong policies and self centered fellow politicians. He spoke with conviction but in the process touched a much maligned subject of ‘Reservations to Dalits’ which was taken as an anti reservation stand by some sitting in the audience during the later interaction. The main speaker Prof. Apoorva Nand in his speech referred to MLA Pargat Singh’s views and set the position in its right perspective by saying that Reservations would remain as enabling provisions till the social inequalities remain. Prof Apoorva Nand, as the lead speaker, spoke with clarity and authority on the subject of the seminar as a scholar and a good communicator.  He gave all relevant details and said that it was unfortunate that dalit and minority rights were much threatened particularly since 2014 when the Hindu Right Wingers came to power at the Centre and in many States of India. He referred to the recent happenings in France, Austria and other places in Europe in which Muslim minority was involved and appreciated the correct stand taken by the restive governments in those countries in dealing with the minority. Prof. Apoorva Nand was candid in his views that it was a matter of concern that dalits and minorities were not treated fairly in India and our secular and democratic credentials were under strain due to communal polarization which was intentionally created by the ruling outfits. He gave the examples of the terms like ‘love jihad’ in currency these days, recent legislation on citizenship, Bhima-Koregaon and Hathras incident, inter alia to support and justify his observations. I was surprised and much appreciative of the one assertion he made in the course of his well argued presentation. It pertained to the Sikh Riots of 1984 – ‘Katlogarat’ in his words. He candidly said that all along we have been trying to step-aside the truth consciously that more than 4000 Sikhs were butchered during the ‘Katlogarat’ and added that it could not have happened or committed by a handful of politicians. It was an act of the communally oriented majority community, he hinted obliquely. It was a bold statement which the worthy speaker made with a sense of intellectual honesty. Later during my brief interjection I took the opportunity to compliment Apoorva Nand’s guts and ability to say what he felt. Dr. Sukhdev Singh Sirsa ably answered some of the queries and observations raised by the discerning members of the audience.

Later at the working luncheon/langar, I briefly interacted with the organizers and Prof. Apoorva Nand and his gracious wife. Both of them partook their food with us standing at the fag end of the queue unlike most of the Chief Guests/VIPs in such functions. I was impressed by their simplicity and down to earth demeanor.

Friday, November 6, 2020

Charan Dass Nidhadak – An Unsung Dalit Leader


Charan Dass Nidhadak – An Unsung Dalit Leader

Since long I have been thinking of writing about an unsung dalit leader, a staunch Ambedkarite and community activist of yesteryears – Charan Dass Nidhadak. I tried to find some information about his early life and origins from some of my friends and acquaintances and also on Google but could not succeed. It is a matter of pity that we tend to forget and ignore our leaders easily, particularly those who were simple and quite. Charan Dass Nidhadak was one of them. It is also a matter of further regret that there are some well recognized people around, with whom Nidhadak Sahib worked to carry forward the caravan of Babasaheb Ambedkar, are willfully and consciously reluctant to remember and recognize him. With this background at the back of my mind, I thought of remembering Charan Dass Nidhadak who had left a good impression on my mind during my formative years in Jalandhar in the 1960s.

Nidhadak Sahib was a tall personality always dressed in Khaki with a well groomed stick in hand and an impressive khaki Pathani turban with “Kulla” – a cosmetic mount in the middle. He looked like a ‘Thanedar’ to a common man. I understand he was a native of some village near Phagwara near Jalandhar. In the 1950s, at a middle age of around 50, he was already a recognized leader of Ad-dharam

Mandal, Scheduled Caste Federation and later continued with Republican Party. I distinctly remember yet another young leader of these dalit outfits, Lahori Ram Balley and Duni Chand Shahpuri, Piara Ram Dhanowali, Ajit Kumar among others, always introduced Nidhadak Sahib as a ‘Bazurg Aggu’ - an experienced and senior leader. Nidhadak Sahib was a missionary poet of sorts apart from an impressive and excellent communicator as a speaker with his rustic style tinged and laced with witty and humorous anecdotes and narrations. People liked him as a son of the soil though he did not have any grade of formal education. He enjoyed his prowess of making his audience spell bound and relaxed in public meetings – Jalsas. Nidhadak Sahib reached the higher echelons of Republican party and rightly so. He aalso played an important role and contributed to the struggle of community including the RPI agitation of 1964.  I read some of his missionary poems and songs in the Bheem Patrika, a mouth piece of  ‘Ambedkar Thought’ edited by Lahori Ram Balley till he parted company with Charan Dass Nidhadak and others on the issue of Punjabi Suba in 1965-66. I also vividly recall Charan Dass Nidhadak often visiting my father and others, as a PR exercise to remain with the roots, listening to him with interest as he used to narrate interesting and funny stories with ease. In the process, I liked and appreciated his songs and poetry sung by a Tumbi singer Lal Chand Kamla of Reru village in public meetings and occasional recordings done by Seth Mool Raj the scion of the family of Seth Kishan Dass, my fellow Bootan Mandian and a close associate of Babasaheb Ambedkar, with his prestigious recording machine with spools. I even mugged some of his poems/songs like:-

 ‘Rabba Dekhda Mere Insaf tahin; Je Mein Rabb Te Tun Chamar Hunda’ and ‘Jhanda Chak Baghawat Da Tun Baghi Hona Das Gya’, ‘Bhim Rao Ve Gulab Deya Phula; Mein Tere Utton Jaan Vaar Ti’.

 Back home after a long diplomatic career, I always felt like knowing and reading more of Nidhadak Sahib. I could not find much. With great effort, I could get a Xeroxed copy his published poems from a book vendor located at Ambedkar Bhawan at Nakodar Road. It will not be out of place to mention that Charan Dass Nidhadak was one
of the founders of the Ambedkar Bhawan, a nerve centre of the Ambedkar mission and philosophy in the region. Alas! Nidhadak Sahib died as an unsung hero of the community. He deserved much better. With this, I close this with respect and regard to Charan Dass Nidhadak, a leader by his own right. One of his poems “Paati Hoi Tasveer” is as relevant today as it was before.


Thursday, October 22, 2020

Dealing with China – Out of the Box Diplomacy


Dealing with China – Out of the Box Diplomacy

Much has happened since 1962- October 20 of 1962 is still alive in the collective memory of India when China humiliated us in a short war in Ladakh and NEFA regions, in shaping relations between India and China. China was always aggressive and dominating in dealing with India and its leadership and more so after the events of 1962. India on the other side opted to be accommodative and reconciliatory to ‘appease China’ and buy peace as often analyzed by experts. But it has been amply demonstrated and proved that peace and respect

cannot be purchased, it has be earned and preserved by one’s own strength. India has failed; it seems, to convince China of its bona fide credentials to establish good relations with China as good neighbors to mutual advantage. What could be done? Nothing, as ‘we cannot change our neighbors’. We are to live with them. China’s policy is clear and loud. It wants India to remain on toes and distracted to find its due space in the comity of nations on one hand and keep India engaged in non-productive pursuits to retard its internal development and prosperity. It will remain so and we are to live with it.

I have no intention of going into the usual facts and figures but to confine my observations to the ground realities with particular reference to the ongoing standoff – military, political and diplomatic – of which there is no solution in sight. There is also no point in harping on the said mistakes and errors done by our leadership from Jawaharlal Nehru to Manmohan Singh and the views of leaders like Sardar Patel, Babasaheb Ambedkar, Ram Manohar Lohia and the so called ‘nationalists’ of the BJP and RSS. PM Narendra Modi’s government enjoys an overwhelming majority in the parliament. PM Narendra Modi is assertive and decisive. His Ministers like Dr. S. Jaishankar and Hardip Singh Puri are consummate diplomats with proven track records as practitioners of diplomacy. It is time to act with ‘Out of the Box’ approaches to deal with China. We need to modify our China Policy accordingly. We are a democratic polity. The government ought to take the opposition into confidence and try to develop consensus on these issues. The opposition parties would, hopefully, understand the imperatives and behave responsibly in the larger interests of the country.

With this, not as an expert but an ordinary citizen, I come to the crux and list some of the points which could be considered as ‘Out of the Box’ which may be considered to deal with China as a dignified big country and also a responsible member of the international community. It is said that external policy of a country is an extension of its internal situation. First of all, we are to take care of our internal situation – social and communal cohesiveness, secular and

At the Peking Railway Station

democratic edifice, economic development to better economically and socially marginalized sections of the society, economic self reliance and vocal for local as visualized by PM Narendra Modi and rightly so, impetus to ‘Make in India’ to strengthen the industrial base, mutually beneficial foreign trade. Once India becomes self reliant internally, we would be ready to face our external challenges more effectively including our on going and unending problems with our hostile neighbors like China, Pakistan and others. Here, I would confine this piece to only China with some suggestions ‘Out of the Box’ diplomatic, political and military responses.

-         Being ‘goody-goody’ with China has not worked. We are to learn to pay back in the same coin. Offence is also a mode of defense. We should not shy away from blaming and shaming China wherever and whenever such an opportunity arises to counter China’s considered approach and agenda on issues like – support to Pakistani terrorism against India, Kashmir issue, NSG, UNSC, instigation to neighbors etc. Why we should not exploit the human rights situation in China with particular focus on Uyghur’s in Xinxiang, Tibetans in Tibet? Indian Muslims and Tibetans living in India should be encouraged to interact and cooperate with their brethren in China with a view to stand with them in addressing their problems with China. We may always justify it as we are a democratic polity and an open society.

-         Accord Dalai Lama his due as a Head of the Tibetan Government in Exile. Support Dalai Lama in his crusade to safe guard autonomy and special status within China, keeping in line with our current policy on the status of Tibet.

-         Establish robust relations with Taiwan under the given situation and our adherence to ‘One China Policy’ like the USA.

-         Nail China on its willful repressive handling of situation in Hong Kong in consultation with the UK and other stake holders. We may always justify it as Hong Kong is the home of several lakhs of people of Indian origin.

-         Encourage people to people contacts among Chinese Buddhists and their Indian spiritual counterparts and brethren.

-         Intensify and strengthen cooperation with ASEAN countries and also newly established framework under QUAD.

-         Work and cooperate with the USA, UK, Russia and EU to contain China in its ‘expansionist’ policies.


I know that it is easier said than done. These are sensitive and difficult issues which require ‘Out of the Box’ approaches to deal with our hostile and cunning adversary. But it is also a fact we are to deal with these problems willfully created by a hostile neighbor. Our China Policy requires an overhaul which only a strong and stable government can do by engaging the opposition and intelligentsia of the contrary in the process. Political will supported by our diplomatic skills is the answer. Hard decisions are needed with a pro-active approach rather than responding to the situations created by our adversaries. There is no other way. These are the personal views of a novice.


Ye Khamoshi Kahan Tak? Lazzat-e-Faryad Paida Kar
Zameen Par Tu Ho Aur Teri Sada Ho Asmanon Mein

(How long will you remain silent? Create taste for complaint!
You should be on the earth, so your cries be in the heavens!)

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Analytical Commentary on Poona Pact of 1932


Analytical Commentary on Poona Pact of 1932

I have written about Poona Pact of 1932 signed between Mahatma Gandhi and Babasaheb Ambedkar a couple of times before and gave my views. The anniversary of the Pact falls on September 24. Editor Prem Chumber of the Ambedkar Times invited me to write a piece on the subject for the esteemed paper. I was a bit lethargic as much has been said and written on the subject and moreover now, it has no practical relevance and it has gone to the realm of history. An immediate provocation to say something again on Poona Pact was the video message of a staunch Ambedkarite and an intellectual living legend Lahori Ram Balley which I heard on Facebook a little while ago. I am not inclined to go to the facts and figures in this regard and would limit myself to a running commentary on the importance of Poona Pact and how it contributed in bringing the depressed classes on the political map and agenda of India in the subsequent landmark events of India Act, 1935 and finally the Constitution of India. In fact, in other words, it turns out to be a

tribute to the sagacity and integrity of the one of the greatest sons of India, Babasaheb Ambedkar on one hand and the suspect attitude of Mahatma Gandhi in blackmailing Ambedkar to watch and protect the interests of the Hindu society at large at the cost of dalits on one hand and the treachery of the ruling elite after independence on the other by not faithfully implementing the special provisions made for the Scheduled Castes to give practical shape to the understandings stipulated in the Poona Pact in all sincerity and solemnity. I think, that is why, later Ambedkar himself termed the Pact a “mean deal” as it could not deliver as promised and visualized both by the society and also by the polity.

The Separate Electorates to the depressed Classes in line with the similar provisions for Muslims, Christians, Sikhs etc granted in the Communal Award of PM Ramsey MacDonald was the result of Ambedkar’s untiring efforts and assertions at the Round Table Conferences much against the agenda and wishes of Mahatma Gandhi who wanted dalits to remain in the fold of Hindus. Mahatma Gandhi tried his best to convince the British rulers in Delhi and London to undo the Separate Electorates offered to dalits in the Communal Award but failed. He flouted his usual weapon of “fast” to exploit and compel the British rulers on one hand and also the recognized leader of depressed classes, Babasaheb Ambedkar on the other. Gandhi started his “fast unto death” in the Yerawada jail in Poona where he was detained. It was one of the cunning tactics of caste Hindus led by Gandhi to stop a separate identity of dalits and to defeat Ambedkar. The whole country was made to stand and oppose separate electorates to the depressed classes. The atmosphere was so vitiated with hatred that Babasaheb was condemned as anti-national and anti- Hindu. He was threatened to be killed before something untoward happened to Gandhi. The wife of Gandh, Kasturba made appeals of mercy to Babasaheb to save the life of her husband. Hindu fundamentalists like Babu Rajendra Prasad, C. Rajagopalachari, Madan Mohan Malaviya among others appealed and requested Babasaheb Ambedkar to save the life of Gandhi by rejecting the separate electorates to dalits and remaining in the Hindu fold. It was a very difficult and critical preposition before the sole leader of the depressed classes. On one side, he was to abandon and forego voluntarily the gains and advantage he himself achieved at the Round Table Conferences and otherwise for the benefit of the depressed classes and on the other to prove his credentials as a nationalist and a caring leader for the overall good of the main stream of the society. There were threats to his life. Balley Sahib in his message which I mentioned before narrated a historical fact of an editorial written by Mahasha Krishan in the Urdu paper The Partap published from Lahore where he threatened that Ambedkar must be careful and considerate in taking the decision as dictated by the Hindu leaders led by Mahatma Gandhi otherwise before the final rites of the Mahatma, if he died in his “fast unto death, the funeral of Ambedkar would be held before that. One can easily gauge the gravity of the situation. Ambedkar was not only a consummate intellectual politician who not only knew the universally accepted dictum ‘politics is an art of the possible’ but also subscribed to the lofty ideals of compassion and morality of the Buddha. As a true nationalist and recognizing the value of Mahatma Gandhi’s role as a leading light of the freedom movement and also his preference to bring about cohesiveness in the society at large instead of ushering the country into communal divide and hatred decided to cooperate and agreed to the submissions of Mahatma Gandhi and other Hindu leaders which resulted in the famous Poona Pact of 1932. Babasaheb Ambedkar was a negotiator par excellence. He tried his best and convinced the Hindu leaders to see the situation of the depressed classes in the Hindu fold and do something concrete to ameliorate their sufferings in the Manuwadi set up. There was no option with the Gandhi camp. In the Poona Pact, Ambedkar got more facilities and enabling provisions for the depressed classes than offered in the Communal Award by the British rulers. Not only the reserved seats in the legislature but also special provisions in education and socio-economic aspects with a view to integrate dalits with the main stream of the society as equal partners. With this the much maligned concept of ‘Reservation” was born which finally found enumeration in the Constitution of India of which Babasaheb himself was the architect and pilot. The opponents of ‘Reservation” for dalits are ill-

informed and half educated that nobody offered the special provisions of reservation etc. on the platter out of magnanimity and compassion but were achieved with ardent and consistent efforts and sacrifices by Dr. Ambedkar and his associates and the suffering masses. The spirit of Poona Pact will remain alive under the overall impact and implementation of the Constitution of India. The only negation which comes to my mind is that by foregoing the separate electorates, dalits lost an edge in electing their true representatives in the parliament, legislatures and municipal bodies. Perhaps this is the reason by Manyawar Kanshi Ram called them “Chamchas” and some of the dalit activists opposed the Poona Pact. Let us leave it to historians to judge and give their verdict.

All said and done, I have no hesitation in saying that whatever Ambedkar Sahib did and accomplished in signing the Poona Pact was a master-stroke in the given times and circumstances under difficult and trying conditions. Babasaheb proved himself as a great and visionary leader. With this, I remember Poona Pact of 1932 the harbinger of political and social space for dalits  in the map of India. Salutes to Babasaheb Ambedkar.

Monday, September 14, 2020

Let us remind the Government of India – International Day of Equality

I have been writing in these columns about the proposal on April 14, birthday of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, as International Day of Equality which is resting with the Ministry of External Affairs since June, 2015. Along with our associates and supporters – Chetna Association of Canada and Federation of Ambedkarite and Buddhists Organizations of UK among others, we have been following up the proposal in all possible ways.  We are to go a long way and we not oblivious of these ground realities.  As I wrote earlier that it is by a design or chance that Ambedkar never got

anything easily in his life time. But it is also a fact that his mission and legacy is so potent that it could not be ignored or side-tracked for long. I think it is equally 
true for the proposal on International Day of Equality. It will get acceptance and approval sooner than later. The powers and people who tend to ignore it now would fall on each other to own it and flag their role in making it a reality. Let us do something on our part and support the proposal on International Day of Equality to pay a befitting tribute to one of the greatest sons of India in the contemporary times on one hand and to instill the much needed sense of the lofty ideals of “Equality, Liberty, Justice and Fraternity” so beautifully enshrined in the Constitution of India by Babasaheb Ambedkar on the other.

Picking up the threads after some rest and lethargy due to Corona situation, I wrote and reminded the Minister of External Affairs of

the Government of India, Dr. S. Jaishankar on the subject on September 13, 2020 under endorsement to PM Narendra Modi and requested them to kindly consider and make a demarche to the UN in this regard and include in the proposal in their speeches at the forthcoming UNGA scheduled to be held in the last week of September, 2020. My letter may be seen below. May I urge and request all of my readers and supporters of the proposal to kindly write to EAM Dr. S. Jaishankar and PM Narendra Modi to kindly consider the proposal on International Day of Equality and take it up appropriately with the UN. The letter has also been copied to the SC Ministers in the Government of India but unfortunately, I regret to say, they are silent as if the proposal will shake up their cozy chairs in the coveted positions which they enjoy because of non other than Ambedkar.

I am reminded of an Urdu couplet of Faiz Ahmed Faiz:

Ek tarz-e-taghaful hai so woh un ko mubarak,,

Ek arz-e-tamana hai so woh hum karte rahenge.


(She/He is blessed with the style of neglect,

As for me, my expression of desire, that will continue)


Text of the letter of September 13, 2020 addressed to EAM Dr. S. Jaishankar.


September 13, 2020


Hon’ble EAM Dr. Jaishankar Sahib,


I am writing this with reference to my letter of April 15, 2020 on the proposal of declaring April 14, the birthday of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar as International Day of Equality resting with the MEA since June, 2015. My letter of April 15 is appended as an enclosure to this for ready reference.


I am not oblivious of your busy schedule and pre-occupations due to India’s increasing engagement and profile internationally and also the ongoing matters of security and defense besides difficulties of corona pandemic. Nevertheless, I thought of reminding you of the matter and requesting for your kind consideration in view of the forthcoming UNGA in the last week of September, 2020.


I may add here, Sir, the proposal on International Day of Equality has been well received and supported by the followers of Babasaheb Ambedkar and intelligentsia in general both at home and abroad. It will only be appropriate, if the MEA under your able stewardship and GOI under the leadership of PM Narendra Modi, to consider and decide to make a demarche to the UN to declare April 14 as International Day of Equality. You would appreciate that it will not only give a befitting tribute to one of greatest Indian icons of contemporary India but also give further impetus to our soft diplomacy to support the lofty ideals of “Equality, Liberty and Fraternity” so beautifully enshrined in the Preamble of the Constitution of India.


I, as one of your humble colleagues, take this opportunity to greet you and wish you all the best in steering the foreign policy of India in the days to come. Your kind efforts and support in getting declared International Day of Equality will add yet another feather in your hat.


With personal regards,


Yours truly,


(Ramesh Chander)


Dr. S. Jaishankar,

Minister of External Affairs,

New Delhi


Copy to: Hon’ble PM Narendra Modi, PMO, New Delhi




Thursday, September 10, 2020

Laughter – Spice of Life – 5


Laughter – Spice of Life – 5

Laughter from our daily routine is drying up, unfortunately. Someone has rightly said “Politics is the gentle art of getting votes from the poor and campaign funds from the rich by promising to protect each from the other.” It fully justifies what has happened in India so far. There is no alignment or polarization on the basis of ideology and programme. All political outfits and the players in the game are the same. BJP, it seems, is having one item agenda of blaming Nehru-Gandhi family and the Congress Party for every problem of the country. And to say something on the opposition, I am reminded of a political assertion which became an instant joke. In the early years of our independence, Congress party boasted of a network of canals for irrigation and termed the majestic Bhakra Dam as a ‘Temple of

modern India’ and claimed that soon there would be agricultural revolution. The opposition, say the communists, countered it and said that the water being given by these canals and dams would be of no use as the electricity had already been extracted from the water. The common man did not know the nitty-gritty of this and was further confused by the clever politicians.

In a recent article in the Hindustan Times, the Congress leader Abhisek Manu Singhavi thoughtfully quoted Delhi High Court’s humorous assertion in a case, “The viewers who want to watch action films should (instead watch TV debates on current affairs…”. For the last more than a month, all the TV channels, particularly those who tend

to stand with the powers in Delhi are obsessed with the death of actors Sushant and Rhea as if that is the only problem the country is facing. Yet another actor Kangana has also joined the league and TV channels have picked up the threads as usual, some spicy material to sideline the real issues on which governments are supposed to answer questions. Who says there are no comic movements in politics and governance in India?

It seems the authorities have washed their hands of the corona virus and have accepted it as ‘an act of God”. The responses to fight the virus are – wash hands, wear mask and keep social distance and be “aatmnirbhar”. The thalibajao and light the candle gimmicks are

forgotten. The worrying factor is, India has reached a figure of 45 lakh positive cases with about 75 thousand deaths with daily addition of almost one lakh of infected cases. It seems the situation is getting alarming every passing day. We are busy in discussing the charming actors of Bollywood, naming the critics as anti-nationals, banning the books on riots, contempt of court etc. When will we mature and control the noises of intellectual hypocrites - ‘Bharat PuchtaHai” a catch line of Republic Bharat TV channel. Can we stop this joke on the nation called India?

Here are some jokes in circulation, though people are scared to narrate even jokes lest they are termed as anti-nationals:

A telling comment on treatment meted out to actor Rhea:

रिया चक्रवर्ती और सैनिटाइज़र की हालत एक जैसी है!
पहले कोई नहीं जानता था, अब सब हाथ धोकर पीछे पड़े हैं!

Good explanation of love to convince a grumbling wife:

Wife: Why can't I feel/see your love and affection for me?
Husband: It’s asymptomatic love!

I conclude as usual with a poetic quote taken from the social media:

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Ambassador K.S. Bajpai – A Humble Tribute

Ambassador K.S. Bajpai – A Humble Tribute

Ambassador Katyayani Shankar Bajpai, worthy son of the legendary administrator and one of the finest diplomats Sir Girija Shankar Bajpai passed away on August 30. It seems an era of Indian diplomacy has come to a silent closing. I, as a junior and a humble member of the IFS fraternity of India, am in no position to say much on the professional and intellectual prowess of Ambassador Bajpai except the well documented fact that he played an important role in the integration of Sikkim to India. He served as India’s High

Commissioner in Pakistan, Ambassador to China and the USA in quick succession, all the three important countries in the diplomatic edifice of India. If my memory does not fail me, he was the first serving Indian career diplomat to be appointed as Ambassador to the USA. Bajpai Sahib proved his mettle fully as an excellent diplomat.

I will venture to write about his qualities of head and heart as a concerned boss, particularly to the juniors down the line and an excellent human being with a golden heart. I worked with and under Bajpai Sahib in Peking (Beijing) in 1980-81 as an Attaché. He was approachable and communicative with the staff members as a fatherly figure. On festive and social occasions like the national days and festivals, he, along with his wife, Meera Madam and occasionally their two young sons, would join and mingle with the members of the staff and their families and make them feel at ease. His legendary hospitality with a variety of cakes and other snacks were always at play on such occasions. I distinctly remember that at one of the Diwali celebrations at the Embassy compound, he was fully involved with children in exploding crackers and making them

Diwali at Peking

happy. He even, towards the end of the party, invited everybody to play a couple of card games with small monetary stakes to “ward off the bad spirits” in his own words. Another touching anecdote which I vividly recall depicts his humility even further while dealing with his junior staff members. Bajpai Sahib came back to the MEA as one of the Secretaries. I was already back in MEA. One of our staff members in Peking Vinod Saxena was in Delhi for his marriage. He had invited Bajpai Sahib to the marriage but I didn’t know. On the day of marriage, around lunch time, I bumped into Bajpai Sahib at the main gate of the MEA by chance. We greeted each other. Bajpai Sahib enquired whether I was going for the marriage of that boy (he could not recall the name) who was working in Peking with us? I said yes Sir, Vinod, I would go. He made me follow him to his office and gave me an envelope to be handed over to Vinod Saxena and asked me to convey his good wishes and congratulations to him. I myself felt humbled by the gesture of Bajpai Sahib. Bajpai Sir was a great man.

Bajpai Sahib was an officer of unimpeachable integrity, to my mind. On his joining at Peking on transfer from Islamabad sometime in 1980, as Attaché Accounts, I told him, as per the rules, that he can draw some percentage of Representational Grant of the Ambassador in addition to his own Grant for the period for which there was no Ambassador in Peking before his arrival. He did not agree and was rather surprised and argued how can it be when he was not in Peking? I showed him the IFS (PLCA) Rules. But still he was not convinced and advised me to ask Delhi. The matter was referred to MEA and prompt came a reply that our interpretation of the rule was correct and Ambassador can draw against expenditure, of course, a fixed portion of unutilized RG of the Ambassador. Any lesser man could have availed of the grant as advised by the Administration at the first go but Bajpai Sahib was a different man. Bajpai Sahib was very kind to me and I must register my sense of gratitude here. On my transfer from Peking, in spite of my lowly position in the hierarchy of the Embassy and as it was not the practice, Bajpai Sahib invited me and my wife Vidya for a personal dinner at the Embassy Residence that too after checking with me whether we would like to come home or go to some restaurant, besides the routine official farewell at the Embassy. We were overwhelmed by the hospitality and generosity of Ambassador Bajpai Sahib and his gracious wife. Later I briefly met him in Prague in the office of Ambassador P.S. Raghvan sometime in 2006 on one of their touristic visits.

With these anecdotes of humane grace, apart from Ambassador K.S. Bajpai’s professional impact and contribution to Indian diplomacy which is well documented and known, I close it as my humble tribute to the great man, Bajpai Sahib.