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.