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.