Jalandhar – Citadel of Dalits of Punjab
Jalandhar is one of the important ‘smart cities’ of Punjab. Immediately after partition in 1947 and in the run up to building the capital city of Chandigarh, Jalandhar enjoyed the status of un-official capital of Punjab as well as a centre of excellent educational institutions and a hub of print media for northern India. Jalandhar boasted of cultural glory with Harbalabh Sangeet Sammelan, educational excellence with DAV and Doaba Colleges, media
|Att the Hall of Fame of DAV College Jalandhar|
presence with the Hind Samachar, Vir Partap, Milap, Ajit and Akali Patrika group of publications and State Headquarters of almost all political outfits, industrial development and manufacturing of sports goods and hand tools, sports excellence with village Sansarpur for the game of hockey, frontline air defense with Air Force base at Adampur among others.
With this background, of late, Jalandhar has acquired yet another silent distinction as the citadel of dalits, socially and otherwise sections of the society. I wrote sometimes ago in one of my blogs about the secular credentials of my native place Bootan Mandi in
|Guru Ravidass Dham at Bootan Mandi|
Jalandhar, the nerve centre of dalit awakening in Doaba and beyond, which may boast of – a Sangatpura Sikh Gurdawara, Guru Ravidass Dham and Guru Ravidass Mandir, a Masid, a Budh Vihar and a Church coexisting in one vicinity without any animosity and ill-will.
|At Ambedkar Bhawan|
at Bootan Mandi, Seth Kishan Dass’s Chaubara (Building) which was visited and adorned by Babasaheb Ambedkar in 1951, Ambedkar Municipal Park, Community Centre at Sidharath Nagar, Ambedkar Girls College at Deol Nagar, Satguru Kabir Chowk (Wadala Chowk) and Sant Ramanand ( revered Sant of Dera Sachkhand Ballan who was assassinated in Vienna) Chowk at Khurla Kingra. More recently, the BMC Chowk situated in the heart of the city and leading to the district courts has been officially named as the Savidhan Chowk dedicated to Babasaheb Ambedkar. Besides this many residential habitats on both sides of the road are named after Guru Ravidass, Bhagwan Balmik, Satguru Kabir and Babasaheb Ambedkar. One may easily see, from these details, the ground situation with regard to the presence of dalits in the region.
Today, I will add yet another feature which is silently emerging in and around another area called Bastis – starting from the cross-junction of Basti Sheikh, Basti Nau and Basti Danishmanda. Just a couple of days ago on June 24 on Satguru Kabir Jayanti, a huge project of a complex to be built in honour of Sant Kabir was announced by the Punjab Government to built at the famous
|MLA Sushil Rinku announcing the Kabir Complex|
thorough-fare ‘120 Footi Road’. This ‘120 Footi Road’ starting from Babrik Chowk (a symbol of strength from the Hindu mythology) already houses important landmarks, fully supported and aided by the Government, pertaining to dalits, in the city – Bhagwan Balmik Complex, Babu Jagjivan Ram Chowk, Guru Ravidass Complex and some more projects leading to Master Gurbanta Singh Road, named after one of the senior Ministers in the Congress Party Governments who belonged to village Dhariwal Qadian adjoining Basti Danishmanda. All political outfits are falling on each other to do something or the other to attract and win-over dalits for political gains. I think the magic of ‘one vote-one value’ unleashed by Babasaheb Ambedkar is showing its efficacy in empowering the weaker sections of the society in a democratic polity.
Now let us come to the flip side of the situation and the ground reality. The Doaba region of Punjab in particular and Punjab itself is the state with 35-40% dalit population, the highest as compared to the other states of India. There are 34 reserved seats out of the total of 117 in the Punjab Assembly. Dalit community has always been strong in Punjab since independence in 1947, in terms of socio-economic and political well-being with the Ad-dharam Mndal and spiritual Deras like Dera Sachkhand Balan and Dera Chak Hakim among others. In the process, political lineage of dalit leadership have also been impressive with names like Prthivi Singh Azad, Master Gurbanta Singh, Buta Singh, Dhanna Singh Gulshan, Piara Ram Dhanowalia, Chaudhary Jagjit Singh, Darshan Singh Kaypee, Chaudhary Sunder Singh, Vijay Sampla, Som Parkash among others who tasted power under various governments and also leaders like Seth Kishan Dass, Kanshi Ram, Lahori Ram Balley, inter alia, who
|A Firebrand Leader of Dalits, Lahori Ram Balley|
remained in the fringes of power. Thanks to the political reservations provided in the constitution, these political worthies could make it to the echelons of power. But, let me say my mind somewhat candidly. These arrangements (political reservations as against separate electorates) have reached the ‘dead end’ and outlived their utility. Dalits need to stand up on their own and grab power. If it could not be done with 35-40% share in the population when will it be done? How long dalits would remain sitting in the fringes? The major reason for this situation is that dalits are a divided lot and it suits to their opponents to keep them divided. It is not understandable that a party like BSP, said to be a party of dalits who are 35-40%) succumbs to the dictates of Akali Dal or of some other party and made to play a second fiddle with 20 seats in the forthcoming elections in 2022. I leave it here with the question – Will it not be appropriate for dalits to float a new regional outfit, for Punjab alone, to represent the dalit interests on the basis of their share in the ‘vote kitty’? Let the dictum of ‘one vote – one value’ work as stipulated in the constitution. Some brain storming is definitely called for in this regard.
Zindgi to apne hi dam se ji jati hai;
Dusron ke kandhon per to zanaje hi utha karte hain.