Thursday, January 18, 2018

Judicial Muddle – Constitutional Perspective

Judicial Muddle – Constitutional Perspective

 The on-going judicial muddle unleashed by the unprecedented public out-cry of the four senior most judges of the Supreme Court of India against the Chief Justice of India and his administration at the Supreme Court is a matter of great concern and worry for the entire country. The four senior most judges said that everything was not in order at the temple of judiciary of the country. They warned that our democracy would be in danger, if the things were not set right. The learned judges tended to place the matter before the
Add captionPress Conference of Supreme Cout Judges
people of India before it gets late. Obviously, this unexpected turn of events jolted the whole edifice of the constitutional framework based on principles of independence of judiciary, separation of powers among the three pillars of the system that is Legislature, Executive and Judiciary and checks and balances. There cannot be two opinions that the Supreme Court as a watch-dog of the constitution shall be independent and steadfast to stand as the last resort to see and ensure the country is run in letter and spirit as per the constitutional and legal stipulations.  I am not a constitutional or legal expert. The manner in which the Government of PM Narendra Modi including the Law Minister and the Attorney General, the legal community, the media and intelligentsia at large has responded to the crisis has not only surprised me but has also cajoled me to think, as a layman, as to what has gone wrong. I think we are heading towards dangerous times for our democratic polity and constitutional arrangements. I only wish that I am proved wrong. I will raise some questions which need to be answered by the government of the day, legal fraternity, civil society and we the people of India:
·       Is our constitution silent on how to deal with such eventualities when there is some conflict or tension in running the judiciary as per the laid down procedures, precedents, practices, legal customs?
·       If yes, what stops us from making such provisions? If not, why the esteemed judges, ignoring these stipulations, had to go public with their complaints and grievances?
·       Why the government has washed its hands off by saying that it is an internal matter of the judiciary and will not interfere in the matter? Does the Executive have no role in over-seeing that all the organs of the government work smoothly?
·       Why the Chief Justice has not responded to the complaints and accusations of the senior four judges? Is there no authority to ask and advise him to do so?
·       Why the legal fraternity including the Attorney General of India and also the Bar Council etc. are so helpless and blissfully ignorant as to how the crisis should be met in terms of the constitutional and legal stipulations and practices? Will it be correct to leave the matter to the Hon’ble Supreme Court and its judges?
·       Why the so called vocal and free media and also the civil society is not coming forward to educate the people of the country as to what has gone wrong and how it could be set right.

These were some of the questions which come to my mind in this regard. For the last two weeks, the entire judicial system is under strain and stress. The only thing which comes to my mind, again I repeat as a layman, is that all concerned are interested in putting the dirt under the carpet. The entire gamut and thrust of the matter is that the learned judges were working under outside pressure to
subvert the system as committed judiciary or compromised judiciary which they could not hold any longer. Not that the constitution is bad but because “man is vile” as assessed by Dr. Ambedkar himself. The government of the day cannot and should not keep quite. When the whole system is crumbling, why the matter has not been placed before the President of India who is not only the custodian of the constitution but also took the oath to reserve, defend and protect the constitution? President of India is an
integral part of the three organs of the state namely the Legislature, Executive and Judiciary. I wonder, if President of India may like to take a suo motto notice of the judicial muddle created by the vested interests to serve their nefarious designs to hijack and hoodwink the system. It is a high expectation in the prevailing conditions in the country. Only solace which I could find in this regard is to listen to the father of our constitution, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar. He said in the constituent Assembly on November 25, 1949, “The Constitution can provide only the organs of State such as the Legislature, the Executive and the Judiciary. The factors on which the working of those organs of the State depends are the people and the political parties they will set up as their instruments to carry out their wishes and their politics.”

Without Comment:-

“This is about an actor that has managed to stay invisible through this crisis: the Modi government. This is, above all, about the relationship between the judiciary and the executive. Specifically, this is about an attempt by the government of the day to secure a pliant judiciary through Bench fixing. In the run-up to the Emergency, Indira Gandhi had demanded and, indeed, almost achieved a “committed judiciary”. The Modi government now seeks to achieve the same objective through a compromised judiciary. The protest by the four judges represents perhaps the last significant hurdle that the Modi government faces in this project. And judiciary is one of the last hurdles that it faces in its drive for total control. That is why the current crisis in the apex court is about the future of Indian democracy.”

Yogendra Yadav’s article “More than meets the eye” in The Tribune of January 17, 2018 

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Congratulations to ISRO

Congratulations to ISRO

Hearty congratulations to Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) and its scientists on its successful launch of PSLVC-40 – Cartosat 2 on January 12, 2018. It was its 100th satellite. With this ISRO, one of the premier space agencies of the world has gathered
an additional feather in its already decorated cap. The entire Indian nation is proud of ISRO. This in keeping with the ISRO motto: मानव जाति की सेवा में अंतरिक्ष प्रौद्योगिकी - Space Technology in the Service of Humankind. PM Narendra Modi in his congratulatory message on the occasion said, The launch of the 100th satellite by @isro signifies both its glorious achievements, and also the bright future of India’s space programme.”

My motivation to write and congratulation ISRO today is somewhat different which I would like to share here. I met an ISRO scientist Prof. V. Jagannatha recently on January 2 at the official residence of Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment Thawar Chand Gehlot in New Delhi. We both were invitees at the annual meeting and dinner of the Forum of Scheduled Caste MPs and MLAs. I was pleased to know that Prof.Jagannatha was closely and actively associated with the ISRO project of Mangalyaan. During our brief interaction in the waiting room of the Minister’s office, Prof. Jagannatha informed us of some interesting facts as to how the scientists and technical staff belonging to scheduled caste communities were contributing positively to the functioning and performance of ISRO. Many of us may not know that there is no reservation for scheduled castes in scientific and technical posts. ISRO is no exception. Prof. Jagannatha told, of the cuff, that there were more than 17% scheduled castes working in ISRO including many highly placed scientists. It was gratifying to know this. The Working President of the Forum of Scheduled Caste MPs and MLAs, Inder Iqbal Singh Atwal shared this good information at the formal meeting of the Forum while introducing and felicitating Prof. Jagannatha, amidst spontaneous appreciation and clapping.  Hope both the opponents and proponents of reservation would listen. Scheduled Caste intelligentsia is no less, given the space and opportunity.

I recall with pride my own cursory inter-action and connection with ISRO is limited to hosting Minister MGK Menon in Stockholm as Charge d’Affaires of the Indian Embassy in Sweden and President
APJ Abdul Kalam when he was the Scientific Adviser to the Minister of Defense. Both of them were the leading lights of ISRO. My direct approach to ISRO happened in Minsk as Ambassador of India to Belarus during the course of my duties and responsibilities to strengthen cooperation between the two countries.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Bits and Pieces – As I Please – 11

Bits and Pieces – As I Please – 11

Rahul Gandhi – Rahul Gandhi, 47, is a scion of the Nehru-Gandhi clan, a known family of India with a long legacy of Motilal Nehru, Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Feroz Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, Sanjay Gandhi, and Sonia Gandhi in the social and political life of India in the contemporary times. Rahul Gandhi, a reluctant politician to begin with like his father Rajiv and mother Sonia, has come of age in politics. He took over the reins of the old grant party of India, the Congress Party on December 17, 2017 as expected. Notwithstanding the propaganda onslaughts of his political opponents terming Rahul’s elevation as the President of the
Congress Party as ‘dynastic coronation’, Rahul has arrived, if the results of Gujarat elections are any indication where he led the Congress election campaign.  The BJP has won, no doubt, but not without getting the heat against the self-righteousness of the ruling elite led by PM Narendra Modi. Rahul, by now, I think, is a mature politician. He should firmly stand for secularism, pluralism, democracy and casteless society. I could not understand his over emphasized and over professed Hindu identity, as ‘Janeudhari Hindu’ in the run up to the Gujarat elections. He should proudly remain what he is, like his great grandfather, Jawaharlal Nehru. Let us wish Rahul Gandhi all the very best in the larger interest of India and its democratic polity. The political forces of India should polarize under the respective banners of the BJP, right of the Centre and the Congress Party, left of the Centre, leaving good space for the Centre. This kind of polarization is needed if we want to see the largest democracy of the world as a dynamic one too.

Falling Standards of Electioneering – The state elections in Gujarat and HP are over and also municipal elections in Punjab. The political pundits are busy in analyzing the results and political parties and their leaderships busy in justifying their role, conduct and outcome of the elections. Some pertinent points have come to the fore which ring warning bells for the democratic polity, secular and pluralistic society and adherence to unconstitutional methods to achieve political goals. It is time to stop, sit and think before it
becomes too late and we put our democracy in “jeopardy” as visualized by no less a person Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, father of the Indian constitution. The elections were not contested on the basis of political agenda, social and economic interests and concerns and above all not with “Gyan and Sheel”; the much needed moral fabric for the democratic set-up. The often confessed agenda of so called “Vikas” was side-lined and abandoned in favour of caste and religion with a view to polarize vote banks. It suits the ruling BJP. The Congress led by Rahul fell into the trap. He over-zealously visited Hindu temples. BJP countered it and challenged his Hindu credentials. Rahul Gandhi lowered himself further by flaunting himself as a “Janeudhari Hindu” against the Nehru legacy of secularism. Mani Shankar Aiyar added fuel to the fire by terming PM Narendra Modi as “Neech Aadmi”. He did not use the word ‘Neech’ to identify his caste or birth, to my understanding, but to say that Modi was low i.e. ‘Neech’ in his conduct, behaviour, and demeanor.  PM Modi, as a past master to exploit such situations, encashed it by stressing that Aiyar not only insulted him but also hurtled the pride of Gujarat by calling him ‘Neech’. It was a willful distortion of the intent of Aiyar’s untimely utterances. BJP was feeling the heat of the youth brigade of Rahul Gandhi supported by Hardik and Mevani, among others. Again, Mani Aiyar’s dinner diplomacy on the eve of voting in Gujarat provided the BJP and PM Modi further ammunition to fire to defeat the opponents. PM Modi, to my thinking, crossed all limits of diplomatic niceties by dragging Pakistan and PM Manmohan Singh in the alleged conspiracy against him. He also generated the “Supari” allegedly arranged by Mani Shankar Aiyar in connivance with his Pakistani friends to defeat and unseat the democratically elected government of Modi. The acrimonious comparing, led by no other than PM Modi, crossed all limits of political sagacity and morality.  This fast falling standards of electioneering is a matter of worry and concern. I am reminded of Babasaheb Ambedkar on the subject of morality in politics and I quote, “The education can hardly be the sole qualification for membership of the parliament. If I may use the words of Buddha he said that man requires two things: one is Gyan and other is Sheel. Gyan without sheel is very dangerous. It must be accompanied by sheel by which we mean character, moral courage, ability to be independent of any kind of temptation, truthful to ones ideals. I am very keen to see that no member enters this august assembly who does not possess Sheel in adequate degree.”

Municipal Elections in Punjab – Elections to some of the municipal corporations and councils in Punjab were conducted last week on December 17. Jalandhar Corporation was one of them. I am based in Jalandhar and as such I witnessed these elections. It is a matter of regret increasingly we have made a mockery of our system. It is a matter of concern and worry. First of all, after the delimitation of Municipal Wards, the elections were announced in a hurry which created all round confusion among the political parties and aspirants to participate. The administrative and election machinery were not fully prepared and equipped to handle the
elections. New Ward Limitation details were not readily available even to the aspiring candidates. Polling booths were not allocated properly and in many cases these fell in the neighbouring wards. The voters were not briefed and informed through voting slips, as it was done earlier. It was a noisy affair with loud speakers mounted on rickshaws and three wheelers. There were several categories of wards namely; General, SC reserved, SC ladies reserved, General Ladies reserved, OBCs etc. The whole exercise was confusing. With a view to match the categorization, many couples from adjacent wards were in the fray. The wives of aspiring players were thrown in the arena as their wards became lady’s reserved. Obviously, it led to piling of reluctant and unsuitable candidates. Most of the lady candidates were dummy candidates or Mukhotas as it was certain that their husbands will hold the fort in practice. It is a negation of democratic norms. I am told that husbands of such lady Councilors even attend the meetings of the Council and act on behalf of their spouses.  The redeeming feature is that this time the ladies have a majority in the 80 member Jalandhar Municipal Corporation. It was also in the media that most probably, the coveted post of the Mayor of the city of Jalandhar will be reserved for a lady councilor and that too from the SC community.  The local councils are expected to play a definite role in not only strengthening the grass-root democratic institutions but also play a big role in providing good municipal services and facilities to the citizens. It is all the more important to pay much needed attention to smoothen the functioning of the municipal councils. It will go a long way in bringing about and attaining the objectives “Smart Cities” project.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Sardar Swaran Singh

Sardar Swaran Singh

One of my colleagues in the IFS has circulated an E-mail message of the daughter of Sardar Swaran Singh about interesting anecdotes pertaining to EAM Sardar Swaran Singh. I am a retired Ambassador of the IFS.  I started my career at the lower echelons of the service in the MEA in March, 1970 when Sardar Swaran Singh was the EAM. Before joining the service, I was a student in Jalandhar and as such had a glimpse of Sardar Sahib, a towering
personality and smartly dressed in white khadi, many a times at my native place Bootan Mandi where he used to stop at Seth Khushi Ram’s, a Congress leader, place on his way to his native village Shankar or on tour of his Jalandhar parliamentary constituency. I was impressed by Sardar Sahib’s personality. After joining the MEA, I met him briefly in the Parliament House sometime in the later months of 1970 along with Master Sadhu Ram who was the MP from Phillour. I often saw him coming to his office in the South Block where my office was also located.

I was attached to the Interpreters Cell of the MEA from 1970 to 1973. Interpreters often get the opportunities to work with the top leadership during the course of their duties as Interpreter. Some interesting encounters were often discussed in the Cell. I would like to narrate some such anecdotes relating to Sardar Swaran Singh. One of the Arabic Interpreters and Persian Interpreters narrated interesting anecdotes:-

Protocol Conscious EAM – Sometimes in 1971, Sardar Swaran Singh was on an official visit to one of the Arab countries. He was to call on his counterpart after lunch. He went to his room in the hotel for a siesta telling his aides that he would come down to the lobby five minutes before the scheduled call. But Sardarji did not turn up. They waited for another five minutes. There was no sign of the Minister. In panic the Interpreter went to the EAM’s room and belled. Sardarji opened the door quickly in a huff saying that he was sorry, he fell asleep. He picked up his untied turban (he was not in the habit of using already made turbans) and rushed out. He tied the turban while sitting in the car by using the car mirror. On arrival, he apologized to his counterpart and narrated the entire laps in a childlike simplicity. There was a big laugh. The second such incident was narrated by the Persian Interpreter. Mohammed Daoud, Special Envoy of Afghanistan Head of State King Zahir Shah, was in Delhi, sometime in the early 1970s. He was slated to call on EAM Sardar Swaran Singh in his South Block office. The Interpreter and the Protocol Liasion Officer were to bring the Afghan Envoy to the call from his Hotel. At the eleventh hour Mohammed Daoud refused to move stating that the Indian Minister should call on him as he was senior to him as the Presidential Envoy. What to do? These officers were dumb founded. The matter was reported to the Chief of Protocol. His intervention also could not resolve this protocol intricacy. The Interpreter was sent to EAM’s office to brief him appropriately on the protocol stance of the Afghani guest. Sardarji calmly listened and got up with a big laugh and said let us go. He was fully aware of the sensitivities of such trivial matters.

Cool-headed Sardar:- Sardar Swaran Singh was a cool- headed and soft spoken person with a demeanor of a seasoned diplomat. He was apt at maintaining his cool in the face of extreme provocations by his opposite side. He was often fielded to hold the fort where it was expected or desired that nothing concrete would come out of the talks and negotiations. He would carry on endlessly in the garb of seriousness knowing full- well that it was a sheer waste of time. After one such negotiations, one of his opposite numbers remarked that the Hon’ble Minister must be carrying a slab of ice underneath his turban. On reporting the matter to him, Sardarji had a hearty laugh and said that he was deliberately creating that ‘Bhambalbhussa” (bamboozlement).

In April, 1974, I joined the PMO, the then PM’s Secretariat, as Protocol and Hospitality Assistant and worked there till October, 1977. In that capacity, I had many more opportunities to see Sardar Swaran Singh in the meeting rooms of the South Block and also in the corridors of power in the PMO and the MEA as a humble functionary.

Seasoned Diplomat: I saw Sardarji in action for the first time in April, 1974 in the protracted meetings and negotiations at the Tripartite meeting of FMs of India, Bangladesh and Pakistan to address and settle the issue of repatriation of POWs and civilian internees. Sardar Swaran Singh, Aziz Ahmed and Kamal Hossain headed delegations of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh respectively. I was impressed by the statement of Sardarji at the opening plenary session and was privileged to be present in the conference room of
the PMO. One of the formulations of his statement still lingers in my mind when he said in a calm and cool manner, “let us forget the hostilities and confrontations of the past as a bad dream.” Our job was to look after the hospitality that is requirement of tea, coffee, snacks etc.  during the meetings. On the final day at the concluding plenary session in the evening when the protocol and agreement was to signed, I was standing outside the conference room along with my boss Vimla Sindhi, commonly called Behanji. The three FMs came out from the office of PM Indira Gandhi after an official call, situated on the other corner of the corridor, and walked towards the conference room. Seeing Behanji, whom Sardar Swaran Singh knew from her duties at the Teenmurti House in the staff of PM Jawaharlal Nehru, enquired in lighter vein “Han to Vimlaji, ab kya seva karogi? Humne bahut kaam kiya hai. Koi badiya cheez lana.” Vimlaji responded instantly and said, “Yes sir, Aaj bahut garmi bhi hai. Hastakshar hone ke baad, Faluda Kulfi serve kiya jayega.” Sardar Saheb smiled and muttered, “Han yeh theek rahega.” I learnt how Sardar Swaran Singh mastered the art of lowering the diplomatic temperature with his earthy wit.

Political Sagacity: Here is one more anecdote which may be of interest to see another facet of Sardar Swaran Singh’s personality. It is recorded fact that Sardar Saheb was not too happy with the imposition of emergency. His portfolio of MEA was changed. After a cabinet meeting, one day, he came out of the conference room along with some other Ministers. I was standing near the lift in front of the conference room. One of the Ministers asked Sardar Sahib the reason and logic for the change. Sardar Sahib responded curtly, but with his usual smile, and said, “She wanted young blood” in the MEA, probably referring to Y.B. Chavan who replaced him in the MEA. I liked Sardar Swaran Singh as a pleasing and amicable personality.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Bits and Pieces – As I Please – 10

Bits and Pieces – As I Please – 10

Sant Surinder Dass Bawa:- I was at the residence of Prof. Balbir Chander, my brother-in-law (Jijaji) for a pre-marriage ceremony of my niece (Bhanji) Priya, on November 4. I met Sant Surinder Dass Bawa at the ceremony. Santji was invited to bless the family and invoke auspicious aura for the marriage scheduled for November 6. I may mention that Sant Surinder Dass Bawa is one of the educated Sants of the dalit community in the region who was a student of Prof. Balbir Chander at Doaba College in the early 1990s. Sant Surinder took to spiritualism as a young student under the influence of Dera Sachkhand Balan of Sant Sarwan Dassji, a prominent
social spiritual personality of the Doaba region. He got initiated and trained under the wings of Sant Garib Dass and Sant Ramanand and acquired and earned good recognition in the aftermath of Sant Ramanand’s assassination in Vienna (Austria) in a mindless shootout by some Sikh fundamentalists in May, 2009. He earned and attained further prominence in the following years as the chief spokesperson of the Dera and Chief Aide of the Dera Chief Sant Niranjan Dass. It is a common knowledge that Sant Surinder Dass was main adviser and executor of the Dera Sachkhand Balan in the run up to the pronouncement and propagation of Ravidassia Dharam in 2010-11. He is said to be one of the major contributors to the compilation and making of the Amrit Bani, the said to be holy book (Religious Granth) of the Ravidassia Dharam. But due to reasons not available in the public domain, Sant Surinder Dass Bawa fell from grace and was made to part ways with the Dera in the following years. Sant Surinder Dass Bawa now runs his own Dera in a village in the outskirts of Jalandhar. He resisted the unpleasant fallout but could not gain the confidence of Sant Niranjan Dass and his coterie. Though we knew each other somewhat earlier as well, in this meeting we could interact a bit more seriously. I enquired about the main thrust of his mission these days. He said of course it was to enlighten, unite and empower the weaker sections of the society as visualized by Guru Ravidass and Babasaheb Ambedkar. He said he was fully engaged, both in India and abroad, in spreading and acceptance of Ravidassia Dharam and the message of Amrit Bani for the good of the down trodden people. The accompanying Ragi Jatha of Bangar Brothers later while singing gave the audience the fore-taste of their mission – their unbroken allegiance to the Dera Sachkhand Balan of yore, Ravidassia Dharam and Amrit Bani as the new identity of dalits, congruity of the philosophy and mission of Guru Ravidas and Dr. B.R. Ambedkar etc. Currently the underlined theme of ‘Chamar Pride’ was a visible item on their agenda. Sant Surinder Dass started his discourse, after the singing of Banger Brothers on the lines of the above mentioned trend setters. I had to leave midway due to some other engagement and could not listen to him. Later my brother Paramjit told me that Sant Bawaji spoke about his untiring efforts to enlighten the community and carry forward the caravan of Guru Ravidass and Babasaheb Ambedkar. He spoke very high of Prof. Balbir Chander and his alma mater, Doaba College in shaping his personality. I respect Sant Surinder Bawa as a well meaning Sant who has dedicated himself totally to the causes of the community. But I have my doubts and reservations on the need and desirability of the Ravidassia Dharam, the authenticity of the Amrit Bani as a holy granth, limited agenda of chamar pride, confining the total thrust of the agenda of the community to Dera Sachkhand Balan. I think, these things lead to disunity and generate animosity which is the anti thesis of the mission and philosophy of both Guru Ravidass and Dr. B.R. Ambedkar.

MLA Chaudhary Surinder Singh: - Though we nodded at each other on a couple of public occasions earlier as well, yet I had a chance encounter with MLA Chaudhary Surinder Singh at the marriage of my nephew (Bhanja) Kamaljit yesterday, December 3, 2017. I introduced myself and exchanged usual courtesies and niceties. Chaudhary Sahib was harmoniously responsive. I introduced my brothers Krishan Lal and Paramjit and Chaudhary instantly responded that they were no strangers and he knew them already. He came on the invitation of the girl’s side. I informed him
that it was the marriage of my Bhanja. He was happy to know and congratulated me and my brothers. Saying that since there were many more people waiting in the wings to meet him and say hello, I will not like to engage him further and wished to meet him some other time. He humbled me by saying that don’t worry on that count and added that he was pleased to meet me as an important person of our community. I found Chaudhary Surinder Singh a well groomed and cultured personality. His grounding and upbringing in an important dalit family of Punjab, Master Gurbanta Singh, who made a good and positive contribution to the polity and society was clearly demonstrated in a few minutes of our interaction. Surinder Singh is the grandson of Master Gurbanta Singh, a Congress leader who remained a Minister in various governments in Punjab. Surinder Singh is the son of Chaudhary Jagjit Singh who stepped into the big shoes of Master Gurbanta Singh and added many feathers to the family’s turban and handed over the baton to his younger brother MP Chaudhary Santokh Singh. Chaudhary Surinder Singh is a first time MLA from his family’s bastion, Kartarpur Assembly segment. Sometimes it may happen that one carries a false image of someone just on the basis of misinformation or disinformation.  I must write that it was so with me in the case of Chaudhary Surinder Singh. I was told that he was an alcoholic and was not a serious politician. It was wrong. My brief encounter with the scion of Master Gurbanta Singh’s family changed my impressions of Chaudhary Surinder Singh completely. I close this with hearty compliments and all the best wishes to the upcoming leader of the community. It is rightly said:
बद से बदनाम बुरा !

The significance of December 6:- I was to post this blog on December 6, death anniversary (Mahaprinirvan Diwas in 1956) of Babasaheb Ambedkar and the date of demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992 on December 6 but could not do so because of technical reasons. The Hindustan Times of November 4, 2017 carried a well articulated article by Shashi Shekhar, Editor -in- Chief of the paper under the heading ‘The significance of
December 6’. The Supreme Court also started the hearing of the Babri Masjid case on December 5, on the eve of the 25th year of the demolition.  Shashi Shekhar has raised a valid question in his article.  He argues, “The date has a special place in the pages of Indian history. In 1992, the Babri Masjid was demolished on this date and in 1956, Bhimrao Ambedkar breathed his last in Nagpur (There seems some inadvertent mistake. Actually it was in Delhi) on the same day. Why I am connecting Ambedkar with Ayodhya, you may ask in surprise. From the outside, these two appear unrelated but the threads of the Indian survival instincts connect the two.” He added, “Don’t be surprised, if within the next two years, you see the temple and the mosque being built at the same time. If that happens, as Indians, we can again proudly declare that our model of coexistence is timeless, eternal, and indestructible. If Ambedkar’s life struggle and teachings drive home the message of social harmony, why can’t the city of Ayodhya become a symbol of our coexistence?” Shashi Shekhar has given us ‘food for thought’ underlining the significance of December 6 in the larger national interest to ward of the lingering dangers to the social and constitutional fabric of India.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Bits and Pieces – As I please – 9

Bits and Pieces – As I please – 9

Kashmir Issue – Kashmiri leader Farooq Abdullah is grabbing the headlines these days for his said-to-be provocative and anti-national statements on POK. Farooq Abdullah is of the view that Pakistan is a stakeholder in the Kashmir issue and it should be discussed and settled. He also inserted that POK, under the given circumstances and history of the issue, belonged to Pakistan and India-held J&K belonged to India. Both the claimants, India and Pakistan, did not have the wherewithal to change the status quo even after 70 years of the dispute, he further asserted. He believed
that this may settle the matter and bring peace in the region. Obviously, these provocative statements were criticized widely, particularly by the BJP and its allies. Without going into the history of the Kashmir issue, which is well documented, let us consider and analyse the point of view of Farooq Abdullah dispassionately. No normal and easy solution is possible, it is almost certain. The status quo is difficult to change with force or by military means, given the nuclear status of both India and Pakistan and also direct or indirect involvement and strategic interests of China and other powers. Too much damage and harm has already been inflicted on India and her people. A viable solution has to be found, sooner the better. The time has come, I think, to try, explore and find an “Out of the Box” solution through political and diplomatic means to address the issue. The governments of the day with involvement of civil societies on both the sides should forge national consensus on the issue and move ahead with an attitude of “Give and Take”. Otherwise, there will be no peace in the region and people will continue to suffer. Some hard but realistic decisions need to taken by the leaderships.

Democratic Hypocrisy – We observed the Constitution Day on November 26, the day we gave ourselves the constitution in 1949. It was a low key affair as the government did not pay much attention. It was noted and I term it as democratic hypocrisy by the vested outfits and by the so called extra-nationalists. I have two immediate instances on hand to prove my assertion. One, the needless controversy on the film Padmavati spearheaded by the Rajputs and some narrow minded Aasthawadis. The film has not been cleared and certified by the competent authority that is CBFC. Not only some street-smart leaders but some people occupying positions of responsibility are making a hue and cry without caring for the law of the land and also established norms of democratic behavior. They are threatening the producer, the actors and supporters of democratic rights, such as freedom of expression, as stipulated in the constitution.  Unfortunately, the governments are
seen as silent spectators. The leaders of Bhim Sena, an outfit of dalits having no social and economic clout, are languishing in jails and the leaders of Karni Sena and their associates are calling the shots from the roof tops. Is it not a democratic hypocrisy? The second is rather more bizarre. Whether Rahul Gandhi is a Hindu or something else? The crony media is hosting debates on the issue. Both the BJP and the Congress are jumping on each other on the recent visit of Rahul Gandhi to the Somnath Temple which has created a controversy on the religion of Rahul Gandhi. Non-Hindu visitors are required to register their religion in the register of the temple as required by the temple authorities? Common people are not interested in the religion of Rahul Gandhi. Yes, the politicians are interested. Are we secular as enshrined in the constitution? Nobody has raised any objection to the discriminatory and communal practice of the Somnath Temple. Is it not a democratic hypocrisy on the part of Rahul Gandhi who did not set the things in their right perspective once and for all?  And on the part of his opponents who raised uncalled for controversy by flagging the religion of Rahul Gandhi in so-called secular India? Are we heading towards “Grammar of Anarchy” as warned by Babaseheb Ambedkar?

Adampur Airport to be named after Guru Ravidass – The Punjab Legislative Assembly has done well by passing a Resolution to name the Adampur airport after the name of Guru Ravidass, a great Guru who stood against the torturous caste system and propagated the principles of liberty, equality and fraternity which later became the core values of the constitution of India.  I fully support and endorse the decision of the Punjab government which has already been communicated to the Ministry of Civil Aviation in Delhi. I am confident that the central government of PM Narendra Modi will accept the recommendations of the Punjab
Legislative Assembly and also the wishes of the millions of followers of the great Guru who live in the Doaba region and beyond not only in India but abroad also. Naming the airport after Guru Ravidass will go a long way in providing impetus to affirmative actions of the government and the society at large to empower the weaker sections of society by giving them psychological and moral support on one hand and will also be considered a befitting tribute to the social and spiritual icon Guru Ravidass.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Greetings on the Constitution Day

Greetings on the Constitution Day

Today, November 26, is the Constitution Day, the third, since its inception in November, 2015, as one of the events to commemorate the 125th birth anniversary of Babasaheb B.R. Ambedkar, father of the Indian constitution. The constitution of India was finally adopted, enacted and given to the people of India by the
Constituent Assembly on November 26, 1949 which came into effect on January 26, 1950 which we observe as the Republic Day. The day was earlier commemorated as National Law Day, after a resolution by the Supreme Court Bar Association, a lawyers’ body, in 1979. Some of the interesting facts of the making of India’s constitution are:

9 December 1946: The Constituent Assembly started its first session.
11 sessions: Number of sessions the Constituent Assembly had to complete the Constitution.
17: Number of committees formed in the Constituent Assembly.
299: Number of members of the Constituent Assembly.
284: Number of members who finally signed the Constitution.
15: Number of women in the Constituent Assembly.
165: Number of days for which the Constituent Assembly held meetings.
2 years, 11 months, 17 days – The time it took to finish the Constitution.

The Indian government of the day should ensure that the Constitution Day is observed and commemorated with all seriousness and solemnity as an important day in the calendar of events. It was, to begin with, that the nodal Ministry for the purpose will be Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment. It was perhaps correct as the event was being observed as a tribute to Dr. B.R. Ambedkar during the 125th birth anniversary of the great leader. I think now the nodal Ministry for the Constitution Day should be changed either to Ministry of Law and Justice or to the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs or the Parliament of India in the joint care of Vice President of India, as Chairman of the Rajya Sabha and Speaker of the Lok Sabha. The Constitution Day should not be left and considered as a vote bank stance because of Dr. Ambedkar, who no doubt played a seminal role in the making of the constitution, but should be commemorated as a day concerning the whole country. It must be underlined that today India is India only because of its dynamic and functional constitution which we gave to ourselves on November 26, 1949. It should be celebrated and observed without fail not only in the parliament of India and the state legislatures and municipalities but also by all the universities, colleges and schools appropriately. The idea is to instill a sense of adopting and adhering to constitutional means to address and solve all matters of concern and interest by the people of India as visualized by our fore-fathers and makers of our constitution. It will help to ward of the dangers of “Grammar of Anarchy” as warned by Dr. B.R. Ambedkar in his last speech in the Constituent Assembly before the constitution was finally passed on November 26, 1949.

When I say that India is India because of the constitution of India, I mean it. India is the biggest functional democracy of the world. Change of guard takes place smoothly in the system of adult franchise on the basis of ‘one vote one value’. The often raised question “Who after Nehru?” was fully addressed under the constitution. One of the strongest PMs Indira Gandhi was unseated by verdict of a judicial court. Resenting and protesting the imposition of emergency, people in a popular vote defeated PM Indira Gandhi and brought in new dispensation of PM Morarji Desai. PMs Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi were removed from the scene in senseless violence. Indian polity stood its ground and managed the crisis under the constitution. These are not small achievements and could become possible only because our constitution is fully functional and aptly competent to meet the challenges. We should be proud of this.

After 67 years of smooth functioning of our constitution since January 26, 1950, we need to take a fresh look at the current situation. We need to make an objective assessment with regard to the core values and fundamental structures of the constitution. The lofty ideals of democracy, secularism socialism under the dictum of ‘Liberty, Equality and Fraternity” as enshrined in the preamble of the constitution need to be protected and ensured. It is all the more important in the visibly growing tendencies of narrow nationalism and intolerance. The vision of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar to transform political democracy into a social and economic democracy is yet to see the light of the day. We have come a long way in the development and progress of our country and have perhaps arrived but still we are to go a long way to reach. For this, we need to learn to follow and safeguard our constitution as PM Narendra Modi said in November, 2015 “Let us always uphold the ideals & values of our Constitution and create an India that would make our founding fathers very proud.” He further said, “No mention of our Constitution is complete without remembering the stellar contribution of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar. I salute him.”

Greetings on the Constitution Day to my fellow countrymen.