Saturday, October 14, 2017

Revival of Buddhism in India and Babasaheb Ambedkar

Revival of Buddhism in India and Babasaheb Ambedkar

Today, October 14 is the Diksha Day when Dr. B.R. Ambedkar embraced Buddhism, a big and historical step towards revival of Buddhism in India. I write this as a tribute to the wisdom and vision of the greatest son of India, Bodhisatava Ambedkar.

One of the epoch making events in the history of ancient India was Gautam Buddha’s first sermon at Sarnath in the 6th century B.C. from which the noble ideals of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity and
also Compassion emanated for peace and tranquility in the world. The second such event was King Ashoka’s embracing of Buddhism in the 4th century B.C. and in the aftermath of which Buddhism was spread over the world at large as a potent force to ensure the dignity of humankind. Some of the other rulers of India like Milinda, Kanishka, Harashvardhana, inter alia, followed suit and not only preserved Buddhism in India but also did their bit to spread it to other lands. It is recorded history as to how Buddhism disappeared and was marginalized over the centuries. I will continue to focus on the revival of Buddhism instead.

Recovery and revival of Buddhism in India started in the 18th century with the arrival of Sri Lankan Sinhalese Bhikhu Anagarika Dharmapala. He established Maha Bodhi Society of India in May, 1891. Dr. B.R. Ambedkar said at a Buddhist Conference in Colombo in May, 1950, “Buddhism may have disappeared in material form but as a spiritual force, it still exists in India.” It was true, it is true and it will remain as in the future as Buddhism is the rightful flag bearer of the tradition and culture of India that is Bharat. Revival of Buddhism in India was as significant as the French Revolution in Europe, somebody has rightly said.

The real impetus to the revival of Buddhism was provided by our independence from the colonial rule in August, 1947. The Constituent Assembly was over crowed by Hindu traditionalists. But moderate and liberal Hindus were also available to steer clear the cob-webs from the way ahead with Jawaharlal Nehru on the lead. Dr. B.R. Ambedkar held the fort being a Buddhist by mind, if
not otherwise, as yet and initiated the process of revival of Buddhism in India. India’s insignia is predominantly emanates from the Buddhist history – Dhamma Chakra in the tri-colour National Flag, Three-lions from the Stupa at Sarnath as the National Emblem among others. The three gems of the Buddhist philosophy, Equality, Liberty and Fraternity, is the essence of the Indian constitution which has been enshrined in the Preamble of the Constitution itself. It only makes it clear that the spirit of India is Buddhist.

Keeping in line with this thinking, Babasaheb Ambedkar, with a view to transform the social and spiritual order of India, intended to instill scientific and rational thinking among the people as against the decaying, irrational and inhuman traditions of the existing order. He appealed to the Indian masses to follow Buddhism on the Buddha Jayanti in 1951 and stressed, “ If the rest of the Hindu society does not cooperate then we the embers of the Scheduled Castes will go on our own again to bring back Buddhism to its former glory and prestige in this country. It may be recalled that Babasaheb Ambedkar had taken a vow in 1935 that he would not die as a Hindu. He studied the scenario in its totality as a nationalist
Dr. Ambedkar speaking after Diksha at Nagpur
par excellence. It was becoming clear that he was getting convinced gradually that Buddhism was the best bet to get rid of the existing social and spiritual establishment, not as revenge against anybody but to liberate and transform the society for the common good. Dr. Ambedkar was a spiritual person to the core with nationalistic aptitude in spite of his liberal western educational background. Speaking on the BBC in October, 1954, he said, “My social philosophy may be said to be enshrined in three words – Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. I have derived them from the teachings of my master the Buddha.”

With these developments, the D-day arrived on October 14, 1956. Dr. B.R. Ambedkar along with his wife Dr. Savita Ambedkar and more than five hundred thousand of his followers embraced Buddhism at the Diksha Bhoomi at Nagpur in Maharashtra. Incidentally, it was Vijay Dashmi Day which is also observed by the RSS in solemnity at its Headquarters in Nagpur, not far off from the Diksha Bhoomi. There was no conflict or confrontation in Dr.
Dr. Ambdedkar taking Diksha of Buddhism in 1956
Ambedkar’s mind. He made it clear and said in his speech, “Buddhism is a part and parcel of Bhartiya culture. I have taken care that my conversion will not harm the condition of history of this land.” I salute to the sagacity and vision of the greatest son of the soil, Babasaheb Ambedkar. Rajesh Ramachandran, Editor-in-Chief of the Outlook Magazine in the Editorial of its August 21, 2017 issue on ‘Idealism” has said, “The finest act of idealism was that of Ambedkar’s when he rejected the religion of the colonialists and chose Buddhism while fighting casteism. If he had listened to the colonialists, he could have probably won a Nobel Prize. Gandhi takes me close to Ambedkar. I hope Ambedkarites will also reach Gandhi one day.” Let us take Ramchandran’s assertions as ‘Food for thought’ on this epoch making day – Diksha Day, October 14.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Babu Kanshi Ram – A Tribute

Babu Kanshi Ram – A Tribute

Today, October 9, is the death anniversary of dalit icon Babu Kanshi Ram (1934-2006). Babu Kanshi Ram, addressed as Manyavar by his admirers and followers, was a leader by his own right who caught the imagination of millions of down-trodden and under-privileged people of India commonly called SCs and OBCs. He entered public life quite late after resigning from a comfortable position as a scientist in one of the government establishments.
Babu Kanshi Ram
Kanshi Ram proved himself as an organizer and strategist par-excellence. He studied Babasaheb Ambedkar and became his ardent follower. He was fully convinced of Dr. Ambedkar’s approach to empower the socially and economically weaker sections of the society based on his slogan “Political power is the master key” and the dictum of “Educate, Agitate and Organise”. Kanshi Ram earnestly tried to achieve the first goal of grabbing political power on the basis of “bargaining and not begging” as a well crafted strategy. As regards the second, he made whirlwind tours to educate the marginalized masses of their political strength and gain political power. This education and motivation in turn agitated the minds of dalits and filled them with a sense of much needed confidence. With a view to address the third part i.e. organization, Babu Kanshi Ram slowly but steadily established the necessary structures of organization:

1) BAMCEF - All India Backward and Minority Communities Employees' Federation – December 6, 1978
2) DS-4 - Dalit Shoshit Samaj Sangharsh Samiti - December 6, 1981
3) BSP - Bahujan Samaj Party - April 14, 1984

Kanshi Ram adopted the “Middle-path” of Buddha avoiding the normal course of “Revolution or Collaboration”. Though Kanshi Ram was a votary of Babasaheb Ambedkar yet their approaches to achieve the desired goals appear to have differences. Ambedkar stood for constitutional and peaceful responses to address the issues. Kanshi Ram believed in meeting force with force – “Ek
A son of the soil - Kanshi Ram
Eent Ka Jawab – Do Pathar”. India Today, in its issue of September 25, 2017, has listed 70 visionaries who defined India as “Movers and Shakers”. Kanshi Ram is one among the worthy 70, besides Dr. B.R. Ambedkar. Referring to Ambedkar and Kanshi Ram, under the banner – Messiah of the Downtrodden, Ajay Bose, a senior journalist, has said, “One was an intellectual giant who set a broad agenda of emancipation for dalits while the other was a homespun, self-taught leader operating in the rough and tumble of multi-party Indian politics. Kanshi Ram himself described this difference when he said, “He used to collect books; I tried to collect people.”

Kanshi Ram was a leader with a difference. ‘Nationalism’ is a much talked about word these days. Long ago, while replying to a question, Kanshi Ram said that nationalism to him was the welfare of the masses of India. He further added that he believed in the two nation theory – One of Oppressed and the second of Oppressors. He lived to his convictions and self imposed constraints to serve the poor and under-privileged people and fully honoured his vow, “I will never get married, I will never acquire any property, I will never visit my home, I will devote and dedicate the rest of my life to achieve the goals of Phule -Ambedkar movement"

I pay my humble tributes to the memory of one of the great sons of India, Babu Kanshi Ram on his death anniversary, October 9.

Without Comment:-

“If the Dalit movement in India is to succeed, it is important to analyse both the similarities and differences between Kanshi Ram and Ambedkar so that a new strategy can be developed for the movement. The Bahujan-Sarvajan movement in Uttar Pradesh may want to borrow from Ambedkarite values in its U.P. experiment while the Dalit movement in other parts of India may learn from Kanshi Ram on how to mobilise new Dalit Politics.”

(An article written by Badri Narayan in the Hindu of May 11, 2012)

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Interpreters of Ministry of External Affairs (MEA)

 The immediate provocation to write this is a brief story in the Outlook magazine of September 4, 2017 “The Missing Plate” about the Interpreter who was not served food at the banquet hosted by EAM Sushma Swaraj to her Turkman counterpart. It is a sad story which indicates the mindset to treat junior officials. It is gratifying to note that people, including media, have started taking due notice of these small but important etiquette and niceties. The position is
getting better to treat the Interpreters with all care and sensitivities. There were occasions in the 1970s which I witnessed personally in the MEA and PMO where Interpreters were not arranged to sit on the main table of the talks or meetings, leave alone dinners and lunches. It was indicative of the feudal mind of the senior bureaucrats and also of the political bosses i.e. ministers. India’s increased interaction with Russia, China and Arab countries brought into focus the interpreting needs for official interaction. Interpreters have started getting due recognition and place in the hierarchy, of late.

During my diplomatic service, I have had opportunities to work with Interpreters of the MEA and those of several Indian Embassies abroad. I joined the MEA in March, 1970 and was deployed with the then Interpreter’s Cell where all the Interpreters of the MEA were located. It was the beginning of my education, not with the secretarial staff, as expected, but with the intellectuals and linguists of their own standing. I still cherish the memories of those formative years of my career. I was not even 20 yet. All the Interpreters treated me like a baby of the Cell and gave me all love and affection and also support and guidance in my office work. Dr. William Sadoc, a jovial Punjabi with a heavy frame and a fatherly figure, was the German Interpreter. Other senior Interpreter colleagues used to call him ‘Fatty’. He used to narrate many stories of his work and interaction with big-wigs. One such anecdote was his experience to interpret a German speaking VVIP at a public meeting at the Red Fort in the presence of PM Jawahar Lal Nehru. A funny thing in my memory, about Dr. Sadoc, is his vintage motor-bike which he was used to park on the slope of North and South Blocks just to get an easy start on return. A gracious and up-right Anglo-Indian lady, Teresa d’ Souza, was the French Interpreter. She was very kind to me – my English language tutor and type-writing instructor at work. I recall vividly that she used to bring cakes, pastries to office to share the goodies with us. Many a times, I relished fresh lettuce with tomato ketchup, which was an unusual savory those days for a young man from Punjab, which she brought from the kitchen garden of Rashtrapati Bhawan. Teresa was fond of home parties and get-togethers. The taste of mutton dishes which I ate at one such party at her flat at the MEA Hostel, is still lingering in my mouth. An anecdote may be of interest. Teresa did not know much Hindi. She narrated an interesting experience. One day she visited the mutton shop and wanted to convey her order of liver by saying ‘Hum Apka Dil Mangta’. The butcher was amused and started staring at her.  A fellow customer came to her rescue by explaining her intension to the butcher. R.P. Budhiraja, with a scholarly demeanor, was the Persian Interpreter. Apart from these seniors, there was a younger lot, Santosh Ganguly – Russian and Abdul Wadood Azami – Arabic during my initial years with the Interpreters Cell. Both Ganguly Dada and Azami Sahib were very friendly and considerate to me. I even attended his marriage in old Delhi along with other Interpreters. Azami Sahib was very friendly. We used to travel in the same bus from our residences in Nanakpura/ Moti Bagh. I recall a sumptuous dinner with him at Kake Da Dhaba at Connaught Place after his pre-posting shopping from the nearby employee’s cooperative store. I have some educative anecdotes of my company with Azami Sahib. As I wrote earlier that we both were living in Nanakpura. One day, I was standing in the queue for the bus to the Central Secretariat. Azami Sahib’s wife, with a saree and a bindi, came and informed me that her husband will not come today as he was not well. One of our regular fellow travelers, a high caste Hindu, remarked that Azami Sahib’s wife appeared to be a Hindu from her dress and expressed unexpected surprise. I narrated this episode to Azami Sahib. He was furious and said that it was a pity that we had divided ourselves on these flimsy considerations.  Yet another tit-bit, I will like to add. One day, we were to catch a bus from the Central Secretariat for home. As usual, there was a great rush. We were trying to enter the bus. One Sardarji fellow was blocking the way for some reason. Azami Sahib requested him politely in his Urdu laced Hindustani to give us the way. There was some shouting on each other. After we got in and settled down, Azami Sahib innocently told me that I must have noticed that when he addressed that Sardar as ‘Tum instead of Aap’ he understood my displeasure. I laughed and remarked that Azami Sahib, it was unlikely that his friend knew the difference between Tum and Aap. Azami Sahib was a cultured and sophisticated person. Later, he called me in Prague from Lucknow where got settled after retirement and revived our association. He was very happy that I could make it to the higher echelons of the service hierarchy. Later, I worked with some more scholarly, friendly and lively Interpreters namely; Dr. R.A.K Sherwani – Persian, Abdul Khalique – Arabic, Afzal Naqvi – Arabic, Abdul Majid – Arabic, M.L.R. Jafri – Persian, Jaya Mukherji – Russian, Anne Kurian – German, Syed Sajid Mian, Kanakendu Ghosh – French, T. Steven – French, S. Nene – German, among others. Dr. Sherwani and Abdul Majid were fatherly figures. Abdul Khalique and Syed Sajid Mian were living in old Delhi near Jama Masid. They were kind enough to bring delicious Pans for us. I also attended Syed Sajid Mian’s marriage (Niqha) at his traditional Haveli at Balli Maran, near the house of Mirza Ghalib, at Chandni Chowk, my first experience to see a Muslim wedding. Jaya Mukherji was a vivacious young lady and was the heartthrob of many foreign returned young fellows hanging around the famous Hira Lal’s canteen. She belonged to a well to do business family and her uncle was the Head of Department of Modern European Languages at Delhi University. She used to take me along to Chandni Chowk for purchase of books. There was a funny incident on one such visit. One afternoon from the office, we went to Nai Sarak for purchase of books. As usual a beggar followed us and pleaded for some alms by using their usual and characteristic phraseology to young couples – “Aap Ki Jodi Salamat Rahe – Alla Aapko Khush Rakhe – Doodhon Nahon-Putton Fallon”. We both felt embarrassed and with great effort guarded ourselves by giving a few coins. Later we enjoyed the encounter by teasing ourselves. Jaya was a cultured young lass with an open mind. Her demeanor amply demonstrated her good education and up-bringing.  Anne Kurian treated us many a times on the south Indian specialties at a chosen hangout at the Electric lane near the MEA Hostel. In those days in the 1970s, Interpreters deployed to help other Ministries and Departments on request were getting some honorarium for their services. There used to be frequent parties in the Cell as and when any of the Interpreters got such payment. Kanakendu Ghose was a funny character. He himself told us many stories when he was scolded by PM Indira Gandhi on his not satisfactory Interpreting skills as she herself was good at French language. He used to fake an itchy throat while interpreting just to attract attention. He would tell boastfully that how a Minister offered him a glass of water in front of the VVIPs. My association with the Interpreters was so deep that they invited me to the Interpreters Cell to say farewell on my posting to Peking (Beijing) in October, 1977, though I was no more working with them. Later Dr. Sherwani died in an air-crash in Iran, unfortunately. I met his son in Tehran in February, 1991 working for the Indian Embassy. Anne Kurian joined JNU and Syed Sajid Mian Jamia Millia Islamia for academic pursuits. Afzal Naqvi joined All India Radio. Jaya Mukherji left for Kolkata after marriage. I feel like meeting them again.

I understand, Interpreter Cell was disbanded in the early 1980s and Interpreters were deployed with relevant territorial divisions of the MEA. I again happen to work with at least two Russian Interpreters, Jyoti Savarkar and Suresh Babu, both young and intelligent. Jyoti stayed at my small flat in Delhi along with her boyfriend and later husband for a couple of years. Later, they could not maintain their love marriage and got divorced. Jyoti left for her native place in Maharastra and continued with her interpretation and translation work. I was told that she translated and dubbed the Mahabharta TV serial of B.R. Chopra in Russian language. Suresh Babu did well and is still in service. On my return from Kampala in October, 1997, I took over as Director (Central Asia) in the MEA. There also we had two Russian Interpreters, Sipra Ghosh and
Sipra Ghosh
Ganesh Haloi.  Both are still in service. Sipra is a simple lady but highly motivated and good at work. I witnessed her interpreting with confidence and poise with PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee and EAM Jaswant Singh many a times. Similarly, Ganesh Haloi is a shy but dedicated professional. I am sure that both Sipra and Ganesh will go further up in their respective careers.

Interpreter’s cadre was a dormant cadre – Interpreter-Interpreter-Interpreter. They have been struggling to change the position. Except the lone example of Vasant Paranjpe, about whom I would write a few lines separately, nobody was able to change the track. Dr. Sherwani on his own, as I know, undertook additional responsibilities for Afghanistan and Iran Desks and set the ball in motion. Later when the Interpreters were deployed with respective territorial divisions, they got their normal designations as Attaches, USs, DSs, and Directors and so on and started doing additional work apart from their duties as Interpreters. It was a welcome change which opened more avenues for them. Santosh Ganguly was the first to cross the D-line who was appointed Consul General
Ambassador T. Suresh Babu
of India to St. Petersburg in Russia in early the 1990s. It took another twenty years or so for Suresh Babu to cross the barrier. He was appointed as Ambassador of India to Armenia in 2013. Suresh Babu is now a serving Ambassador of India to Mongolia.

There are some more interesting stories pertaining to Interpreters of MEA. Teresa d’ Souza and William Sadoc used to narrate these tales. Vasant Paranjepe, first Interpreter to become a Joint Secretary (EA) and Ambassador of India, was a carefree and unkempt official in his younger and formative years. Teresa even combed his hair when he was called by PM or EAM for Interpretation on a short notice. Paranjpe was a brilliant Interpreter. Chinese Premier Chou-en-Lai, seeing his fluency in the Chinese language, when he worked as an Interpreter for talks between him and PM Jawaharlal Nehru complimented Paranjpe by say that he knew better Chinese than Chou-en-Lai himself. I have had the opportunity to meet him in Peking (Beijing) in 1978 during the visit of then EAM Atal Bihari Vajpaye. Paranjpe was specially called from Pyongyang (North Korea), where he was the Indian Ambassador, to be a member of the EAM’s delegation due to his expertise on not only the Chinese language but also the entire gamut of India-China relations. There was yet another Interpreter, Weer Rajendra Rishi alias Walliati Ram Rishi, who achieved laurels in his chosen field.
W.R. Rishi
Rishi was a scholar of Russian language. He was awarded with Padma Shri on his pioneering work ‘Russian Hindi Dictionary’.  He wrote some more books on the language and culture including:
Roma - The Panjabi Emigrants in Europe, Central and Middle Asia, the USSR, and the Americas. Rishi was also the founding Director of Indian Institute of Roma Studies established in Chandigarh. There may be many more interesting stories about Interpreters which may be listed and told as they are not only first hand privy to ‘inside  and behind the curtain’ facts but also a treasure house of interesting incidents and tales involving dignitaries who shape and mould the destiny of nations and their people.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Scheduled Caste Entrepreneurs Empowerment Forum

Scheduled Caste Entrepreneurs Empowerment Forum

The newly launched outfit, Scheduled Caste Entrepreneurs Empowerment Forum (SCEEF) organized an awareness seminar “Opportunities for SC Entrepreneurs under the recently launched schemes of the Government of India” on September 19, 2017 in
Ludhiana. The seminar was hosted by the Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises in cooperation with National Small Industries Corporation. It was a well attended and nicely organized programme. Social and community activist, Jiwan Singh ably conducted the seminar as Master of Ceremonies.

The inaugural session was opened with welcome remarks by Director (MSME) Major Singh. Prof. Akshay Kumar, General Secretary of the SCEE Forum presented a brief report on the first session of the SCEEF held on August 21, 2017 in Jalandhar. It is a good step and must be appreciated as it has been observed that generally no reports/minutes of such meetings are kept and things move on a ad-hoc basis. Prof. Akhsay Kumar raised very candid

queries about the social integration of dalits with the main stream of the society. Inder Iqbal Singh Atwal, Working President of Forum of Scheduled Caste MPs and MLAs made an impressive speech and urged the young entrepreneurs to make concerted efforts to avail of the schemes of the government to start new ventures, strengthen the existing ones and empower themselves. An RSS activist and OSD to Health Minister J.P. Nadda, Dr. Varinder Garg briefed the audience about the SC Sub-plan and said that we must try and get the SC Sub-plan initiated, executed and delivered for the economic up-liftment of the weaker sections of the society. He said that reservation was not enough. All other avenues must be explored and exploited to strengthen the affirmative actions for empowerment of dalits. Senior RSS functionary, Banveer Singh was the Chief Guest at the function. In his sober and calculated remarks, Banveer Singh said that RSS was fully committed to go all the way to help the neglected and marginalized segments of the society to stand up as equals. He frankly admitted that he was aware that many of you still lack faith in RSS and added that it was due to propaganda by the vested interests. Banveer Singh further said that we have decided and undertaken projects to engage dalits with their activities to mutual advantage and nation building.  Rajesh Bagha, Chairman of the Punjab SC Commission, who was the chief co-coordinator to host the seminar, spoke spiritedly and urged the audience to educate themselves and get ready to make full use of the liberal schemes of the government. He said we should not remain job seekers but should become job providers. The pleasant duty of presenting the Vote of Thanks fell on me which I performed hurriedly as we were running against time. I observed that it was gratifying to note that social outfits like RSS and economic and commercial entities like SCEE Forum were joining hands for empowerment of dalits. It would lead to the realization of lofty ideals of Babasaheb to transform our political democracy into social and economic democracy. I urged the aspiring SC entrepreneurs to gain a much needed sense of confidence and concluded with an Urdu couplet:

तू पहले बात फिर बात का अंदाज़ पैदा कर,
फिर तुजे दुनिआ में कोई नज़र अंदाज़ कर नहीं सकता !

The technical session was held after a brief lunch break. Deputy Director of MSME, Kamal Singh gave an overview of the special schemes of the government of India to help and facilitate the budding businessmen from the weaker sections of the society. The representatives of FCI, Bhakra-Beas Board, NSIC informed and briefed the audience about the avenues and possibilities to become suppliers of goods and services to their respective organizations under the procurement policies to help the SC suppliers.  Coordinator of DICCI in Punjab, Shammi Kapoor briefed the participants about the procedure and process to obtain Business Aadhar registration with MSME and as a Vendor with NSIC. It was a good interactive session. Rajesh Bagha, Chairman of Punjab SC Commission intervened to assure the vocal and eager businessmen to be patient and approach the issues with understanding. He said that every effort will be made to streamline the advisory and facilitatory aspects of the SCEE Forum. I spoke briefly to rap-up the technical session and expressed satisfaction on the visible restiveness in the minds of young SC businessmen to do something. I advised the SCEE Forum to set up a cell in the organization to listen and redress the complaints and answer queries in consultation with MSME, NSIC, Banks and other concerned agencies. I also advised the SC business community, in its infancy, to hone-up their computer and English language skills to catch up with the overall business atmosphere. Appreciating their zeal to do something worthwhile, I concluded with yet another Urdu couplet:

कर खुदी को बुलंद इतना की हर तक़दीर से पहले;
 खुदा बन्दे से खुद पूछे बता तेरी रज़ा क्या है !

Let me conclude this write up on SCEE Forum with a little explanatory addition. Rajesh Bagha, Chairman of Punjab SC Commission is a force behind this newly floated forum to help and empower the SC businessmen as it is evident from its name itself. He called me for a meeting and asked for my agreement to join
them in this endeavor with my wide ranging experience, keeping in line with my thinking to pay back to the society. I agreed to his suggestion to associate myself with the outfit as its Chief Patron without any political baggage. I had a lingering understanding that Rajesh Bagha being affiliated to BJP and RSS must be acting on advice and direction from his political and cultural mentors. It was indeed so. The inaugural session of the Forum was held in Jalandhar on August 21, 2017. The RSS high-ups were not only present but were active. There interaction and speeches set the tone of the things to come. SC agenda, apparently, is high on their mind. They intend to rope SCs into their fold by owning the legacy of Babasaheb Ambedkar. My cursory analysis indicates that there is no harm. Let it be as long as my SC brethren gain out of the exercise. SCEE Forum will get all due support from the governmental agencies with regard to the empowerment of SC businessmen. RSS is harping on the Special Component Sub Plan for the SC which unfortunately remained on paper so far. We should take advantage of this. Moreover, it will be good for dalits to seek understanding rather than confrontation with the main stream of the society, to my mind. RSS, it seems, is fully aware of the fact that as of now dalits were skeptical and wary of the RSS and its Hindutava. They need to do something concrete to bring them along. Let them prove themselves. We have nothing to lose except our backwardness and poverty. That is why I am with SCEE Forum.

Without Comment:

"When brothers live together; they solve the most difficult problems - Xiongli Tongxin Qili Duanjin"

A chinese saying

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Bits and Pieces – As I Please – 7

Bits and Pieces – As I Please – 7

Hardeep Singh Puri – Ambassador Hardeep Singh Puri, IFS (Retired), one of the finest and most decorated diplomats of India, has been inducted into the Council of Ministers of PM Narendra
Modi. Puri Sahib is the right choice. IFS and we in the fraternity stand taller with this honour conferred on one of our senior colleagues. It is not the first time that IFS has contributed to the national politics and governance. K.R. Narayananan adored the Rashrapati Bhawan as President of India. M.H. Ansari aptly handled the position of Vice President of India. Kunwar Natwar Singh manned the coveted Ministries including the MEA with élan. Mani Shankar Aiyar remained a vocal Minister in PM Rajiv Gandhi’s government. Meira Kumar not only remained Minister but also occupied the coveted position of the Speaker of
Syed Shahabuddin
Lok Sabha. Romesh Bhandari remained in the thickness as Governor of UP and also as Lt. Governor of Delhi. P.N. Haksar, besides working as Principal Secretary to PM Indira Gandhi, worked as Deputy Chairman of Planning Commission. N.N. Jha became Lt. Governor of Pondicherry. Mohammad Yunus delivered
Yunus Mohd extreme right
as Special Envoy of PM Indira Gandhi many a times. Syed Shahabuddin served as an active Member of Parliament and one of the most articulate politians concerned about issues pertaining to minorities.  Brajesh Misra, J.N. Dixit, Shiv Shanker Menon contributed their might to the security of India as NSA in the governments of PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee and PM Manmohan Singh with Ministerial status. These sons of India, if I have not missed any name inadvertently, belonged to the IFS, a coveted civil service of India. I am confident that Hardeep Singh Puri will not be the last in the process. It is a matter of satisfaction.

Hardeep Singh Puri’s father Bhagat Singh Puri was also a diplomat. I have had the pleasure of knowing him in my initial years of service in the early 1970s. He was a dignified and cool officer fully justifying his name “Bhagat”, a thorough gentleman. It is a compliment. Later, I got the chance to work and interact with Hardeep Puri and his diplomat wife Lakshmi Puri in Sri Lanka in the difficult years from 1986-89. They were stationed in Colombo and I was posted in Kandy.  Both of them were always kind and available for any help and advice in the discharge of our duties. We all know that Hardeep Puri is one of the finest diplomats of India. He is a go-getter with quiet dignity. I always felt that Hardeep Puri had a special corner in his heart for the juniors and not well connected members of staff, perhaps, owing to his family background and connect with the IFS.

Visit to Rashtrapati Bhawan – I visited Rashtrapati Bhawan along with a delegation of Forum of Scheduled Caste MPs and MLAs headed by its Chairman, Charanjit Singh Atwal on September 8, 2017, as a member of the advisory committee of the Forum, to meet and congratulate the newly elected President of
India, Ram Nath Kovind. It was a short and brief but a memorable joint encounter with the first citizen of India. The visit revived and recalled my earlier several official visits to the seat of the highest constitutional authority during my long diplomatic career. I last visited  Rashtrapati Bhawan in August 2010 to meet President Pratibha Patil in the official programme of the HOMs Conference arranged by the Ministry of External Affairs.

President Ram Nath Kovind entered the meeting room with quiet dignity where we were all seated. Charanjit Singh Atwal and MOS Arjun Meghwal received him at the entrance and presented him a bouquet of flowers. Charanjit Singh Atwal made his crisp remarks to congratulate and wish the President all success in his coveted position. President Ram Nath Kovind responded with his usual
calm and cool style and thanked the delegation. Invoking Babasaheb Ambedkar, he said that we all must learn and follow the visionary leader in addressing many of the issues of concern and interest to the nation for our further progress. Charanjit Singh Atwal handed over a Memorandum on behalf of the Forum to the President in which my proposal to declare April 14, birthday of Babasaheb Ambedkar, as the International Day of Equality was included. President Ram Nath Kovind exchanged pleasantries with us and left after a group photo with the delegation. I must acknowledge the involvement and behind the scene work being done by Inder Iqbal Singh Atwal, the scion of Charanjit Singh Atwal for the functioning of the Forum of Schedule Caste MPs and MLAs. I am told that the grouping of Schedule Caste MPs was first initiated in the early 1950s by Babasaheb Ambedkar and since then it has been existing with some modifications conforming the current requirements. Hot and crisp snacks like samosas, pakoras and pastries from the traditional kitchen of the Rashtrapati Bhawan revived my memories. Incidentally, the GHO Hostess Anita, who was earlier working at Hyderabad House, was present to look after the hospitality. Since, I also worked for sometime in the Government Hospitality Organisation (GHO) of the MEA and later used to visit Hyderabad House frequently during the course of my duties, Anita happened to know me. She extended all courtesies.

President Ram Nath Kovind’s gracious spouse Savita is a family friend of my sister Kamla of Delhi. They were colleagues of about 40 years standing in MTNL. Savita Behenji along with their daughter came to Jalandhar in December, 2001 for the marriage of our daughter Vaishali. Later Ram Nath Kovind visited my brothers
in Jalandhar in 2006-07 as the President of the Dalit Morcha of the BJP to prepare for the visit of Lal Krishan Advani to Bootan Mandi, our native place. Kamla and her family visited their friend Savita Behen and her family at the Rashtrapati Bhawan the following day i.e. September 9 and met President Sahib too. Kamla and my brother-in-law D.C. Kumar asked me to join them to meet the first family of India but I could not avail of the opportunity to meet President Ram Nath Kovind in a more relaxed and personal setting as I traveled back to Jalandhar with my interlocutors and hosts at the Punjab Bhawan in Delhi, Inder Iqbal Singh Atwal and Rajesh Bagha, Chairman of SC Commission of Punjab.

Without Comments:-
Ten sewer workers in Delhi have died in a little over a month owing to exposure to toxic gases in sewers they were cleaning. Death of workers in sewers is not new. It was reported from Mumbai and Bengaluru earlier this year.
A feature in the Hindustan Times of September 17, 2017 “Raising Stink”

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Ahisas – a collection of Punjabi Ghazals of Roop Sidhu

 Ahisas – a collection of Punjabi Ghazals of Roop Sidhu

Roop Sidhu’s maiden literary venture – Ahisas, a collection of Punjabi ghazals was released on August 16, 2017 at Desh Bhagat Yadgar Hall in Jalandhar at a solemn function. The function was attended by the who’s who of the Punjabi literary elite located in and around Jalandhar. Though I stand nowhere in this galaxy of literary personalities yet Roop Sidhu was kind enough not only to invite me to the function but also made me sit on the high-table
with prominent intellectuals namely Hardial Sagar, S. Naseem, Sital Singh Sangha and Jagdish Kaur Wadia. The book release event was ably and aptly conducted by Prof. Gopal Singh Bhuttar, President of Sahit Kala Kender, as the Master of Ceremonies. It
was indeed a pleasure to be there. Yet another gratifying factor was that the event was transformed to an impromptu Kavi Darbar. Not only the high flown names mentioned above participated in the Darbar but many more, inter alia, Narinder Pal Singh, Manohar Khaira, Des Raj Kali, Madam Sagar, came forward to recite their poems to further add to the value of the function.

I have gone through the book – Ahisas as a layman. I do not know the fine nuances of poetry. But I enjoy good poetry. Roop Sidhu’s excellent contribution fits the bill with 110 ghazals in the book. I have been reading Sidhu Sahib’s poems and ghazals, off hand, on Facebook and enjoyed myself. In the process, I suggested to him to come out with a book for wider appreciation which he did and did it with aplomb. It is a matter of great satisfaction. I have observed that Roop Sidhu is a poet of life, life in its all shades. The ghazals
in the book represent normal and common attributes of a human personality such as fear, faith, love, harmony, friendship, complaint, appreciation, elation on one hand and the travails of a poor and under-privileged in the rural backyard on the other. Roop Sidhu is fully aware of the prevailing social and political scenario of the country and the society at large.

Roop Sidhu has candidly admitted in one of his compositions that he has full realization – Ahisas – that his ghazal would naturally find a mention of spades and sickles, the tools of a poor farm labourer:-

ਗ਼ਜ਼ਲ ਕਹਿ ਨਾਜ਼ਮ ਕਹਿ ਜਾਨ  ਜੋ ਭੀ ਦਿਲ ਚਾਹੇ ਇਨਾਨੁ ਕਹਿ;
ਮੇਰੀ ਲਿਖਤਾਂ ਵਿਚ ਰੰਬੇ ਦਾਤੀਆਂ ਹੋਣੇ ਸੁਭਾਵਿਕ ਹਨ !

While making a mention of the functioning of our parliament, the author says:

ਸੰਸਦ ਵਿਚ ਹੋ ਰਿਹਾ ਹੈ ਇਨ ਬਿਨ ਓਹੀ ਵਤੀਰਾ;
ਇੱਲਤਾਂ ਸ਼ਰਾਰਤਾਂ ਜਿਓਂ ਗਲੀਆਂ ਬਾਲ ਕਰਦੇ!

Narrating the economic condition of a common man who finds it difficult to earn enough to meet his needs, Roop Sidhu says:
ਜਿਨ੍ਹਾਂ ਦੇ ਆਮਦਨ ਤੋਂ ਖਰਚ ਵੱਧ ਹੁੰਦੇ; ਊਨਾ ਦੇ ਘਰ
ਸਦਾ ਮੂਧੇ ਪਏ ਛਾਵੇ ਫਾਟੇ ਪੋਣੇ ਸੁਭਾਵਿਕ ਹਨ !

An advice to exercise control on unbridled speech is timely:

ਰਹਿਣ ਬਚਕੇ ਨਵਾਂ ਕਿਧਰੇ ਕੋਈ ਕਾਰਾ ਕਰਾਵੇ ਨਾ;
ਜੋ ਰੱਖੀ 'ਰੂਪ' ਆਪਣੀ ਜੀਭ ਏਨੀ ਬੇਲਾਗਾਮੀ ਤਾਈਂ !

Humility is a family trait with Roop Sidhu. I can say this safely after meeting his family. One of the ghazals in the book amply demonstrates this much needed attribute:

ਜੇ ਗ਼ਜ਼ਲ ਅਜੇ ਤੇਰੀ ਚੱਜ ਦੀ ਨਹੀਂ; ਤਾਂ ਰੋਸ਼ ਕਾਹਦਾ
'ਰੂਪ' ਜੀ ਚੁਕੋ ਕਲਮ; ਕੁਜ ਹੋਤ ਚਾਰਾ  ਕਰ ਲਾਵਾਂਗੇ

These were some of the examples to appreciate Roop Sidhu’s meaningful and thought provoking ghazals which would ultimately be availed of as food for thought by the connoisseur of good poetry.
Roop Sidhu has dedicated the book to his mother Smt. Swaran Kaur and rightly so. She witnessed the release of the book of his worthy son from the high table and was visibly moved when Sidhu Sahib rendered one of the couplets as a word of gratitude to the mother. Hardial Sagar, a renowned poet and ghazalkar himself, sitting by my side, instantly commented that this ‘Sher’ will remain as a much acclaimed Sher in the years to come.

ਕਾਸ਼ ਰੱਖ ਕੇ ਅਕਾਸ਼ ਨੂੰ ਖੜਮਾਂ;
ਉਸ ਵਿਚ ਤਸਵੀਰ ਮਾਂ ਦੀ ਜੜ ਲੈਂਦੇ !
The foreword of the book has been written by no other than the literary guru of Roop Sidhu, Amrik Ghafil who taught Sidhu Sahib the nuances of poetry and ghazal and turned a raw talent into an expert handler of the sophisticated art of penning excellent poetry. Sidhu Sahib and Ghafil Sahib met in Dubai where they both went for greener pastures. They not only registered success in respective professions but also created good social and community life for themselves. Amrik Ghafil is a recognized poet by his own right. He recited his own poetry at the function which touched the audience.  He quotes Sidhu Sahib to pay rich tributes his style and matter and involves “Ahisas”:

ਤੋੜ ਹੀ ਦਿੱਤਾ ਜਦ ਰਿਸ਼ਤਾ ਵਫਾ ਦਾ;
ਫਿਰ ਕਿਸੇ ਅਹਿਸਾਸ ਦੀ ਹੁਣ ਲੋੜ ਹੀ ਨਹੀਂ!

Commenting on the egalitarian outlook of Roop Sidhu, his literary mentor quotes him:

ਕਦੇ ਜੇ ਤਿੱਤਲੀਆਂ ਦੇ ਖੰਭ ਗਿਣਨੋਂ ਵੇਲ ਮਿਲ ਜਾਵੇ;

ਅਦੀਬਾ ਕੌਮ ਮੇਰੀ ਨੂੰ ਜਗਾਉਣੇ ਦੇ ਲੇਇ ਵੀ ਲਿਖ !
He further quotes the author:
ਮਾੜਾ ਹੀ ਘਬਰਾਈ ਜਾਵੇ; ਏਦਾਂ ਥੋੜੀ ਹੁੰਦਾ
ਐਂਮੇ ਝਿੜਕਾਂ ਖਾਇ ਜਾਵੇ; ਏਦਾਂ ਥੋੜੀ ਹੁੰਦਾ !
The publisher Gurdial Roshan has rightly commented on the book and said, “It is the next phase of the Punjabikaran of ghazal, to my understanding, as in these ghazals one finds the heartbeat of the villages of Punjab. Roop Sidhu has started his own style of Punjabi ghazal.”

Roop Sidhu and I came to know each other from our common interest and concern in some of the community matters pertaining to the weaker sections of the society particularly dalits. He is a knowledgeable man with all positive traits to contribute to the social well being of the community and the society at large. I take this opportunity to congratulate my friend Roop Sidhu and wish him all the best in the years to come.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

International Day of Equality

Bits and Pieces – As I Please – 6

International Day of Equality - Greetings on Independence Day

PMO, in a routine circular E-mail message, asked for ideas and suggestions for the PM’s Independence Day address to the nation on August 15 from the ramparts of Red Fort. I also got the message and just off hand it came to my mind to reiterate my suggestion made to EAM Sushma Swaraj in June, 2015 to make a demarche to the UN to declare April 14, birthday of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, as the International Day of Equality in the run up to observe and celebrate the 125th Anniversary of the greatest son of India. The proposal was duly acknowledged by the UNES Division of the MEA in August, 2017. I followed up the matter with MEA and also wrote to PM Narendra Modi. PMO also sent an E-mail acknowledgement.  It encouraged me and I started to spread the message to garner support to my proposal. Many individuals and organizations came forward and supported the proposal in the regular media and also social media and some of them wrote to EAM and PMO in this regard. Forum of Scheduled Caste MPs and MLAs under the patronage of the then Speaker of the Punjab Legislature, Charanjit Singh Atwal, submitted a Memorandum to PM Narendra Modi in November, 2015 and supported the proposal. Atwal Sahib included
the proposal in his speech at the UN celebrations of 125th Anniversary of Babasaheb Ambedkar at New York in April, 2016. He took up the matter with PM Modi, on his return from New York, in his letter to PM and urged him to officially take up the proposal to declare International Day of Equality with the UN through official channels. Since then, much water has flown in the Hudson Waterfront (Gold Coast) in New York and the Jamuna in Delhi. I am not aware of any formal response from the MEA or PMO in this regard. Again on my own, I made a New Year Resolution to follow up the matter with the concerned leadership and wrote to EAM Sushma Swaraj again in February, 2017. I also urged various outfits to support the proposal wherever I happened to speak and interact. Many of these tended to support. But it is a matter of regret, that most of the followers of Dr. Ambedkar and their organizations are still living in the Jai Bhim and Jai Gurdev Syndrome and as such have no wherewithal to carry forward their agenda. The dalit politicians are either ignorant or have developed myopic vision on the basis of their party affiliations.

All said and done, on an invitation from the PMO, I reiterated my proposal in an E-mail message on August 12, 2017 and requested that it may be included in the PM’s address to the nation on the auspicious occasion of Independence Day on August 15.

Text of my message to PMO:

"Thanks Sir. It is a true democratic practice which PM Narendra Modi has introduced to as the citizens of the country for their inputs for the national agenda. I appreciate this.
Now coming to my humble input, I may add one point. After GOI decision to observe 125th anniversary of Dr. Ambedkar in 2015, I wrote EAM followed by my various demarches to PM and other high ups and suggested to approach the UN to declare April 14, birthday of Dr. Ambedkar, as the International Day of Equality. Subsequently, then Speaker of Punjab Assembly, Charan Singh Atwal also followed up the matter with PM in writing (my last letter to EAM and Atwal Sahib's letter to PM are enclosed for ready reference). The matter is resting at that in spite of my attempts to follow up the matter with MEA and PMO.

To cut the matter short and keep it focused, my humble suggestion is to consider and include this appropriately in the speech of the PM to be delivered from the Red Fort on August 15, our Independence Day. and declare the resolve of the GOI to approach the UN to declare April 14 as the International Day of Equality to honour the greatest son of India Dr. B.R. Ambedkar and to extend support to the millions not only in India but in the world at large to stand up as equals to bring about much needed harmony and sense of brotherhood.

I am confident, Sir, my humble suggestion will find favour. I am open to any consultation or explanation in this regard.

With regards

(Ramesh Chander)
Ambassador - IFS (Retired)
Tele: 09988510940”

Let us hope somebody in the GOI, particularly EAM Sushma Swaraj and PM Narendra Modi, pay due attention to the proposal and decide to make a suitable approach to the UN to declare April 14 as the International Day of Equality to honour worthy son of India, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar on one hand and to raise the flag of equality in the world at large.

इक तर्जे तुगाफिल है; सो वह उनको मुबारक;
इक अर्जे तमन्ना है वह हम करते रहेंगे!

Greetings on the Independence Day. Long live India.

 Jai Hind. Jai Bhim. Jai Bharat.

Without Comment:

“When we speak of a New India, what do we mean? There are some obvious parameters – like a house for every family, power on demand, better roads and telecom, a modern railway network, rapid and sustained growth. And yet there is more. New India must include that integral humanist component that is in our DNA, and which has defined our country and our civilisation. New India must be a society rushing towards the future, but also a compassionate society,”

President Ram Nath Kovind, Independence Day Eve Address on August 14, 2017.