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.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Book Review – Ambedkar Mission Atey Bodhi Dham

Book Review – Ambedkar Mission Atey Bodhi Dham

The Punjab Chapter of the Samta Sainik Dal invited me to a book release function on July 2, 2017, of a recent Punjabi publication “Ambedkar Mission Atey Bodhi Dham” compiled and edited by Sohan Lal Sampla of Germany at Ambedkar Bhawan in Jalandhar.  Sohan Lal Sampla is a staunch Ambedkarite and a Buddhist. The book in Punjabi is a simple narration of some of his visits to
various countries like Japan, Hungary, among others to the see the commemoratory sites and venues pertaining to Gautama Buddha and the main reviver of Buddhism in India, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, in the contemporary times and also some of the articles of others like K.C. Sulekh, Sohan, Surinder Ajnat and Soma Sablok and also poems of Sohan Sehjal, Monika Ambedkar and Pammi Madhopuria.  Sohan Lal Sampla has provided good and interesting information on his visits to Japan and Hungary not only about his impressions about these countries but also about his interlocutors and followers of Lord Buddha and Babasaheb Ambedkar. I must add, with due respect and regard to its author, that the book is not strong in its content but the motivation and spirit behind it is genuinely compelling.  

It is not surprising that the book has been dedicated to his ideological and spiritual inspiration Lahori Ram Balley of Jalandhar, an ardent Ambedkarite and Buddhist. In a sort of introduction, Fateh Jung Singh of Chandigarh has appreciated and thanked Sohan Lal Sampla for publishing and free distribution of books with a view to spread the message of Buddha and Ambedkar.
Sampla Sahib’s account of his Japan visit via China is interesting as it comes from a layman’s understanding and narration. He is impressed by the Japanese culture and tradition. His visit to the statue of Dr. Ambedkar in a prominent park in the city of Wakayama was of great satisfaction to him. Similarly his journey to Hungry gives a sense of over-whelming reception with regard to the fact that Dr. Ambedkar was increasingly being recognized in European countries and rightly so. His interaction with the leaders of the Roman-Gypsies and his elation to see Ambedkar High school in a prominent city in Hungry is clearly evident from his narration. A bust of Dr. Ambedkar, given by the Indian Embassy in Budapest, has been installed in the school. Sampla Sahib paid visits to various places of interest in India like the birthplace of Dr. Ambedkar in Mhow, Chaitya Bhoomi in Nagpur, and Ambedkar Smarak in Lucknow and pilgrimaged the important sites pertaining to Buddhism namely Lumbini, Sarnath, BodhGaya, Kushinagar etc. In the book, some interesting and informative articles on various issues of interest and concern like Poona Pact of 1932, Karva Chauth, Ravana, Raksha Bandhan etc. written by various writers have been included in the book. One may or may not agree with them but these made a good reading. Sohan Sampla’s movements of involvement and pride in the community affairs find a detailed mention in the book particularly his Cycle March to Delhi in 1964 along with The volunteers of Republican Party of India and participating in the Sit-down Hunger Strike in front of the official residence of the then PM Lal Bahadur Shastri and also his Jail Yatra in Jalandhar in support of the RPI agitation for the demands of the poor and under privileged of the country.

One can see and observe that Sohan Sampla and his family are fully dedicated to the community causes even after his migration to Germany many years before. He tends to distribute free of cost not only his own publications but also other literature on Dr. Ambedkar and Gautama Buddha. Yet another feather in the hat of Sampla
Sahib is that he, with a sense of paying back to the society, often offers financial help to various individuals and outfits connected with the community matters which has been much appreciated. Though I don’t know Sohan Lal Sampla personally yet I felt that people like him must be recognized and appreciated in the larger interest of the community. Hence this humble effort. Being a proclaimed Buddhist, Sampla Sahib does not believe in God as such. In one of the articles he has quoted likeminded poets like Allma Iqbal, Akbar Allahabadi and Mohan Singh respectively which I myself enjoyed:

ਬੈਠਾ ਕੇ ਅਰਸ਼ ਪੈ ਰਖਾ ਹੈ ਤੁਨੀ ਬਾਯਜ਼;
ਖੁਦਾ ਵੋ ਕਯਾ ਹੈ ਜੋ ਬੰਦੇ ਸੇ ਇਤਰਾਜ਼ ਕਰੇ
ਜੇਹਾਂ ਮੈਂ ਜੀ ਘਿਰ ਗਯਾ; ਲੈ-ਇੰਤਹਾ  ਕਯੋਂ ਕਰ ਹੂਆ ,
ਜੋ ਸਮਜ ਮੈਂ ਗਯਾ; ਫਿਰ ਵੋਹ ਖੁਦਾ ਕਯੋਂ ਕਰ ਹੂਆ!
ਰਬ ਇਕ ਗੁੰਜਲਦਾਰ ਭੁਜਾਰਾਤ; ਰਬ ਇਕ ਗੋਰਖ ਧੰਦਾ,
ਖੋਲਣ ਲੱਗੀਆਂ ਪੇਚ ਇਸ ਦੇ ਕਾਫ਼ਿਰ ਹੋ ਜਾਇ- ਬੰਦਾ!

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Bits and Pieces – As I Please – 5

Bits and Pieces – As I Please – 5

Cashless transactions: - PM Narendra Modi and FM Arun Jaitley and other ministers and functionaries of the government preached and propagated cashless transactions by electronic means to the perceived advantage of the common man and the financial system of the country. The loud pitch has died down as the dust raised during the demonetization has slowly settled down. These cosmetic
steps remained for sometime in the media and the government tended to claim lot of mileage of these facilities and reforms. But the situation on ground has not changed at all. The vested interests say the tax evaders and the corrupt are interested in this. They have failed the system. There is no body to check. It is unfortunate. Let me mention about one of my personal experiences in this regard. Most of the restaurants do not accept cards. During one of my visits to an old and established restaurant in Jalandhar at the time of demonetization, it was found that there was a notice to say “Sorry. We do not accept Credit/Debit Cards” kept at the entrance.

Will the authorities look into some of these irritants being faced by the people? It goes without saying that it will be difficult to curve these unethical practices and tendencies as long as easy cash generated through corruption and other illegal means remains in circulation. Corruption is the mother of all these ills.

Insensitive Media: - Over the last week, there have been reports in the media that somebody is chopping the hairs (choti or hair buns) of ladies for some ulterior purposes in some towns of UP and in and around Delhi. One does not know the veracity of the news but the rumour mongering had a field day. There was a news item in the Tribune of August 4 with the caption “Braid Cutter Dalit Lynched in Agra”. Yet another paper, Hindustan Times carried a
story “”Braid Chop Hysteria: Agra Villagers Lynch Dalit Woman”. I was wondering why the reporter has identified the old lady as a “dalit”. Was the word dalit needed to explain anything which could not be done otherwise? Did the reporter feel that such activities could only be done by dalits?  I think it is nothing more but a Manuwadi mindset of the insensitive media. Dalits are, of course, being lynched by anti-social elements mostly belonging to upper castes everyday in one pretext or the other in the caste ridden society. Generally, these stories are ignored by the biased and insensitive media. It is an unfortunate ground reality.

Chanakya Niti:- Saam-Daam-Dhand-Bhed: Chanakya  also known as Kautilya whose name was Vishnugupta was a philosopher adviser to Chadragupta Maurya in the 3rd-4th century BC. His political treatise ‘Arthashastra’ provides tenets of good governance and also advice on strategic and tactical approaches to deal with various aspects of governance and diplomacy. The crux of Chanakya’s philosophy is as valid today as it was before.  One of these dictums is the famous “Saam, Daam, Dhand and Bhed” The meaning of this is: -

Saam: to advice and ask or to express commonality with your counterpart.
Daam: to offer and buy or to offer monetary compensation.
Dand: to punish or threaten of harm.
Bhed: exploiting the secrets or try to single your opponent from his associates and cause division and dissention.

It is a considered and well thought of strategy to deal with ones opponents or enemy. In the present context in India, PM Narendra Modi and BJP President Amit Shah are skillfully applying and practicing this Chanakya policy to deal with their political opponents. The recent developments in, inter alia, Gandhinagar,
Bengaluru, Lucknow, Patna to deal with Shankar Singh Vaghela, D.K. Shivkumar, Mayawati, Akhilesh Yadav, Nitish Kumar, Lalu Prasad Yadav are some of the clear pointers in this direction. There is no harm in practicing the traditional Indian wisdom in politics, diplomacy and governance. But I think it should not be done sparingly and selectively. Moreover, the same very Shastras also teach matching morality and Dharma. As Dr. Ambedkar also said, ‘Gyan without Sheel is dangerous’.

Incidentally, PM Narendra Modi in his message to a multilateral meeting – Sambad – Global Initiative on Conflict Avoidance and Environmental Consciousness the other day referred to yet another traditional gem from the Tarka Shastra to fight with the global challenges of terrorism, climate change and to eradicate religious prejudices that cause conflict across the world and said, “The ancient Indian concept of Tarka Shastra is founded on dialogue and debate as the model for exchange of views and avoidance of conflict.” May the traditional Indian wisdom finds favour with the Chinese leadership to end the ongoing standoff at Doklam – India-China-Bhutan border tri-junction.

Without Comment:-

“Fallout of Doklam may be that China will now openly back Pakistan in border disputes.”

Will There Be War – a story in India Today, August 15, 2017 issue.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Bits and Pieces – As I Please – 4

Bits and Pieces – As I Please – 4

President Ram Nath Kovind:- President Ram Nath Kovind took the oath of office on July 25 as the 14th President of India at a befitting ceremony at the Central Hall of the Parliament of India,
keeping with the tradition of such change of guard. Mahamahim Ram Nath Kovind appeared on the scene quickly from nowhere and true to the dictum ‘he came, he saw and he conquered’ reached and occupied the coveted position of Rashtrapati of Bharat. I wish him all success in the days to come.

I wrote about President Ram Nath Kovind a couple of times earlier in these columns. Many including the media and political observers and also the common people were apprehensive of the qualifications and standing of the new President to begin with. It is a matter of satisfaction, for people like me who thought otherwise, that his two formal speeches – one short statement after his election on July 20 and the second his statement after his oath taking on July 25 have clearly set things in the right perspective. He could clearly register that he should not be taken lightly. He presented himself with dignity and confidence befitting to his stature as an experienced and astute statesman with matching moral authority of a constitutional Head of State of a great country.

In his statement on July 20, President Kovind thanked all for the trust reposed in him. He recalled his humble origin in a “Kuchha House” in a remote village.  Referring to many poor people like himself struggling to earn their livelihood, he said, “I represent all those hard working people.” And added, “This is also a message to those who earn their livelihood with hard work and honesty.” He termed his election as “the greatness of the Indian democracy.”  Many of us, particularly from the dalit communities, expected him to invoke the names of Babasaheb Ambedkar and his first worthy dalit predecessor K.R. Naryananan in his first delivery but it was not to be. It was a brief statement as President-Elect. The second, his first official speech after the oath of office, was fulsome. Like a statesman, President Ram Nath Kovind began by saying, “I enter this office with all humility.” Referring to his journey from a “Mud House” to “Rashtrapati Bhawan”, he invoked the “basic mantra” of Justice, Liberty, Equality and Fraternity enshrined in the preamble of the constitution of India saying, “I will always follow the basic mantra.”  He rightly mentioned, Babasaheb Bhim Rao Ambedkar instilled in us the value of human dignity and republican ethics.”  Cleverly like a seasoned and experienced politician, he avoided all other religious icons and invoked Lord Buddha and reiterated the main tenet of India’s foreign policy by saying, “It is appropriate that the land of Lord Buddha should lead the world in its search for peace, tranquility and ecological balance.”  The concepts of an egalitarian society and integrated humanism of Mahatma Gandhi and Deen Dayal Upadhaya found a mention in the much meaningful speech. There were some, probably considered, omissions like the role and place of Jawaharlal Nehru and his dalit predecessor K.R. Narayanan which were noticed and talked about by the critics and opponents. The name of new icons, belonging to the ruling outfit, found mention in the speech. It was natural and cannot be avoided.

President Ram Nath Kovind, a calm and quite personality, who was relatively unknown on the day of his nomination as a candidate for the highest office of the country, has made a mark on the day one itself. The speech in Hindustani was excellent both in its delivery and content. I am confident that the new President will come up to the expectations of the nation at large. Going by the oath of his office, apart from preserving, protecting and defending the constitution of India, President is expected of devoting himself to the service and well-being of the people of India. I wish him good health and further success in the days to come.

Incidentally, I have had opportunities to meet and interact with some of the Presidents of India. My immediate boss in PMO in 1974-77, Vimla Sindhi, popularly known as Behanji, who was a family friend of President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed, took me to a cricket match at Firoz Shah Kotla Stadium in Delhi and we witnessed the match sitting with President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed and the family in the VVIP stand. I worked with President K.R. Narayanan in Bejing (China) in 1977-78 when he was India’s Ambassador to China. I met and interacted with President Giani
Zail Singh during his visit to Sanaa (Yemen) in 1984, President APJ Abdul Kalam in 1998-99 when he was the Scientific Adviser to the Minister of Defense. The incumbent President Ram Nath Kovind in 2001 when he kindly came for the marriage of my daughter Vaishali along with his gracious wife Savita Behan who is a close friend of my sister Kamla of Delhi. Subsequently, President Ram Nath Kovind visited my brothers at Bootan Mandi Jalandhar during the visit of Lal Krishan Advani.  I cherish memories of my association and interaction with these high-ups and may write about this separately at some later date.


Political Hopping – Undemocratic Circus: - The recent somersault of CM of Bihar, Nitish Kumar is the provocation to write about this undemocratic circus of changing sides. It is a negation of democracy and must be curved forthwith. It will prove to a “Grammar of Anarchy”, in the terminology of the father of the Constitution of India, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, for the polity and our country. Harish Khare of the Tribune has commented on the Nitish
saga, “A neat coup has been staged in Patna. Brilliantly conceived and cleverly executed.  Not with tanks and commandos but with a convenient conscience and gentrified opportunism. Within a space of 24 hours, a chief minister resigns, divests himself of his designated alliance partners, teams up with his declared political rivals and becomes chief minister again after getting sworn in at an unseemly superfast speed by a very obliging Governor.”

Our constitution has worked well in the face of many challenges of poverty, illiteracy, caste system, graded inequality, feudalism, religious dogmas etc. There are some glaring failures too, not because the constitution is bad but because “man is vile” as assessed by Dr. Ambedkar himself. One of the major failures, to my mind, is that even after 67 years of our becoming a democratic republic, polarization of political forces could not happen on the basis of ideology, programme and agenda. Ideally, there should be only three political main streams, keeping in mind that the Communists are increasingly getting out of reckoning not only in India but also in the world  – (i) Centre – Let us say Middle path – Socialists, Communists, Janta Dals and Lok Dals of all hues, etc.  (ii) Left of the Centre – Congress, TMC, BSP etc. and (iii) Right of the Centre – BJP, Shiv Sena, Hindu outfits etc. All regional parties like Akali Dal, DMK, AIDMK, BJD, National Conference, PDP, Assam Gana Parishad etc. should be confined to their respective states. They should align themselves with any of the three streams before elections by law. Any MLA or MP who intends to change his or her affiliation will automatically loose his or membership of the legislature or the house of parliament. Political parties too should not be permitted to change their group affiliations or say coalition partnership mid-way. It can be done only at the time of elections. It has been observed over the years that politically disgruntled elements and opportunists tend to subvert the system for personal advantage rather than caring for the ideology and programme of the party they belonged to. The electoral reforms introduced so far could not help the matter to prevent and eliminate political hopping, unfortunately. This undemocratic circus must be stopped forthwith. The national status of political parties should be determined not only on the basis of percentage of votes polled but also in a given number of states. These measures are needed to deter the Aaya Rams – Gaya Rams of Indian politics to negate the democratic system for their selfish motives. India has come a long way in its constitutional development but it has yet to attain the political culture conducive for democracy. Political opportunism has to be checked, the sooner the better. My motivating guru of ‘As I Please”, Kunwar Natwar Singh has commented very candidly, “Loyalty and politics are strangers. The past few days have displayed low-class political opportunism. The enemies of yesteryears have become friends today. When the next opportunism appears, opportunists cannot be far away.” It is sad commentary on this aspect of our polity.

Babasaheb B.R. Ambedkar was very particular in placing morality above other things in electing the people’s representatives. He said, “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 the 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.”

We may ignore these hard realities at our own peril.

Barbaadi-e-gulshan ke liye
Jab ek hi ullu kafi tha
Har shaakh pe ullu baitha hai
Anjaam-e-gulistaan kya hoga..!?


Without Comment:-
Mao Zedong a keener student of the Art of War than of the Das Kapital saw Tibet in strategic terms. He said the Tibetan plateau was the palm with Ladakh, Nepal, Sikkim, Bhutan and Arunachal Pradesh as the five fingers. With China gaining influence in Nepal, now threatening to recognize Sikkim as independent and obliquely hinting at stoking a democratic revolution in the Kingdom of Bhutan, Beijing may have plans to join the five fingers to the palm.”

Thumten Samphel, Director of the Tibet Policy Institute in his article “China’s Great Game” published in the Outlook Magazine – July 24, 2017 issue.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Lahori Ram Balley – Happy Birthday

Lahori Ram Balley – Happy Birthday

 Lahori Ram Balley (July 20, 1930), an ardent Ambedkarite and a social and political leader of Jalandhar, entered his 88th year last week week. I wished him happy birthday and early recovery from the hip injury which inflicted him recently during one of his journeys to Rajasthan on community business. With God’s grace, Balley Sahib is fighting fit otherwise. Balley Sahib is an icon of Ambedkarites, Buddhists and dalits of Punjab and beyond. People duly recognized his immense contribution to the betterment of the
community and the society at large. As a popular leader in the area, he is easily available and eager to meet people to listen to and discuss matters of interest of the community and the country. I thought of writing about Balley Sahib in appreciation and recognition of his on-going yeoman’s service to the community and the society at large.

Though I know Balley Sahib for the last more than 50 years, yet my direct inter-action started only on my retirement and return to my roots in Bootan Mandi five years ago. I vividly recall Balley Sahib moving on a bicycle in Bootan Mandi in early 1960s in communist style khaki with a typical Lenin or Stalin cap. The office of his newly launched brainchild “Bheem Patrika” started in 1958, if my memory does not fail me, was located at Guru Ravidass Gurudawara at Bootan Mandi where I was a student in the primary school run by the Seths of Bootan Mandi.  My social and political awareness started in the family at a young age of about 10. Now I feel that Balley Sahib’s silent contribution in my awareness or education in this regard was considerable. Both my grandfather and father were socially alive and staunch followers of Dr. Ambedkar. My father was a regular subscriber to the Bheem Patrika of both Urdu and Punjabi editions. I admit that the address sticker of the postal delivery of the weekly “Munim Sodhi Ram, Ramdaspura (Bootan Mandi) Jalandhar”, is still clearly photographed in my mind.  I tended to read and even digest the weekly Bheem Patrika diligently. I remember the headlines: Hamdard or Dushman – a story on the Chief Editor of Punjabi daily Sadhu Singh Hamdard, Meri Videsh Yatra – a travelogue of Editor Lahori Ram Balley’s first visit to the UK in the mid 1960s, a satirical account of the activities of Piara (Puada) Ram Dhanowalia, Charan Dass Nidhadak (Naghadat), Duni Chand Shahpuri (Swapuri) in the wake of their parting company with Balley Sahib on account of differences on the formation of Punjabi Suba. I revered Balley Sahib as one of the finest writers, orators and thinkers the community has produced over the years. He still holds that charm at 87. It is a matter of satisfaction. I recall an anecdote. During one of the parliamentary elections for the Jalandhar constituency in which the heavy weights, Swaran Singh of the Congress Party and Harkishan Singh Surjit of the Communists, were the main rivals. Krishna Menon, considered to be the best orator, came to speak in favour of Swaran Singh. It was suggested and considered that it was Lahori Ram Balley only who could stand and counter Menon. He is an orator par excellence – Jadu-bian-Mukarar.  My father told me this as oral history. In his young days, Balley Sahib was a firebrand leader. My father took me along on a protest march of the Republican Party in front of the then DC’s office in the mid 1960s. I saw young Balley in action, leading from the front and shouting from full throat “Firkaparast Nehru – Murdabad”.  I saw and heard Balley Sahib interpreting into Punjabi  Joginder Nath Mandal’s  speech in English at Bootan Mandi and later that of the High Commissioner of Sri Lanka at Ambedkar Bhawan at Jalandhar. His stock in my mind went considerably up.  I understand Balley Sahib also contributed his bit to the Justice S.R. Das Commision of Enquiry constituted against the then CM of Punjab Partap Singh Kairon. It was an appreciable political activity at that time. Seeing him now performing and conducting himself with aplomb and dignity, he qualifies to be leader by his own right.

Lahori Ram Balley is a committed Ambedkarite and Buddhist. He resigned from a cozy government job and dedicated himself to the mission of Babasaheb Ambedkar in 1956 to fulfill his word to Babasaheb. He became a much sought after politician under the banner of Scheduled Caste Federation and Republican Party. Many politicians from all shades and hues envied him as a leader of the masses. He contested both assembly and parliamentary elections from a general seat. Being a Buddhist he was not eligible then to contest from a reserved seat unlike now. Apart from politics, Balley Sahib continued and nurtured his intellectual interests. He still publishes Bheem Patrika started in 1958. He has written and translated a number of books on Ambedkar and his mission which are readily liked by the followers of the great leader and also by the students of contemporary history. He is one of the founding trustees of established institutions like Ambedkar Bhawan Trust Jalandhar, Ambedkar Mission Society, many outfits relating to Gautama Buddha, inter alia. Being a bold writer and unstoppable persona, Balley Sahib also has attracted and invited a fair share of controversies on his writings and utterings viz. court cases on his books “Hinduism Dharam Yan Kalank” and “Rangila Gandhi” and his political rivalry and spat with Piara Ram Dhanowalia, Babu Kanshi Ram, among others. Anyway, it is, to my mind, is a part of the game in which Balley Sahib is a top ranking player.

When I thought of writing this, it was only to wish Balley Sahib on his birthday as part of my serial blog ‘Bits and Pieces – As I Please” but it has gone beyond my intension and I thought of posting it separately. There is so much to write about Lahori Ram Balley. Let us leave it to some other occasion. I understand that his autobiography is almost ready and awaiting final touches. It will be good to listen and learn from the horse’s mouth.

अपना मुकद्दर आप बनाते हैं एहले दिल;
हम वह नहीं जिने जमाना बना गया !

Monday, July 24, 2017

Bits and Pieces – As I please – 3

Bits and Pieces – As I please – 3
Vice-Presidential Election: - The position of the Vice President of India is an important position in the warrant of precedence of India. Our fore-fathers in the Constituent Assembly rightly made the Vice President of India the Ex-officio Chairman of the Rajya Sabha with
a view to ensure that only competent and intelligent people adorn the position. As a result, it is a matter of satisfaction; a galaxy of personalities from the Indian social, political, academic, diplomatic, intellectual segments could make it the coveted position starting from S. Radhakrishnan to Mohammad Hamid Ansari.

The election for the next incumbent is due to be held on August 5, 2017. The candidature of two worthy personalities has been declared – Gopalkrishna Gandhi of the opposition under the UPA and M. Venkaiah Naidu of the ruling NDA. Both the candidates enjoy their own standing by their own right. There could not be two opinions on this. Gopalkrishna Gandhi, grandson of Mahatma Gandhi and C. Rajagopalachari, is an able administrator of the IAS, a suave diplomat, an intellectual and an erudite writer. One requires a lot of moral strength and commitment to contest for the high position in the face of visible defeat. Commenting on this he said, “Arithmetic is one thing and principle is another. Yet another comment on the candidature of Gopalkrishan Gandhi from Kunwar Natwar Singh, “Some defeats are more glorious than victories.”
I heard a lot about Gopalkrishna Gandhi in Kandy in Sri Lanka. He was the First Secretary at the Assistant High Commissioner in the early 1980s to look after the registration and repatriation of stateless Tamilians under the Lal Bahadur Shastri and Sirimavo Bandaranaike Pact. I joined at Kandy in January, 1986 after he left.  He was very popular not only among the poor Tamil plantation workers in the hills but also in the social, intellectual and political circles in and around Kandy. His novel “Sharnam” on the Tamil stateless tea plantation workers was very well received in Sri Lanka.

Similarly, M. Vankaiah Naidu is a clever and smart politician with a long Ministerial and parliamentary experience and background. He is a down to earth son of the soil known for his witty one-liners.  He was said to be the trouble-shooter of the BJP. As reported in the media, “Naidu had earlier ruled himself out of the race for Vice President saying that he neither wants to be Rashtrapati nor Uprashtrapati  and is happy being Usha’s pati.” He is set to make it to the Vice President’s appointed address at 6, Maulana Azad Road in Lutyens Delhi. I have had an opportunity to visit the sprawling residence of then Vice President, Dr. Shankar Dayal Sharma in 1990 along with an East German Minister before the German unification. M. Vankaiah Naidu is fully qualified and capable for the coveted position of the Vice President of India and the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha.

Social Identity: - Last week, I shared a Sufi rendition of Bibi Swaran Nooran, grand-mother of famous Sufi duo Nooran Sisters on my facebook timeline. Dwelling on the fact that the Noorans have roots in my native place Bootan Mandi at Jalandhar, I lamented  how the legacy of legendary Bibi Nooran was lost by the community. I commented on my facebook timeline, “Ramesh Chander Yes Sunil. Unfortunately, the Seths of Bootan Mandi did not give them their due space. They in turn also disassociated themselves on this count on one hand and their inferiority complex of their caste. They feel it would be good to hide it to gain favour or acceptance from the caste ridden society. But it does not work. Somehow our people who intend to hide themselves after their rise are wrong. What to do? “

My comments got many replies and comments. One of my friends from UK, Sunil Raju, who is fully alive and an awakened observer of the situation, was one among them. Sunil Raju made pertinent and relevant observations on the fact that how the so called empowered dalits have abandoned and ignored their brethren in the run up to gain false identity and recognition in the caste ridden society. I quote Sunil Raju:-

Sunil Raju Ramesh Chander Bhaisaheb this is the most basic and biggest problem in our community as I see it i.e. inferiority complex. We don't discuss about it because we don't want to admit it. We hide ourselves in society and the extent we hide ourselves is almost directly proportional to the status one achieves in society.
And other castes make sure that they don't lose any chance in denigrating our people based on caste.

This complex is primarily because of stigma associated with the caste and fear of persecution. Individual acts of coming out of the closet remain individual and as a result they mostly suffer individually too, because rest of our folks sit on sidelines dragging their heels (hun aap hi panga leya hai tan bhugtae attitude). It is similar to in past where if Dr. Ambedkar rally used to be held, many of our folks would just walk on side of the road, lest they are considered to be part of the group, in case if they meet someone they know, and if cajoled, they would say Jai Bheem half heartedly. Continuous bitching about reservations by high castes has contributed to it. Reservations on one side have given a foothold to our people in society then on other hand also brought down their morale through sustained notorious efforts by high castes to point out our people as "reservation-seekers". This is not justified. Reservations is our right and I see reservations as a thorn which should hurt caste ridden society so much that they see caste system as the cause of it, and then get rid of it through sustained methods.

Our people have to come out of the closet in force and together. There is absolutely no shame in which we are. We are survivors. The conditions our ancestors grew up in, if high castes are subjected to same for a year, they would end up in mental asylums. Our people have to shed negativity to the extent that not all so-called privileged castes are bad and not all our people are good. Times are changing and "fortunately" people of all walks of life are seeing the results of ideology being followed these days. This may be a blessing in disguise and masses are realizing what Ambedkar observed 60 years ago was right.

When we remain strongly positive, and respect ourselves, other people would respect us. We have to counter planned oppression by other castes, in a planned manner. We have to come out of the closet and until we do that, we would suffer individually and in isolation. Again and again, our society has given gems to the society and we are justice-loving, reasonable and rational people unlike others who believe in inequality of human beings, a sick, retarded and inhuman concept.
We should learn from Jews.”

I will close this by listing one quote from Dr. B.R. Ambedkar himself which tends to say a lot about the so called empowered dalits:

"The educated people have betrayed me. I was thinking that after education they will serve their society. But I find that a crowd of clerks had gathered around me, who are engaged in filling their belly". 

Congratulations to President–Elect Shri Ram Nath Kovind: - As expected, Ram Nath Kovind of the BJP and NDA was elected as the 14th President of India, the highest constitutional position of India.  My immediate family joins me in congratulating Kovind Sahib and his gracious wife Savita Behan who is a close friend of my sister Kamla Devi of Delhi.  Kovind Sahib’s candidature and election was a master stroke of PM Narendra Modi and BJP President Amit Shah which clearly hay-wired the opposition.  The opposition had other candidates in mind, but the BJP’s dalit card
compelled the opposition to make Meira Kumar, another dalit, the sacrificial goat. Nonetheless, it is politics. Ram Nath Kovind is fully capable and able to adore the coveted post of the first citizen of India. One can only surmise whether Babasaheb Ambedkar and Babu Kanshi Ram would have been happy with the emerging situation of the growing dalit clout on one hand in the Indian polity and things remaining the same as far as the empowerment of dalits are concerned on the other. This question will remain. Ram Nath Kovind will become the second dalit Mahamahim after K.R. Narayanan though there is no reservation for this position. The potency of dalit vote bank tends to dictate more than the desirability in the Manuwadi mindset of the society at large. These are some of the relevant observations.

On July 25, 2017, Ram Nath Kovind will take the oath of office and start working as the President of India. I think, mindfully or otherwise, he is conscious of the fact that he should not be called a dalit President but it seems unlikely in the caste ridden society. The office of the President of India requires both confidence and commitment, besides political expediency. People are already talking about the skip of names of Baba Saheb Ambedkar and K.R. Narayanan from the first brief statement which the President-Elect Ram Nath made immediately after the election results on July 20. I hope that President Ram Nath Kovind would take care and try his best to instill confidence among the masses, particularly among the weaker sections of the society while performing his duty as an icon and stamp of the nation as envisaged in the constitution of India.


Without comment:-
“Imperial and ideological exemplars appeal to you. So, be Maharana Pratap in your struggle as you conceive it, but be an Akbar in your repose. Be a Savarkar in your heart, if you must, but be an Ambedkar in your mind. Be an RSS-trained believer in Hindutva in your DNA, if you need to be, but be the Wazir-e-Azam of Hindostan that the 69 per cent who did not vote for you, would want you to be.”
Gopalkrishna Gandhi in an open letter to PM Narendra Modi in May, 1914

Monday, July 17, 2017

Bits and Pieces – As I Please - 2

Bits and Pieces – As I Please - 2

Choice between two truths: - The Presidential election is scheduled to be held on July 17, 2017. The two main candidates in the election are – Ram Nath Kovind of the ruling NDA and Meira Kumar of the opposition UPA. Both the candidates, to my mind, fully fit the bill and if elected will do justice to the coveted position of the President of India.  It is unfortunate that the main stream of the society and the media are, consciously or otherwise, giving a
caste colour to the election as both the candidates are dalits. It is obvious that the political outfits on both the sides have named these two dalit worthies for the top constitutional job on considerations of vote bank. But let it be. We are a democratic country and vote banks have a definite role in the system. It is interesting to note that the choice is between the two truths – Ram Nath Kovind and Meira Kumar, both highly qualified and capable to adorn the high office of the President of India.  K.R. Narayanan was said to be the first dalit President of India. Of course he was a dalit but he was one of the best Presidents of India. Gopalkrishna Gandhi who is the UPA candidate for the post of Vice President of India worked as Secretary to President K.R. Narayanan and has recently written, “We need a President like Narayanan” He has narrated a dialogue between Mahatma Gandhi and K.R. Narayanan when Narayanan was just 25 and I quote “He (Narayanan) had just been awarded a Tata scholarship and was going to London. ‘You have simplified for us the choice between truth and untruth’, he asked, ‘but what would you advise when the choice is not between truth and untruth?  And, when in England I am asked about the untouchability issue in India, should I reply as an Indian or a Harijan?’  The election of Ram Nath Kovind and Meira Kumar is a choice between two truths. Whosoever makes it to the high 0ffice of the President of India will have to prove him or herself. Given the electoral realities, it seems that Ram Nath Kovind will occupy the Rashtrapati Bhawan by the last week of July, 2017. I believe, he will fully justify the choice and hold the trust as visualized by Gopalkrishna Gandhi, “A president who can speak bitter truths like that (referring to Narayanan) is the President India needs, be he or she Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Dalit, OBC, Brahmin, political or non-political.” The truth has been sealed in the ballot boxes today.

The Argumentative Indian – Documentary on Amartya Sen:- The news about the Censor Board’s objections to a few words in the documentary film, The Augumentative Indian,  on the Nobel laureate, Amartya Sen, is disturbing in the prevailing general impression that the government and the society at large was getting intolerant to dissent and other points of view. The CBFC required the filmmaker, Suman Ghosh, to beep out or mute words such as Gujarat, Cow, Hindutava view of India and Hindu India used by Amartya Sen in the narration of the documentary.  Suman Ghosh is not ready to agree to the dictates of the CBFC and rightly so. How will it help? In any case, the matter is already in the media. Moreover, Amartya Sen is “one of the greatest minds of our times”, as stated by Suman Ghosh. No one should doubt and challenge this standing of Amartya Sen. It has been reported that Chairman of CBFC, Pahlaj Nihalani has defended their action by saying, “here is the reason why – because we felt that a documentary on an Indian Nobel Laureate referring insensitively to our politics and religion could result in serious breach of peace.” It seems a gross case of stupidity to undermine both Amartya Sen and the Indian people. Are we living in a civilized society under democratic dispensation or some sort of dictatorship?
I wrote this piece yesterday. Meanwhile, Natwar Singh, my inspiration to write ‘Bits and Pieces’ has pleased himself and his readers on the subject in Sundays Tribune. I please myself by quoting Natwar Singh:-
Several newspapers have made fun of the CBFC. One editorial says, “Exactly what does the ‘Hindutva view of India’ have in common with, ‘bastard, saale and haramzade’”. The headline in another editorial is “Censor Board on Rampage”. A third one says, “By a thousand cuts”. Another editorial’s heading is “Censoring Sen outrageous.”Amartya Sen has taken a philosophical view, “even those who do not have an iota of interest in him will now see the documentary”. Amartya Sen is a man of undisputed learning, character, courage and lively charm.”

Meanwhile before this is posted in my blog, yet another controversy in the name of freedom of expression and danger to peace and harmony has come up – the Congress party objecting to Madhur Bhandarkar’s film ‘Indu Sarkar’ – a film said to be on the emergency imposed by PM Indira Gandhi in 1975. What is the problem? Many films have already been made and many books have been written on the subject. Let it be one more. People of India and the world at large know the role and contribution of Indira Gandhi to the Indian politics and society.

Grin and beer it with cheers:- The July 17, 2017 issue of the Outlook magazine has carried a brief story on Andhra Pradesh government’s decision to promote low alcohol and locally produced beer as it is a healthier option than other forms of liquor. I think this decision makes a lot of sense and other states should understand and follow suit. Good drinking water is not available in most parts of the country and also to the poor masses. It is advisable to urge people to drink low alcohol beer or wine instead of hard drinks. It is difficult to change drinking habits of people. This decision to promote low alcohol drinks will not only save people from undrinkable water but also satisfy their psychological urge to drink. Popularity and availability of non-alcoholic beer and wine in some of the Arab and Islamic countries also ready availability of low alcoholic content beers and wines in Scandinavian countries is a good example in this regard.

Prohibition as a policy has failed not only in India but also in other countries. Prohibition, to my mind, is hypocrisy of human mind. In the 20th century, it failed in Europe, Americas and many countries in the developed world. Spiritual or moralistic convictions of various religions are the root cause of prohibition. But the consumption of alcohol has not come down and it cannot be stopped altogether, it appears.

In India, ancient scriptures like the Ramayana, Mahabharata, Puranas and Vedas find mention of alcoholic beverages like Sura. The Ayurvedic texts recognize potency of alcohol for medical purposes. The constitution of India stipulates in its Article 47 under the chapter Directive Principles of State Policy – Duty of the State to raise the level of nutrition and standard of living and to improve public health. It says, inter alia, “The state shall endeavor to bring about prohibition of the consumption except for medical purposes of intoxicating drinks and of drugs which are injurious to health.”  I think consumption of alcohol particularly low degree beers and wines consumed in temperance are not injurious to health. This is what the ancient Ayurvedic and modern medical science say. The
State has to play a role in leaving this unrealistic approach of general prohibition and end this hypocrisy. People shall be advised and educated about the good points of temperance and drinking culture. In India, people tend to drink to satisfy their inner and natural urges but not socially and in the family. They drink stealthily and that too hurriedly. It is not good. The nutritional and medicinal value of alcoholic drinks is lost in the process which leads to many social and health problems. The state governments in India are interested in easy revenue from excise duty and other taxes on alcoholic drinks. They are not interested in social and health considerations. They are also not interested in what the poor masses drink. One can see the hypocrisy and willful exploitation in Punjab. The listed and written retail price of a bottle of beer is something like Rs. 85/- but the retailers are selling it for not less than Rs.150-180/-. The rich who can afford may drink but what about the poor? They are condemned to drink spurious and harmful spirits. I read some years before that Punjab had started producing good quantity of grapes which were more suitable for making wines which would cost less than the cost of a bottle of Coca-cola. What is the problem? Let people drink beer or wine with low degree of alcoholic content and save them from undrinkable water. With this the intention of the Directive Principle of State Policy mentioned above will be taken care of in a more meaningful way.

Without comment:-

“PM Modi’s visit (to Israel) dispels the usual guilt-ridden trepidation in engaging Israel), as Indian policy in West Asia shifts to pragmatism”

Ambassador K.C. Singh in an article in the Outlook magazine (July 17, 2017 issue.