Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Bits and Pieces – As I Please – 12

Bits and Pieces – As I Please – 12

Spiritual Tourism and Guru Ravidass – Indian society is multi-cultural and multi-religious. Caste consciousness has tended to make various communities do something to establish their separate identity. The followers of Guru Ravidass are no exception. They have also started thinking, on the lines of other communities like Sikhs, Jains, Parsees, Buddhists etc. and also the main stream
religions like Hindus, Muslims and Christians, to have their own sites and places where the faithful may go for spiritual pilgrimage. My motivation to write on the subject emanated after my recent brief interaction with the National President of Ad-dharam Mission, Sant Satwinder Singh Hira. He told me that they have explored and identified a place, down south in the city called Tuticorin (Kanyakumari) in Tamil Nadu which Guru Ravidass is believed to have visited in the 15th century during his various spiritual sojourns throughout the country. The place is called “Land of Ellora”. Banta Ram Ghera, a social and spiritual
activist of the Ravidassia community who was closely attached to the Ad-dharam Movement of Babu Mangu Ram Mugowalia did a great job in this regard. It will not be out of place to mention that Banta Ram Ghera was the chief explorer and leading personality to start the development of the birth place of Guru Ravidass at Seer Govardhanpur in Kanshi (Varanasi) in the 1950s-1960s with the active support of Sant Sarwan Dass of Sachkhand Ballan of Jalandhar and the community at large. The foundation stone of the Seer Govardhanpur Dharamasthan was formally laid by Sant Haridass, under the patronage of the great Sant Sarwan Dass. The rest is history. Now Seer Govardhanpur Dharamasthan has become a hub and catalyst of Ravidassia religious and social identity under the administrative control of Dera Sachkhand Ballan. The political big-wigs remain on the lookout for an opportunity to pay obeisance at the holy place. President K.R. Narayanan was the first to set the ball rolling. Mayawati and Kanshi Ram followed suit. Eyeing the Ravidassia community as a potential vote bank, PM Narendra Modi and CM Aditya Nath Yogi, obviously, could not afford to skip and visited the Dharamasthan in recent successive years at the Guru Ravidass Jayanti. And rightly so. President Ram Nath Kovind may not
be far behind. Minar-e-Begumpura and Charan Chhoh Ganga at Khuralgarh at Hoshiarpur in Punjab has already been identified and developed as a centre of pilgrimage by the followers of the great Guru Ravidass. Sant Hira told me that they were planning to develop some other places in J&K, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and in Himachal Pradesh to make it as a “Guru Ravidass Trail” for the benefit of the followers of the Guru to meet their spiritual and cultural needs. It is not a bad idea to consolidate the positive influence of the lofty Bani of Guru Ravidass to create social harmony and spiritual fulfillment of the community and the society large. I would like to suggest in this regard that the Ad-dharam Mandal should endeavour to engage not only the governmental authorities but also all well meaning dalit outfits to achieve this goal.

Relevance of Allama Iqbal – Muhammad Iqbal, philosopher poet and ideologue, of erstwhile united India and later Pakistan, is as relevant today as he was before even though some of the narrow-minded and communal quarters both in India and Pakistan have tried to suppress and marginalize the lofty ideas and philosophy of the great thinker and writer of our times. Though Iqbal is not a favourite of the ruling elite because of the pseudo-nationalism they
profess yet surprisingly these days, the ones who generally discount him, the right wing Hindus, say of the RSS family, often quote him to convey the importance and relevance of Allama Iqbal by referring to his very thought provoking poetic expression on the culture and tradition of Hindu India, particularly in which he termed Shri Ram as “Imam-e-Hind”:

है राम के वजूद पे हिन्दोस्ताँ को नाज़,
अहले-नज़र समझते हैं उसको इमामे-हिन्द
In this regard in a recent debate on a “Cheer leader” TV channel, the spokesman of the BJP was happily quoting the above mentioned couplet and advising Muslim stakeholders to handover the Babri Masjid site to Hindus as Iqbal called him “Imam-e-Hind”. One of the Muslim panelists on the debate countered him and quoted another gem of Iqbal’s “Na samjhoge to mitt jaoge eh Hindustan walon; tumhari dastan tak bhi na hogi dastano mein”. It worked as a red rag to the bull. The BJP spokesperson challenged Iqbal and questioned who he was to say this. How can anybody say that India could be finished? Not that the BJP spokesperson did not understand the context of Iqbal’s expression but it was clearly evident that he was in no mood to admit that Iqbal was a great man of vision. It is unfortunate and sheer narrow-mindedness.

Iqbal was a great thinker of all times. I like his “Qalaam” as a lay man. His many renditions and expressions clearly demonstrate and establish that he was a staunch nationalist and proponent of India and her tradition and culture. What happened later in his life time is history which most of us know. Some of his famous and thought provoking poetic compositions still make us stand in spirited pride and patriotic fervor and well placed nationalism. Let us accept this reality as Allama Muhammad Iqbal will remain relevant in the years to come as he was before. Can we ignore and forget the everlasting tarana “Sare jahan se accha Hindustan hamara”? No, we cannot. Will we not laud him when he says “Yunanon misro roma sab mit gaye jahaan se; ab tak magar hai baki naamo nishan hamara”? Will we not acclaim him when he says “Nanak ne jis chaman mein vaihdat ka geet gaya; mera watan vahi hai”? Did he not lament the erosion of Buddha’s message of peace when he wrote:

“Qoum Ne Pegham-e-Gautam Ki Zara Parwa Na Ki
Qadar Na Pehchani Na Apne Gohar-e-Yak Dana Ki

(The nation could not care less about Gautama’s message—It did not know the price of its unique pearl!)
Much more could be said but I will contend by quoting only one more:

गैरियत के परदे; इक बार फिर उठा दें,
बिछ्ड़ों को फिर मिला दें;नक़्शे दुई मिटा दें.
सूनी पड़ी हुई है मुद्दत से दिल की बस्ती,
इक नया शिवालय इस देश में बना दें.

Happy Valentine’s Day – Today is Valentine’s Day. My hearty greetings to you all. Generally, I don’t practice any excessive rituals on this day and view it as any good and happy occasion in these days of strife and conflict. But Valentine’s day remains in my psyche after the year 2001. I fell seriously ill with a brain haemorrhage while in office in Tokyo on February 12, the so called Hug Day. I almost hugged death. On February 12-13, I was in the ICU, almost kissing death, the so called Kiss Day. But God is great. I was saved and was moved to a designated room in the hospital on the morning of February 14, the Valentine’s Day. My wife Vidya
was alone with me as my daughter Vaishali and my son Rupesh had gone to Stockholm to oversee the birth of my grandson Arvind who was born on February 4 that year. Vidya did not remember the V Day. My office aide, Chander Prakash came to see me and wished me well but without mentioning the word V. But a pleasant surprise was to come. After the close of the day at the Embassy, the entire local staff i.e. Japanese, Filipino and Indian came and filled my room with profound and hearty Valentine’s Day wishes and greetings with chocolates and variety of roses to share. Many young and gracious girls kissed me spontaneously. After the hugs and kisses with death, I felt I was flying in the sky of love on that Valentine’s Day of February, 2001. It will remain with me as a cherished memory.
 Happy Valentine’s Day.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Begumpura International Business Conclave

Begumpura International Business Conclave

Scheduled Caste Entrepreneur Empowerment Forum (SCEEF) - an organization, still in its infancy, organized its 1st Begumpura International Business Conclave, 2018 at Jalandhar on February 6, 2018. The motto of SCEEF “Stepping towards Social Transformation through Economic Empowerment” itself explains the purpose of the Begumpura International Conclave. It was a modest effort to begin with but a successful one with good participation from abroad which included known and prominent personalities of dalits like owners and promoters of Kanshi TV (UK) Hans Raj Banga, Bibi Bholi Randhawa, Raj Bangar, Balbir
Kaler, entrepreneurs namely Tilak Bagha, Desh Raj Mehmi from Germany, Italy, UAE, among others. They keenly interacted with the executives of SCEEF and its members to explore, identify ideas and opportunities to establish mutually beneficial business ties. It was a matter of satisfaction that, of late, dalit entrepreneurs have started to understand the nuances of good business and are slowly getting prepared to join the mainstream to not only earn their bread and butter with dignity but also to contribute to the betterment and empowerment of the socially and economically weaker sections of the community and the society at large. I am confident that SCEEF will play a good facilitatory role in this regards. The proceedings of the function was ably conducted by the Working Chairman of the SCEEF, Jiwan Singh.

I was invited to preside over the function which was an honour for me. SCEEF treats me as their Chief Patron. Former Chairman of Punjab SC Commission Rajesh Bagha is the leading light of the SCEEF with a dedicated team of social and political activists like Jiwan Singh, Bhupinder Kumar, Prem Domeli, Prof. Akshay Kumar, Shammi Kapoor among others and duly supported by businessmen, inter alia, Gurdev Mahey, Ishwar Johal, Ajay Kaul and also Manjit Bali who is a Member of the Ambedkar Foundation of the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment. It may not be out of place to mention that SCEEF has explicit support and encouragement by the outfits of the ruling BJP due to Rajesh Bagha and Manjit Bali who are affiliated with the party. As such the government organizations like National Small Industries Corporation, Sports Goods Export Promotion Council, Ministry of Small and Medium Enterprises are extending all due assistant to the SCEEF which is an added advantage. There is no harm in taking advantage of such arrangements as we have nothing to lose but much to gain. The NRI delegates under the stewardship of Hans Raj Banga made brief remarks and registered their appreciation of the initiatives and efforts of SCEEF to promote and support business acumen among the dalit entrepreneurs. As I mentioned earlier, field organizations of the BJP were represented by Dr. Varinder Garg, OSD to the India’s Minister of Health and by Vijay Nadda of Vidya Bharti. Dr.Garg spoke at length on the SC Sub Plan to provide statutory backing to the SC empowerment schemes and programmes. Vijay Nadda underlined the importance and relevance of the ‘Samrasta, Samagrata and Shohaardh’ in the society to integrate the socially and economically weaker segments of the society with the national mainstream. Senior Executives of NCIC and EEPC, Anil Verma and Opinder Singh respectively made brief presentations on the schemes and facilities to empower and support SC businessmen and showed keenness to help the entrepreneurs. Hans Raj Banga, in his characteristic simplicity said that they would be too happy to work with their brethren in Punjab to help them stand-up in their respective businesses and offered the services of Kanshi TV to advertise and promote their business interests. Rajesh Bagha was the lead speaker at the event. He spoke at length about his work and contribution in streamlining the post-matric scholarship scheme during his tenure as the Chairman of the Punjab SC Commission and said that the objective of the newly created SCEEF was to work as a catalyst to facilitate the young entrepreneurs to become “job givers instead of job seekers” to find their due space in the polity and economy of the country. He further said that it was gratifying to note that the first Begumpura International Business Conclave which was planned in a hurry to take advantage of the visit of NRI followers of Guru Ravidass for the Gurpurab was a great success. He announced that next year in February, 2019 to commemorate the Gurpurab a planned and bigger conclave will be held not only to provide a befitting tribute to the great Guru but also to provide a proper platform to the aspiring businessmen of the community both in India and abroad. Let me mention an interesting aspect of the event. It was the participation of the National President of Ad-dharam Mission, Sant Satwinder
Hira, in the Conclave not as a social or spiritual activist but as a business entity. I was impressed by his credentials and performance as a real-estate developer and exporter of skilled and semi-skilled manpower. Sant Satwinder Singh Hira who is an Engineer himself disclosed his wish to motivate and engage at least a hundred budding SC entrepreneurs within a year and make them successful businessmen. I saw an emerging Baba Ramdev of the community in the persona of Sant Satwinder Hira.

In my valedictory remarks to sum-up and close the function, I offered my humble services and experience to the SCEEF not as the Chief Patron but as a Chief Sewak of the community as my meager contribution to ‘pay back to the society’ as my post retirement activity.  I duly appreciated and recognized the good work being done by the SCEEF under the guidance of Rajesh Bagha and his team which, to my satisfaction, is duly supported by their associates like Dr. Varinder Garg, Vijay Nadda, Chief Editor of an Evening daily “Metro Encounter”, Rakesh Shantidoot among others. Referring to the remarks made by one of the NRI delegates
at the Conclave advising the audience that there was no need to seek help from government agencies, I begged to differ and said that there should not be any inferiority complex. These agencies were created for us by our government and we should take full advantage and avail of their services and facilities. These agencies were meant for us. Their assets are our assets as India belonged to us. I added that our icons, Guru Ravidass and Babasaheb Ambedkar stood for equality and fraternity in an inclusive society as enshrined in the bani of Guru Ravidass “Keh Ravidass Khalas Chamara; jo hum shehari so meet hamara” and thoughtfully stipulated in the very preamble of the constitution of India by Dr. Ambedkar, Father of the Indian constitution. Wishing all the best to the SCEEF and participants in the Begumpura International Business conclave, I cajoled them to become self-confident to meet the challenges ahead and concluded with a poetic expression:

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

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Dalit Assertion in Punjab and Guru Ravidass

Dalit Assertion in Punjab and Guru Ravidass

After my retirement from a diplomatic career in December, 2010, I came back to my roots in Jalandhar. With a view to keep myself abreast with the community activities, I have been maintaining a positive interest in the goings-on with regard to the socio-religious developments on one hand and economic -political happenings on the other. I have been recording my understandings and
Aarti at Shobha Yatra - Langar at Jalandhar
impressions on these matters off and on in my blog to share these with the community, particularly the educated lot. Since then much water has flown in the Beas and the Sutlej rivers of the Doaba region of Punjab where the dalit concentration is the highest in India. The issue of dalit assertion in the region remained in the news for the last two decades with the fast changing ground realities pertaining to political, economic, social and spiritual identity of the dalit communities.

 The spiritual and social philosophy and mission of the dalit icon Guru Ravidass which was ably carried forward by Sant Sarwan Dass and his successors of Dera Sachkhand Ballan, Sant Hira Dass of Chak Hakim, Baba Braham Dass of Phillaur, Swami Gurdip Giri of Pathankot, Sant Kishan Dass of Chaheru, Sant Nirmal Dass Jaudianwale among others played a significant role in awakening and enlightening the dalit masses on the lofty dictum of Guru Ravidass:
ऐसा चाहूँ राज में; यहां मिले सबन को अन्न,
छोट बड़े सब सम बसें रविदास रहे परसन! 

पराधीनता पाप है; जान लियो रे मीत ;
रविदास दास पराधीन से  कौन करे  है प्रीत!
The socio-political aspect of dalit identity and assertion was taken up by Babu Mangu Ram Muggowalia of Ad-dharma Mandal with the association of leaders like Master Gurbanta Singh, Seth Kishan Chand and literary stalwarts, inter alia, Charan Singh Safri, Gurdass Ram Alam, Chanan Lal Manak, Pritam Ramdasspuri, Charan Dass Nidharak, and Bhag Mal Pagal. The underlying influence was the impact of Guru Ravidass’s revolutionary social and spiritual philosophy enshrined in his poetic expressions:
नीचों उच्च करे मेरा गोविन्द,
काहू ते डरे !
कायम दायम सदा पातशाई ,
दोम सोम एक सो अहिं !
Feeling the nerve and pulse of the situation, the iconic personalities namely Babasaheb Ambedkar, Acharya Prithvi Singh Azad, Gopal Singh Khalsa, Chaudhary Sunder Singh, Lahori Ram Balley, Babu Kanshi Ram and social and spiritual activists like Banta Ram Ghera came on the scene to strengthen the trends of dalit assertion but with a somewhat different approach. Dr. Ambedkar was a spiritual person by upbringing. The influence of Sant Kabir and Guru Ravidass was clearly visible on his social and spiritual thinking though he was intellectually inclined towards Buddhism. Babasaheb steadfastly stood for humanism like Guru Ravidass. I was told that Babasaheb Ambedkar in the 1930s-40s, himself led the Guru Ravidass traditional Shoba Yatra a couple of times starting from Karol Bagh in Delhi. These political leaders propagated and carried forward the message of equality, fraternity and casteless society, the very tenants of Guru Ravidass’s philosophy.  Prithvi Singh Azad and Sunder Singh followed the great Guru through Arya Samaj. Gopal Singh Khalsa and his associates took the route through the teachings of Sikh Gurus. Lahori Ram Balley and Kanshi Ram and their people followed a somewhat radicalized line but the crux of their struggle remained to empower the marginalized segments of the society through political struggle as desired by Guru Ravidass:
चारों वेद करे खंडोती !
This relentless crusade for socio-economic and spiritual upliftment of dalits in the region resulted in cajoling “dalit consciousness” as termed by Prof. Ronki Ram of Panjab University to establish “dalit identity”. The Seths of Bootan Mandi, the prominent business brigade of the community in Jalandhar, showed the way to economic emancipation by establishing successful businesses. The resultant better economic status triggered migration abroad for better pastures which resulted in further economic strength and prosperity. As a natural corollary, this economic well being resulted in better education leading to socio-political and socio-religious assertiveness. The spiritual Deras became little more active and organized to cater to the spiritual urges under the banner of Guru Ravidass and other Saints like Kabir and also the message of an “agalitarian society” under the tenants of Sri Guru Granth Sahib of the Sikhs. On the bureaucratic or official side, role of Ishwar Chander Pawar, Vimal Chandra and Gyan Singh Bal among others played a significant role in the 1960s, as worthy followers of Guru Ravidass and associates of Babasaheb Ambedkar in empowering their dalit brethren to join the main stream of the society and stand up for their rights and space in whatever way they could, keeping with the limitations while occupying their positions in the government machinery.
Sants of respective Deras, beginning with Sant Garib Dass and ant Ramanand of Dera Sachkhand Balan, started visiting foreign countries which resulted in increased awakening and assertive trends among the community. The resultant economic prosperity and educational empowerment contributed further to the growing assertiveness among the youth. The Chamar pride derived its direction from the Gurbani of Guru Ravidass. Ambedkarite poet Pritam Ramdaspuri, Gurdass Ram Alam and Santokh Singh Safri proudly termed them as the heirs of the legacy of the great Guru:
बंश  चों  रविदास  दी  हाँ; भीम दी औलाद  हाँ ! - Pritam Ramdasspuri
इंसानी  हक़  गरीबां नू दे  गया ; ओह  रविदास  आगू  इंक़लाब दा ! Gurdass Ram Alam
आजा गुरु  रविदास  दिलं  ठठिआ दी  आस ! - Santokh Singh Safri

It was ardently carried forward by contemporary writers namely Chan Goryanwala, Rattu Randhawa, Madan Jalandhari among others. Their writings, full of spiritual and emotional fervor, were sung by the who’s who of Punjabi singers like Hans Raj Raj Hans, Kanth Kaler, Master Sleem, inter alia.

It provided the raison d’etre to stand against the domineering attitude and behaviour of Sikh peasantry of ‘Jatt-bad’ on one hand and Manuwadi conduct of the upper caste Hindus on the other. Radical political philosophy of Babu Kanshi Ram as pronounced in his slogan “Tilak, Taraju or Talwar; Inko Maro Jutte Char” supported by the folklore of the likes of Mohan Banger, S.S. Azad and others added and strengthened the edifice of dalit assertion in Punjab. Assassination of Sant Ramnand and the murderous attack
Sant Niranjan Dass and Sant Ramanand
on Sant Niranjan Dass of Dera Sachkhand Balan by the Sikh radicals at Vienna (Austria) in 2009 hastened the process of dalit assertion. It polarized the society further and dalit assertion was visible on the streets. The question of dalit identity, as propounded by Babu Mangu Ram Mugowalia under the banner of Ad-dharma Mandal earlier, came to the fore. Some radical and assertive dalits, under the aegis of Dera Sachkhand Balan floated their own religion named Ravidassia Dharma sometime in 2010. Only time will assess and give its judgment whether it was a correct step towards establishing dalit identity or no. This action, to my mind, was a half baked and ill conceived idea of some Sants of the Dera bandwagon. As expected by many, against the wishes of hapless and ignorant masses attached to the Dera, it was a non-starter. I am afraid that many people may not agree with me but I thought of putting the things in its perspective.

The atmosphere was further charged by the folklore to support the assertion by the dalit masses driving its cue from word ‘Chamar” repeatedly used by Guru Ravidass in his bani:

कह  रविदास  खलास चमारा;
जो हम शहरी सो मीत हमारा !
मेरी  जात कामिनी मेरी पात कामिनी;
होछा जनम हमारा !
The contemporary writers and singers proudly used the epithet “Chamar” to signify and pronounce their historical identity with any feeling of inferiority whatsoever.

Begumura wasaon aa’ sare kar lao eka sung by the Punjabi sensation Miss Pooja
Dekh mele nu chale; bibe putt chamaran desung by the Quomi singer S.S. Azad
Danger Chamar by the young and spirited Gini Mahi

All said, it requires no reiteration that socio-spiritual-politico-economic consciousness of dalits in Punjab, with about 35% demographic share, is taking cue and instruction from the life, mission and philosophy of Guru Ravidass. It will remain so. The symbols of that consciousness, identity and assertiveness, Guru Ravidass Mandir at Seer Govardhanpur at Kanshi, the birth place of
Begumpura Minar at Khuralgarh
the Guru and Guru Ravidass Memorial – Begumpura Minar at Khuralgarh in Hoshiarpur, are set to become more visible and pronounced. It is one of the positive ground realities.  But there are more realities which are negative. Dalits are a divided lot on the basis of caste, sub-caste, sects etc.. It suits their tormentors and opponents. The newly floated religion, Ravidassia Dharam, has tended to cement the divide which is unfortunate. Both Neo-Buddhists and Ravidassias need to understand that the mission of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar was to promote cohesion and unity not only among dalit communities but in the society at large. He was a spiritual person with a definite social and political agenda.
Dalits would ignore these negative realities at their own peril. They should follow the dictum of Guru Ravidass to salvage their subjugation and get their due space in the polity and society. United we stand and Divided we fall.
साध सांगत मिल रहिए माधो;
जैसे मधुप मखीरा !
Hearty Greetings on the Gurpurab of Guru Ravidass

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Down the Memory Lane – Guru Ravidass Jayanti

Down the Memory Lane – Guru Ravidass Jayanti

Bootan Mandi is a non-descript mohalla of Jalandhar which is considered as the capital and nerve centre of dalit consciousness and empowerment. It is my native place. I have come back to my roots after retirement from a long diplomatic career. Guru Ravidass Jayanti or Gurpurab, every successive year has been an integral part
Satguru Ravidass Dhham
of the social and spiritual life of the residents of the area. Yesterday, January 24, I joined the solemn function, after more than four decades; at Satguru Ravidass Dham to set in motion the festivities and celebrations of the Gurpurab which falls on January 31 this year. The cherished memories of my childhood and formative years of my youthful days became alive. I thought of sharing my impressions and feelings in this regard.

Guru Ravidass Gurudwara, where the majestic Satguru Ravidass Dham now stands, was a make shift Gurudwara which also housed the primary school of the mohalla where I have done my primary schooling. Guru Ravidass Gurpurab celebrations, generally called “Janam Dihada” of the Guru, were the only major activity at the site other than the school, privately run by the mohalla committee. A week or ten days before the Gurpurab, the ‘Path Rakhna’
ceremony was done with great gaiety. Sri Guru Granth Sahib, in those days, would be shifted from the residence of Swami Lalji Dass, a revered spiritual master of the mohalla, to the make shift Gurudwara. The period of celebrations would begin with ‘Prabhat Pheris’ before the break of dawn, the traditional Dhol called Tamk will relegate with its high volume of sound to celebrate the joyous event. I, like all children of the mohalla, delightedly joined these activities and felt well. It was a recall of these memories down the lane when I joined the “Path Rakhana” ceremony after a long time. I felt that though the ground situation has changed over the years with a permanent Satguru Ravidass Dham for such events yet the traditional fervor was still prevailing.  It will not be out of place to mention that Satguru Ravidass Dham at Bootan Mandi is the result of good and positive contribution of my fellow BootanMandians and the community at large particularly by Ex-Mayor of Jalandhar Surinder Mahey and Seth Sat Paul Mall, among others. But it is a matter of great regret that on account of some vested agendas and for selfish ends of the people at the helm of affairs, the project is hanging fire and cries for completion. I only hope that the new dispensation which in the offing would consider and take the matters seriously to complete the project after the Gurpurab celebrations are over. It will be the biggest and befitting tribute to the memory of Guru Ravidass, the champion of equality, liberty and fraternity and also harmony in the society. The faithful and the participants exchanged greetings and invoked blessings of the great Guru Ravidass.

It was a matter of honour and satisfaction for me later towards the close of 1960s, I myself was a part and parcel of these arrangements as the Secretary General of the then Guru Ravidass Youth club and the welfare society. Later I lost touch and the aura of these community activities when I moved to Delhi in early 1970 to pursue my career. It is a matter of satisfaction, subsequently, my
Ramesh Chander at the Tamk at Gurpurab
younger brother, Paramjit, stepped into my shoes and became and remained the General Secretary of Guru Ravidass Educational and Charitable Trust for many years. Now again in my retirement and advancing age, I am happy to be here to join my folks in and around Bootan Mandi, my old associates and friends, inter alia, Manohar Mahey, Prem Shant, Hardial Banger, Sat Paul Mahey. It is a matter of gratification to note that the followers of Guru Ravidass and many of my friends on Facebook have responded overwhelmingly to my cursory post on the “Path Rakhna” ceremony with a ton of hits and comments. It only shows that Guru Ravidass was the real icon of the weaker sections of the society, and will remain so in the years to come, who contributed a lot in raising the social and spiritual consciousness among the poor masses towards establishing an egalitarian society.

We are all set to enjoy the festivities in the run up to the finale of the Gurpurab on January 31, 2018.

Jai Gurudev – Dhan Gurudev.


Today, January 25, 2018, is another day of rejoicing for the BootanMandians that one of the daughters of the soil, Surinder Kaur, has become the Senior Deputy Mayor of Jalandhar city. Congratulations to Surinder Kaur on her elevation to the coveted position in the hierarchy of the city. It is matter of pride that earlier in 2000s yet another son of Bootan Mandi, Surinder Mahey, had adorned the high position of the Mayor of Jalandhar. 

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Judicial Muddle – Constitutional Perspective

Judicial Muddle – Constitutional Perspective

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

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

Without Comment:-

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

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

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Congratulations to ISRO

Congratulations to ISRO

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

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

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

Friday, December 22, 2017

Bits and Pieces – As I Please – 11

Bits and Pieces – As I Please – 11

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

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

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