Sunday, November 19, 2017

Indira Gandhi - A Humble Tribute

Indira Gandhi - A Humble Tribute

Today, November 19, is the birth centenary of PM Indira Gandhi (November 1917-October, 1984). I have read two excellent write ups today on Indira Gandhi by my very seniors in the IFS – K. Natwar Singh, As I Please in The Tribune and Salman Haidar, There Will Never Be Another Indira Gandhi in the Hindustan Times. Both of them worked with PM Indira Gandhi in the PM’s Secretariat at senior positions and as such handled important and
With PM Indira Gandhi in the Committee Room attachd to her office
substantive work. I, a lowly official in the MEA, also got the chance to be around in the corridors of PM’s Secretariat, from April, 1974 to October, 1977, as a Protocol Assistant in the Government Hospitality attached to a lady officer Vimla Sindhi popularly called Behanji who was a retainer from PM Jawaherlal Nehru’s staff at Teenmurti House. My duties pertained to protocol during the meetings, particularly with foreign dignitaries and of the cabinet, held in the committee room and conference room and to maintain these rooms. Behanji, my boss, enjoyed some sort of personal and direct access to Indira Gandhi because of her service at Teenmurti House with Jawaharlal Nehru, though some of her colleagues and senior officers had doubts. Indira Gandhi used to call her Vimi. Indira Gandhi had a keen eye on small details like flower arrangement, upholstery of furniture, paintings, stationary, snacks to be served and even ash trays etc. In this regard, I had numerous opportunities to speak and interact with her along with Behanji and alone. I left for my posting to Peking (Beijing) in October, 1977 and returned in December, 1981. Indira Gandhi had come to power again. On joining the MEA, I was posted to PMO as Protocol Officer to man the same desk as Vimla Behanji was retiring from service. I was reluctant to go there because of the nature of work but Joint Secretary (Administration) refused to listen to me as clearance and approval of PMO (PS to PM R.K. Dhawan) of my name had already been obtained. I was destined to work with PM Indira Gandhi again, it seemed – my good fortune. During the course of my humble work, I had many personal encounters on small matters with Indira Gandhi, a great personality and human-being par-excellence. I will narrate here in brief only two of these.

Sometime in the summer of 1975, my younger sister Kamla, after her school graduation, came to be with us in Delhi from Jalandhar, my native place. One day, she came to see my office. Vimla Behanji asked her whether she will like to meet the PM. Obviously, she jumped with joy. Indira Gandhi used go to her residence for lunch. Vimla Behanji took us out and made us stand near the stairs from where PM was to pass. As usual Indira Gandhi came out and moved towards the stairs. Vimla Behanji nodded and Indira Gandhi stopped near us. She introduced Kamla to PM Indira Gandhi and added that she had come from Jalandhar to meet, pointing towards me, her brother who was working with her. Indira Gandhi chatted with my sister for about 4-5 minutes standing in the corridor of her office. I, a young lowly official, was touched and impressed by Indira Gandhi’s humility and human touch in her demeanor to deal with common people.  Kamla was, of course, immensely delighted. Indira Gandhi was great. The second story will indicate how much Indira Gandhi cared for small niceties. It was in 1976, I think. One of my colleagues in MEA, Sudha Jain, was a good painter. She painted a portrait of Indira Gandhi. One day she came to see me in my office. She talked about her painting of Indira Gandhi and expressed her wish to gift it to her. Vimla Behanji facilitated the gifting exercise. On a convenient day, we kept the painting on one of the sofas in the corridor of PM’s office near the stairs. As usual PM was going for lunch. Vimla Behanji invited her attention to her portrait and introduced Sudha Jain. Indira Gandhi slowed for while and commented why she made portraits only. Sudha replied that she was painting otherwise also. Indira Gandhi started moving and Vimla Behanji said that Sudha wanted to gift this to you. She stopped for a moment again and said thanks and advised to send it the residence. Both Sudha and I were humbled to see her magnanimity and grace in dealing with common people. In a few days time, there was a letter of thanks from the office of PM and information on the institution to whom the portrait was further given for appropriate use somewhere in UP. I duly passed on the letter to Sudha. She must have kept the letter as a treasured possession. Indira Gandhi was great by her own right.

हज़ारों साल नरगिस अपनी बेनूरी पे रोती है,
बड़ी मुश्किल से होता है चमन में दीदावर पैदा!

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Doaba College Jalandhar

Doaba College Jalandhar

Doaba College Jalandhar is one of the leading educational institutions in the Doaba region of Punjab. It recently celebrated its platinum jubilee after 75 years of its existence. The management of the college is steered by Chander Mohan, scion of a famous media and social personality Varinder of the erstwhile Partap group of newspapers, under the aegis of Arya Shiksha Mandal. Currently, since 2008, Doaba College is run under the stewardship of Dr. Naresh Kumar Dhiman, a renowned Sanskrit scholar and an able
Principal Dr. Naresh Kumar Dhiman
educational administrator as Principal. The UGC has declared Doaba College as “College with Potential for Excellence” The College has an in-house community radio station called “Raabta” and a centre for “Remedial classes for SC/ST/OBC students as an affirmative measure for the empowerment of the weaker sections of the society. Some of the leading lights, from the cross sections of  society, are the proud alumni of the college which, inter alia, include – Lord Swaraj Paul, business magnate and parliamentarian in the UK, Yash Chopra, doyen of Indian cinema as a producer and director of films in Bollywood, Prem Dhumal, politician and former CM of HP, Anurag Thakur, politician and MP, Manoranjan Kalia, politician and former Minister in Punjab, Gurpreet Ghuggi, a famous standup comedian and actor and a number of players of national and international standing.

Having associated myself with educational and social activities after my retirement from diplomatic service, it is a matter of satisfaction for me that I could establish good contacts and relationship with some of the premier educational outfits of the area such as Sant Baba Bhag Singh University where I serve on the Board of Management, D.A.V. College Jalandhar, my alma mater
Ambassador Ramesh Chander at DAV College Jalandhar
which invited me on several occasions to honour and speak, HMV College where I participated in a panel discussion on Live-in-Relationship, B.D. Arya Girls College where I gave a talk on ‘India’s Foreign Policy – An Overview”, D.A.V. College Dasuya where I participated in a seminar on “Gandhian Thought and International community, Shiv Jyoti School, a leading Higher Secondary school of Jalandhar honoured me to be the Chief Guest at one of their functions, among others. Doaba College was on my wish list. My wish was granted on November 7, 2017 when I was invited to deliver a talk on “India’s Foreign Policy: Challenges and opportunities” to an enlightened audience of students and teaching faculty. It was a gratifying experience and indeed an honour to be at the esteemed Doaba College Jalandhar.

·       The talk on the theme “India’s Foreign Policy: Challenges and Opportunities” was arranged jointly by the Post Graduate Departments of Political Science and Geography which was very well organized and attended. Principal Dr. Naresh Kumar Dhiman in his welcome address was too generous and spoke high of me which humbled me further. He made very candid observations about the qualities of a diplomat and said good diplomats did not
Ambassdor Ramesh Chander
succumb to the glitter of praise and lavish hospitality and say their mind as clearly as possible. I found Dr. Dhiman as an astute educational administrator and a man of learning. Dr. Daljit Singh, HOD of the Geography Department made a good and informative presentation on “Geo-politics and Foreign Policy” particularly with relation to India’s borders with Pakistan and China. Prof. Dr. Rajan Sharma, of the Political Science Department of the college termed in his well prepared speech as ‘Modification of the Foreign Policy” referring to the PM Narendra Modi’s intensive involvement in the formulation and execution of the policy. I have been meeting Dr. Rajan Sharma on various academic and educational events. He impressed me with is scholarship and pleasant personality. I as a lead speaker and so called Chief Guest; based my talk on historical perspective including the sterling role and contribution of Chankya or Kautilya, evolution under Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, P.V. Narasimha Rao, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Manmohan Singh and others and came to the basic determinants and current elements of India’s foreign policy under PM Modi’s government. Quoting PM Narendra Modi from his speech at the Raisina Dialogue, “
नो भद्रो : क्रत्वो यन्तु विश्वत” - Let noble thoughts come to me from all directions, I mentioned about PM Modi’s initiatives to intensify his interaction with his international counterparts for integrating India’s foreign policy objectives with that of the world community. I brought to fore the important aspects and formulations of the foreign policy as pronounced by PM Modi, saying “Our strategic intent is shaped by our civilizational ethos of:
यथार्थवाद (realism), सह-अस्तित्व (co-existence), सहयोग (cooperation),तथा सहभागिता (partnership).”
Stating that diplomacy was a continuous process, I reiterated the famous dictum, “There were no permanent friends; there were no permanent enemies, only permanent interests.” And said that India’s foreign policy and its executions were fully geared to meet the challenges and exploit the opportunities in the years to come and quoted an Urdu couplet of Alhama Iqbal:

जो है पर्दों में पिन्हा; चश्मे-बीना देख लेती है,
ज़माने की तबीयत का तकाज़ा देख लेती है
It was followed by a very interesting and intense interactive session of question and answers both from the students and the faculty which Principal Dr. Dhiman termed as the most informative and rewarding exercise. Prof. Balbir Chander, a simple but down to
Prof. Balbir Chander
earth academic and a teacher of standing by his own right and HOD of  Political Science Department of the college, thanked the speakers and the audience for making the seminar a grand success and that they look forward to more of such functions for the benefit of young students. The function was ably conducted by Prof. Puneet Kalra as Master of Ceremonies. Principal Dr. Naresh Kumar Dhiman graciously treated us on a piping-hot luncheon delivered from the mess of one of the college hostels situated in the college complex itself.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Ambedkar College at Bootan Mandi, Jalandhar

Ambedkar College at Bootan Mandi, Jalandhar
 The residents of Bootan Mandi, my native place, and also that of the other nearby areas have been clamoring for a girls college in the vicinity of these localities which is predominantly inhabited by socially and economically weaker sections of the society. Most of them are the followers of Babasaheb Ambedkar and as such they would be happy if the proposed college is named after Ambedkar. The proposed location i.e. the plot of land for the purpose is available which is currently called Chara Mandi. It is an ideal
location for the college dedicated to the memory of the greatest son of India, Babasaheb Ambedkar – near the Ambedkar Park at Bootan Mandi, on the Ambedkar Marg (Nakodar Road), near the historical residence of Late Seth Kishan Dass where Dr. Ambedkar stayed in 1951, not far off from the Ambedkar Bhawan and one of the busiest crossings of the city, Ambedkar Chowk. The Seths of Bootan Mandi tried to have a college in Bootan Mandi in association with the personalities like Sufi Singer Hans Raj Hans but these half-hearted and insincere efforts failed as expected. The successive governments of the Congress Party and of Akali-BJP alliance promised the college at the site several times over the last two decades. MOS Vijay Sampla of the BJP also broached up the subject towards the end of 2016 in the run up to the early 2017 elections. These things remained in the media without any result. I wrote about this earlier in my blog:
With concerted efforts of some of the youngsters headed by Jagdish Disha, Vari Klair, Parshottam Klair, among others, the proposal has seen light, it seems. Ministry of Education, on advice of the Education Minister Aruna Chaudhary, has informed the District Collector of Jalandhar of the decision to establish a college in Bootan Mandi and has written to him to prepare a case and identify

and acquire land for the project. Congratulations to all concerned activists who were fighting for the college and those politicians namely MP Chaudhary Santokh Singh, MLA Sushil Rinku and others. The ball has been set into motion but the game has to be played by us. Let us not lower our guard till something concrete happens. There are many slips between the cup and lips. We should convince the Hon’ble Minister of Education Aruna Chaudhary to complete all procedural requirements in this regard so that the foundation laying ceremony of the college could be held on April 14, 2018, the birth anniversary of Babasaheb Ambedkar. It will be a befitting tribute the great leader.
Babasaheb Ambedkar’s dictum – “Educate, Agitate and Organise” is as potent as it was and it will remain so in the years to come for the empowerment of the marginalized and weaker sections of the society and the nation at large. People are getting educated slowly but surely. The agitation for the college at Bootan Mandi clearly
demonstrates that people are getting agitated for the right causes and that under constitutional means as propounded by Dr. Ambedkar. They are to get united and organized to achieve their legitimate goals in the run up to establish a fair and just order in the society. People have succeeded in convincing government for their just demand in a democratic way. It is a matter of satisfaction.
I wish the Sarv Samaj Sangarsh Committee set up for the purpose all success in the days to come.
जिंदगी की असली उड़ान   बाकी है;
इरादा हो तो अभी इम्तिहान बाकी है!

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Ambedkar Study Corner at D.A.V. College Library

Ambedkar Study Corner at D.A.V. College Library
D.A.V. College Jalandhar, my alma mater, is a premier educational institution of the region for the last 100 years. Today, October 28, yet another feather has been added to the cap of the college library.  The Lala Lajpat Rai Library has established a separate enclosure, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar Study Corner, for the benefit of students and the faculty. It is a matter of all the more satisfaction for me personally that one of my close friends and a fellow BootanMandian, Ram Lal Dass, who is also an alumnus of D.A.V.
College, has joined hands with the college to give shape and form to the study corner by donating a rare collection of 101 books on the life, mission and thought of the greatest son of India, Babasaheb Ambedkar along with relevant paraphernalia. At a solemn function at the college library the study corner was declared open by the Senior Vice Principal G.K. Sareen in the presence of distinguished guests. The day was chosen by management particularly by Principal S.K. Arora in consultation with Ram Lal Dass and our teacher, guide and philosopher who acted as an interlocutor in this regard, Prof. K.K. Ghai. It was the day when Dr. B.R. Ambedkar delivered a lecture on parliamentary democracy in India on October 28, 1951 at D.A.V. College in Jalandhar.  The lecture is, till today and will remain so, a well documented treatise on the subject. Principal S.K. Arora, Prof. K.K. Ghai, Ram Lal Dass and other concerned deserve all appreciation and applause for this good activity and contribution not only to honour the icon Babasaheb Ambedkar but also add to the already existing good facilities at the well stocked and managed library under the control of Librarian Naveen Saini. I am confident that Dr. B.R. Ambedkar Study Corner will become a hub of academic and intellectual intercourse for the larger good of students and researchers.
After the formal opening of the study corner, a session on the life, philosophy and mission of Babasaheb was held for the benefit of young students which were presided over by Principal Dr. S.K. Arora. Dr. B.B. Sharma, HOD of Political Science Department of the College in his welcome address underlined the importance of easy availability of source and reference material to students and
teachers and added Dr. B.R. Ambedkar Study Corner will fulfill the much needed requirement at the college library. Ram Lal Dass spoke with emotion and conviction and expressed happiness that one of his long cherished desires was fulfilled today as a humble tribute to the memory of Babasaheb Ambedkar with a sense of gratitude to his alma mater. He spoke on the multifaceted personality of Babasaheb and said that India was India because of the thought and vision of the great leader. Prof. K.K. Ghai spoke with total engagement and appreciated the gesture his worthy student Ram Lal Dass made in establishing the study corner. He said that he was happy to see that so many of his students and alumni of the college, who made a mark in their respective careers, were sitting on the high table. It was a matter of pride for him personally and the college.  Another distinguished alumnus of the college, IPS and retired ADGP and Chairman of UP Public Service Commission, Malkit Singh recalled his close association with Ram Lal Dass whom they used to call ‘Guru’ for his knowledge of alternative Indian political thought involving Dr. Ambedkar and others which was not so common those days. Paying glowing tributes to Babasaheb Ambedkar, Malkit Singh said that the ongoing Swacch Bharat campaign was good but there was a need to start a campaign to clean the mindset of the society for all-round development and progress of the country. Retired IPS and ADGP of J&K Dr. Lubhaya Ram Jassi spoke briefly and mentioned about the unfortunate sense of intolerance creeping in the psyche of the society at large.  I also got an opportunity to address the gathering. Nostalgia came alive in me. It was the same lecture theater where I read a paper on parliamentary democracy way back in 1968-69 at a paper reading declamation contest and quoted extensively from Babasaheb’s lecture of October 28, 1951. My naïve intension was not to win or lose but to bring to light the lecture of which there was no information and awareness in the college. It was gratifying to note that it was not a futile exercise. I underlined the fact that Dr.
Ambedkar was very fond of books and the college in cooperation with Ram Lal Dass did a good job by setting up a dedicated corner of his books. Quoting Lord Macaulay, “I would rather be poor in a college full of books than a King without the desire to read”, I said that the study corner was a befitting tribute to Babasaheb Ambedkar. Bringing to focus the current political and social scenario in the country, I reminded the audience of the three warnings Dr. Ambedkar so thoughtfully gave in the Constituent Assembly on November 25, 1949 i.e. use of constitutional means while pressing for socio-economic demands to avoid ‘Grammar of Anarchy”, shedding the tendency of Bhakti or Puja of  political leadership to ward of our democracy from the fear of dictatorship and adviced to transform political democracy into social and economic democracy, the sooner the better.  Dr. Dinesh Arora of Political Science Department, which did a yeoman’s job in facilitating Dr. B.R. Ambedkar Study Corner, ably conducted the session to make it a lively mix of ideas and thoughts propounded and generated at the function.
Generous hospitality with snacks and tea was offered both at the office of the Principal and Department of Political Science. These informal occasions provided us opportunity to unwind and socialize.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Father Mere Puttran De

Father Mere Puttran De

Prof. Sarita Tiwari has written the book “Father Mere Puttran De” about her loving husband Prof. Virainder Kumar Tiwari, an intellectual, educationist, administrator and a social activist of standing. The title of the book is uniquely tri-lingual – Father in English, Mere in Hindi and Puttran De in Punjabi and the author’s name i.e. Sarita Tiwari is also shown in these three languages. The author has explained in the beginning why she has opted to write
the book in three languages. Father Mere Puttran De, a tribute “Tiwari Sahib Nu Yaad Kardean” on his first death anniversary, October 10, was released at Desh Bhagat Yaadgar Hall in Jalandhar on October 10, 2017 by Lt. Governor (Retired) Iqbal Singh, a politician and a social personality of Punjab, a good friend of Prof. V.K. Tiwari, Kuku for the friends and family. Governor Iqbal Singh and other distinguished speakers namely; Chairperson of Governing Council of Khalsa College Group of Institutions  Balbir Kaur,  niece of Shaheed Bhagat Singh, Gurjeet Kaur Dhatt, Seth Kundan Lal of Local Advisory Committee of D.A.V. College and Gurmeet Singh General Secretary of Desh Bhagat Yadgar Committee spoke very high of Prof Tiwari and paid glowing tributes to the highly regarded son of the soil who, from a humble background of a mofassil town called Alawalpur near Jalandhar rose to coveted positions at a well attended function in which who’s who of the Jalandhar academic and educational circle were present. Sarita Tiwari, the author of the book, who herself is an acclaimed academician and cultural personality of the region, conducted the function herself with obvious emotional involvement. Before the formal release of the book, a dedicated session of musical presentations by the local talent led by no other than Sarita Tiwari herself, sons (Putter) – Mohit and Chetan in attendance, set the mood of the evening in its right perspective. I was invited to the function as a humble acquaintance of Tiwari Sahib whom I met, in recent years after my return to Jalandhar on retirement from I.F.S., and found him a
charming and cultured personality on one hand and erudite and a spell-bound (Jaadu-bian Mukarrar) speaker on the other. Later, after
At Prof. V.K.Tiwari Computer Centre
Tiwari Sahib’s death, I met Saritaji and their sons Mohit and Chetan at a SPEED function to name a computer centre in memory of Prof. V.K. Tiwari at Ram Nagar in Jalandhar of which a reference has been made in the book.

In the foreword of the book Governor Iqbal Singh appreciated Prof. Tiwari for his humility and love, put together. The book has been divided into four parts:-

Mere Apne – In this part, tributes and homage of Prof. V.K. Tiwari’s 68 friends, associates and well-wishers, representing cross sections of the society, have been compiled. The author has termed them as “Speaking Dictionaries”.  All of them, in one way or the other, have written very high of Prof. Tiwari bringing out all the good attributes in his dynamic personality which a human being may attain and possess not only to lead a good life himself but also contribute positively to the overall well being of the society at large. Some of them quoted poetry to remember their ‘friend, philosopher and guide’ as Jasreen Kaur of Khalsa College Jalandhar aptly quoted to flag Tiwari Sahib’s down to earth humility:-

जो आला ज़र्फ़ होतें हैं; हमेशां झुक के मिलते हैं,
 सुराही सर नगुन होकर; भरा करती है पैमाना !

Yet another friend of Tiwar Sahib, S. Sondhi, writes that he was an open hearted man with full of understanding  and compassion:-

जिंदगी में ऐसा इंसान भी होना बहुत जरूरी है;
जिसे दिल का हॉल बताने के लिए लफ्जों की जरूरत हो !

A couple of contributors mentioned about Tiwari Sahib’s distinctive Urdu-laced mannerism in his routine informal talk like use of words, Hazur, Waah Janab, Hazoorewala, Fouri Tour Pe etc. I may also testify that Tiwari Sahib was a conversationalist par-excellence.  Many of the Left oriented intellectuals and comrades like Jatinder Pannu, Sital Singh Sangha, Raghbir Kaur, Gurmeet Singh, among others have paid glowing tributes to him remembering and recognizing his affiliation and leaning towards the leftist ideology. He was actively associated with the Desh Bhagat Yadgar Committee. The well groomed sons, Mohit and Chetan have paid wholesome homage to their worthy father, a difficult task to say something about a larger than life personality in the upbringing of his children.  Dr. Jagdish Chander Joshi wrote about the fellow alumnus of D.A.V. College Jalandhar and said that Dr. Virainder Tiwari enjoyed a rare distinction of a student, a teacher and a Principal of D.A.V College at one stretch of his illustrious career. Hats off to this self made man of Jalandhar.  Much more could be said about Prof. Tiwari. Though some of the ‘Speaking Dictionaries” have narrated a few anecdotes yet it would have been better if some more space would have been provided to this aspect for the advantage and benefit of the younger lot.

Father Mere Puttran De:- In this part, Savita Tiwar, the gracious wife of Prof. V.K. Tiwari, has given a graphic account of the last ten days, October 1 -10, 2016, of Tiwari Sahib and also the cherished memories of their marriage in June, 1980 followed by chronologically arranged memoirs, both sweet and sour, of their social and professional lives. The narration is informal without any academic or literary pretence which make it readable at leisure. Otherwise hale and hearty, Tiwari Sahib’s sudden death reminded me of the death of my young nephew Brijesh of 28, my brother’s son, in November, 2015 under the same circumstances – Home - Patel Hospital- DMC Ludhiana- Home – in a matter of a few days with the same deadly ailment “Dengue Shock Syndrome”. Saritaji’s story telling skills as an artist of standing is evident from her narration of her Navaratra fasts and the couple’s usual tiffs on small matters which we all face in everyday life. One can feel that Kukku and Sarita were made for each other. Tiwari Sahib belonged to an Arya Samaji family by birth and by education and experience he developed a Leftist leaning. Defying the tradition, he decided to marry Sarita without dowry and much fanfare. Sarita has stated, in a lighter vein, that on the marriage reception ‘there were more of speeches than dance and song’.

The author has succeeded in bringing out clearly that Prof. V.K. Tiwari was a man of sterling worth as described in the book “Teacher, Researcher, Linguist, Academic leader”. Apart from his profession as a teacher and educational administrator, Tiwari Sahib was a union leader for the rights of the academic fraternity. He served as General Secretary of the World Federation of Teachers’ Union. He was actively engaged with All India Federation of University and College Teachers Organisations (AIFUCTO) and as such very popular among the teaching community.  He was an international activists and travelled abroad intensively with regard to his union activities and also of the World Peace Movement etc. Tiwari Sahib believed in a little modified version of the dictum ‘Do or Die’, as stated by the author. He believed in ‘Do it before you die’.
कुछ उलझने हैं राहों में; कुछ कोशिशें बेहिसाब;
बस इसी का नाम है जिंदगी; चलते रहिए जनाब !

Condolence Messages: - The third part of the book is a compilation of condolence messages from cross sections of the academic and intellectual circles of not only Jalandhar but also Punjab and beyond. By reading these messages, one can feel the emotions of pain and sympathy people felt and expressed on the untimely demise of Prof. V.K. Tiwari and the bereaved family.  Dr. S.S. Bains of Lyallpur Khalsa College has rightly quoted someone, “The most beautiful good-byes are the ones that are never said and never explained.”

Tributes:- The concluding part of Father Mere Puttran De is the Tributes paid to Tiwari Sahib by his friends and associates in a vernacular daily with leftist affiliation, Nawan Zamana and some journals of the trade union outfits. Prof. Virainder Kumar Tiwari was a multifaceted personality and a leader by his right. My brother Paramjit had been his student at D.A.V. College in the late 1970s. He speaks very high of Prof. Tiwari. Paramjit told me that Prof. Tiwari was not only a competent teacher of English language but also great source of strength to the young students in extra-curricular activities. His informal and humble mannerism was very impressive and motivative.

Punj Aab Parkashan has done a good job in presenting the book with an excellent cover and professionally set contents. The book is readable and that too gratis at one go as the price of the book is “Your precious time out of your busy schedule to read this book” as graciously offered by the author and publishers.

अपना मुक्कदर आप बनातें हैं एहले दिल;
हम वह नहीं जिन्हे जमाना बना गया !

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Bits and Pieces – As I please – 8

Bits and Pieces – As I please – 8

Diksha Day at Jalandhar – October 14, Diksha Day, the day when Babasaheb Ambedkar embraced Buddhism in 1956, an epoch making event in the history of India was celebrated and observed as usual every year at Ambedkar Bhawan in Jalandhar. My day started early with yet another good cause. I accompanied my friend and fellow Bootan Mandian Ram Lal to D.A.V. College to deliver a rare collection of books for the Ambedkar Corner to be established in the well-stocked and efficiently run college library. The Ambedkar Corner is scheduled to be opened soon by the end of October, 2017. It may be recalled that Dr. Ambedkar visited D.A.V. College, my alma mater, in October, 1951 and delivered a lecture on the theme ‘Parliamentary Democracy in India’ which still is a relevant and thought provoking piece on the subject. I joined the Diksha Day celebrations at Ambedkar Bhawan which the organizers named as Ambedkar Sabhyacharak Mela. The function was started with the hoisting of the Buddhist flag by the revered Bhante Pragya Bodhi followed by paying obeisance at the statue of the Buddha. For school children, a painting competition, poetry recital, and declamation contest were arranged followed by one act plays by the group named Lok Kala Manch. The function was much behind schedule. The Chief Guest, IPS of Telengana cadre Dr. R.S.
Dr. Ambedkar seaking on Diksha Day
Praveen Kumar along with the Guest of Honour the youngest Everest Mountaineer Poorna Malavath arrived and I left the show half way because of some other engagement. Later, I came to know that the function was dragged up to about five in the evening. But the Chief Guest and Guest of Honour spoke well with conviction. My interlocutor commented that it was gratifying and rewarding to sit and listen to the speakers. The guest speakers fully justified their presence. I take this opportunity to thank and congratulate the organizers to honour and listen to such personalities for the benefit of all. It was a mela with book stalls, photo exhibitions and gratis tea and traditional Langar at the end. As compared to many other events at Ambedkar Bhawan, the attendance was good. The students belonging to schools having affiliation with Babasaheb Ambedkar and other icons like Sant Sarwan Dass did well and conformed themselves to the life and philosophy of  Babasaheb and related themes. Credit for the good show goes to the organizers.

Now I come to the flip side of the event not as a criticism but as an honest assessment being a humble follower of Babasaheb Ambedkar. The focus of the function should have been on the Diksha Day and its solemnity but unfortunately it was missing. I sat there for almost two hours, but nobody mentioned about Diksha Day and its significance. I don’t think it was a deliberate lapse but a sub-conscience slip. The electronic invitations also did not mention about the Diksha Day except the date i.e. October 14 and so was the case for the banners at the backdrop of the stage and the podium. Some of the functionaries and organizers hosted photographs of the function on Facebook but nobody thought of hosting even a single photograph of the Buddhist aspect of the event held on Diksha Day. The local vernacular media carried stories of the event the following day. It must have been done by the media on the basis of the Press Note issued by the organizers. These reports duly reported the good presentation by the guest speakers and focused on their individual achievements without mentioning about Diksha Day. While I congratulate the organizers for the good function otherwise, I thought I should give my frank assessment. October 14 is an epoch making day in the annals of Buddhism in India when Babasaheb Ambedkar embraced Buddhism in 1956. I am confident that followers of Babasaheb are not oblivious to the importance of Diksha Day. Sabhyachar is fine but not at the cost of the core issue close to the hearts of millions of followers of our leader and his mission.

It may be of interest that to remember the Diksha Day, October 14 and as my tributes to Babasaheb, I posted a blog “Revival of Buddhism in India and Babasaheb Ambedkar at:

Khuralgarh Sahib – Khurali village in tehsil Garhshankar in Hoshiarpur district of Punjab has been officially named as Khuralgarh Sahib by the Captain Amarinder Singh government. It is a welcome decision. Guru Ravidass visited and stayed at Khurali
Design of Minar-e-Begumpura
in the 16th century. The earlier BJP-SAD government of Parkash Singh Badal, with an eye on elections and to appease the Ravidassia community vote bank, announced that the site “Charan-Choh-Ganga” will be developed to preserve the legacy of the great saint of the Bhakti movement, Guru Ravidass. It was decided to erect a 151 feet monument - Minar-e-Begumpura which will be a tourist attraction in the region.  I had offered my humble services to the project, being a follower of Guru Ravidassji and as a keen observer of related developments, to the then BJP-Akali government through the nodal Minisry of Culture. My interest and intent was referred to the then Minister of Culture, Sardar Sarwan
Singh but could not find favour with him. Presumably, I did not have any political clout.  It appears that the Congress government of Captain Amarinder Singh has revived the project. It should be welcomed and appreciated. The earlier government could not proceed further from the designs on the drawing board. No budget and funds were ear-marked for the project. I had written about this earlier on my blog:

Let us hope that Khuralgarh Sahib comes on the map of spiritual tourism in due course to cater to the needs of millions of followers of the great Guru, living in and around the Doaba region of Punjab.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Revival of Buddhism in India and Babasaheb Ambedkar

Revival of Buddhism in India and Babasaheb Ambedkar

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

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

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

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

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

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