Saturday, May 19, 2018

Book Review – Dr. Ambedkar, Human Rights & Graded Inequality



Book Review – Dr. Ambedkar, Human Rights & Graded Inequality

Malind Prakashan of my friend Harmesh Jassal has added yet another book – Dr. Ambedkar, Human Rights and Graded Inequality - to its publications on Buddhism, Babasaheb Ambedkar and matters of concern and interest to the community, particularly to the Buddhists and Ambedkarites living in India and abroad.  I have added a ‘Comma’ on my own after Ambedkar in the title of
the book without observing that, to my mind, the title does not read well. The book is a compilation, as written by the publisher Harmesh Jassal also, of random write-ups of Late Chanan Chahal of the UK which he wrote over the years of his social and community activism beginning in the early 1960s. No one has cared to mention his life span, neither the publisher Harmesh Jassal nor one of his close friends, D.R. Rattu, whose detailed account about Chanan Chahal occupies a prominent space in the book. I understand Chanan Chahal who was an ardent Buddhist and a staunch Ambedkarite passed away at a young age. But his writings and social activities have kept him alive in the memories of his friends and the community at large. Going through the brief bio-sketch of Chanan Chahal and a couple of his books on topical subjects of interest like ‘Why I am not a Hindu’ (Mein
Hindu Kyon Nahin in Punjabi) besides his three books- I) Caste the Curse of India, ii) Dr. Ambedkar and Social Reform and iii) Was Guru Ravidass Proud of his Caste published by Malind Prakashan itself, one can say that he was an enlightened and educated person living far off in metropolitan cities of the UK from his roots in rural Punjab but still maintaining and caring for the legacy of his community and its icons like Guru Ravidass and later that of Gautama Buddha and Babasaheb Ambedkar in the early years of ‘Dalit Chetna’. But by reading his writings and about his personal life I wonder why Chanan Chahal did not mention anything about Babu Kanshi Ram, Mayawati and others, given the awakening and thinking he possessed in the volatile years of dalit assertion. Chanan Chahal, as noted by his friend and associate D.R. Rattu, also spoke at the UNESCO in Paris on the theme ‘Plight of Dalits in India’ and many such organizations with regard to the issues of concern and interest to the under-privileged segments of the society. May be there is more material which would see the light of the day in the coming years. His friends like Harmesh Jassal should listen and carry forward the mission of Chanan Chahal and some more Chanan Chahals living here in India and in foreign lands.

Coming to the book, there are 14 essays or articles of the author Chanan Chahal edited and compiled in the book. These 14 chapters may be divided, subject wise, into three categories – Babasaheb Ambedkar and his contribution to the Indian society and polity, Social inequalities in India and Revival and significance of Buddhism. There is nothing, let me be frank and objective, new in the contents of these write-ups but the fact that Chanan Chahal choose to consider and pick up these subjects to write about when it was difficult to stand and say something on Babasaheb Ambedkar and his mission and that too abroad in the 1960s. In these essays he has quoted extensively from Dr. Ambedkar’s writings and speeches. In the first write up on human rights, he quotes Ambedkar on Brahmanism, “By Brahmanism, I mean the negation of the spirit of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity.” Yet another quote - I don’t know the authenticity of the quote attributed to a Member of the House of Lords of the UK, Bhikhu Parikh, on page 20 of the book, “The untouchables are physical pollution, and moral pollution and they are mental pollution on the society”. It is strange how an MP of the UK can utter this nonsensical formulation. The write-ups clearly register that Chanan Chahal was fully committed to the philosophy and mission of Babasaheb Ambedkar and
Gautama the Buddha. While keeping himself busy in these matters, he tried his best to make a mark back home in Punjab. His active involvement in Buddhist projects namely Punjab Buddhist Society and Takshilla Maha Buddha Vihar in the Doaba region of Punjab are listed in the essays on Buddhism. The idea of writing a review of the book is not any notion of intellectual exercise but to contribute a bit to motivate the younger generation of Ambedkarites and Buddhists to read and step into the shoes of their forefathers like Chanan Chahal. It may also be considered my humble tribute to Chanan Chahal for his untiring efforts to address the issues of interest and concern to the community and the society at large.

I will fail as an objective reader if I don’t say that the book has its shortcomings. The editor and publisher should have paid a little more attention on the trivial details of spellings, language and presentation. I have observed that many quotes and considered important text has been highlighted which was not needed. Nevertheless, I wish the book, launched on the solemn occasion of the birth anniversary of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar on April 14, 2018, will be received well.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Social Inter-Mingling with Dalits


Social Inter-Mingling with Dalits

Indian ethos, mythology and tradition are replete with stories like Sudama-Krishna kinship and Bheelani - Rama sharing of berries (Ber). Even one of the “Sakhis” of Guru Ravidass revealed that when upper-castes refused to sit and eat with Guruji, he agreed to sit separately and eat but it so happened that when they started eating, Guru Ravidass was found sitting and eating with each one of the Upper-caste guests. The Sikh Gurus started the tradition of “Langar, Pangat and Sangat” to register the concept of equality and
brotherhood.  But in spite of all these lofty tales and ideals, untouchability, caste system, ill-treatment of dalits remained a fact of life and living in India. The constitutional provisions to abolish untouchability and caste system and subsequent legislations to prevent atrocities and suppression of socially marginalized sections of the society and to introduce socio-economic-political empowerment of dalits could not make a big dent in the entrenched social evils of graded inequality even after more than 70 years of independence since 1947. It is a matter of great disappointment and concern. The vision of our forefathers, in contemporary times, like Mahatma Gandhi who tried to address the issues of untouchability and caste system by transforming the society by voluntary conduct of magnanimity and embracing of under-privileged and marginalized by the so called upper strata of the society. This approach could not catch up and did not succeed in bringing the desired results in the centuries old social milieu.  Babasaheb Ambedkar handled and addressed the issues from a different and more pragmatic angle. Besides constitutional provisions and safeguards, he pleaded and urged the dalits to stand-up and join the main stream of the society as equal stakeholders on the basis of his dictum “Educate, Agitate and Organise”. Dr. Ambedkar also warned that the political democracy which we had established in the constitution will have no meaning if the political democracy was not transformed into social and economic democracy. Again, as the voluntary approach of Mahatma Gandhi, this constitutional approach also could not bring in the desired results. The social and cultural organizations of the upper crust of the society like, inter alia, RSS and its affiliates, SGPC of Sikhs could not deliver on ground and remained confined to lip service only to take on the issues of discrimination on the basis of caste and ill-treatment of dalits inflicted by the upper castes head on. The caste system and graded inequality is so deep-rooted in the society that it is very difficult to change the social psyche and mindset. The process of empowerment and affirmative action, though slow, is the only option. Social and cultural organizations like the RSS, SGPC, Deras and Sects like Radha Swami Dera Beas,
Nirankaris, Hindu Maths, Swamis, Jain Munis and other religious Gurus that are the clergy class among others should face the challenge of caste and social discrimination head on. The dangers are too potent to be ignored. The warnings of Dr. Ambedkar clearly expressed in his last speech in the constituent Assembly should wake us up before we put our country and independence into jeopardy. 

Inter-dining and inter-marriages, to my mind, should be encouraged as a potent social and civil remedy to address the issues of inclusivity and cohesiveness in the society. The on-going ‘Tamasha’ of visiting the dalit households, eating and staying with them is a mere farce which should be stopped forthwith. It is an ill-conceived idea to encash the so called “dalit vote banks”. I may add hastily that educated and awakened dalits no more like this gimmickry.  Some Dharam Gurus - I have recently heard Swami
Ramdev - are trying to justify the ‘Varn Vyavastha’ of Manu while criticizing and disowning the caste system and untouchability.  He said in one of his recent explanations that the ‘Head (Brahmin)’, in our daily social conduct, always bowed to the ‘Feet (Shudra)’ and not the other way round. I think it is a clear attempt to justify the dictums of Manu by other means. Mahatma Gandhi also tried this superfluous and lopsided thinking but without desired results. The real question and challenge remains whether, in the Hindu Varn Vyavastha, one can become a Brahmin or Shudra by his/her attainment and conduct or not. The answer is no. Brahmins are born and Shudras are born. What Swami Ramdev is trying is to maintain the status-quo which is dangerous.

Much more needs to be done. I conclude by quoting from the famous book of Babasaheb Ambedkar “Annihilation of Caste” which would set the issue in its perspective, “The real remedy for breaking Caste is inter-marriage. Nothing else will serve as the solvent of Caste. Your Jat-Pat-Todak Mandal has adopted this line of attack. It is a direct and frontal attack, and I congratulate you upon a collect diagnosis and more upon your having shown the courage to tell the Hindus what is really wrong with them. Political tyranny is nothing compared to social tyranny and a reformer, who defies society, is a much more courageous man than a politician, who defies Government. You are right in holding that Caste will
cease to be an operative farce only when inter-dining and inter-marriage have become matters of common course. You have located the source of the disease. But is your prescription the right prescription for the disease? Ask yourselves this question; why is it that a large majority of Hindus do not inter-dine and do not inter-marry? Why is it that your cause is not popular? There can be only one answer to this question and it is that inter-dining and inter-marriage are repugnant to the beliefs and dogmas which the Hindus regard as sacred. Caste is not a physical object like a wall of bricks or a line of barbed wire which prevents the Hindus from co-mingling and which has, therefore, to be pulled down. Caste is a notion; it is a state of the mind. The destruction of Caste does not therefore mean the destruction of a physical barrier. It means a notional change.” He further said, “Criticizing and ridiculing people for not inter-dining or inter-marrying or occasionally holding inter-caste dinners and celebrating inter-caste marriages, is a futile method of achieving the desired end. The real remedy is to destroy the belief in the sanctity of the Shastra’s.”

मसजिद तो बना दी सब्ब भर में, इमां की हरारत वालों ने;
मन अपना पुराण पापी है, बरसों से नमाज़ी बन सका !
इक़बाल बड़ा उपदेशक है, मन बातों से मोह लेता है;
गुफ़्तार का तो यह गाज़ी बना, किरदार का गाज़ी बन सका !



Thursday, April 26, 2018

Thanks CM Captain Amrinder Singh



Thanks CM Captain Amrinder Singh

The Scheduled Caste communities of Punjab may or may not have taken note of some of the latest moves and decisions of the Government of Punjab under the stewardship of Chief Minister Captain Amrinder Singh with regard to several issues and matters of concern to them. That is why I have decided to avail of the opportunity to underline and highlight these appreciable actions
and thank CM Captain Amrinder Singh and his team. This is all the more important, as per the media reports, that some of the Scheduled Caste MLAs were finding themselves ill at ease as the community has, prime facie, not been given due and desirable presentation in the government and the administration which the media has termed  “CM seeks to assuage dalit sentiments”. CM Captain Amrinder Singh’s approach seems positive and appreciable.

·       Samvidhan Chowk at Phagwara – It is a right and timely decision in the face of unnecessary ruckus created by the anti social elements under the guise of right-wing Hindu outfits. Why should there be any objection to naming a non-descript Gole Chowk in a more befitting and dignified way as Samvidhan Chowk. CM Captain Sahib has rightly said, “There is nothing wrong in naming
the roundabout as Samvidhan Chowk as our constitution does not belong to any particular caste or creed.” It was surprising to note that the Municipal Head of the town, a BJP man, and the local MLA, again a BJP man, have criticized the government decision whereas they should have welcomed the decision and advised the fundamentalist Manuwadis to talk sense and stand with their SC brethren. The marginalized stakeholders, to my mind are no more interested in mere lip service of the right wing Hindu forces. They want delivery on ground. The SC agitators for the right cause also deserve commendation who kept the vigil and alertness in spite of undue and uncalled for provocations from the so called general category as the true followers of Babasaheb Ambedkar.

·       Ambedkar College at Bootan Mandi – the government of CM Captain Amrinder Singh also deserved full marks and appreciation for their recent decision to meet and honour the rightful and
longstanding demand of the people of the area to have a college for girls at Bootan Mandi which would rightly and thoughtfully be named after Babasaheb Ambedkar. I think MP Chaudhary Santokh Singh, MLA Sushil Rinku and Senior Deputy Mayor Surinder Kaur  among others should be thanked and congratulated for the good work in this regard. I have been writing about the project as a humble resident of the area which may be of interest: http://diplomatictitbits.blogspot.in/2017/11/ambedkar-college-at-bootan-mandi.html.
·       Guru Ravidass Memorial at Khuralgarh – Guru Ravidass Memorial was crying for attention since long. The earlier governments were taking ad-hoc decision eyeing the ‘Vote Banks’ closer to elections. The Akali-BJP government started the project without budgetary layout. The current government of CM Captain Amrinder Singh has announced Rupees twenty crores for the project which is a welcome step. Due recognition of icons of the marginalized sections of the society would ultimately lead to their empowerment which is the need of the hour.  We must thank and congratulate CM Captain Amrinder Singh and his team for this commendable decision. I have been writing about the Khuralgarh project in my blog as a humble follower of the great Guru which is available on: http://diplomatictitbits.blogspot.in/2016/04/guru-ravidass-memorial-at-khuralgarh.html

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

I wrote this piece sometime before in my blog and have merely reproduced for the sake of cohesion. Punjab Government under the leadership of CM Captain Amrinder Singh deserves felicitations in this regard too.

Speaking demographically, more than 33% population of Punjab belongs to SC communities, the highest in any of the states of India. They obviously expect their due share and space not only in the polity, economy, administration, culture, education but also in the society at large as equal stakeholders and rightly so. Any government ignoring this fact will do so at its own risk. For my fellow SC brethren:

तू पहले बात फिर का अंदाज़ पैदा कर;
फिर दुनिआ में तुजे कोई नजर अंदाज़ कर नहीं सकता !



Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Bouquets and Brickbats



Bouquets and Brickbats 

As a career diplomat for more than 35 years, I learnt to accept bouquets with humility and brickbats with dignity and fortitude. I also generally try to follow another diplomatic norm “Diplomats think twice before saying nothing”. But, of late, it seems, I failed
miserably on both the counts both in my writings (I write a regular
blog) and my occasional public speeches on various occasions. I 
tried to establish a reasonable level of dialogue both of my supporters and detractors. The supporters were too generous and kind to me. The detractors were too harsh and unreasonable.  I said and wrote freely on matters of concern and interest as a naïve thinker but without malice or self-righteousness.

Without going into details, let me touch on a couple of recent instances:-
·       Bharat Bandh of April 2 – I supported the Bharat Bandh but exercised and cautioned restraint as to not to disturb general law and order by resorting to ‘constitutional methods’ only in registering our protest against the efforts to dilute the provisions of the SC & ST (Prevention of atrocities) Act. I also advised the dalit communities to invite and solicit support and co-operation of the society at large in their lawful protest. I cautioned dalit youth which is increasingly getting volatile to exercise “Hosh” while demonstrating and applying “Josh”. It was appreciated in the educated and enlightened segments of the protesters and the society but found an underlying current of hostility and defiance by some of my own friends and so-called leaders of the community. Their major objection remained that I was too soft and yielding. I think, somewhere at the back of their mind, there was a lingering doubt that I was looking for some greener pastures with the ruling party and their mentors - BJP and RSS. Nothing could be farther from truth. My only agenda is to contribute positively, in my own humble way, to establish an inclusive society to live harmoniously with a sense of fraternity to our mutual advantage. My dalit brethren would understand and appreciate this. So I hope.
·       Ambedkar Jayanti and RSS: - Perhaps my over enthusiastic but ill-informed dalit brethren may not like my writing the name of Ambedkar with RSS in the same line. Things have reached such a pass. On April 14, Jalandhar RSS invited me to join them in celebrating Babaseheb Ambedkar on his Jayanti. In all fairness and
open mind, I accepted the invitation and joined them on this solemn occasion. The all knowledgeable worthies may have not even noticed this genuine but low key event. The print media carried it the next day in a routine manner. I myself circulated the news clipping among the interested circles. Lo and behold, a hellish fury of abuse was unleashed on me by the self-proclaimed followers of Ambedkar and Thekedars of the community.  I could not follow the reason and logic behind this uncalled for and mindless diatribe against me. Some of them even decreed and threatened my social boycott and segregation by issuing ‘Fatwas’. I don’t know how I should name these Fatwas – Tuglaki or Talibani or Ambedkari (if there is one in the name of Babasaheb Ambedkar, one of the most sagacious and democratic personalities of contemporary India). I tried to counter them with logic and solid arguments. I joined friends and fellow citizens at the RSS’s Peeli Kothi to pronounce and register the often repeated assertion that ‘Ambedkar does not belong to dalits only but to the entire society and the world at large’. Did I commit any wrong? I asked my detractors, the so called Ambedkarites and self-appointed leaders, whether they had read and considered the content and spirit of my speech at the RSS function which was duly published in the print media and subsequently, with view to further explain and put it into its right perspective, posted it in my blog http://diplomatictitbits.blogspot.in/2018/04/ambedkar-jayanti-april-14-2018.html. But nobody was willing to listen. They continued crying from the roof-top. I think their behavior and reaction is most undemocratic and ill-mannered which Babasaheb would not have approved and pocketed. Do we want conflict or harmony in the society? We need to answer this. RSS, till yesterday, did not recognize one of the greatest sons of India, Babasaheb Ambedkar due to their own philosophy and agenda. But now, with changing social and political scenario, have started to claim and own the legacy of India. What is the objection and confusion? If RSS is coming around by their dalit oriented agenda, let it be. On our part, we should be alert and keep our powder dry to use it as and when needed. No party, Congress, Jan Sangh/BJP, Communists, Socialists, Akalis among others, supported and recognized Babasaheb. Now all of them are falling on each other to own him and his legacy. Should we shun them all as my friends intend to do with RSS/BJP? I don’t understand this logic. Let all of them come along and appropriate Babasaheb Ambedkar. We should not have any problem on that account. The more the merrier.
·       Ambedkar Jayanti at the UN: - Ambedkar Jayanti was celebrated at the UN in New York on April 13, 2016 for the first time. I started working on this in April/May, 2015, subsequent to GOI‘s decision to celebrate 125th birth anniversary of Dr. Ambedkar by writing to EAM Sushma Swaraj and PM Narendra Modi. Later, on my approach, Forum of SC&ST MPs and MLAs under the stewardship
of Speaker Charanjit Singh Atwal and individual initiatives of people like dalit business tycoon Kalpana Saroj and other activists also came along who interacted with PMO and PR of India at UN in this regard. There was no official function in April, 2017 except some private event by the so called Ambedkarites and social activists in liaison with local NGOs. This proved to be, as reported, a gathering of anti-Indian establishment which sent a wrong message to the GOI and genuine Ambedkarites back home in India and abroad. I came to know sometime in February/March, 2018 that UN has refused permissions to private initiatives to host a function in April, 2018 on the formal or informal advice in this regard. This news got viral on social media in India and obviously the concerned and interested Ambedkarites were boiling over this. I took the initiative again and wrote to EAM Sushma Swaraj and PM Narendra Modi in one of my e-mails “Currently, a story is getting viral in the social media that the government of PM Narendra Modi has instructed the Indian PR at the UN not to celebrate the birth anniversary at the UN this year that is April 14, 2018. The vested interests tend to exploit this.” The matter ended with a good solemn function to pay tributes to one of the greatest sons of India organized by the PR of India to UN on April 13. I posted the Speech of Indian PR to the UN Syed Akbaruddin, who happens to be my diplomatic colleague, on my Facebook timeline. Many of my well intentioned friends appreciated it and even congratulated me, but on the other side, some of the self-righteous and jealous lot refused to stomach this. Many of them criticized the GOI and the Indian PR to UN for not inviting the reported anti-national and anti establishment individuals and outfits to the function. It was even reported that on the High-Table of the function “only Brahmins were seated”. It is the height of blissful ignorance and willful joining of hands with the vested interests. This misguided lot even supported and appreciated the demonstration and forced barging-in by some Sikhs to protest against the GOI’s suppression and injustice meted out to the dalits and Sikhs. It is ridiculous on the part of dalits. Will the Sikhs disturb and create disorder at a function in which a Sikh icon would have been celebrated? Will they allow others to create nuisance at their functions? If they are so concerned and agitated about the injustice and ill-treatment to dalits, why did they not join hands and support the Bharat Bandh of April 2 in India. Most of the high caste Sikhs are Manuwadis themselves. Ambedkar should be celebrated and recognized at the UN in a befitting manner as and when an opportunity arises. We all should endeavor for that rather than claiming credits.
·       International Day of Equality: - I have written about my proposal on “International Day of Equality in my blog many a times and shared it on my Facebook Timeline. I have also been writing to some of my friends and opinion maker on e-mails in this regard. The latest consolidated position may be seen on my blog http://diplomatictitbits.blogspot.in/2018/03/re-visitedinternational-day-of-equality.html. Subsequent to March 6, 2018, I followed it up with EAM Sushma Swaraj and PM Narendra Modi under information to BJP President Amit Shah and RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat through emails. The matter is resting at that. I have been appealing to all my fellow Ambedkarites and soliciting their concerted support in pursuing the matter in whatever way they can. Only a few of them have responded and took some action. Others
are sitting tight on the fence and looking for some opportunity to come by to find faults, criticize and issue certificates as to who is a good Ambedkarite or a bad one? Who is a good/bad Buddhist or a good/bad Ravidassia? Who should go to Peeli Kothi or Neeli Kothi? These worthies have no time and mind to write a line about the proposed International Days of Equality. They are busy in bad-mouthing on one pretext or the other those who are engaged in some good and positive work

All said and done, it was my feeble attempt to save and defend my integrity as a humble Ambedkarite in the face of ‘Bouquets and Brickbats’ from my friends and the society at large.

यह कहाँ की दोस्ती है के बने हैं दोस्त नासेह;
कोई गमगुसार होता कोई चारासाज होता !




Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Ambedkar Jayanti – April 14, 2018


Ambedkar Jayanti – April 14, 2018

Of late, Ambedkar Jayanti has increasingly become a day of great importance and significance both in India and abroad. On one hand, it is a matter of great satisfaction that the iconic personality of one of the greatest sons of India is getting due recognition and rightly so but on the other it has become a triggering point for some sort of social and political confrontation which is worrisome. We, as a democratic society, must ponder-over this before it becomes too late. Both the government and the civil society should consider and handle this sensitive situation without delay. Pushing the dirt under the carpet will not help. All political outfits are falling on each other to claim Ambedkar and his legacy owing to obvious reasons of ‘Vote Banks’. The followers of Ambedkar are increasingly getting assertive and vocal for their rights and due space both in the polity and society as equal stakeholders. The Thekedars, fanatic Hindu Right-Wingers, of the upper-crust of the society following
the traditional manuwadi mindset in the caste ridden social and economic order are not yet ready to shed their sense of superiority. Here lies the problem which needs to be addressed with tact and foresight. Babasaheb Ambedkar stood for ‘Samta and Samarasta’ – Equality and Equitable Order - in the society and the country at large. He pleaded to adopt constitutional and non-violent methods and approaches to get redressal of grievances, if any under the laws of the land. The political leadership and the society at large must understand and heed to the warning of Dr. Ambedkar that if our poltical democracy is not transformed into social and economic democracy as stipulated and enshrined in the constitution we would tend to subscribe to “Grammar of Anarchy” and put our independence into peril. Let us follow Ambedkar in a larger context. Babasaheb was not a dalit leader. He belonged to India that is Bharat and to the whole world as an international humanist.  Administrator of the UNDP, at a function in the UN in New York on April 13, 2018 to celebrate Dr. B.R. Ambedkar’s birth anniversary under the theme of UN’s goal ‘Leaving No One Behind’, said that “B.R. Ambedkar’s ‘efforts’ towards ensuring excluded groups were politically and socially empowered and made him a “pioneer” in the world and his vision of equality and social justice echoes the ambitions of the UN’s 2030 development agenda.” Let nobody stop anybody to own, respect and follow Babasaheb Ambedkar in the larger interest of establishing a casteless society based on the lofty principles of ‘Equality, Liberty and fraternity’. It will be a befitting tribute to the great leader, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar.

As a small and humble Ambedkarite, I participated in some of the events to celebrate the Jayanti of my icon to pay my debt of gratitude and homage to Babasaheb Ambedkar:

·       Participated in the Ambedkar Chetna March on April 13 which commenced from Bootan Mandi Jalandhar. It was a great show by the followers of Babasaheb. It was gratifying to note that over the years the Chetna March has become a regular event in the social
and cultural life of the city of Jalandhar on the eve of Ambedkar Jayanti. The Chetna March was spontaneous and voluntary on the part of the Ambedkarite followers. All efforts should be made in the years to come that the event becomes a landmark of discipline and democratic manifestation to remember the worthy son of the soil.

·       Participated in a prayer meeting on the morning of April 14 to pay homage to Dr. Ambedkar at the Jalandhar RSS complex along with Community activist Ram Gopal, Educationist Principal Ravi Sharma, Advocate Balraj Sharma, Politicians Manorajan Kalia and K.D. Bhandhari, Editor Rakesh Shantidoot, among others.  Special numbers on Babasaheb Ambedkar of the two periodicals ‘Yug Bodh – Punjabi and Pathik Sandesh’ were released at the function. I underlined the much needed approach, in my brief remarks, that
RSS, a well organized outfit of the Hindu society, should see to it that good things said in the prayer meetings in closed rooms trickle down to the grassroots to benefit the society. The public perception of the RSS and its activities, particularly among the dalit masses, required to be changed by associating them to the mainstream of the society as equal partners. I also added that India was India, in spite of many ups and downs in the process, because of the constitution of India which was given by our forefathers under the stewardship of Babasaheb Ambedkar. I also warned that any attempt to change or dilute the fundamentals of the constitution will amount to an invitation to a ‘bloody revolution’ which Dr. Ambedkar and his followers never wanted and supported. The secular fabric of the polity and society needs to be preserved and protected at all costs as visualized and stipulated by Babasaheb. Many of my friends may not like my going to the RSS for the event. But I am open to sit with them and discuss the matter, if need be.
Postscript: In fact, many of my friends, self proclaimed Ambedkarites, have already started abusing me on social media. Some of them have even suggested or threatened to do my “Mera Hukkapani Bandh”. Should they be still called Ambedkarites?

·       Participated at a celebratory function to remember Dr. Ambedkar at Bolina Doaba, a historical village in the out-skirts of Jalandhar, to pay tributes to the great leader along with known environmentalist Baba Balbir Singh Seechewal, an accomplished educationist Principal Jagroop Singh of Mehr Chand Polytechnic College, a renowned Punjabi films actor of yesteryears Satish Kaul, a worthy
son of Bolina, former Chairman of Punjab SC Commission Rajesh Bagha, a renowned literary critique Desraj Kali, Editor Rakesh Shantidoot, Social activist Sarwan Dass Bolina among others. My cherished memories became alive. I visited Bolina many a times in my younger days as a student to participate in the ‘Vidyak Samagam’ which was regularly arranged at Bolina under the patronage of Babu Sarwan Dass Bolina, one of my family friends. Sarwan Dassji was a source of inspiration to many of us in the 1960s.

·       Joined the large congregation of Ambedkarites at Ambedkar Bhawan at Jalandhar under the aegis of Ambedkar Mission Society, Ambedkar Bhawan Trust and Samta Sainik Dal and paid homage to Babasaheb. Fiery speeches by Dr. Gian Kaul, Chandan Grewal and Lahori Ram Balley clearly depicted the mood of the restless audience in view of the tense situation prevailing in the society due to recent political events. Dr. Chaman Lal, a left oriented intellectual, was the key note speaker. Referring to the RSS and BJP’s alleged agenda to subvert and change the constitution, Dr. Chaman Lal said that Ambedkar himself wanted to tear and burn the constitution as it did not turn out to be conforming to his liking. He obliquely hinted that yes, the constitution would be reviewed and changed to suit the under privileged and proletariats. He also underlined the need of cooperation and joining hands by the votaries of Jai Bhim and Lal Salam. The high-ups sitting on the
high table and the audience clapped. I was wondering whether the message was understood or it was just to keep ourselves blissfully happy. There are questions but only time will throw the answers. A good photo exhibition of Babasaheb’s rare photos was arranged at the podium of Lord Buddha’s statue at the Bhawan Complex. I was told that it was the initiative and endeavor of one our Ambedkarite enthusiast Gurdev Chand. I met and thanked Gurdev Chand for his thoughtful gesture.

·       Doordarshan (DD) programme on Babasaheb Ambedkar was a good exposure but the time was too short. Desraj Kali is a staunch Ambedkaite and a literary thinker of standing. Advocate Santokh Lal Virdi is an intellectual and community activist of worth. It was
rewarding to join and sit with them to talk about the greatest son of India, Babasaheb Ambedkar. DD Jalandhar has been thoughtful and cooperative in remembering and felicitating dalit icons as a professional channel of information and communication to the benefit of the public. I appreciate and commend the DD Jalandhar management.

The idea of writing these details is to generate awareness among the general public about the legacy of Babsaheb Ambedkar.

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




Sunday, April 8, 2018

Dalit Assertion – Emerging Scenario


Dalit Assertion – Emerging Scenario

Bharat Bandh of April 2 to protest against the dilution of SC & ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act by the Hon’ble Supreme Court has brought to fore many pointers which has implications for the coming political and social scenario in the country and the society. One it was a spontaneous uprising to register the pent up feelings and outrage of dalit masses against the piled up ill behavior and willful neglect and disregard even after more than 70 years of freedom. The growing undue clamour against the reservation for dalits without doing anything to bring about a casteless society is one of the major reasons of dalit dissatisfaction.  Everybody tends to speak against reservation for dalits. No one speaks against the caste based discrimination and high handedness. The growing perception of “Manuwadi” mindset and agenda of the ruling dispensation is yet another major factor for the growing unrest among the dalit youth. The recent happenings like Rohit Vemula’s suicide, thrashing of dalits in Una, Saharanpur incidents and arrest of Chander Shekhar Azad, Bheema-Koregaon incidents and the recent judicial outreach to dilute the efficacy of laws meant for the protection of hapless dalits are, inter alia, a few such acts of provocation which have resulted in a united dalit response, prime facie. Though it will take some more time to assess and formulate a more detailed analysis by the political and social pundits yet it is evident that challenges are potent and has the potential to spillover, if not handled to the satisfaction of the suffering humanity on the basis of the cardinal philosophy of ‘Equality, Fraternity and Justice’ stipulated in the constitution of India. But unfortunately, it seems that the political and social leadership and also the fourth pillar of the state that is the media are blissfully oblivious, though will not agree, of the ground realities and the simmering discontentment among the under-privileged. Just
to point out off the cuff, media, as usual, is not only suppressing but also not presenting the correct position. The media took no time to call the sporadic violence on April 2 as “Dalit Hinsa” inspite of the fact that violence was initiated, instigated and inflicted by the opponents of the Bandh and almost all killed in the violence were dalits. The statues and busts of dalit icons like Babasaheb Ambedkar and Periyar Ramaswami are disfigured and desecrated everyday under the watchful eyes of the administration and the civil society. PM Narendra Modi and his associates do not let go any occasion to state that his government has done all for the empowerment of dalit communities and has honoured Ambedkar more than anybody else. Dalits don’t like this ‘patronizing attitude’ at all. Dalits are not interested in clamouring for undue favours but in the rightful and equal share in the pie. Yet another clear sign of dalit assertion is the revolt of many vocal and silent MPs of the ruling party by aligning themselves with the dalit protest and agitation. It is something alien to the political set-up and is a welcome trend. Let the governments and the society do their best to implement honestly the empowering and affirmative provisions to help the weaker sections of the society rather than befooling the masses to take advantage of their strength as vote banks. Babasehab Ambedkar, who figured nowhere in the political and social reckoning, not long before, has become a darling of all, all of a sudden. Let it be, but let us be honest and diligent in addressing the issues agitating the dalit masses.

मस्जिद तो बना दी शब्ब  भर में ईमान की हरारत वालों ने;
मन अपना पुराना पापी है बरसों से नमाज़ी बन सका !

Tailpiece:-

With a heavy heart and a sense of remorse: – Where are the Administration and the Media? Who will bring the rogues to book? For how long dalits would tolerate this? Where are the political parties who are falling on each other to own the legacy of Babasaheb Ambedkar? If dalits would respond to this non-sense, it would be immediately condemned as “Dalit Hinsa” by the so-called free and fair Media and the Thekedars of the society. Today, April 8, one of the Bhagat TV Channels in a debate on Dalit Assertion in its programme “Taal Thok Ke” found blaming and instigating the political outfits to term the recent violence as “Dalit Goondagardi”. It was the height of shamelessness on the part of self-righteous media

Please see a clip getting viral on the social media. Only the wearer knows where the shoe is pinching.



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Tuesday, April 3, 2018

A Memorandum Not Delivered


A Memorandum Not Delivered

It is common knowledge that Babasaheb Ambedkar’s famous treatise on the caste system in India, a book named “Annihilation of Caste” was a lecture which he was to deliver in Lahore in 1935 on the invitation of Jaat Paat Torak Mandal. But due to some reservations on the side of the Mandal, the lecture could not be delivered. Babasaheb published it later in form of a book which proved to be a par-excellence analysis of the issue and remained so till date. I have no illusion of my intellect and capacity. But I take
At Guru Ravidass Chowk Jalandhar
the liberty of publishing a Memorandum which was drafted by me on the request and approach by one of my close friends on behalf of my own fraternity in Bootan Mandi, my native place in Jalandhar.  The Memorandum which was intended to be delivered to Mahamahim Rashtrapatiji, President of India through the Deputy Commissioner of Jalandhar District with regard to the Bharat Bandh on April 2 called by the dalit organizations and outfits to protest against the recent rulings of the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India diluting the provisions of the SC & ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 but could not be delivered due to reasons best known to the elite at Guru Ravidass Educational and Charitable Trust and Satguru Ravidass Dham of Bootan Mandi.  My off the cuff and informal interaction with some of the leading lights of both the Trust and the Dham put forward bizarre reasons and arguments with which I was surprised and got somewhat anguished too. The basic argument was that since no one else was submitting such a Memorandum, there was no need for us to do so. The second argument further astonished me. Where was need to give anything in writing to Rashtrapati? Did he not see what was happening with regard to the Bharat Bandh? One of them even remarked, “Rashtrapati is not blind and moreover he is an RSS Chamcha”. I decided to share the draft Memorandum through my blog, as usual with a simple question. Where was the need for the senior leaders of RSS and the Government of the day to issue statements and explanations on the issue of SC & ST Act and the Bandh? Rashtrapatiji, being one of them very well knew their views and intentions and still they chose to make statements. Our self proclaimed and learned elite think that there was no point in issuing any written submission. Why did the dalit outfits raise ruckus on the roads and streets, if they don’t have anything concrete to say and submit in writing?

I leave it at that with one pertinent observation that the Bharat Bandh of April 2 was successful with an overwhelming support. Some points, prima facie, become evident. The day long events and incidents gave way to the pent up feelings and emotions of the
suffering masses i.e. dalits. It was a spontaneous rising with scattered leadership or no leadership at all like the mutiny or rising or the first war of independence in 1857 in the struggle for freedom of our country. Dalits are no more interested in sitting tight and undergoing the sufferings being inflicted on them by the unjust social and economic order. The so called ‘Muhafizs’, in an expression of Sahir Ludhianvi, of Bhartiya polity and society  need to understand this, the sooner the better.

Text of the draft Memorandum which was not delivered

MEMORANDUM

To:    Mahamahim President of India
          Shri Ram Nath Kovind

Subject: Protest against the Hon’ble Supreme Court’s Ruling on the SC & ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act – Support of Bharat Bandh 0n April 2, 2018.

Respected Mahamahim Rashtrapatiji,
We at the Guru Ravidass Educational and Charitable Trust, Bootan Mandi, Jalandhar, in solidarity with the other concerned organizations and outfits, fully and whole heartedly support the Bharat Bandh call to protest against the recent untimely and uncalled judicial out-reach by the Hon’ble Supreme Court to dilute the efficacy of the provisions of the SC & ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. We strongly feel that any dilution of the provisions of the Act will be detrimental to the interests of SCs and STs who have been made to suffer an organized and willful suppression and oppression by the society and the polity for centuries together. Under the provisions of the constitution of India, the Parliament of the country, in its own wisdom and consideration, made appropriate laws to address the sufferings of the under privileged by due process. We don’t understand the need and desirability to change the law of the land by judicial activism as long as the law is not an ultra vires to the constitution. Nevertheless, if Hon’ble Courts are still convinced that some laws are bad in the justice system of the country, the courts may suggest and advise the Executive or the Parliament or both to consider and change the laws with due process under the provisions of the constitution. There is no justification, as far as common people understand, to change the law and dilute its efficacy by judicial dictates. The dalit masses of the country are perturbed and alarmed at these developments which are aimed at putting the cloak back by the vested interests. We should not allow it to happen. The spirit of the constitution of India stands by the suffering humanity. The laws of the land should conform to that spirit to bring about affirmative actions to undo the systematic suppression of the weaker sections of the society. The popular will of the people fully endorse that dalits, the suffering masses, should be made to join the main stream of the society as equal partners and stakeholders in the development of the country.

All said and done, we humbly submit to Mahamahim Rashtrapatiji, the protector and custodian of the constitution of India, the following:
·       All the organs of the government that is the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary should endeavor to establish a just social and economic order as stipulated in the constitution.

·       The Executive should immediately move a Writ Petition in the Hon’ble Supreme Court against the recent rulings by the Court to water-down and dilute the provisions of the SC & ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. The much talked about Review Petition is not the answer. We feel that the present government has not taken the matter seriously and has not presented the matter in its right perspective. Mahamahim Rashtrapatiji may consider sending a suitable message to the Executive in this regard.

·       In case the Hon’ble Court still feels that its decision and judgment conform to the law and norms of justice, the Parliament may consider strengthening the law by due process to safeguard the interest of the suffering masses. We are of the view that the suffering humanity is no more willing to sit tight and listen to the dictates of their tormentors.

·       We look towards Mahamahim Rashtrapatiji for support in defending our constitutional and human right by all constitutional means as taught and propagated by the father of the Indian constitution and the greatest son of India, Babasaheb B.R. Ambedkar.

Done and submitted at Jalandhar on April 2, 2018 through the Deputy Commissioner of Jalandhar