Monday, July 17, 2017

Bits and Pieces – As I Please - 2

Bits and Pieces – As I Please - 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

Without comment:-

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

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

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Bits and Pieces – As I please

Bits and Pieces – As I please

I am a regular follower of a much senior IFS colleague and former EAM, Kunwar Natwar Singh. Natwar Singh is an erudite scholar
and a writer. I immensely enjoy reading his regular column ‘As I please’ in the Tribune. Taking a cue from this, I have decided to try my hand to write and make brief comments on matters of current importance and interest. This is the first such attempt.

Prof. Jagdish Chander Joshi of Jalandhar - It is one and a half year since February, 2016, I met Prof. Jagdish Chander Joshi at a lecture on India- Pakistan Relations delivered by Ambassador Sharat Sabharwal at DAV College in Jalandhar under
the aegis of Prof. Manohar Lal Sondhi Memorial Trust. It was nice to meet this son of the soil who is actively associated with the intellectual and educational life in and around Jalandhar.  I again met him at the second lecture in the series in February, 2017 on India China Relations delivered by yet another Indian diplomat, Ambassador Ashok Kantha.  In the process, we became friends by succumbing to the natural human urge of mutual respect and regard. Our common friend Ambassador Bal Anand, also an alumnus of DAV College Jalandhar further cemented our bonds of friendship. Prof. Joshi is not only an academician of high caliber but also a prolific writer on matters of interest and concern pertaining to contemporary political and social history. He is a scholar of Urdu language and a poet of sorts. He impressed me further by his down to earth but very humble manners and conduct. I am a little slow in taking initiative to carry forward the connection and friendship. Prof. Joshi, though much senior to me on all counts, thoughtfully fills the gap by talking on phone. We remain on track. He keeps me alert and alive with regard to matters of current importance.  Last week, we exchanged notes on the on-going face off between Indian and Chinese armies at Doklam, the tri-junction of India- China and Bhutan. One pertinent question was raised by Prof Joshi. If China does not recognize Sikkim as an integral part of India, why should India recognize Tibet as a part of China?  It is a difficult question to answer in the current scenario. Isn’t it? Prof. Jagdish Joshi is a treasure trove of knowledge. I would tend to educate myself by interacting with him in the days to come.

Grammar of anarchy: - Retired IPS and ADGP of UP, S.R. Darapuri along with his associates was arrested by the UP police at the Lucknow Press Club premises where they were to meet and
address a press conference with regard to the law and order situation and recent incidents of atrocities on dalits in UP and the country at large.  I know Darapuri sahib and interact with him on social media almost daily. He is a dignified and responsible member of the society. Whatever he would do, I think, would not be out of context and senseless. Darapuri sahib knows the law and the system. Obviously, in a democratic country, he is entitled to his views and their expression as guaranteed by the constitution.  What is the problem? Why the administration and government should get perturbed? Do they intend to kill the dissenting voice? Why the so called vocal and free media has not taken due notice of this? It is shameful. Babasaheb Ambedkar’s warning of pushing our polity to “Grammar of anarchy” if democratic methods are not adopted to run the country immediately came to my mind. May the saner elements take over and save the country?

Aap Ki Adalat – It is a weekly show of Rajat Sharma on India TV with considerable following. The participants (main accused) in the Aap Ki Adaat easily make ‘Who is who’ of the elite segments of the society. Last week (July 8-9, 2017), Kashmiri separatist leader
Yasin Malik was in the Box (Katgaraha) to face questions. Obviously, the show was of topical interest in view of the prevailing situation in J&K. Yasin Malik is a leader of Kashmir by his own right. It was confirmed by his conduct and articulation. Rajat Sharma, Janta’s advocate, and also the audience clearly failed to pin-down Yasin Malik, I felt. We may not like his views on the Kashmir issue but he made of lot of sense. Interestingly, the show was edited to such an extent that the ‘Judgment’ by the Judge Journalist Naqvi was not shown and the show was abruptly closed. May be Judge Naqvi’s comments were not soothing to the ears of Anchor Rajat Sharma and the audience. Is it not a self inflicted censorship?

Without comment:

“It is one thing to glorify a professional soldier dying while doing his job, wrapping him in the national flag and carrying his corpse on our shoulders shouting slogans, and quite another to see our cities, small towns, farms, factories and schools turn into a wasteland. No war is worth misery, particularly with neighbours, because they always remain neighbours and every fresh layer of hostility will only add to bitterness that will last beyond generations. It is no surprise that the Chinese chose to remind us of 1962. Every war is a milestone in memory. I wish would never have to experience a war or an earthquake or a riot.”

Rajesh  Ramachandran, Editor-in-Chief of The Outlook (July 17, 2017 issue).

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Mera Jiwan Pandh – Biographic narration of Gurdass Ram Alam

My friend, Sohan Sehjal, a known poet and writer of Punjabi, was kind enough to send me a newly published book in Punjabi “Mera Jiwan Pandh” – a biographic narration of a renowned Punjabi poet and community activist, Gurdass Ram Alam (1912-1989). The book is a compilation of articles written by Gurdass Ram Alam in a Punjabi newspaper Jantak Lehar which have been edited and
published by Sohan Sehjal. It is an appreciable and thoughtful tribute to the memory of a great poet and a natural spokesperson of the poor and the marginalized sections of the society. I have read the book with interest and pleasure as a fan of Gurdass Ram Alam, a rustic but down to earth humanist. I posses his three books of poetry – Je mein Mar Gya, Alle Phatt and Urdian Dhuran. These books were well acclaimed not only in the literary circles of Punjab but also in the intellectual, social and political circles as Gurdass Ram Alam in these books gave a new and easy meaning to the intricate communistic theories of Karl Marx and thought provoking ideas and thinking of social and economic equality of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar.  For example:

-         Punjabi rendering of Karl Marx’s famous dictum “From each according to his capacity and to each according to his need” – Asin Bitt To Vaddu Dinde Han; Sanu Lor Mutabik Milda Nahin

-         Praising and appreciating Dr. Ambedkar’s contribution to transform the social order, Gurdass Ram Alam wrote in one his poems – Nami Ehdi Theory Te Nama Ehda Khasa; Eh Chaunda Duniya Da Badal Dena Passa

Sudesh Kalyan, a worthy daughter of Gurdass Ram Alam, who has recently retired from a coveted position from Doordarshan Jalandhar, has written the foreword of the biographic account of her father. She has given a peep into the personality of Gurdass Ram Alam by saying that Alam was a simple and truthful and also a loud mouth (Munphat) person who has the inclination to tell the truth and hear the truth – Sach Kehan Di Meri Adat Hai; Mein Val Pake Gal Kahenda Nahin.
The book is a compilation of a series of 18 articles written by Gurdass Ram Alam in his rustic Punjabi style in the newspaper Jantak Lehar in 1988 before his death in 1989. It makes a pleasant and interesting reading on side and also informative of the hitherto unknown facts of dalit politics and Ad-dharam movement in the 1930-40s on the other. The veracity of the information cannot be doubted as it came from the horse’s mouth. Gurdass Ram Alam himself was actively engaged and totally involved in the process.
Gurdass Ram Alam, a poor dalit belonging to the marginalized segment of the society with rural background, was literally illiterate, if one goes by the so called formal education. While living a life of a poor manual labourer most of his formative years either in his village Bundala in Jalandhar or in Quetta/Baluchistan (now Pakistan), Alam rose to become an acclaimed poet and social activist of standing with inborn talent. His study and understanding of the intricate theories of communism and full knowledge of Indian history and traditions and also of social moorings appeared to be perfect. Alam, to my mind, was a God’s gift to the society. The Sikh literary circles in Quetta and later Chief Khalsa Diwan in Amritsar duly recognized Alam Sahib’s talent and gave him jobs with good remunerations to take care of his poor economic status.  But Gurdas Ram Alam was totally involved with the community to fight against the social and economic tyranny and exploitation. He could not stick to one place only because of money and literary laurels.  I personally have had the pleasure to meet and listen to him at Guru Ravidass Gurpurab celebrations at Bootan Mandi in Jalandhar in the late 1960s when I was the General Secretary of Guru Ravidass Youth Club. Gurdass Ram Alam, a simple man with a Khes (hand-spun cotton shawl) and  a ruffled white khadi kurta-pyjama, was an embodiment of humbleness. I vividly recall that Alam was much liked and was in demand by the huge audience at the congregations. He was not only a good thinker and writer but also apt at reciting poetry to the entire satisfaction of the mind and soul of his listeners. Recently, when I was posted as the Consul General of India in Scotland (2007-09), I came across many Indians in Glasgow, affiliated to Indian Workers Association in the UK, who were the fans of Gurdass Ram Alam. They heard him both in formal Mushairas and also in private Mehfils along with Shiv Kumar Batalvi. Everyone spoke very high of Alam Sahib. It was gratifying to note. Alam had had the opportunity to recite his famous poem (Majdoor) in the presence of Jawaharlal Nehru in Rawalpindi in mid 1930s. It was interesting to know that the Chief Khalsa Diwan terminated Alam Sahib’s contract to work with them because they did not like his classic poem “Acchut da Ilaj” which, according to their perception, tended to criticize Sikhs along with others. Alam Sahib recited his famous poem “Azadi” – Kyon Bhai Nihalia Azadi Nahin Dekhi – in the historic congregation at Bootan Mandi, Jalandhar in September, 1951 in the presence of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar.

The contents of Mera Jiwan Pandh written and serialized in a vernacular Punjabi paper Jantak Lehar are note worthy as they may not find any mention in other publications. First, Alam has mentioned many names associated with the Ad-dharam Mandal and Schedule Caste Federation which have not been heard otherwise. The role of caste Hindus in prompting dalit leaders like Prithvi Singh Azad, Sunder Singh, Jaswant Rai among other to become Arya Samajis and join Congress Party to oppose Ad-dharam Mandal of Babu Manguram Mugowalia and Dr. B.R. Ambedkar came out very clearly. Alam has surmised that later Manguram also joined the Congress Party as he was threatened to surrender his land, granted by the government for loyalty and services in the 2nd World War. Yet another, so far an obscure fact, came to light that as a counter-weight to the Congress Party stand on support in the World War, the British leadership encouraged and appeased  dalit leadership to support the war efforts. In addition to the Mazhabi regiment (later Sikh Light Infantry), Mahar and Chamar regiments were created. Chamar regiment was deployed in Burma and Kohima to stall the Japanese and INA forces. Later the Chamar regiment was disbanded. Alam has mentioned about another interesting point of history with regard to the Communal Award and Poona Pact of 1932. Mahatma Gandhi opposed the Communal Award. On one hand he tried to prompt dalit leaders to stand up against the Award and Dr. Ambedkar by offering more seats to dalits in joint electorate. One the other, addressing the opposition to more seats expressed by the caste Hindus, Gandhi pacified them by saying that if the separate electorate were given and introduced there will be 78 Ambedkars, referring to number of seats in Communal Award, and it will be difficult to face and control them. He willfully forced joint electorate for dalits so that candidates nominated and supported by the Congrss party and the caste Hindus only would make to the assemblies.

Gurdass Ram Alam was a true nationalist and a staunch socialist by conviction and conduct. Most of his poetry hovers around the ills of poverty and inequality. It may be vouched from the fact that he consciously named his four sons, who could not survive their infancy, as, Sahit (Literature) Sangeet (Music), Andolan (Movement) and Lokraj (Democracy). Some anecdotes from his simple life make interesting reading: Alam was a smoker. While working for the Chief Khalsa Diwan in Amritsar, he was paid for his cigarettes but shown as food stuff. One can imagine that at that time, even Sikhs were liberal. In pecuniary hardships, he even stealthily took some money from temples in garb of paying obeisance to purchase cigarettes for himself and his comrades.

Sohan Sehjal did a yeoman’s service to the society by editing and compiling the book. Alam requires further research and study by the students of dalit literature and social movements. Pritam Ramdasspuri, my fellow Bootan Mandian and a poet of standing paid glowing tributes to Alam on his death in 1989. The tribute has been included in the book under review.

खुद्दारी का मुजस्मान मर्दे जरीन था आलम;
खाकी बजूद उसका जो उठ गया जहाँ से,
यह झूठ है सरासर की मर गया आलम;
कानो में गूंजते हैं इस्सारजिसके हरदम;
खुद्दारी का मुजस्मान मर्दे जरीन था आलम;

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Pay Back to Society – Lofty Ideal of SPEED & RELIT

Pay Back to Society – Lofty Ideal of SPEED & RELIT

SPEED – Society for Poor’s Educational and Economic Development and RELIT – An all India networking platform of volunteers and social groups to help poor and deprived sections of the society on the lofty ideal of “Pay back to the society” hosted a meeting of intellectuals representing cross sections of the under
privileged communities of the society at large on June 10, 2017 at Punjab Press Club in Jalandhar.  The meeting was well attended by participants not only from Punjab but also from other states namely, inter alia, Maharashtra, Andhra, Telengana, UP, Rajasthan, Delhi, Haryana, HP, J&K, Chandigarh.  The agenda for discussion at the meeting was a broad based one with important themes of interest and concern to dalits and other weaker segments of the society.

The meeting was conducted very ably by a retired IRS officer, Joginder Pal who is the Chief Administrator of RELIT. The speakers spoke with conviction and a sense of concern particularly on the current situation on account of the recent atrocities and highhandedness of the upper castes on dalits in Saharanpur and the issue of disunity and self contradictions among dalits. Advocate Nathi Ram from Saharanpur briefed about the ground situation in and around Saharanpur and termed the situation as tense. He informed, without mincing words, that Bhim Army tried to save and help the hapless dalits from the willful highhandedness and muscle power of the upper castes but was not able to avoid and ward off unfortunate loss of life and property of dalits. The administration and social set up was determined to undermine the interests of dalits. He candidly said that we, referring to Bhim Army, should organize and train ourselves better before challenging the all powerful oppressors. A senior police officer Shammi Kumar of Jalandhar expressed his regret that dalit officers themselves were instrumental in spoiling his chequered career - what to speak of others? He was of the view that dalit officers who try to hide their identity while enjoying the privileges should be exposed to shame them. Ashok Basotra from J&K was of the view that the salvation of dalits lied in Dr. Ambedkar and his teachings. There was no other way. He ardently pleaded that all dalits must embrace Buddhism to kill the tyranny of caste system. Chetan Bairwa of Faridabad and Bhanu Partap Singh of Ghaziabad, Senior Advocates at the Supreme Court at Delhi underlined the dangers of the up-coming social scenario in wake of rising tensions in the society particularly with regard to dalit communities. They pleaded for political consolidation to safeguard the dalit interests. Dr. Mohan Rao from Telangana was of the view that there was an urgent need to get united to face the challenges of the future. Col.   Raj Kumar of Chandigarh also spoke and urged the dalit intelligentsia to come forward and take the lead to guide the community to empowerment. I made a short presentation on power-point formation on the theme “Suggestions to address divisive tendencies among dalits” and said that the Poona Pact of 1932 signed by Mahatma Gandhi and Dr.
B.R. Ambedkar was a classic fraud and blackmail done by Mahatma Gandhi to cheat and condemn dalits to their traditional oppression at the hands of Manuwadis.  The key-note speaker Sukhdev Baghmare from Pune spoke at length and said that though he disliked the word dalits yet he would urge them to get united under one identity as Ravidassias while retaining our sub-identities as Valmikis, Buddhists, Kabirpanthis and so on. He advised that we all must do something positive to ‘pay back to society’ either in political field or in social or even spiritual depending on one’s interest and capacity. Dr. R.L. Jassi, IPS (Retired) summed up the deliberations at the meeting and said that dalits were basically peace loving and law abiding people as the followers of their leader Babasaheb Ambedkar but, referring to the new outfit Bhim Sena, there was an ample justification to have both “Narm and Garm” streams go together to achieve their bonafide goals as it was done in the Indian freedom struggle. Janak Raj Chauhan of the SPEED gave the vote of thanks to conclude the meet.

All said and done, two things came out clearly in these deliberations. One, there was an urgent and immediate need to unite and consolidate dalits to ward off the Manuwadi onslaughts amidst, the unfortunate but obvious, rising social tensions. These tensions are bound to increase in the coming days and dalits should get prepared to meet the situation. Second, the desirability and feasibility of outfits like Bhim Sena and others was a big question which should be studied and answers found before it gets late. Some people, may be rightly so, were of the view that dalits were still not ready or empowered to meet the challenge with violent means as the oppressors were too powerful. The refrain was that dalits should first get educated as advised by Babasaheb Ambedkar and slowly graduate to agitation and organization to meet the upcoming scenario. Yet another factor which torpedoes the much needed unity among dalits - growing animosity among the neo-Buddhists and the Ravidassias, came to surface. One can understand the concerns of both the sides but still in the larger interests of the community at large, every effort should be made to reconcile the view points as we all can unite and take shelter under the umbrella of our common icon Dr. Ambedkar.

The proposal of declaring April 14, birthday of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, as International Day of Equality found a special mention and was resolved by the meeting, on endorsement by IRS Joginder Pal and IPS Dr. R.L. Jassi, to support the proposal and urge PM Narendra Modi and EAM Sushma Swaraj to make a demarche to UN in this regard.

हर दर्दमंद दिल को रोना मेरा रुला दे;
          बेहोश जो पड़े हैं शायद उन जगा दे !

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Buddha, Ravidass and Ambedkar

Buddha,  Ravidass and Ambedkar

I wrote in my blog last week about the complementary approaches of the “Mala Ke Teen Moti” – a term used by one of my fellow enlightened BootanMandians, Pritam Ramdaspuri between the dalit icons Guru Ravidass and Dr. B.R. Ambedkar and also Gautama Buddha. I am not surprised to note that it has generated a kind of debate, a healthy one at that, and the points made by me are
generally not accepted or digested both by the neo-Buddhists and Ravidassias on one hand and also by some of the Ambedkarites on the other. At the same time, it is a matter of satisfaction that most of the Ambedkarites and the young dalits at large tended to agree that it will be good and advisable to find and dwell on complementarities for the sake of unity and oneness for the greater good of the society.  There is no point in getting dogmatic and fundamentalist.  One can remain a Buddhist or Ravidassia and can still be an Ambedkarite.

One of my educated friends in Bootan Mandi who professes to be a Buddhist and Ambedkarite gave me the feedback and said that it would be a futile exercise to say that Gautam Budddha, Guru Ravidass and Dr. Ambedkar had anything in common. The likes of me, referring to my views on the subject, were trying to confuse people with these new theories. He said that who so ever is not Buddhist cannot be an Ambedkarite. Ravidassias or anybody else who professed to be a Hindu can neither be a Buddhist or an Ambedkarite. His puritan views did not care for social harmony and oneness but harped on the stated doctrines and principles of Buddha and Ambedkar including the 22 vows stipulated by Dr. Ambedkar at the time of his embracing Buddhism in 1956. There are many more who boast of being true Ambedkarites and Buddhists and are proclaimed and professed anti-Hindus.

One of my friends in Dubai who is a well placed engineer and a community activist and who professes to be an Ad-dharmi or Ravidassia also wrote me on the subject, as a good and awakened member of the community, and raised many questions on my blog on complementarities between Guru Ravidass and Dr. Ambedkar
Guru Ravidass Dham, Bootan Mandi, Jalandhar
and requested for my extended views. I promised to answer them, as a layman, from my personal perspective. I take the liberty of quoting my friend in Dubai to provide little more visibility to the issue:

Quote (as received)
Jai Gurdev Sir,
I have read your latest article About Guru Ravidas ji and Baba Saheb, its very informative and constructive article.
Sinc every long times I have some doubts which I want to clear and may be you will have answers to those oubts

You have mentioned that Baba Sahib dedicated his one book to Sant Ravidas ans Kabir. I have read ir too. I have collections of 52 writings of Baba sahib, Other than single line deication I have not found any mention of Satguru Ravidas ji by Baba sahe. Why ? There is no mention of Satguru Ravidas ji's phylosophy or awakening bani in Baba saheb's writings. Why?

Some one raised doubts about that single deication line also saying that it was entered later.

I always fail to understand that when baba saheb was advocating change of religion ( from hindu to any other) at that times adi dharam was being advocated by babu mangu ram ji in Punjab and that was also for all dalits. Why Baba saheb has not made any mention of Adi dharam too in his writings and why adi dharama was not considered as an option to leave hinduism? Did these two leaders ( Baba sahen and Mangu ram ji) ever met ? Both of them were concerned about dalit issues then how come that they have not joined hands ? what sort of relations were there or what were the main differences which kept them apart?

Sir, if idiology of Satguru Ravidas ji and Mahatma Buddha is same or similar, then why budhist community in india and particularily in punjab is bent upon converting adi dharmi and Ravidasias to budhism? why religious conversion among us is being pushed up o daily basis, I strongly believe that and grass root level more religions mean more factions in our smaaj, means more devisions and by having more devisions we can never have any say in Punjab politics. So why race of conversions among Budhists. avidasias and Adi dharmi is being pushed up?

Dear Sir, I have great respect for you and I think you can explain these point better than anyone else to me. My questions arised from my passion to learn more and not from any contradiction.


There are also comments from a sober and balanced perspective of a senior diplomat colleague who is concerned and interested in community matters. I quote him also:

Quote (as received)
My dear Ramesh Ji, 
         I compliment u on ur article bringing out the confluence of thoughts of Guru Ravidas ji & Dr BRA  for the oppressed people of the tyranny of caste system in India.
        All great souls interpret the environment of their epoch in terms of seeking justice & faiir play in society.
        It is important to strike a balance in our approach...must think of the forces determining the future.
        No purpose is served by generating needless hostitility and demeaning other reformers of Hindu society...dubbing Swami Dayanand a foxy Brahmin, Gandhi a hypocrite Bania & Sikh Gurus as castist Bhapas!
         The wounds hv been deeper   but time has been a healing has to be the golden key and a torch!


Yet another comment from one of my blog followers from Mumbai and I quote:

Quote (as received)
Joginder Pal Mumbai
Thanks Ramesh Chander Saheb for the precise & beautiful article attempting to examine Buddhism, Ravidas Baani & Ambedkarism with a positive frame of thinking. This level of analysis & comparison was missing in the period immediately after exit of Dr Ambedkar in 1956.
I would like to add something in this regards that Buddhism came into existence as a result of strong absurdities of Hindu religion which were forced on the people with the shear bulldozing force as the religious dogmas. Buddha, himself being Kshatriya challenged the dogmas & superstitions & enacted Humanist & Religious Thinking that was later on called Buddhism. But due to onslaught of Extremist Sanatan sect, Buddhism was virtually wiped out from 7th Century till start of age of arrival Saints which was wrongly branded as Bhakti Kaal. In fact Kabir, Ravidas, Namdev, Nanak never believed in or preached Bhakti but propogated a rational humanist, social & political life and in fact went to jail many times during their life time. Begumpura --,Aisa Chahun Raaj --, Madho Avidya Hitkeen etc are not Bhakti Songs but were suggesting the ruler what type of governance should be there which in political term is called Constitutionalism. These saints gave their Baani but could not reach a common platform till writing of Guru Granth Sahib. As regards Ambedkar, he had declared that he took birth as Hindu which was not in his hand but will not die as one. The vested interest & discriminatory policies of prevailing Sikh religion in Thirties under Master Tara Singh drove away Ambedkar from Sikhism. For next 20 years Ambedkar could not take a decision regarding his conversion and was in fact had to embrace Buddhism, less that two months of his death. Dr. Ambedkar was a religious person but for a religion with Humanist & rational approach. Unfortunately there was nothing comparable to Guru Granth Sahib at that time. Even Ravidassia Dharam was not there but in any case that also does not fit as per Ambedkar requirement. Mangu Ram Muggowalia had a better proposal in the shape of Ad-dharmi concept that for the first time brought Mool Niwasi concept amongst the downtrodden class. So Ambedkar preferred Buddhism. This is a fact that great Gurus like Ravidas, Nanak, Namdev. Kabir etc. never referred to Buddh or Buddhism in their Baani. But once drifted away from Sikhism, Ambedkar embraced Buddhism.
As regards your inference, which I agree that there is no difference between the preaching of Guru Ravidas & Ambedkar philosophy. With Buddhism still not crossed one crore mark & highjacking of Bahujan Movement by Chamars every where, there appears to be no future for SC's numbering over 25 crores coming under one banner, what to talk of Bahujan Samaj of 100 crores.
Please excuse me if I have unintentionally submitted anything that may disturb any of our friend including yourself Ramesh Chander Saheb whom I always treat in highest esteem.

Now I come to my take on these comments by my friends. First to answer my friend from Dubai, I have no comments to make that Dr. Ambedkar’s dedication or mention of Guru Ravidass in the preface of one of his books was a later addition by some vested interest. The only thing I know for certain, after reading or understanding Dr. Ambedkar who followed the spiritual legacy of his family pertaining to Sant Kabir and Sant Tukaram. Guru Ravidass who was also one of the leading lights of the Bhakti movement was not much known in Western India and that is why Dr. Ambedkar did not have, perhaps, much exposure to Guru Ravidass and his teachings. I did not mean that Dr. Ambedkar had no inclination or understanding of Guru Ravidass.  Later, he developed fascination and liking for Buddhism and that is known history. I agree with Ambassador Bal Anand’s terminology to describe Dr. Ambedkar as “Thinker’s thinker”. Ambassador Bal Anand dedicated his latest book “Expressions of Freedom” to the Thinker’s Thinker. I have no standing and reason to question and contest Babasaheb’s decision to renounce Hinduism and embrace Buddhism.  There is nothing to underline as conflicting between Guru Ravidass and Dr. Ambedkar, to my mind.

Second question pertains to Ad-dharam floated by Babu Manguram Muggowalia. I understand from my verbal chats and discussions with some knowledgeable people in and around Jalandhar that Dr. Ambedkar and Babu Manguram Muggowalia met each other a couple of times in 1930s and 40s. The Ad-dharam could not take off beyond some pockets in Doaba in Punjab and Babu Manguram did not have any recognition beyond Doaba as a leader. While studying and preparing to renounce Hinduism, Dr. Ambedkar must have studied all the options, as is known in case of Sikhism, but finally he settled for an ancient religion and way of life having roots in India i.e. Buddhism. It was obvious. There was equation or comparison between Ad-dharam and Buddhism. We must understand this ground reality. Moreover, I understand that Ad-dharam was sidelined by the political leaders like Acharya Prithvi Singh Azad, an Arya Samaji and Master Gurbanta Singh as Congress followers to oppose Dr. Ambedkar. Babu Manguram, I think, tended to go with them. This could be another political factor which dissuaded Dr. Ambedkar to associate him with the Punjab leadership.

The third question is why the neo Buddhists are cajoling Ad-dharmis or Ravidassias and others to become Buddhists? Why anybody shall get perturbed on this? Hindus are trying for Ghar-Wapsi, Muslims are trying to convert Kafirs to their faith, and Christians are trying to add to their flock. The neo Buddhists are all the more justified, right or wrong, to ask their brethren to come along as desired by their common benefactor, Dr. Ambedkar.  The newly floated Ravidassia Dharam is also doing its best to give new identity to the community as the Ad-dharam did in the past. There is no answer to these senseless pursuits, to my mind. The vested interests sitting in the Deras, Dhams, Budh Vihars in collaboration with self appointed social and political leaders of the community are engaged in carrying forward their limited agenda. The things are getting complicated and messy with every passing day. Let us have one identity for dalits irrespective of their spiritual or religious affiliation as Buddhist, Ravidassia, Ad-dharami, Kabirpanthi, Balmiki, Mazhabi etc.

In this regard, I would tend to go by the thinking of my senior diplomat colleague and align to the main stream of the society. Education and time would set things in perspective in due course. I would also tend to agree with my friend Joginder Pal from Mumbai that all the three i.e. Gautam Buddha, Guru Ravidass and Dr.
Ambedkar stood for a humane society with equitable and just order. There is no conflict in their approach. In the contemporary times, Babasaheb Ambedkar showed us the way by leading from the front. He was not an anarchist. He was a nationalist. He was spiritual in thought and action. He was a rationalist. He stood for the good of the society by creating harmony and fraternity and more so for the suffering and exploited masses. Let us stand united behind the mission and philosophy of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar irrespective of our spiritual persuasions. There is no other way. 

छुपाके आस्तीन में बिजलिअं रख ली हैं गुरदु ने;
अनादिल बाग़ के गाफिल न बैठे अशिआनो में !

Friday, April 14, 2017

Complementarities of Guru Ravidass and Babasaheb Ambedkar

Complementarities of Guru Ravidass and Babasaheb Ambedkar

The birth anniversary of Babasaheb B.R. Ambedkar falls on April 14. The day of one of the greatest sons of India is celebrated and observed with great enthusiasm in India and abroad and rightly so. I am located in Jalandhar where the followers of Babasaheb Ambedkar, who are also the ardent followers of the 15th century champion of the Bhakti Movement, Guru Ravidass, are concentrated. Though Babasaheb Ambedkar embraced Buddhism in October, 1956 towards the end of his life in December 1956 yet the followers of Dr. Ambedkar sincerely tended to find similarities and complementarities between the missions and philosophies of the great social and spiritual revolutionary, Guru Ravidass and the contemporary social reformer and thinker, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar. The thinking of the followers of both the great leaders and path finders of the masses is not completely off the mark. Dr. Ambedkar was a spiritual person not only in his thinking but also in conduct. Like Guru Ravidass, he believed that religion is nothing but morality and good conduct. Dr. Ambedkar was a keen observer of the teachings of Sant Kabir and Guru Ravidass. He dedicated one of his books to Guru Ravidassji, it is a common knowledge. I personally don’t find any confusion and conflict among the teachings of Mahatma Buddha, Guru Ravidass on one hand and Dr. Ambedkar’s mission and philosophy on the other. My off the cuff argument in support of my assertion is that let us look for the positives rather than the negatives to unite the community and help them stand up to fight for their rights and space in the society as desired by Buddha, Guru Ravidass and Ambedkar. They stood fast against dogmas,
inequality, immorality, conflict and ill-will.  If, we all, like good followers of these great masters, live life based on the lofty ideals of equality, liberty and fraternity, as taught by our fore-fathers, we will pay wholesome and befitting tribute to Mahatma Buddha, Guru Ravidass and Babasaheb Ambedkar. Let us be honest and pragmatic in our approach and not confine ourselves to Buddha or Guru Ravidass to understand and follow Babasaheb Ambedkar irrespective of our spiritual leanings. It will be a true help and service to the down-trodden masses for which the galaxy of our leadership waged their struggle at different stages and periods of history.

The immediate provocation to write on this subject, as a novice and a humble follower of Mahatma Buddha, Guru Ravidass and Babasaheb Ambedkar, came from one of my fellow Bootan Mandians, Om Parkash Mahey who met me the other day to suggest that they were interested in streamlining and organizing the
Shobha Yatra/Chetna March to observe the birth anniversary in a befitting way.  And they wanted to dedicate the float/Jhanki to the theme of oneness and complementarities between Guru Ravidass and Dr. B.R. Ambedkar. Om Parkash asked me to write something on the subject. I accepted this as a humble beneficiary of the results of struggle and mission of Guru Ravidass and Babasaheb Ambedkar to register my sense of gratitude. One of my other fellow Bootan Mandian and an illustrious son of the soil Pritam Ramdasspuri wrote a well researched book on the subject “Mala Ke Teen Moti”.

Not as an authority but as a layman, I find considerable complementarities among Mahatma Buddha, Guru Ravidass and Ambedkar, the trinity of champions of human dignity and oneness of mankind. Babasaheb Ambedkar was an ardent follower of Sant Kabir, Guru Ravidass, Sant Tukaram, Mahatma Phule and many others who stood for social justice. But towards the dawn of his life, he felt that the three percepts of Buddha – Buddham, Dhammam and Sangham were better suited to the fragmented and decaying Indian society under the weight of dogmatic, excessively ritualistic, graded inequality, caste system and Manuwadi thinking and opted for more egalitarian, rationalistic and pragmatic way of life called Buddhism. But it does not mean that there is any idealogical conflict.  Ambedkar remains as good as he was before for the universal values of love, affection, compassion, harmony and human dignity as professed and preached by the great Gurus like Guru Ravidass and Sant Kabir.

Let us begin with Dr. Ambedkar’s often mentioned dictum “Educate, Organise and Agitate”. These values conform to the mission and philosophy of Guru Ravidass. Guru Ravidass realized the importance of these aspects of life in empowering the poor and exploited masses. On Education, he said in his Bani:
Madho Avidya ahit keen,  vivek deep maleen

(Ignorance: no education has done much damage; it has eclipsed our rationale)
Similarly, on Organisation and working together to mutual advantage, Guru Ravidass was forthcoming and said”
Sadh Sangat Mil Rahie Madho, Jaise Madhup Makhira
(One should live in the company of good people as bees live in the honey-web) and:
Tum Chandan Hum Rind Baapre; sangh tumhare basa,
Neech rukh te unch bhayo hai gandh sugandh niwasa !
You are like a tree of Chandan and I am like a cactus. But by living with you, I have also got the fragrance of you and thus transformed)
As regards Agitation, Guru Ravidass’s whole life was full of agitation- agitation for the good of the society, justice, equality, liberty, fraternity, harmony. Only agitated minds to do something concrete and worthwhile, can think and say:
So kat Jaane Peer Parai, Jaake antar dard na kai
(How can one understand the pain of others when oneself does not have concern and pain in ones heart)
The minds of both Guru Ravidassji and Babasaheb were so agitated and obsessed to annihilate and eradicate subjugation and oppression, that both of them in their times stood up against the social tyranny and exploitation of the down-trodden. Babasaheb renounced Hindu religion to free himself and his followers from the social hegemony and human degradation. Guru Ravidass unequivocally said:
Pradhinta paap hai jan liyo re meet;
Ravidass dass pradhin se kaun kare hai preet !
(Slavery is a sin, you should know my friend. Who will love Ravidass who is a slave?)
Coming to the other cardinal principles of Buddhism and mission of Dr. Ambedkar, there are similarities and complementarities with the philosophy of Guru Ravidass. Guru Ravidass, like Dr. Ambedkar openly denounced all the Brahminical scriptures like Vedas, Puranas, Smritis, Upanishads etc. as these promoted the hegemony of Brahmins and justified the social inequality and exploitation of the masses. He said: –
Charon ved kiya khandoti, Jan Ravidas kare dandoti

( Ravidas proclaims all Vedas are worthless)
Guru Ravidass further said:
Ravidass Brahmin mat pujio; jo hove gunn heena,
Pujio charan chandaal ke; jo hove gunn parveena
(There is no need to worship or recognize Brahmin who is ignorant and uneducated. On the other hand, recognize and honour a low caste who is educated and knowledgeable)
Guru Ravidas was one of the country’s foremost socio-religious revolutionaries who not only attacked the socio-religious inequalities but also preached justice, liberty, equality and fraternity where all fellow beings will live in harmony. Ultimately, Bodhisattva Ambedkar enshrined these lofty ideals in the constitution of India. Thus doubts and conflicts were set to rest. The followers of Guru Ravidass and Dr. B.R. Ambedkar must understand this to stand united to face the challenges of the future.
Babasaheb Ambedkar was a socialist democrat following the footsteps of Guru Ravidass and his Bani:
Begumpura Shehar Ka Naon, Dukh Andoh Nahin Jis Ke Thaon;
Na Tasbees Khiraaj Na Maal, Khauff Na Khata Na Taras Jawaal !
(The place of my stay should be free of sorrow; there should not be any pain or misery. There nobody should dis-appropriate anyone’s belongings and there should be no fear or favour)
Dr. Ambedkar was interested in transforming the political democracy into economic and social democracy as visualized by Guru Ravidassji:
Aisa Chahun Raj Main; Jahan Mile Saban Ko Ann,
Chot Bade Sab Sam Basein; Ravidass Rahe Parsan !
(I want such a state and governance where nobody shall be hungry and everybody should have ones bread and butter. All should live in an equitable order. Only then Ravidass will be happy)
Dr. Ambedkar stood for harmony and fraternity in the society as preached by the great Guru:
Keh Ravidass Khalas Chamara, Jo Hum Sehri So Meet Hamara !
(Ravidass, the pure Chamar says that all my fellow citizens are my friends)
Like Guru Ravidass, Babasaheb was the greatest exponent of liberty as the Guru said:
Kaayam Daayam Sada Patshahi; Dom Na Som Ek So Ahi !
(The good order and governance should remain. There should be no gradation or division. We should all be one)
With this I conclude and say that Dr. B.R. Ambedkar was the champion of the Buddhist values of equality, liberty and fraternity as followed an propagated the great Guru Ravidass in the 15th century. I don’t find any conflict in these lofty ideals. We all should try to imbibe these in our daily life. Here lies the progress and salvation which we all need to lead a peaceful and contented life.

हुबैदा आज अपने जखमे पिन्हा कर के छोडूंगा;
लहू रो रो के महफ़िल को गुलिस्तां कर के छोडूंगा !
पिरोना एक ही तस्बीह में है इन बिखरे दानो को;
जो यह मुश्किल है तो इस मुश्किल को आसान कर के छोडूंगा !

Greetings on the birth anniversary of Babasaheb Ambedkar, the greatest son of India.