Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, you may be surprised to know, was not as acceptable even in the late 60s as he is today. The Congress Party and its opposition to Ambedkar were vehement and telling. But at the same time Dr. Ambedkar’s influence among the dalits was taking roots slowly but steadily in Punjab. Republican Party was at the vanguard under the leadership of Duni Chand Shahpuri, Piara Ram Dhanowali, Charan Dass Nidhadak, Lahori Ram Balley and others. The Bheem Patrika edited by Lahori Ram Balley was the mouth piece of the Republican Party and the followers of Ambedkar. The finances were scarce and tight. No Government patronage was available to the name and memory of Ambedkar. Ambedkar’s followers under the flag of Republican Party planned and brought up the idea of Ambedkar Bhawan at Nakodar Road, Jalandhar in the early 60s. A fairly good plot of land situated between Abadpura and Bootan Mandi, the localities which are mostly inhabited by dalits, were purchased. It is a co-incident that it is located at the large chunk of open land where Dr. Ambedkar addressed a mammoth public meeting in October 1952. The promoters could not get enough financial back up and the project remained a piece of land only till the early70s. But the name of Ambedkar has its latent force. A follower of Ambedkar and a resident of Abadpura whose name, if I remember correctly, was Ram Prakash, died under detention in a strong agitation of the Republican Party against the Congress Government in 1964. It was decided to cremate him at the plot of land acquired for the Ambedkar Bhawan. The place became a venue of regular public meetings and get-togethers of the followers of Ambedkar particularly the functions arranged by the Republican Party. I personally heard, in my younger days, the national leaders of the Party like Dadasaheb B.K. Gaikwad, B.D. Khobragade, B.P. Maurya and others speaking at the venue on different occasions. But the health of the project was not very healthy.
In the mid 80s, fortunately, some new dedicated senior retired officers like G.S. Bal, R.C. Paul, Surinder Ajnat, Nasib Chand and many more, came forward and associated themselves with Ambedkar Bhawan under the aegis of Ambedkar Mission society and Ambedkar Bhawan Trust. Lahori Ram Balley provided them all help and continues till today actively engaged with the project. The second lot of dedicated followers of Ambedkar like G.C. Kaul, Tarsem Sagar, Ram Lal Jassi, Barkha Ram, and Chanan Ram took over and successfully tried to raise the much needed funds to build a reasonably good building by involving various political personalities including PM Inder Gujral and others. It was a right approach as such projects required support of the establishment in addition to the public. It is matter of gratification to note that now there is fairly good and functional building and facilities at the venue. Ambedkar Bhawan could become a nerve centre of the community activities and also for the mission and philosophy of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar.
Over the last one year, I attended two impressive functions at the Bhawan to pay tributes to the memory of Dr. Ambedkar on December 6, 2011 and December 6, 2012 on the Parinirvan Diwas ( death anniversary of Dr. Ambedkar respectively. At the first function, MP Mohinder Singh Kaypee provided a good sum of grant for the project out of the MP; s fund. It was an appreciable gesture. More needs to be done. This year on December 6, renowned scholar Kancha Illiaha was the chief guest and lead speaker. He spoke with conviction and paid glowing tributes to Dr. Ambedkar, the greatest son of India since independence. Lahori Ram Balley and R.P.S. Pawar who is the current chairman of the Ambedkar Bhawan Trust, inter alia, spoke at the function which was fairly well attended. Ambedkar deserves wider recognition which is coming but slowly in the caste ridden and discriminatory social order.
I wish the Ambedkar Bhawan Trust all success in the years to come.