Saturday, December 14, 2013

General J.J. Singh



Yesterday, there was a story in the Hindustan Times (13.12.2013) that Former Chief of the Army Staff, General Joginder Jaswant Singh’s adopted son Kuljit Kumar has been commissioned in the Indian Army as an officer. Kuljit belonged to a poor family of Kashmir. The story further informed that General J.J. Sigh and his wife Anupama have also adopted yet another Naga boy James Kelengoto who is also a Jawan in the Army. The worthy couple has their own two children. I am touched by the generosity and kind heartedness of General J.J. Singh and his wife.

I have had the good fortune to meet General J.J. Singh and his wife Anupama. There was friendly Mushaira (Poetry recital) at the residence of Col. Narenderpal Singh and Prabhjot Kaur, the parents of Prabjot Kaur, at Defense Colony in New Delhi sometime in 1999-2000 when I was the Director of Central Asia Division in the Ministry of External Affairs. Both Col. Singh and Prabhjot kaur were renowned personalities in the literary circles. Col. Narenderpal Singh was the Deputy Military Secretary to the President of India Dr. S. Radhakrishnan and the Military Attaché in the Embassy of India in France. He was a novelist and a poet. His wife Prabhjot Kaur was an acclaimed poetess of Punjab. Their second daughter Nirupama, a socio-cultural activist and a poetess herself, was a friend of mine. She invited me and my wife Vidya to the dinner. It was an informal get-together which we enjoyed very much. There were many poets from the Punjabi elite of Delhi who recited their poems.  Exactly remember that both General Singh and Anupama sat with us on the matted floor and enjoyed the Mushaira. I found General J.J.Singh and his gracious wife humble and friendly. The newspaper story confirmed my good impression of the couple.

Friday, December 6, 2013

BABASAHEB AMBEDKAR – A Tribute



Today, December 6, is the death anniversary (Parinirvan Diwas) of Babasaheb B.R. Ambedkar (April 14, 1891 – December 6, 1956), the greatest son of India in contemporary times. It is a matter of gratification to note that as time passes, the relevance of Ambedkar becomes more pronounced both in the realm of India as a nation and also Indians as a society. He was a visionary in the true sense. Ambedkar may have been an iconic dalit leader but he belongs to the whole nation rather than just the dalits.

I would like to bring one point of Dr. Ambedkar’s thinking into focus. The political life in India is increasingly getting dirty and criminalized. It is a matter of concern and worry to all.  Ambedkar while commenting on the qualifications of a Member of Parliament said “The education can hardly be the sole qualification for membership of parliament. If I may use the words of Buddha he said that man required two things, one is Gyan and the other is Sheel. Gyan without Sheel is very dangerous. It must be accompanied by Sheel by which we mean character, moral courage, ability to be independent of any kind of temptation and truthful to ones ideals. I am very keen to see that no member enters this august assembly who does not possess Sheel in an adequate degree” One may easily see the relevance of Ambedkar in the light of present day’s requirement of cleansing politics in India. Our social and political activists like Anna Hazare should take some clue from Ambedkar’s thoughts in spearheading their struggle for a clean administration.

India is yet to pay its debt of gratitude to Babasaheb Ambedkar in full measure. Some of the foreign organizations have started doing so. According to media reports, which did not get much attention in India, recently Columbia University of the USA, in celebrating its 250th anniversary,  has issued a list of 100 personalities worldwide who were the alumni of the University and made their mark in shaping the destiny of millions  in their own countries and otherwise. The name of Ambedkar tops the list and rightly so. Dr. Ambedkar studied at Columbia University from 1913-1915. It is a great tribute to India and its greatest son.

Friday, November 22, 2013

A.P.J. Abdul Kalam



In the recent three weeks, I have read two books of Bharat Ratna A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, Former President of India, a great son of India.  Both these books are autographical in content and message. The first book is My Journey – Transforming Dreams into Actions. The book contains inspirational stories from the life of the most respected thinker and scientist of India. The book has been dedicated by the author “to the sixteen million youth who I have met and interacted with in the last two decades”. The narration in My Journey is ‘nostalgic, honest and deeply personal’. I would strongly recommend the younger generation to read this book. The second book of President Kalam, gifted to me by my daughter Vaishali (autographed by APJ Abdul Kalam), is Wings of Fire – An Autobiography.  The book has been dedicated by the author “to the memory of my parents”.  Most of the scientific accounts go over my head. But I found that the Wings of Fire is a brilliant account of the success story of the space and missile program of India. Somebody has rightly nicknamed APJ Abdul Kalam as the ‘Missile Man.  It is a thumbnail sketch of President Kalam’s life and a must read.

It has been my good fortune to see President APJ Abdul Kalam in person and briefly interact with him once. In fact, my office was located in the same wing of the South Block when he was the Scientific Adviser to the Minister of Defense and I was the Director of Central Asia Division of the Ministry of External Affairs from 1997-2000. I could see this great man many a times either in the lift or crossed our ways in the stairs. I found him an embodiment of simplicity and spirituality.

 President Kalam is a renowned scientist of high standing. India and the erstwhile USSR and now Russia, and countries of Central Asia have had good scientific cooperation particularly on defense related technologies and equipment. A scientific delegation from Kyrgyzstan visited India sometime in 1998-99.  The hosts invited me, as Director of Central Asia at the MEA to a dinner meeting at Oberoi Grand Hotel in old Delhi to meet the Kyrgyz delegation. President Kalam, then Scientific Adviser to the Government of India, also came to meet the delegation. I could see personally the respect and regard the visiting delegation showed to him. Undoubtedly, President Kalam commands great recognition as a scientist of caliber and standing. I have yet another story to tell. When I went to Minsk as Ambassador of India to Belarus, in the process of my First Arrival calls with the Belarusian leadership, I called on the Chairman of the India-Belarus Joint Commission for Military and Technical cooperation, who was also a scientist of standing in the erstwhile USSR and now Belarus. After the meeting, he took me to his personal office and with a sense of great pride showed me his photograph with APJ Abdul Kalam which was kept on the side of his office table. He said that President Kalam was one his best friends and wanted me to convey his regards to him. I felt a sense of elation within me.

President APJ Abdul Kalam is a living legend. I wish him good health in the years to come.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Remembering Indira Gandhi Again



I wrote ‘Remembering Indira Gandhi’ in my blog on October 31, the day of her assassination. I write again today to remember her on her birthday on November 19. Indira Gandhi was a worthy Prime Minister of India and a great leader.

I have had, as written earlier, good fortune to work in the close vicinity of Indira Gandhi in her office in the South Block and sometimes at her residence at 1 Safdarjung Road in a junior capacity attached to the office of Miss Vimla Sindhi, popularly known as ‘Behanji’ who was the Deputy Director (Govt. Hospitality Organisation) under the Protocol Division of the Ministry of External Affairs. Behanji, having worked with Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru at Teen Murti House since the dawn of Independence was personally known to Indira Gandhi from those days. In fact, the office of Behanji was more of personal nature than official to cater to some of the sundry Protocol and General House-Keeping needs of the PM’s Office and attached Committee, Conference Rooms. The approach to work, with a view to pay special attention to PM Indira Gandhi’s tastes and likings, was also more personal.  In personal and private interaction, Indira Gandhi called Behanji as Vimi and she in turn addressed her as Indu. In this set up, I was also working as one of the personal staff members of the PM’s office.

I first saw Indira Gandhi from a close quarter in her office when the three leaders of the Tri-partite Meeting among India, Pakistan and Bangladesh – Swaran Singh, Aziz Ahmed, Kamal Hossain – called on the Prime Minister in April, 1974. I was fully impressed by her demeanor and poise. In the process of my duties, there were several occasions to see her in office and Committee/Conference Rooms and also in the majestic corridors and stairs of her office. I was under the impression that Indira Gandhi considered me as one of the security personnel who was hanging around her office. But I was pleasantly surprised one day when her Personal Security Officer Pandit Ram Murti came and asked for Behanji as the PM was calling her. Behanji was not present in office and I informed him accordingly. Ram Murti went back and informed the PM. She (PM) asked to call that boy (obviously she did not know my name) who was working with her (Behanji). I went and attended to some small work in her office. I was totally impressed by her sense of awareness about the small things/happenings around her. She was a great human being too.

I recall these some anecdotes as a tribute to Indira Gandhi on her birth anniversary.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Jewels of Bootan Mandi



I have been writing about the contemporary dalit heroes and my fellow BootanMandians in my Blog. Today I write about yet another hero and my fellow BootanMandian, Pawan Kumar.

Pawan is a young man who has cleared and qualified the PCS competitive examination of this year with flying colours. While I congratulate him and his family on this great success, I feel proud that I know them well. Pawan’s father Keshwa Nand is my Hum-Umar and school mate. It is all the more satisfying to add that Pawan’s elder brother, Sunil Kumar, is already a PCS officer. I understand that Sunil has been posted as ETO after the requisite training. I am confident that he will prove himself to be a good and competent officer. It was my pleasure to honour him at the Bootan Mandi Budh Vihar last year at a solemn function. Pawan has provided yet another opportunity to do so. The whole community shall be proud of them. Both Sunil and Pawan have proved that hard work and dedication can make one achieve ones goals, in spite of all odds and an ordinary family background. They have become the real icons for the younger generation.

I have had the honour to briefly interact with Pawan and his elder brother Brijesh Kumar early this year when I launched my new venture, Jalandhar School of Careers and Opportunities.  We were engaged in the process of selecting and recruiting the teaching faculty for the School. On advice of my brother in law Prof. Balbir Chander and friend Ram Lal Kainth, I consulted Brijesh and Pawan who are qualified and highly placed teachers by their own right. Both of them were fully supportive and cooperative. In fact, Pawan was so good that when we could not find a suitable teacher of Math in the beginning, he offered unconditional help and took the classes himself for a few days, till we engaged a teacher. I found Pawan and Brijesh humble but upright. 

I once again congratulate them and wish them further success and prosperity in the years to come.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

DIWALI MUBARAK



Greetings on Diwali (November 3, 2013), the festival of lights and harmony. Diwali is an undeclared national festival of India and rightly so. Many of us celebrate Diwali from a religious perspective but the society at large celebrates Diwali as a matter of festivity and fun. I belong to the latter chunk of the society. Life is increasingly becoming difficult and tension ridden. We must explore and identify more avenues of joy and happiness. I subscribe to Diwali from this point of view.

Generally, we in the family don’t do many rituals. Nevertheless, we celebrated Diwali by exchanging greetings with my brothers, sisters and some close relations and friends and also with my colleagues at Jalandhar School of Careers & Opportunities. We got together at Silver Residency Apartments, our residential complex, and celebrated Diwali on November 2. It was great fun. We danced with our partners and children. There was a well controlled fire-work followed by a simple but good dinner. I feel that everybody enjoyed in good spirit of oneness and fellowship.

May Diwali bring us peace and harmony and we look for more and more such occasions where we may find more opportunities to create and generate further happiness.

 

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Remembering Indira Gandhi



Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her security guards on October 31, 1984. It was a tragic happening. I have had the opportunity to work in the PMO earlier in two stints from April, 1974 to October, 1977 and for about a year in 1982. My job and responsibilities entailed brief and cursory interaction with PM Indira Gandhi on many times both in the office and PM’s residence. It was an honour to work in the close vicinity of the great leader of India, Indira Gandhi. I wish to write about those days sometime later, if I could do. Today, I would like to recall her from another point of oral history.  It so happened that I was again involved in the matters on October 31, 1984 which are still vivid in my memory.

President Giani Zail Singh was in Sana’a on October 31 on a State visit to North Yemen. I was staying with President Giani Zail Singh and his personal entourage in the Presidential Palace as the Liaison Officer from the Indian Embassy. As the President was to scheduled to leave Sana’a for India well before noon on October 31, my job was to see that all the personal baggage of the President and his family members is collected and sent to the airport and everybody gets ready after breakfast. I got up early and went to the dining room for breakfast. One of the Presidential Body Guards of the Indian Army, a young Captain, joined me. While taking quick breakfast he told me that he had heard on the radio that some incident had happened in Delhi involving PM Indira Gandhi. He did not have further details. I enquired whether he had told about this to anybody.  He said no. I considered and thought that it should be brought to the notice of President Zail Singh immediately. I being a junior officer thought of informing Ambassador Ranjit Gupta or Chief of Protocol Hamid Ansari (now Vice President of India) who were staying in a separate hotel. I knew COP Ansari well as I had worked with him earlier as Protocol Officer in the Ministry of External Affairs. I could get COP Ansari on phone and informed him. He rushed to the Presidential Palace. Meanwhile, I, at the Control Room, started getting telephone calls from the media in Dubai. The picture was clear about the misdeed of the security officers of PM Indira Gandhi. COP Ansari arrived at the Palace and I accompanied him to President Zail Singh. Simultaneously, we tried to get confirmation and details of the happenings in Delhi from the Rashtrapati Bhawan on the hotline set up in the Room of PS to President. But nobody was responding. With great difficulty, we could get confirmation from the Rashtrapati Bhawan and Ministry of External Affairs. President Zail Singh got visibly very upset. He desired to fly back to Delhi immediately without any ceremonial send off which was scheduled. The Yemeni hosts including President Ali Abdullha Saleh were informed accordingly. The aircraft, technically, needed refueling on the way. President was informed of this. He categorically said that he did not want to stop and would go to Delhi direct. President Saleh came to the Presidential Palace, as the official send off was cancelled, to say good bye to President Zail Singh. He waited at the ground floor. I brought down President Zail Singh in the lift. On meeting President Saleh, President Zail Singh broke down and wept. I could feel the pain and his worries in the aftermath of PM Indira Gandhi’s assassination.  The rest is history. Incidentally, I knew Basant Singh Khalsa, one of the assassins of PM Indira Gandhi from my PMO days.

Yet another co-relation with the tragic incident is that I as Under Secretary (East Europe) in the Ministry of External affairs processed the gifting of the Crystal River by Czechoslovakia/ Czech Republic in 1990 which covers the blood spot where PM Indira Gandhi was shot at on the pathway at the residence of the PM which has been named as Indira Gandhi Memorial.

I write this as a tribute to PM Indira Gandhi, a great leader, with whom I have had the good fortune to work and interact though in a small way and in a very junior position.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

The greatest Stigma - the Caste System


I have recently read ‘Khushwantnama – The Lessons of my Life’ of Khushwant Singh. Khushwant Singh (98) India’s best known writer and columnist. The book is worth reading. I quote just one assertion from the Chapter ‘The State of the Nation’ of the book. It does not require any explanation.

QUOTE

Of all the stigmas that disfigure the fair face of Mother India, the worst is the caste system which inflicts unspeakable indignities on lower castes designated Harijans, Dalits or Bahujans. It is sinful, and more so since we have not been able to wipe out the stigma to this day.

However, the things have begun to change. The four people who played major roles in bringing about some change are Baba Saheb Ambedkar, Babu Jagjivan Ram, Kanshi Ram and Mayawati. Of these four, Dr. Ambedkar was the messiah. He never forgave Gandhi for granting the lower castes only reservation of seats and not a separate electorate. He played a key role in drawing up the Constitution of India and was later law minister in Nehru’s cabinet. Disgusted with the social framework of caste hierarchy, Ambedkar exhorted his followers to opt for another religion and persuaded his community of Mahars to convert en masse to Buddhism. He remains the most respected icon of the Dalits and one of the greatest Indians.

UNQUOTE

I like Khuswant’s honesty and his columns.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Relevance of Kanshi Ram



Today, October 9, is the death (Parinirvan in the Buddhist parlance) anniversary of Babu Kanshi Ram, a sterling dalit leader of the contemporary times. His followers rightly called him, out of reverence, Manyawar, Sahib, Babuji, in spite of the fact that he never hankered after name and fame just for the sake of it. Kanshi Ram (March 1934-October 2006) belonged to an ordinary family of Punjab. After studies, he joined service as a Scientist in one of the Governmental lobotomies. He had no political inclinations. But the ongoings in the office and the society at large, particularly discrimination against and ill treatment of dalits made him think and revolt. He studied Dr. B.R. Ambedkar and the leaders like Mahatma Phule, Shahuji Maharaj, Ramaswami Naicker and many more.  He was fully convinced that a relentless struggle was needed to awaken and emancipate dalits of the country. He disapproved the dalit leadership, particularly of the Congress Party and BJP, and their ways to deal with the problems of dalits. Later he termed them as Chamchas (stooges) thrown by the understandings of the Poona Pact signed between Gandhi and Ambedkar in 1932 in which Ambedkar, under duress, conceded to Joint Electorate instead of Separate Electorate as provided by the Ramsay MacDonld’s Communal Award.  Kanshi Ram initiated to ‘distinguish between genuine and counterfeit leadership’ as stated by him in the Preface of his book the chamcha Age.

Kanshi Ram dedicated his book Chamcha Age to Mahatma Jyotirao Phule and said “We are thinking, planning and struggling to put an end to the Chamcha Age and usher in Bright Age for the Shudras and Ati-shudras.” Keeping in line with his thinking and vision, he floated an outfit of dalit employees called Backward and Minority Communities Employees Federation (BAMCEF) in 1978, Dalit Shoshit Samaj Sangharsh Samiti (DS-4) in 1981 and ultimately to realize his political goals established Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) in 1984. Kanshi Ram was a crusader and dedicated visionary.  He vowed that ‘he would not marry. He would not make any property. He would not visit his home and family. He would devote and dedicate the rest of his life to achieve the goals of Phule-Ambedkar Movement’. Giving shape to his philosophy, he said that he believed in two nation theory of his own: those who oppressed and those who were oppressed.  With this, Kanshi Ram arrived on the political scene of India. He was instrumental in generating self confidence among the dalit masses. With his political acumen, BSP succeeded in having its presence felt in north of India, particularly UP. Under the leadership of his protégé Maywati, BSP became the ruling party successively. BSP showed a good presence in the Indian Parliament.  The fate intervened and the mission was cut short with the untimely death of Babu Kanshi Ram on October 9, 2006.

The relevance of Kanshi Ram and his mission remains. It will remain as valid as it was before till his goal of empowering dalits and making them the equal partners in the power structures of India is not achieved. BSP under the stewardship of Mayawati, of course, would try and encash the legacy of Kanshi Ram. But it is matter of satisfaction that, of late, the other political parties has started to recognize the importance and relevance of Kanshi Ram. Recently addressing a seminar on ‘National Dialogue on Social Disparity” organized by the National Commission for Scheduled Castes, Rahul Gandhi praised Kanshi Ram and said that the movement started by Kanshi Ram had come to a standstill after his death.  It was a well deserved tribute to Babu Kanshi Ram. BSP should take it seriously. Congress Party may hijack Kanshi Ram and his legacy as it helps in making the political arithmetic more rewarding. Let it be as it comes as long as it works for the emancipation of dalits. It will be a fulsome tribute to Babu Kanshi Ram.

Post script: Speaking at the S.C. empowerment workshop organized by the National Commission for Schedule Castes on October 8, 2013, Rahul Gandhi again made a significant statement to own Kanshi Ram. He said “There are three stages in the Dalit movement of India - the first led by Dr BR Ambedkar, the first Dalit who attained escape velocity and gave us the concept of reservations; the second under BSP founder Kanshi Ram who consolidated the Dalits who gained from reservations; the third, under Mayawati wherein the production of Dalit leaders has stopped,”

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Rahul Gandhi – A Game Changer


I wrote about Rahul Gandhi, as a Game Changer in August, 2011, when he spoke in the parliament on the Lokpal Bill, in the aftermath of Anna Hazare’s agitation. Ever since, the stature of Rahul Gandhi both in the Congress Party and national politics has gone up and strong over the years. He is one of the rising stars on the national firmament.

Now again Rahul is in the news on account of yet another stroke of his with regard to the controversial ordinance designed to protect convicted lawmakers from disqualification. The ordinance approved by the Government of PM Manmohan Singh is awaiting signature of President Pranab Mukherjee. The main opposition BJP is against the ordinance and has petitioned the President not to sign it. In a dramatic move on September 27, Rahul Gandhi openly came out against the ordinance and said “My opinion of the ordinance is that it is complete nonsense and should be torn up and thrown away.” It is a strong statement amounting to an indictment of the Government led by his own party. It is all the more intriguing that both PM Manmohan Singh and Congress President Sonia Gandhi are out of the country.  Rahul Gandhi not only negated the ordinance but also added that it was high time that political parties stopped taking decisions based on political considerations. Rahul Gandhi’s outburst has created problems for PM Manmohan Singh’s Government on one side and on the other some new thinking on the functioning of the parliamentary democracy. Rahul Gandhi tends to become assertive as a Game Changer. But only time will tell where it would lead the country and its polity.

Post script: The controversial ordinance overturns a Supreme Court ruling stipulating disqualification of convicted law makers. I recently read a well researched book ‘Making of the Constitution – Myth and Reality’. The book contains a speech made in the Rajya Sabha by the father of the Indian constitution Dr. B.R. Ambedkar on the frequent amendments to the law and the constitution in the wake of adverse or unpleasant judgments by the courts. Dr. Ambedkar was not supportive of such tendencies. He was of the view that such judgments shall not be taken as  an affront to the Government. The relevance of Dr. Ambedkar remains. May be Rahul Gandhi and his young associates have revisited Dr. Ambedkar.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Career Coaching Fair



SPEED – Society for Poor’s Education & Economic Development, an outfit of socially alive, educated and well to do persons of the community, organized a one day Career Coaching Fair on September 22, 2013 at Jalandhar.  The Fair was hosted by Canadian Career ITC at the premises of their Institute in Basti Danishmandan. Canadian Career ITC is one of the established institutions of Sarangal Education Trust which is managed under the Chairmanship of one of my old friends Shri Anant Ram Sarangal. The Fair was a success and was well attended by the educated sections of the society. SPEED, under the leadership of Dr. Ram Lubhaya, IPS, Retired Additional Director General of Police of J&K and Shri Janak Chauhan, a Senior Bank Officer in Canara Bank and also Shri Ajay Sarangal and his wife Smt. Kiran Sarangal of Canadian Career ITC did their every best in making the function and the fair all success.

I was very kindly invited not only as a Guest Speaker but also to present my newly launched Jalandhar School of Careers & Opportunities at the Fair.  I take this opportunity to thank SPEED, particularly my friend Janak Chauhan and also our hosts at Canadian Career ITC Ajay Sarangal and his vivacious wife Kiran for extending all cooperation and hospitality to me and my School team.

Minister Bhagat Chunni Lal was expected to inaugurate the Fair but he could not make it. The honours fell on Dr. R.L. Bassan, Civil Surgeon of Jalandhar who is quite a popular personality not only in his professional and official circles but also in the social circles of the society. He spoke with conviction and confidence, as always, and cajoled the educated class of the socially weaker sections of the society to re-pay the debt of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar by doing some good to the society and negate the stigma created by Dr. Ambedkar’s remarks that the educated class of dalits had failed him. Municipal Councillor Sushil Rinku, Dr. B.K. Tiwari a renowned educationist and Shri Ram Lal Kainth, a community activist, also spoke at the function.

Dr. R.L. Bassan declared open a Computer Centre at Canadian Career ITC which will be sponsored by SPEED to provide free coaching classes to the young and interested students. Representing Jalandhar School of Careers & Opportunities, Shri Rupesh Chander screened a small video film and power point presentation on the mission and philosophy and also facilities at Jalandhar School of Careers & Opportunities.

I must say that such educational activities and engagements are very useful for the benefit of the younger generation, particularly of the weaker segments of the society, as these tend to provide much needed counseling on careers and opportunities. SPEED deserves all appreciation and support in this regard.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

ALL INDIA CONFEDERATION OF SC/ST ORGANISATIONS



All India Confederation of SC/ST Organizations is an outfit of SC/ST organizations both in public and private sectors with its headquarters in New Delhi. The Punjab Chapter of the Confederation was launched on September 8, 2013 at an impressive function at Red Cross Bhawan in Jalandhar. The organizers, particularly Shri Jiwan Singh of LIC, invited me to the function as Guest of Honour along with other dignitaries like Shri Rajesh Bagha, Chairman of Punjab State SC Commission, Shri Surinder Mahey, Ex. Mayor of Jalandhar, Shri R.L. Bassan, Civil Surgeon of Jalandhar and Shri Paramjit Mahey, President BSNL SC/ST Employees Association. Shri K.P. Chaudhary, Secretary General of All India Confederation of SC/ST Organizations presided over the inaugural function.

The Punjab Chapter of the Confederation was launched successfully with presence and support of various SC/ST outfits. I was impressed by the sizeable gathering of the employees of various offices, an educated class of the dalit community. Shri K.P. Chaudhary’s presidential address was good, informative and motivative. I found Chaudhary a knowledgeable person with good personality and oratorical skills. Shri Chaudhary, inter alia, said that Reservation of SC/STs should be restored in promotions. The reservation provisions should be made statutory and kept in the 9th Schedule of the constitution. He also demanded that since the job opportunities in the public sector were shrinking reservation should be provided in the private sector too.

The underlying current of the function was the need of unity in the community to face the upcoming challenges of the fast changing ground realities both in the society and polity. All the speakers stressed that it will be advisable to get united and stand under the umbrella of the Ambedkar Mission and Thought. The divisive tendencies, on the basis of religion and sects,  shall not be allowed to overtake the situation. I think that it is the only correct way to get united. And without getting united, the community is bound to suffer.

The Working Committee of the Punjab Chapter of the Confederation will be headed by Shri Amrik Singh Bungar of PWD supported by Working President Shri Jiwan Singh of LIC, Vice President Shri Paramjit Mahey of BSNL, General Secretary Shri Prem Pal Domeli.

 I wish the leaders of the All India Confederation of SC/ST Organisations all success in the years to come.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

TEACHER’S Day – September 5


We in India celebrate, since 1962, September 5 (birthday of President Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan) as Teacher’s Day. It is a solemn occasion not only to remember President Radhakrishnan but also to honour and recognize the sterling role of teachers in the development and progress of the society at large. I have been writing on the subject before in this blog with a sense of gratitude to my teachers. Some of my teachers, right from the primary school to the college, left a definite mark in the shaping of my career and personality. I fondly recall Shiela Behanji at the primary school in Bootan Mandi, Master Dwarka Dass at Sain Dass High School in Basti Nau, Prof. K.C. Mahendru and Prof K.K. Ghai and also Prof. B.S. Bahl at D.A.V. College in Jalandhar. Prof. Bahl did not teach me. He was the Principal of D.A.V. College. I found him a great educational administrator and planner. I benefited a lot from my teachers. Somebody has rightly said “a learned man informs, an intellectual man instructs, but a teacher transforms and inspires”. I salute all my teachers on the Teacher’s Day.

This year, Teacher’s Day, is special for me. I have joined the system by launching Jalandhar School of Careers & Opportunities at Jalandhar. After a four decade long diplomatic career, I have decided to repay my debt of gratitude, in a humble way, to the society I belong to. I interact with students and teachers every day. I feel good. It is a rewarding and educative experience. Apart from the routine functioning of Jalandhar School of Careers & Opportunities, my personal contribution is to prepare the young students to become dignified members of the society based on the wisdom imparted by some great teacher “ I like a teacher who gives you something to take home to think about besides homework”.

Sant Baba Malkit Singh and Management of Sant Baba Bhag Singh Educational Complex were kind enough to take me on the Board of Governors of the great educational hub in the rural areas of the Doaba region of Punjab. It is an honour which I would like to acknowledge on the solemn occasion of Teacher’s Day. My greetings to all the teachers and students.




Thursday, August 29, 2013

MY FRIEND – MALKIAT SINGH



I have been writing about the dalit contemporary heroes in my blog. Today, I will write about yet another hero, my friend Malkiat Singh of villager Balan in Jalandhar.  Malkiat is also an alumnus of DAV College Jalandhar like me. I came to know Malkiat quite late through my friend Ram Lal Kainth who did his Master’s in Political Science along with Malkiat. Malkiat also happened to be the neighbor of my brother in law (husband of my sister Kamla) DC Kumar in their village Balan (famous for Dera Sachkhand Balan).  Malkiat belonged to an ordinary but enlightened family. His parents must be the real Karamjogis who made their children study and work hard, in spite of considerable socio-economic difficulties, and get settled in life in a dignified way.

Malkiat did his MA in Political Science from DAV College, Jalandhar in early 70s. His teachers, Prof. KC Mohindru and Prof. KK Ghai, who were my teachers also, later in personal conversations spoke very high of Malkiat as an intelligent student and were proud of him. With total dedication and hard work, Malkiat passed the Indian Civil Services examination and became an IPS officer in 1975-76 in the UP Cadre. During his long service as a police officer, Malkiat manned and occupied important positions in the UP police establishment. He rose to highest position in his career and worked as Additional DGP of the State under the stewardship of Chief Minister Mayawati. He earned good reputation and goodwill in his career. On retirement in around year 2010, he was selected and appointed to yet another coveted constitutional position as Chairman of UP Public Service Commission. It was an additional feather in his cap. Now on completion of his assignment at the Commission, Malkiat is back to his roots in Jalandhar to be with the society. I wish him all the very best in the years to come.

The immediate provocation for writing this piece is that Malkiat Singh invited me on the death anniversary of his father Shri Munshi Ram on August 27 at Balan. It was an honour for me. They observe the occasion as an annual ritual to honour and recognize good students of the village Balan and nearby villages under the aegis of Shri Munshi Ram Charitable Trust which the family has floated in the memory of their father. The Trust is doing a good job which is appreciated not only by the beneficiary young students but also by the community at large. I take this opportunity to congratulate Malkiat Singh, his brother Master Bhagat Ram and other Trustees of Shri Munshi Ram Charitable Trust and wish them further success in their appreciable efforts to encourage the students of the rural areas to complete their educational careers with flying colours.

अपना मुकदर आप बनाते हैं अहले दिल;

हम वोह नहीं जिने जमाना बना गया !   

Thursday, August 15, 2013

GREETINGS ON THE INDEPENDENCE DAY – AUGUST 15


 

TODAY, August 15, we are celebrating the Independence Day of India. My greetings to all my fellow citizens and friends on this happy occasion.

India has come a long way since 1947. We are a nation of 1.25 billion people. Demographically, India is one of youngest countries. India is the largest democracy of the world. It is one of the fastest growing economies. India is one of the largest reservoirs of skilled and semi-skilled manpower. But India is still poor and under developed. We are still to go a long way. The divisive forces are at work and are gaining strength. We are a divided lot on the basis of caste and religion. We are one of the top corrupt nations. The economy is in dis-array. Political parties do not have any national agenda. India is surrounded by hostile neighbours.

India Today, in one of its latest issues has termed India as “World’s only RDC” and said “There are LDCs (Less Developed Countries) and there are UDCs (Under Developed Countries) But India is an RDC, a Refusing to Develop Country, thanks to its politicians. India today has further informed that in 1982, India’s per capita income was 39% higher than China’s. By 2012, India’s per capita income had reduced to just 24% of China’s. An average Chinese is 3 times richer than an Indian; he was 28% poorer than an Indian in 1982. It is a matter of shame and concern.

Let the Independence Day be an occasion for introspection. We have definitely gone wrong on the way. Before we get derailed, we need to remind ourselves of the warning Dr. B.R. Ambedkar gave in the Constituent Assembly. He said “Independence is no doubt a matter of joy. But let us not forget this independence has thrown on us great responsibilities. By independence, we have lost the excuse of blaming the British for anything going wrong. If hereafter things go wrong, we will have nobody to blame but ourselves”

Monday, July 15, 2013

Indian Telegram Service



Indian Telegram service was discontinued on July 14, 2013 after its 163 years long and valuable contribution to the communication facilities in India. The service was started in 1850 on experimental basis and was opened to public in 1950.  Telegram Service (TAR) proved its efficacy and utility along with the postal service. It is a matter of satisfaction that Post & Telegraph Services really served the far flung rural and hilly areas of India through a well spread and well managed net work of post offices and postmen.  Dakia or Dak Babu enjoyed a well deserved place in the official hierarchy of rural India.

My personal encounter with the telegram service is not much. I recall my father telling me that he in his younger days sent telegrams, as advised by the Ad-dharam Mandal, to the British Government at the time of Round Table Conferences in London in 1931-32 expressing support to Dr. B.R. Ambedkar that he was the leader and representative of the dalits and not Gandhi. My further introduction to the telegram service was incidental. On the letter heads of one of the leather companies of Seth Khushi Ram and Seth Hans Raj of Bootan Mandi, I found “INSAF” as the telegraphic address of the company. It must be early 60s when I was a young student. I did not understand the meaning and purpose of it. Later I came to know that the established companies and individuals register short but catchy words as their telegraphic address to save expenses on sending and receiving telegrams. It made lot of sense. In January 1971, my grandfather expired and I had to come to Jalandhar from Delhi on un-planned leave. Later when I intended to extend my leave, I got a telegram from the Ministry of External Affairs, my employer advising that “JOIN DUTY IMMEDIATELY”. During my long diplomatic service, I found TAR word very sacrosanct. The coded communications between the Embassies and the Headquarters at MEA in New Delhi is called TAR in general parlance. It is an important tool of diplomatic communication.

The modern modes of communications like telephone, E-mail, SMS etc. has made life easy and communicative. But the romance and charm of TAR will remain. It was a harbinger of good and bad for a long time.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Suhani gets 4



 
Suhani, our grand-daughter (daughter of Rupesh & Sulekha) celebrated her birthday yesterday, the June 23. She became four. Though Suhani’s tummy was somewhat up-set yet she was excited to have the cake and eat it too. She wanted a special cake, shaped as the cartoon character Doraemon. We arranged a small dinner party at home with close extended family members. It was a wonderful evening. Sukhdev (my brother-in-law – Sandu Bhai) helped us getting made some special dishes by the competent cooks of the PAP. Sunny (son of my brother Pammi who is a budding vocalist) engaged the young crowd in karaoke singing.  It made the party all the more enjoyable. I recall that we celebrated Suhani’s first birth anniversary in Minsk (Belarus) in 2010 at the Taj, the only Indian Restaurant in the City. She is older by one more year but cuter and charming too. It is rightly said ‘one gets more interested in the interest than the capital.’ (Mool nalo biaj piara). God bless her.

I generally don’t take the initiative to celebrate birthdays particularly my own and that of my wife Vidya. But I do believe in celebrations with a view to bring in some cheer to the hassled life. The famous TV personality Oprah Winfrey has rightly said “The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate.”  I pray that Suhani grows up as a good child as “Growing old is mandatory; growing up is optional."

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Some Introspection & Some Relections


I am sitting (without much work) in my office at Jalandhar School of Careers & Opportunities. Some introspection and some reflections of the last two weeks have over-powered my mind. My daughter Vaishali was with us in Jalandhar with her two lovely daughters Komal & Tania during their summer vacations. It was a wonderful time. It was all the more good for Suhani, my granddaughter who will be 4 on June 23, who along with her parents my son Rupesh and daughter-in-law Sulekha, had shifted to Jalandhar from Gurgaon to live with us. The girls enjoyed their swimming at Suhani’s school – Cambridge International early in the mornings. Over the recent years, I have found that Komal & Tania were always willing and eager to come to Jalandhar and spend their holidays with us. I think Vaishali has given them a good sense of belonging. We are lucky to have such a good and caring daughter.

 On the side of introspection, I can very well say that we (me and my wife Vidya) remained ordinary parents which could not do much for our children. Nevertheless, our children have been caring and attached particularly our daughter Vaishali. We both are happy in the advancing years of our life. As regards some reflections, I must say with some sense of satisfaction and pride that Vaishali has been very kind to us. Every time she is in Jalandhar, she ensures to that our kitchen is redone, fans are cleaned, and bath rooms are spruced up. At her own house, she has good and enough domestic help to do all this and need not do these odd jobs herself. But at our small flat we don’t have much help. Vaishali tend to do all by herself. I appreciate this not as a good help to us but as a good quality in these days of superfluous living. God bless her. JP her husband is equally good. In spite of his busy schedule in his business as the CEO of Rothenberg (India) Ltd, he came to pick up Vaishali and their daughters. We relished a good bottle of Chilean white wine to unwind ourselves. They went to Chandigarh for touristic urges on the way back to Faridabad. We miss them here. More say Suhani who since yesterday repeatedly remember Shelly Bhua and Komal & Tania by murmuring that she wants to go to Chandigarh too. Vaishali is in demand. Amen!
 

Saturday, May 25, 2013

BUDDHA PURNIMA


 

Today, May 25, is Buddha Purnima – the birthday, nirvana (enlightenment) and parinirvana (death) of Gautam Budh, an apostle of peace and well-being. I congratulate my fellow citizens on the occasion and extend greetings and all the best wishes for peace and harmony in the years to come.

It is a matter of co-incident and gratification that my daughter Vaishali was born on May 25 on the Budh Purnima day in 1975. We named her Vaishali, the capital city of the State of Maghda which was said to be the first democratic state in the Buddhist tradition. Today is her birth anniversary and has fallen on the auspicious Budh Purnima.  May Lord Buddha bless her with all happiness and prosperity?

I don’t believe in rituals as preached by Gautam Budh. I do believe in three basic things propounded by him to salvage our lives – Let us company the wise (Buddham), Let us do right (Dhamma) and Let us be social (Sangha). I think it is more than enough. I don’t know what I am but I am a Buddhist by mind. It is for sure.

Buddham saranam gachchhaami
Dhammam saranam gachchhaami
Sangham saranam gachchhaami



SHAHEED SANT RAMA NAND – A TRIBUTE


 

Today, May 25, is the death anniversary of Sant Ramanand of Dera Sachkhand Ballan. He was assassinated by fundamentalists in a mindless and tragic shoot out in Vienna in May, 2009. The dalits consider him a Shaheed of the community and rightly so. Sant Rama Nand was the leading light of Dera Sachkhand Ballan which was increasingly becoming the nerve centre of the dalit community in the recent years. He was instrumental in adopting the agenda of social and educational upliftment and awakening among the dalit youth while spreading the lofty philosophy of oneness and equality of Guru Ravidassji. He attainted the position of reverence and acceptability in the community with his relentless efforts to provide a sense of confidence. It was not a small job. Sant Rama Nand will be remembered for his sterling contribution in this regard.

In the aftermath of Sant Rama Nand’s death, it was felt that the dalit community will understand and get united. The immediate fall out of the Shaheedi of the Sant was an outburst of pent up feelings of the community against the treatment and high handedness of the upper castes against the poor dalits. The dalit community clearly demonstrated that they were in no mood to tolerate any longer the snobbish and unbecoming behavior of the so called Thekedars of the society. But this reality was short lived. Alas!

The leadership could not rise to the challenge. The opposite social and political forces succeeded in their nefarious agenda in dividing the community. It was unfortunate, to my mind, Dera Sachkhand Ballan which enjoyed unprecedented support and following, could not lead from the front to channelize the energy of the community. The Dera got bogged down in matters which added to further confusion. The issue of granth ‘Amritvani’ as counter to ‘Shri Gurugranth Sahib’ and establishment of ‘Ravidassia Dharam’ as counter to Sikhism, to my mind, are the two acts of the Dera which were taken without debate and thought. Though the Dera and the proponents of Amritvani and Ravidassia Dharam would not admit that these two steps were taken as ‘counter’ measures to establish separate identity of the dalits yet the reality remains and speaks loud and clear. These steps proved counterproductive. The community got divided. The Deras got divided. The unity got shattered. It is confusion all around. It seems that we are traveling in a rudderless ship. I am writing this with a heavy heart with all humility and have no intention to hurt the feelings of anyone. My humble request is to kindly sit and ponder over the existing sorry state of affairs of the community, with a view to find out some way out. Otherwise, things would get more difficult in the years to come.

The soul of Sant Rama Nand may not be in peace. He wanted unity. He strived for a strong and enlightened community. Let us think and shed false ego and work for much needed unity and sense of purpose. Today is Budh Purnima also. May Lord Buddha guide us in choosing the right path.

 

Sunday, April 14, 2013

BABA SAHIB AMBEDKAR – A TRIBUTE


 

Today, April 14, is the birth anniversary of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar (April, 1891 – December, 1956), the greatest Indian of the contemporary India. The greatness of Ambedkar rests with fact that in spite of the fact that he held divergent or even conflicting views with Mahatma Gandhi, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel and other leaders of the contemporary India on many matters of interest and concern, Dr. Ambedkar could hold and prevail against tides of the time. Mahatma Gandhi rightly said on dealing with Ambedkar ‘You may criticize him but you cannot ignore him’. It is a matter of satisfaction to note that as the time passes, contemporary India is in the process of paving its way to go ahead in its progress and development, the acceptance of Ambedkar and recognition of his contribution in the nation building also increases and rightly so.

There were two major contributions which Ambedkar made to the polity and governance and social edifice of India. First he was the father of the Indian constitution. It is gratifying to note that India is the largest functional democracy of the world. The governance of the country is run under the provisions of the constitution in which the ultimate power rests with the people. India is on the rails. It has come a long way in its development but still it is still to go a long way to eliminate poverty and misery among the masses. There is hope to do so if we remain in the constitutional norms as stipulated by Dr. Ambedkar. He said in his last speech in the Constituent assembly on November 25, 1949 “If we wish to maintain democracy not merely in form but also in fact, what must we do. The first thing in my judgment we must do is to hold fast to constitutional methods of achieving our social and economic objectives. It means we must abandon the bloody methods of revolution. It means we must abandon the methods of civil dis-obedience, non-cooperation and satyagraha. When there was no way left for constitutional methods for unconstitutional methods. But where constitutional methods are open there can be no justification for these unconstitutional methods. These methods are nothing but the Grammar of Anarchy and the sooner they are abandoned the better for us.”

 The second important contribution of Baba Sahib to the society at large was his untiring crusade the clean the society from the shameful stigma of untouchability, caste system, religious dogmas, ill treatment of women folk and socio-economic inequality in general. Dr. Ambedkar was of the view that unless the political democracy we had established in the constitution was transformed to economic and social democracy, India will not make a big dent in its progress and prosperity. The mission and philosophy of Baba Sahib is as relevant and potent today as it was before.

My second innings -2 – Vidya Niketan




I wrote about my second innings on April 1. We took the second step on April 13, by performing the Shubh Mahurat ceremony of Vidya Niketan. The auspicious occasion of Baisakhi was fixed for the purpose consciously with a view to invoke all the best wishes to all our friends and well wishers. The guruvani dictum “Deh Shiva var mohe, shubh karman te kabhun na tarun“ of the great Guru Gobind Singh will be the guiding force behind our thinking and action in running the School.

The registration for various courses at the Jalandhar School of Careers and Opportunities (An Institute of Pritam-Sodhi Vidya Trust) will start on April 15. The classes and coaching is scheduled to begin on May 1. We are starting in right earnest. But we are to catch up in the race as the competition is tough. We know that it is not an easy job. We shall do our best. Our target, as written before, is the weaker sections of the society. We would tend to provide not only excellent educational facilities and much needed guidance but also the necessary confidence to the students to stand up and say “We can do it. We will do it” Our motto underlines the Buddhist philosophy “Be Your Own Light”

The formal ceremonial launching of Jalandhar School of Careers is likely to take place later in May/June 2013. The School Website: www.jalandharschoolofcareers.com  may be visited for some more details

Monday, April 1, 2013

My Second Innings – Jalandhar School of Careers & Opportunities



I retired from my diplomatic career (IFS) on December 31, 2010. At my ‘Good Bye’ Reception hosted for the Diplomatic Corp in Minsk (Belarus), my last station of posting, I said that it was not the end of journey for me. I had just finished my first innings in the game of life. My second innings was yet to begin. The day has come when I am all set to start with my cherished dream of opening a school as my post retirement activity. It took almost a year to come up with a suitable venue and building, Vidya Niketan, at a plot at Bootan Mandi (near Buddh Vihar) in Jalandhar, my native place. Jalandhar School of Careers and Opportunities have been announced which will unfold step by step. I have started sitting at the School from today April 1, the FOOLS DAY. My greetings to all of you on the occasion.

The Mission and Vision of the School to provide much needed guidance and help to the young students, particularly the weaker sections of the society, at affordable costs. The objective is not to run a commercial entity with profit motives but to make a social and personal endeavor to repay the debt of gratitude which I owe to the community. It will be done under the aegis of Pritam-Sodhi Vidya Trust which my immediate family has decided to establish after the name of our parents. The lofty ideals of self-help and self confidence as stipulated in the Buddhist thought “BE YOUR OWN LIGHT” will be the guiding principle of the School. Yet another guiding force with us would be to prepare the young people for “LEARN to EARN”. I don’t believe in academic degrees alone. I believe in preparing ourselves to enter life in a meaningful way. The catch word is to earn ones bread and butter with dignity. That is what my parents taught me.

I wanted to write more but I am not in that mood but still I want to post this today. I would pick up the threads later. Kindly wish me luck.

Friday, March 15, 2013

BABU KANSHI RAM – A Tribute


The birth anniversary of Babu Kanshi Ram (March 15, 1934) falls on March 15. I write this as a tribute to Babu Kanshi Ram, a great leader of men and a man of vision. With a scientific temper as trained scientist Babu Kanshi Ram, rightly called as Manyawar, was a missionary of the cause of the down trodden and under privileged of India. After Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, he was the flag bearer of the rights of the neglected and discriminated sections of the society. In his life time, it is a matter of satisfaction that he succeeded in bringing about a sense of unity and purpose in the lives of dalits of India. Babu Kanshi Ram enthused a much needed awareness in the minds of economically and socially crushed people single handedly. It was a difficult job but he did it with élan. Babu Kanshi Ram succeeded in making his presence felt at the political landscape of India. Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) which graduated through the torturous journey of BAMCEF, DS4 under the able leadership of Babu Kanshi Ram not only registered its good presence in the Parliament of India but also succeeded in capturing power, under the stewardship of Kumar Maywati, in the largest state of UP, not once but four times. It was not a small fete. Babu Kanshi Ram’s premature departure (died in October 2006) from the scene was a great blow to the poor and neglected people of India.

While on the birth anniversary of Babu Kanshi Ram, I pay my humble tribute to the memory of the great leader, I wish the dalits and the backwards of India would stand up and carry forward the legacy of Babu Kanshi Ram in getting and ensuring their due share in the powers structures of India. Only then the soul of Babuji will rest in peace.

हर दर्दमंद दिल को रोना मेरा रुला दे, बेहोश जो पड़ें हैं शायद उन्हें जगा दे ! 

Sunday, February 24, 2013

SATGURU RAVIDASS DHAM BOOTAN MANDI JALANDHAR


On the eve of Gurupurab, the Prakash Utsav of Guru Ravidass (February 25, 2013), I intend to write on the historical place – SatGuru Ravidass Dham Bootan Mandi Jalandhar with which my cherished memories are associated as a kid, a primary student, my formative years of youth before I graduated into adult life and above all being a small and humble son of an ordinary family belonging to Bootan Mandi. After about 40 years long diplomatic career, I am back to my roots in Jalandhar and wish to pick up the threads to integrate with the family and the society at large. SatGuru Ravidass Dham is said to be the nerve centre of the activities related and pertaining to the dalit community around particularly in the doaba region and foreign countries where the followers of Guru Ravidass live in considerable strength. The Prakash Utsav of Guru Ravidass is being celebrated with traditional and dedicated fervor in Bootan Mandi since long even before the advent of Ad-dharam Mandal in 1926. By now, over the years, Guru Ravidass Gurupurab has attained the status of a big social and spiritual event in the city of Jalandhar and rightly so. Before I come to the subject, I take this opportunity to greet and congratulate the followers of the great Guru Ravidass and particularly my fellow Bootan Mandians on the Gurupurab Guru Ravidass .

Gurudwara built sometime in 1930s, where SatGuru Ravidass Dham now stands, was a prominent place in the history of dalit community in the area. It was a magnificent building of the time. The Bootan Mandi’s prominents under the stewardship of Seth Khushi Ram and supported by others including Seth Mathra Dass, Seth Kartar Chand, Seth Mool Raj, with a view to provide primary education facilities to the children of Bootan Mandi and the adjoining localities, established a primary school at the Gurudwara premises sometime in early 1950s. Later the school was handed over to the Government but maintenance and upkeep of the building remained the responsibility of the Gurudwara Management. I remember in the mid 1960s, when I was actively involved in the community matters as an upcoming youngman, we under took the major renovation of the Gurudwara under the leadership of Hardial Banger, Manohar Mahey, Sat Paul Mahey, Prem Shant,Hans Raj Banchi, Darshan Bodhi and many more. Pritam Ramdaspuri, Seth Durga Dass, inter alia, stood by us as seniors and supporters. We even started a small library and a reading room at the premises. I recall, how with great efforts, we could manage to get 5 daily papers free of cost from the Jalandhar Municipal Committee through the Committee Member from Bhargo Camp Bhagat Budda Mal. A Youngman whose was Chaman Lal, if I remember correctly, was a great help in the day to day affairs of the library particularly its upkeep. Along with these allied activities, the Gurudwara premises were the venue of Gurupurab celebrations every successive year. For almost a week before the Guru Ravidass Gurupurab, the place will become the centre of spiritual discourse and recital of guruvani in the hazuri (presence) of Shri Guru Granth Sahib under the hands of Swami Lalji Dass and his dedicated followers. Our finances used to be small and meager but personal devotion of all dedicated young men involved in the process kept us going. The hard work of the young band of dedicated workers made the activities and events under the banner Guru Ravidass Youth Club increasing established and recognized by the society at large. I recall my submission of annual report of the Club in writing at the Gurupurab Kavi Darbar in 1969 as General Secretary of the Club. Prem Shant was a great help in the matter. We started publishing a souvenir ‘Guru Sandesh’ on the Gurupurab. We got printed greeting cards and sold to wish each other on the Gurupurab. We used to motivate the daily newspapers of Jalandhar and supply the requisite material to them for the Special Supplements on the occasion. We tried our every best to enlarge the scope and relevance of the Sobha Yatra (called Jalloos earlier) by engaging the public at large and decorate the entire route of the Yatra which was not an easy task in the 1960s. To cut the story short, let me say with satisfaction that things were put on rail in the right direction. I left the scene in March 1970 in pursuit of my career and bread and butter. Our successors along with some of my old associates did a good job in the following years but could not keep the tempo of the activities. The procedural content like the annual report, souvenir, and special supplements became things of the past. It was not good for the system and the institution. It is a matter of regret. A dedicated team under the leadership of Seth Ram Lal Mahey, I was told, contributed a great deal particularly in constructing new buildings for the primary and high schools in the vicinity of the Gurudwara (now Dham) and handed over these buildings to the Government. Frankly I did not like it. It would have been better, to my mind, if we run the schools as private institutions like many other communities do and provide not only quality education to our children at affordable costs but also inculcate the mission and philosophy of the great Guru Ravidass in the minds of coming generations. We have certainly arrived but were yet to reach our destination.

With the blessings of Guru Ravidassji and sheer hard work of some of the young men of Bootan Mandi like Seth Sat Paul, Surinder Mahey, Hussan Mahey, Kamal Mahey, Harish Mahey, with their seniors like Seth Ram Paul Mahey, Ram Saran Mahey, Seth Bhagwan Dass around,  progressed and established themselves in their leather business. The finances of the social and community activities improved considerably. They floated yet another outfit, to replace the erstwhile Club, in the name of Guru Ravidass Welfare Society in the early 1980s. The name was further changed around early 1990s, in view of the educational aspects particularly the schools mentioned earlier. The Society was converted into Guru Ravidass Educational and Charitable Trust, the current parent body of the Satguru Ravidass Dham. So far so good. The community got economic and financial muscle on one hand and political strength on the other. Surinder Mahey, a young man of Bootan Mandi, became the Mayor of Jalandhar city in around 2002. It was a big attainment and rightly so. While doing a good job as the Mayor of Jalandhar, Surinder Mahey also paid little more and focused attention to the development and improvement of Bootan Mandi which was a slum area. He planned and developed a good park and named it after Dr. B.R. Ambedkar.  He took yet another important work in his hands that is the construction of Satguru Ravidass Dham at the site of the historic gurudwara under the aegis of Satguru Ravidass Dham Management Committee. It was, of course, an ambitious but prestigious project which needed huge investments. Bootan Mandi being the hub of community activities, everybody, I understand, appreciated and joined hands to do the project. The young entrepreneurs of Bootan Mandi rallied around Surinder Mahey for the completion of the Dham including generous support from the dalit community living in foreign lands. My brothers, Krishan Lal and Paramjit, humbly but fully engaged and identified themselves these activities. Paramjit remained for a long time one of the Trustees and Member of the Guru Ravidass Educational and Charitable Trust and Satguru Ravidass Dham Management Committee and also the General Secretary of the Trust for a couple of terms. With the due financial and political support under the leadership of Surinder Mahey, the Dham project progressed satisfactorily for a few years. Obviously, authority entails responsibility. The power tends to inflate ego. In the process, as I understand Surinder Mahey, may be unintentionally, ruffled feathers of some of his associates and kith and kin in the extended family. As his term as Mayor of the city came to close in around 2008, the opponents who were lying low, started exerting themselves with or without reason. Some of them started opposing and confronting the authority of Surinder to settle their personal scores pertaining to family matters most of the time. The spoils office came to surface and over took the situation. Those who enjoyed the power when Surinder Mahey was the Mayor started drifting away for personal reasons.  With the support of political rivals of Surinder Mahey, the so called aggrieved faction hijacked the agenda for their limited purposes.  It was unfortunate for the Dham project, progress of which is almost stalled by now. Unfortunately, things have gone from bad to worse under the current Management of the Dham. Nobody is ready to see reason. The saner sense is missing holding the whole community to ransom. I am absolutely pained to write this. It is rightly said:  लह्मों की गलती से, सदिओं ने सज्जा पाई !

I am around for the last two years and this Gurupurab is the third successive year of witnessing a sorry state of affairs. We are a divided lot. I was told that Shri Avinash Chander, Chief Parliamentary Secretary of Punjab who also belonged to Bootan Mandi tried to bring the barring factions of Surinder Mahey and Seth Sat Paul Mall together to celebrate the Gurupurab to begin with and revive the neglected Dham project in due course. Surinder Mahey, I understand, was willing to come down in the larger interest of the Dham and the community but Seth Paul Mall could not gather courage and bring along his close associates to agree to some sort of settlement and compromise. The sincere approach is lacking, I feel. The leaders are more interested in settling their personal scores totally ignoring the common agenda of the community.The status quo ante, with displaced egos, stands to the detriment of the community interests. Some so called ‘Well Wishers’ wrote to me an anonymous letter and urged me to refrain from associating myself with Surinder Mahey. It is their assumed notion that I along with my brothers tend to support Surinder Mahey as against the wishes of the other faction. This assumption is baseless and ill founded. I refute it vehemently. I along with my brothers stand for the community and the Dham and not with any faction who so ever they may be. Let me make it clear. The ‘Well Wishers” also wrote that I should do something to bridge the gap between the two groups. With a view to register my sincerity of purpose, I immediately got in touch with prominent and eminent members of both the groups and suggested my ideas of bringing them along and strengthening the hands of Shri Avinash Chander in his efforts towards unity. But I am sorry to say with a heavy heart that my friends in Seth Sat Paul group did not respond positively and tried to downplay the issue and friends in the other group were at least open to sitting on the table and coming together with dignity and respect. It is a hopeless situation. The high pedestal of Bootan Mandi is slipping from under its feet. Some of the short sighted sons of Bootan Mandi itself are responsible for this situation which is unfortunate and unacceptable . May Guru Ravidass help us and show light. I close with a poetic expression –

आ गैर्रिअत  के परदे इक बार फिर उठा दें,

बिश्डों को फिर मिला दें नक्शे दुई मिटा दें!

सुंनी पड़ी हुई है मुद्दत से दिल की बस्ती,

इक नया रविअलय इस देश में बना दें !