I learnt with a heavy heart from an E-mail from one of my seniors, Ambassador Bal Anand, about the death of Chaudhary Chand Ram of Haryana. Chaudhary Chand Ram was a leader, particularly of the weaker sections of the society, by his own right. I convey my heartfelt condolences to the bereaved family and the community at large.
I have had a couple of opportunities to meet and interact with Chaudhary Chand Ram in my formative days as a student and community activist in the 1960s. Chaudhary Chand Ram was a known Congress politician in the united Punjab. He held many positions of power including Ministerial posts in various Ministries before Haryana was created in 1967. I vividly remember Chaudhary Sahib’s visit to my native mohalla, Bootan Mandi, sometime in 1964-65. I listened to him, as a young activist, at the then famous Chobara (Double Storey) of Seth Khushi Ram. He even toured some manual tanning workshops and interacted with people. Given the dirty nature of manual tanning work, his hosts (if my memory supports me, he was Seth Raju Ram) were a bit embarrassed to take Chaudhary Sahib there. But like a good humble leader, Chaudhary Sahib commented ‘it was fine, don’t worry, my mother had been doing this work.’ These utterances of Chaudhary Chand Ram left a definite mark on my young mind.
Haryana state came into being in 1967. Chaudhary Chand Ram was a towering leader with popular following. In politics, to remain in the reckoning is a hard job. Some politicians tried to side-line him but he was made of a different mettle. With the intervention of PM Indira Gandhi, on Chaudhary Sahib’s approach to her, he was made the Deputy Chief Minister of the new state of Haryana. I heard him speaking of these matters and cajoling the dalit leaders to show courage in claiming their rights at a public meeting at the famous Chak Hakim Mela near Phagwara in 1967-68 where he was invited by the Punjab Minister Piara Ram Dhanowalia who became a Minister in the first non-Congress Ministry of Chief Minister Justice Gurnam Singh after Punjab’s bifurcation. I met, along with my friends and co-community activists Prem Shant and Iqbal Bhatia, Chaudhary Chand Ram again in 1968-69 at his residence at the MLAs Hostel in Chandigarh to invite him to the annual function in connection with Guru Ravidass Gurupurab at Bootan Mandi, Jalandhar. He was not a Minister at that time. Chaudhary Sahib was considerate enough to immediately accept our invitation to be the Guest of Honour at the function. I clearly recall that we even had a lunch at his residence and enjoyed his homely hospitality. Somehow, I was convinced in my mind that Chaudhary Chand Ram was a good politician and dedicated to the interests and concerns of the dalit community.
I again witnessed Chaudhary Chand Ram in action, in the line of his duties at the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), as a Minister in the government of PM Morarji Desai in 1977 when I was posted in the Government Hospitality organization (GHO) in the PMO. As I know, Chaudhary Chand Ram remained in the thickness of politics and social service. I was told, the other day, by Ambassador Bal Anand, that Chaudhary Sahib did a great job in initiating and establishing many institutions for the benefit of the community in his life time. There was a huge Shradhanjali Samaroh (Tributes congregation) at Rohtak on June 25, 2015 as Antim Ardas (Last Prayer) to pay tributes and pray for peace to the departed soul. Chaudhary Chand Ram richly deserved this.
|Chaudhary Chand Ram|
जिस धज से कोई मक़्तल में गया;
वह शान सलामत रहती है,
यह जान तो आनी जानी है;
इश जान की कोई बात नहीं !