Sunday, November 06, 2016
Political battles can only be fought on Programme based Agenda : L R Balley
Vidya Bhushan Rawat in Conversation with L R Balley, Founder Editor, Bhim Patrika, Jallandhar
Lahori Ram Balley is one of the doyens of Ambedkarites missionary journalism in India. Based in Jalandhar, L R Balley started Bhim Patrika in Urdu first immediately after the passing away of Dr Baba Saheb Ambedkar leaving his government job in Delhi. Bhim Patrika became voice of Ambedkarites all over the country once it started publishing in Punjabi, Hindi and English and to do this tedious work, Balley Saheb did not have a very big dedicated staff. Even today at the ripe age of 86 years, he constantly work and suggest that working for the mission of Baba Saheb Ambedkar is his life, his soul, his breath. This interview was recorded at his office cum home in Jalandhar last year in August 2015 and is available on http://peoplesvoice.in/2016/04/18/conversation-l-r-balley/ and I am now placing it for record through my liberal translation of the conversation for a large segment of non Hindi speaking people.
VB : Balley Saheb, when did you start Bhim Patrika and what inspired you to do the same.
LRB : I along with K C Surekh started it initially. Actually, Surekh who was General Secretary, Scheduled Caste Federation in 1946 used to bring out Ujala, an Urdu weakly which due to certain reason was closed as Sulekh went to the government job in 1952 so there was no newspaper as such for us. In September 1958, I started initially in Urdu, then in Punjabi and English and finally in Hindi since 1965.. We decided to use word Bhim from Baba Saheb’s name Bhim Rao Ambedkar to start the Patrika, a magazine devoted to Dr Ambedkar’s mission.
VB : What was its circulation when you started it. What were your struggles in establishing it particularly financially as well as trying to get volunteers for it?
LRB: In 1957 general elections were called out. I belonged to Navashahar which is now a district in Punjab. I along with Bhaiya Saheb Yashwant Ambedkar jointly toured Punjab during this period and fielded candidates for Scheduled Caste Federation. RPI had not yet started though the resolution had already been passed on September 30th, 1956 at 26 Alipur Road, New Delhi, Baba Saheb’s residence till his Mahaparinirwan. Hence when we went in campaigning during the elections, we addressed public meetings. Krishna Kumar who later became Krishna Kumar Bodhi and belonged to my native place had come to hear the speech of Baba Saheb’s son, liked my speech very much. He was a businessman and tried to find out about me antecedents and he finally came to meet me and asked me whether you want to live or run away. I had left my government job because the last time when I met Baba Saheb Ambedkar on September 30th, 1956, he was very ill that time. I made a promise to him that Baba Saheb, I will spread that mission and ideology till the end of life which you have worked all your life. So it was basically inspiration by Krishna Kumar that I started the paper.
VB : Did you have any thought in mind that Baba Saheb won’t live for long ?
LRB: Yes, I felt so. After the meeting of Scheduled Caste Federation, he was seated in the verandah for fresh air. He fainted. So he was brought in and was put on oxygen for some time along with medication. I had been sitting there on a chair for many hours. When he got well, then I promised him. I was in the government service that time. I was not the member of Scheduled Caste Federation working committee but Dr Bhagya Singh was the new chairman of Scheduled Caste Federation in Punjab and I went along with him to introduce him to Baba Saheb. I was sitting outside as I was not in the meeting but this is the thing after the meeting. I was sitting on the chair and later went in and was there for long. On 6th December 1956 when Baba Saheb got Mahaparinirvana, I was in the government job, a permanent employee in the P & T department and got deposited one month’s salary as desired according to service conditions, left the job and started working. I told Krishna Kumar that I am going to stay. Where will I go? He asked me to start a paper. Krishna Kumar inspired me to start the paper. He was not a Dalit. He belonged to Khatri, an upper caste, president of Arya Samaj, a big businessman of shoes and cloths. His family had many shops. He started supporting us. We started Bhim Patrika in Urdu.
VB : How much was circulation
Initially one thousand in Urdu, in Punjabi it was two thousand. People in Punjab don’t read much but we made it live. I did not know Hindi. I knew Urdu and Persian. In 1965 there was a Morcha and I was vice chairman of the action committee of. I was the first one to be arrested on December 6th, 1964 along with my wife, daughter and son in Delhi. Magistrate asked my children but my wife said we will also go along with. I was in Jail for 70 days.
VB :What were the charges and what were your demands.
LRB :There was no charges as we were arrested during the agitation. In February 1965, we got released. Our demand were nationalized bank, redistribute land, statue of Baba Saheb in Parliament, fulfill the reservation of SC ST in government jobs and many others like this.
VB : These were important demands which are not on the agenda of many of the Ambedkarites!
LRB : I have not only produced literature but also cadre. I placed people on work. There is a basti near railway station, there are 250 homes from Maharastra who had bad habits. I got them loan from bank on our personal guarantee. I never believed in speeches alone. I wanted people to make stronger on economic as well as in thoughts too. Land Reform is important.
On June 15th, 1964, about 101 cadres of RPI came out on cycle to move towards Delhi for putting our demand to the Prime Minister. We used to eat Rotis on provided by people in the villages. In Seven days we reached Delhi to meet Lal Bahadur Shastri who had just become prime minister. He has just arrived. Our demand was that evacuee land be given to landless Dalits. We were given space in news. We met Shastri ji. He said you have come but go back to your town after ‘touring’ the city. We told him that we have not come here for that. Then, I went to meet Ram Manohar Lohia. He said I don’t go to the PM but would send someone. After some time Shastri invited Chief Minister Comrade Ram Kishan and then the government allotted evacuee land to millions of landless scheduled castes. About 300 acres of land was allotted with my assistance to scheduled castes in Punjab in our city. Elsewhere many people actually got huge land against which a commission of inquiry was set up. So for us, it was work for the people that was more important.
VB: How did you come to Baba Saheb’s ideology?
LRB: My uncle was a qualified Doctor, a Hakim. He was educated. He was the president of Nagar Palika i.e. Municipality of Nawashahar. He used to get a of literary magazines and journals. I was fond of reading particularly Magazines and journals published in Urdu by Jat Pat Todak Mandal’s Sant Ram’s BA, in which lot of writings of Baba Saheb used to get published. I came to know about Baba Saheb through them. My uncle was member of the reception committee to receive Baba Saheb Ambedkar. Political leaders used to visit our family. My family was kind of reformed one and I can give them credit for what I am but later I studied a lot. I read each word of Baba Saheb.
VB: You met Sant Ram BA, President of Jat Pat Todak Mandal who became famous or infamous with his differences of Dr Ambedkar. What do you think about him?
LRB: He was basically a writer. He was an open mind person. He was a BA that time. He was engaged in farming and put animal bones as fertilizer. I used to meet him. His village was Purani Basi, Hoshiarpur. Basically, he was writer. He wrote over 200 books in his credit. He was a great translator. One of his finest translation was ‘’How to win friends’’ was translated in Hindi.
VB : The speech that Ambedkar wrote for Jaat Pad Todak Mandal as chair was never delivered because Sant Ram BA wanted to change some of its text. Did you ever discuss those issues related to Baba Saheb Ambedkar? Did he ever regret that Dr Ambedkar was unable to speak there?
LRB: Actually, things are not that simple. It is in the same book these things are there. Jat Pat Todal Mandal has most of the Arya Samajis. Sant Ram BA was an Arya Samaji who consider Vedas as the sole authority. In his speech, Dr Ambedkar speech, he writes, free youth from the thralldom of scriptures. Now, for all the Arya Samajis, Vedas are sacrosanct and hence they felt offended. Har Bhagwan, who was a student in Christian college, wrote to Baba Saheb for amending his presidential address. It was not Sant Ram BA but Har Bhagwan who wanted Baba Saheb to amend his speech.
It was Sant Ram who introduced Baba Saheb through his paper particularly to Urdu speaking people. When Baba Saheb married again in 1948, Sant Ram went to meet Baba Saheb. Their relations were never strained.
VB: Arya Samaj has a lot of influence in Punjab, Western UP, and Haryana. We feel whereever Arya Samaj has bigger influence, the attack on dalits are very high.
LRB : It is not Arya Samaj. We can’t say so. It is basically landed communities which are aggressive against Dalits. Arya Samaj was formed by Dayanand Saraswati. Arya Samaj was revived by Swami Shraddhanand ji. He was from Punjab only. His actual name was Munsi Ram. Bhagat Singh’s uncle Kishan Singh was an Arya Samaji. We are creation of Arya Samaj. They used to put us in Schools. They used to give children wash in handpump. They never believed in untouchability.
I don’t believe that Arya Samajis are attacking Dalits. Now as education is commercialized so has Arya Samajis. Read letters of Sant Ram BA and Swami Shraddhanand to Gandhi. They are very critical of Gandhi.
VB: You created a movement. You build RPI and Scheduled Castes Federation. Why Dalits could not influce Punjab politics?
LRB: After 1990s politics is changed. Politics after emergency was different. In 1967, we had two ministers in the coalition government of Gurunam Singh in Punjab . We had one minister with Charan Singh’s government in Uttar Pradesh. We resolved many economic issues. What we are witnessing in Doaba is the results of our work.
VB: The economic status of Dalits in Punjab is better than any other state. Gujarat too is a powerful state but condition in Punjab are better. Is it because Sikkhism ?
LRB: Dalits in Punjab are powerful. If we are beaten up, we will also give them back but Sikkhism is the biggest problem. In Malwa the condition of Dalits is very bad. They don’t even have Pagadi. Malwa had old Riasats, like Patiala. So the caste system in the old Raja Razwadas is worst.
VB: How do you look at Ambedkarite movement in India today? Its Strength and weaknesses.
LRB: When I started working in 1956. It was too risky to take Dr Ambedkar’s name. I have over 50 cases on me to rush me here and there. Even today, I have a case on me through my book ‘’Rangeela Gandhi’’. I had to give 20 lakh as bond, Ten lakh in cash as FD and 10 lakh property. Only then, I was given passport and that too for one year.
VB: What was there in Rangeela Gandhi that our government was afraid of it.
LRB: They banned it in Rajasthan. Here another book of mine ‘Hinduism ‘dharma or Kalank’ was banned. I spoke in Jammu that Vedas contained nothing but forgery’. It offended some and they filed case against me under J & K. It was a historical speech of Baba Saheb on September 24th, 1944 that he spoke in Madras. I was taken from Jalandhar to Jammu to appear in the court. I know how difficult it was and how I survived.
VB: So you are facing from that day. Now everybody is afraid of Ambedkar.
LRB: Those were the years we were not allowed to organize meeting. That is our success that we have pushed Ambedkar so much that even the opponents are shouting slogan of Ambedkar. It is a success. But we never compromised on our principles.
VB: This is an important point.
LRB: I am simple person. I always felt like an ordinary citizen.
India’s intellectuals are dishonest. If you want to clarify please read Baba Saheb’s book, ‘The Untouchable’. There is a difference between an educated man, who is loyal to his caste, his community and sectarian cause, an intellectual die for his ideology. Our educated people, we can’t call them intellectual, continue to compromise.
VB : You were committed people, who kept the name of Baba Saheb alive. You have done a lot of work. Brought out so many volumes like you and Bhagwan Das. Today, many parties have been formed of Dalits..leaders. You are saying that our leaders are purchased. Our parties are compromising.
LRB: I was in Delhi. I saw a car, written on a car plate was Republican of India, formed by Baba Saheb. It belonged to Ramdas Athawale, now a member of Rajya Sabha with the help of BJP and demonstrating in Delhi. What is it for? In 1966 RPI decided to ally with Congress. I resigned from the party opposing it. I contested 1967 under RPI Ambedkarite. We formed in Lucknow and fought elections all over the country. I contested against Swarn Singh, defence minister of India. WE never compromised. Most of the members who went to Congress actually compromised. See Barrister B D Khobargade got power and position. When communist went with the Congress faced the same. Feudal parties actually purchase the leadership of the poor and have nots.
VB : All the Dalit parties compromised with BJP. We won’t be able to work without it. Too much idealistic, we will not be able to stand.
LRB: I am not suggesting idealism. Please stand for the basic issues of people. What is ideal? Baba Saheb said, academics are nothing in politics. But do practical politics. Practical politics made five year plans, constitution was made. In the constitution is written that the Scheduled caste commission will send its report to President and then President will forward it to Parliament but see how many reports are not sending by the President for discussion and our leaders don’t even raise the issue. President doesn’t send the report. Baba Saheb spoke on Scheduled Caste Commission. What is untouchability. This is mental twist and how can we resolve it. You go to Parliament with reserve seat. Talk about country, about community, about development. Baba Saheb wrote to his friend, ‘ Santosh parmodham’ which is basically from Dhammapada. People don’t understand it.
VB: People’s politics has disappeared.
LRB: WE have done people’s politics. I don’t have an issue. My younger brother is in England since 1959. I can shift to England and Canada and yet at this age of 86 years of age I am still fighting here. Leadership must emerge from people. We introduced Baba Saheb through literature. We know there were not many books that time. Today, there are so many writers. Those who cant write letters have become writers. Those who can’t sing have become singers. The entire society is demoralized. Our own have become worst many time.
VB : There are good people coming from the community.
LRB : Look, we have fight with RSS. But we should understand that many of their people working on the ground. We differ with their ideology and programme but they are devoted to their cause. We need such devoted people here too.
VB: Political power is a master key. Don’t you think there is a brain drain. All want to get in to government job but does not want to work for the community.
LRB : I agree to some extent. There may be some uncertainity for youths but what about the retired people. Why cant they devote their time for society. Our Baldev ji give his time to the community after retirement.How many percent people are there English educated 2%. How many of the so-called people. 98% people are languishing in the villages.
VB : There is an inertia.. bad conditions, kind of helplessness or disappointment.
LRB: Land can never be Banjh or barren. People will come out of movement when frustration will increase. India is moving towards civil war. There is nothing like Parliament or assembly as they don’t discuss. Unemployment will increase. It will result in frustration and that will go for civil war. Frustration has not reached to a final level. Then people will start question their own leaders.
VB: I want to ask why cant we agitate for our own power. I am not a fan of Anna Hazare. Why are unable to revolt.
LRB : This is a huge country, a very diverse country. Our General Secretary was from Karnataka C M Aramugam. One man cannot cover the entire country. Even if I wish, I can’t cover the entire country though I tour Punjab regularly.
VB : So alliance has to be made. We will have to make alliance in politics.
LRB :I am clear about it. Whether good or bad, it is the communists who can be our partner.
VB: But many Ambedkarites question any move for an alliance with communists. The complain is that communism is the biggest defence of Brahmanism particularly in India.
LRB : This may be correct but what can do with repetition of these. Ambedkarite need to change their tactics and point of view. Dr Ambedkar was impressed with Soviet model of pro people work of the government. Ambedkarite and communists should form a charter of demand, a common minimum programme and prepare people for movement.
VB: Do you think that the politics of Narsimha Rao in post 1990s was anti people, anti Dalits.
LRB : He purchased all the MPs. It is an open secret.
VB :Don’t you think that we should revive the demand of Proportionate Electorate System (PES) ?
LRB : There is no benefit of saying for a separate electorate but for Proportionate Electorate Baba Saheb agreed. Minu Masani said it in the Constituent Assembly.I can agree to PES. Baba sahib has not agreed to reservation and separate electorate. He said cumulative system of voting. The present electoral system is wrong.
VB : This system is there to keep brahmanical elite alive. Using the contradiction of the poor, dalits and using their hatred against Muslims to get votes of other communities.
LRB : A question came that revolution has to come from the people. It can’t come from outside. China has taken half Pakistan. There will be a time when China will try do something here. What Maoists are doing is international support. It is not possible without international support.
VB : Do you agree with their movement.
LRB : It will be suppressed. To some extent, I am for them. You have not allowed anything. Conditions of desperations are there. Baba Saheb said in annihilation of caste. You have kept them ignorant. If they come to anybody’s hand, it will be dangerous for you. Today, the same thing happening. Others are controlling them.
VB: Issues of land, forest and water.
LRB: Gadhchiroli was our bigger center apart from Adilabad. I have seen those areas. there is a Lumbini nagar near Adilabad where we got settled about 500 acre land for scheduled castes.
VB : You were talking about Alliance. Now BAMSEF talking about Unity of the Moolniwasis.
LRB: It is all Bakwas. Unless there is an minimum economic programme. Alliance built on programme. It can’t happen on caste basis. What do you want to do.
VB :Do you think that the politics of identity will not work.
LRB: They are clerks. BAMSECF. They are sarkari naukers. They can’t do anything. I have been nauker for 9 years, I know what it is. What is Mool Niwasi. This thought is wrong. Baba Saheb said none has come out from outside. Annihiliation gives one hundred answers. Moolniwasi is nothing. It is for their developing own leadership. Brahmanism means, being irrational. Brahmanism means domination.Those who claim themselves leader. Do you eat meat? You eat everything but now beef. Why not? They can’t say clearly. If it is meat. It is meat. Those who claim to be Ambedkarite don’t understand Ambedkarism. They don’t want to walk Ambedkarism. They won’t want to understand. I have taken numerous journeys for parties. We have brought various volumes of Baba Saheb. Such 21 volumes are brought by me. See this, page 48. Mr D R Bhandarkar, foreign elements in the Hindu population has stated that,’ there is hardly a class or caste in India, which has not a foreign strain in it. There is an admixture of alien blood not among the Rajputs, Marathas but even among the lower classes.
VB: It means Baba Saheb has rejected Mulniwasi..
LRB: Alliance cannot be identity based. Identity is personal. These calculations do not work. Punjab’s SCs have more than 40. Two dominant communities are Churas and Chamars who do not want to come together. This exists everywhere. How identity will bring them together. Only programme, that too time bound, will take us further.
VB: Shouldn’t we bring leadership from those groups.
LRB: We have to bring leadership from the communities. We will have to declass and decaste but this leadership will only emerge from the movement, if you are fighting. Dalits are not fighting today. He loves life. Muslims learn to sacrifice. Dalits fear of dying. They will have to leave this. You see, how many people were killed by Mao, Stalin.
VB: Do you think we will have to retaliate?
LRB: That is the only solution. Baba Saheb in his speech named a Reddy who had over 4,200 acre of a village. Volume three, volume five…there is nothing wrong in eliminating those who owned property and exploit people.
Baba Saheb says so.
VB : People will question it. They will say we have faith in parliamentary democracy.
LRB: We must move towards to revolution. What is the option?
VB: Has the Parliamentry democracy failed
LRB: Where is democracy? There is no democracy?
I give you Baba Saheb’s quotation from Volume III
Volume III: If a murderer can be killed because he killed a citizen, a soldier can be killed in a war because he belong to a hostile nation, why can’t a property owner be killed if his ownership leads miseries for rest of the humanity, there is no reason to make an exception in favor of the property owner why should one considered private property as sacrosanct.
VB: This is a very important statement by Baba Saheb.
LRB: Yes, you have seen it. I did not write it. It is Baba Saheb’s statement. In Buddha and Karl Marx.
VB: In the Buddha and Dhamma, he called equality with Fraternity.
LRB: He has a speech in Pune. In India parliamentary democracy bound to fail..
LRB: Baba Saheb give five reasons for failure of democracy in India.
No loyalty to the constitution,
Not acting according to constitution
Lack of strong opposition,
Election system not fair
People are now aware
There after there will be anarchy and some sort of communism he said.
VB: You are prophesizing in terms of future that there will be anarchy.
LRB: It is anarchy.
VB: How do frustrated people get out of it.
LRB: I am not an astrologer. My thinking is that some leadership will come up.I have seen 1947 riots. Any person who was very coward he also took sword and killed people. It is mob violence.
VB: You are the most senior among Ambedkarite world over.. You brought that literature. I am seeing photograph of Bhagat Singh. They feel that Simon Commission came for Dalits and Bhagat Singh was opposed it. What do we get of violence?
LRB: Baba Saheb did not comment on it. Gandhi called him sirfira. My village is 3 miles of Bhagat Singh’s village. I have known to entire family. I have read him thoroughly. The first shaheed was an editor of Urdu paper. He was shot. About 98 people were hanged. Why is Bhagat Singh got so prominent? Bhagat Singh had a principle. The bomb that he threw, he said, that we did not want to take life of people. He never opposed Baba Saheb. Then he said I am atheist and socialists. Those who condemn Bhagat Singh are idiots. They don’t have the capacity to analyse.
VB: I want to hear from you. They said Bhagat Singh famed because of being Jat and not Udham Singh. They divided Kabir and Raidas too on caste lines.
LRB: See this is wrong. Some of the Bhangis said that Baba Saheb belonged to their community but we remain. We don’t worship individuals but ideologies. We don’t worship Bhagat Singh. He ideology was of Insaniyat. Baba Saheb’s ideology is also of insaniyat. That is common point.
VB: What is your message for people world over?
LRB: First read Baba Saheb correctly and then understand him. Be progressive radical. It means that our alliance can only be with those who are progressive. Hence take along with them. Bring common issues related to oppressed communities and develop a plan for movement. For movement, idealism is important, pragmatism is important. Movement cannot be on the basis of castes. The first time SC word came into government of India. When constitution was passed he said that we should not form organisations based on castes. Caste cannot be a reliable point. You can’t fight a political battle on the basis of caste. There are more than 40 sub castes which we call communities. Every state has such communities. How will you unite them? None can do that not even SCF. It is time rise above caste. Take progressive views, with progressive programmes. It will be meaningful.
VB: Is annihilation of caste is still valid or not.
LRB: An experiment happened in Maharastra. Prakash Ambedkar made a front along with communist parties, peasant groups. I support it. We must take it to India.
Baba Saheb said, inter caste marriage, inter dining are important but the third thing people ignore. Make youngsters free from the enslavement of the religious scriptures. Our constitution permits us to be secular. Manusmriti is being published and promoted. Constitution is not working. Our biggest problem is contradiction.
VB :We are using constitution only when it is suitable for us. The brahmanical forces are responsible.. but why those who should leave it, not leaving it.
LRB: All the progressive forces must demand fourth part to be implemented. We should not allow monopoly. The sources of Income must be spent for the benefit of the people. The fair implementation of directive principles of the state is the heart of constitution. Baba Saheb called it socialism. He defined it.
VB : At last, I want to ask you the mission of Bhim Patrika. You worked, saw dr Ambedkar. What after you.
LRB: There can’t be a second Bali. There can be better than me but not like Balley. I have prepared paper for building a Bhim Patrika Trust probably by December 2016. As long as my health permits, I will work. I can settle in Canada, in England and I can stay with my family but I will continue to fight for people’s right. I will go on doing that till my last. Baba Saheb’s mission is my life. There is no meaning to my life other than the mission of Baba Saheb Ambedkar.