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Category: About me

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After nearly 20 years of work, an updated strategy for political liberalism in India: SBP MUST go on

In February 2018 I will complete 20 years of work to advance political liberalism in India. I won’t go through the details of my long journey; I just want to highlight a few key next steps.

A few observations first.

First of all – these 20 years did not go waste. We now have a liberal party (Swarna Bharat Party) with which I am personally and closely associated.

Second, this is the first time in a long time that there is a real prospect for liberalism taking root in India. People have experienced socialist parties like Congress, BJP and AAP, and found that these cannot deliver. I’m getting reports that people are willing to listen to an alternative. No, I’m not saying that things are easy. Communists and socialist activists still have the upper hand – there is no end to the amount of nonsense that most
“political” Indians continue to spout.

As you are aware, I had been very reluctant to form a liberal party without first having at least 1500 leaders on hand. But that never materialised. Now I think that forming SBP – and deciding to put real effort to make it grow – turned out to be a good decision.

The key point I’ve decided is that SBP must not stop. It remains the only ray of light in the darkness that surrounds India.

Goethe reportedly said: “Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.”

And there is the well-known theory about learning by doing. Just the act of “doing” SBP has taught me a lot:

  • how to start and register a party
  • the entire logistics and paraphernalia – the huge amount of organisational work involved
  • the challenges of building the organisation
  • production of a high quality manifesto and (now underway) training material
  • production of videos; getting many others involved; identifying and being associated with brilliant people like Sanjay Sonawani

I know many people are despondent that SBP is still so small. One of our founder members left SBP yesterday. He was very pessimistic. I can understand his pessimism.

But human history shows us that social change takes time. SBP has a lot of work to do to communicate and promote the message of liberty.

RSS kept up its message for 75 years till it saw some electoral success through BJP. In Assam, BJP had no presence 20 years ago (just a handful of people); today it is the ruling party.

Political processes and change can take a long time – particularly when we are talking about fundamental changes to the system.

SBP must be remain in the game for the long haul, subject to the ability to ensure basic compliance with Election Commission laws.

In 2019, SBP should contest a few seats to show that it is a real party. In the coming decades, it should expand incrementally till – maybe by 2030 – it becomes a real force to reckon with in India.

This is going to be a long journey – a marathon. But that’s the nature of reality. We are fighting medieval communal forces (BJP) and ultra-socialist forces (including BJP but also all the other socialist parties). These are very big. They are well-funded – mostly funded illicitly.

Yes, the fight is huge and stacked against liberalism.

But now that the party is in place, it cannot be allowed to dissipate and shut down. It represents India’s last and only hope.

I’m in pretty bad shape physically, with severe side effects of prostate cancer surgery. I don’t know whether I’ll ever recover to even 50 per cent of me pre-surgery fitness.

But I’m now firmly of the view that SBP MUST GO ON.

I will do whatever I can to keep this effort going. That’s my firm commitment – to finish the job that I had started nearly 20 years ago.

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Time to move content to the blockchain. Facebook and Google have become big cyber-bullies.

I’ve spent well over $3,000 (nearly $5K, I think) on FB advertising over the years. Despite that Facebook locked out my account for no rhyme or reason (apparently I violated some “community policy” )(no detail whatsoever was provided). It also meant that all the FB pages I run got locked out. It was later re-instated. As a precaution I’ve given admin access to a number of other friends to my pages, in case this happens again.

Later, in a separate incident, they locked down one of my advertising accounts – without any reason. And upon complaining repeatedly, they have not responded. I’ve drastically cut down advertisements on FB as a result. I don’t trust it any more.

A few months ago Youtube (owned by Google) created a nuisance for a perfectly legitimate SBP video. It forced monetisation of the party video (these videos are NOT monetised) by some random entity claiming copyright ownership over the song “saara jahaan se accha”. It is simply not possible – time wise – to litigate the issue, so we now have the situation where a party video is being monetised by someone somewhere in the world.

Just yesterday I was forced by Google to take down a blog post of mine from my own blog apparently for violation of its “violence” depiction policy. I republished that post on my Steemit account (I’m giving its bitly link for obvious reasons: http://bit.ly/2inYMRE).

Now I hear that blogspot (owned by google) has shut down a blog maintained by an academic (see this).

It is clear that Facebook and Google are getting too big for their shoes. They are becoming cyber-bullies. No less.

It is time to start looking for blockchain solutions to upload and monetise one’s content.

BLOCKCHAIN WILL BE THE LIFELINE OF FREEDOM IN THE COMING CENTURIES. Steemit, Lbry, etc. – there are many others – are creating decentralised blockchain based social networks that NO ONE (ever) CAN SHUT DOWN.

It is essential that ALL speech (except direct incitement to violence) be allowed full play, unhindered. That is the only way the truth will progress.

Yes, Facebook and Google are private companies and I defend their right to censor content. But the way they are doing it is baseless, whimsical, counter-productive. They have become bullies.

Do they think they have the power to shut down the truth?? They are mistaken.

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My ancestry – an initial exploration

The other day someone visited my house and asked me where I “belong”. I actually don’t “belong” to any part of India, having travelled and lived across India on numerous occasions before working in the IAS first in Haryana then in Assam and Meghalaya. The longest I’ve lived in any place in the world is in Melbourne (nearly 17 years), followed by Los Angeles (5 years).

In India I lived four years in Jullundur, twice for two years each in Pune, nearly four in Visakhapatnam, followed by shorter stints in Secunderabad, Shillong (twice), Guwahati, Barpeta, Dhubri, Bangalore, Mussoorie (twice), Perth, Hojai, Patna, and Dehradun.

Essentially I’ve been a vagabond, and consider myself to be a citizen of the world. But given this prompting (about “where I belong”) I decided to find out. I had a vague idea about my ancestry (e.g. see this) but it was probably time to find out more details.

Btw, the disruption of the partition of India seems to have taken many members of our family (particularly of my generation) to far flung shores across the world.

Here are my preliminary findings – obtained from my father  and mother – that I will update as I find out more. In particular, I’m interested in exactly when and how my parents came from West Panjab into India at the time of partition. I’ll keep elaborating this post as I find out more. It will remain work in progress.

MY FATHER’S SIDE – FROM PINDIGHEB

PAINTING BELOW: THE MAN (Hari Singh Nalwa) WHO CREATED (bestowed title to) THE FIRST SABHLOK

==THE STORY OF THE SABHLOKS BEGINS WITH PINDIGHEB ==

The Sabhloks were originally inhabitants of Afghanistan. They lived in Jalalabad near Kabul. During the 12th and 13th centuries they migrated to Dandi, a couple of miles from Pindigheb, later to become a tehsil of Campbellpore district, now in Pakistan.

Origin of the title “Sabhlok”

In 1959, my Bauji (Grand Father: Lala Gopi Chand Sabhlok) told my father to always write Sabhlok i.e. with an “h” and not Sablok.

He explained the origin of the word Sabhlok. More than two hundred years ago when Maharaja Ranjit Singh (1780-1839) was the ruler in Punjab and part of Afghanistan, he appointed Hari Singh Nalwa – the great warrior/soldier as in-charge of North West Panjab and Afghanistan. My father’s great grandfather (Sultan Chand Sabhlok (c.1810-?)) was an officer (Jamadar) in Nalwa’s army.

Hari Singh used to address Sultan Chand as “Sabhlok” (a cultured and civilised person). He used to dress well with a dignified Pagri, white Salwar, Kurta etc. In Hindi the root word is “Sabhyata” and in Panjabi “Sabhta/Sabta”. Thus Sabhlok/Sablok is not a caste name, it is a title.

Hari Singh Nalwa allotted Sultan Chand 25 acres of well-irrigated land in Pindigheb (district Attock, near Peshawar) in recognition of his distinguished service, so in around 1840 Sultan Chand shifted to Pindigheb from Dandi. The Sabhloks of Pindigheb were therefore called Jamadars.

The progeny of Sultan Chand Sabhlok were addressed as Sabhloks and those who settled in nearby Dandi (about three miles away) were Sabloks.

Because of Hari Singh Nalwa, there is significant influence of Sikhism among the Sabhloks. Many Sabhloks make their first son a Sikh. As a result there are a large number of Sikh Sabhloks/Sabloks today.

A few well known Sabhloks were my tayaji (what?) Hakumat Rai Sabhlok (an officer in the Municipal Committee in Pindigheb), Sukhraj Sabhlok, Deputy Director Agriculture Department, and Dr.Rajinder Pal Sabhlok, Director WHO who finally settled in Switzerland (his brother was Registrar of Agriculture University Hissar etc.), my uncle Commodore Suresh Kumar Sabhlok, Vir Chakra.

Our particular family traces its ancestry to the following

Great Great Grandfather Lala Fateh Chand Sabhlok 

A son of Sultan Chand.

Great Grand father Lala Gian Chand (c.1870-?) (w: Rukmani Devi nee Jaggi) was the Municipal Commissioner of Pindigheb.

Grandfather Lala Gopi Chand Sabhlok. Bauji (1894-1977) (w: Bishen Devi nee 1897-1984 – Abbhat/Abbot before marriage; my Beji, grandmother ). He was the first person in the family to study up to matriculation in 1910. He joined the Agriculture Department at Lyalpur Agricuture University. The five brothers Sriram, Raja Ram, Suresh, my father and Ramesh were all born in Lyallpur (now Faisalabad). There were also four sisters. [Note: Bauji’ elder brother Lorinda mal Sabhlok was a school teacher and agriculturist, his elder sister name was Chanan Devi.]

At the time of partition

Bauji had plans to settle in Pindigheb and look after his lands. But this ambition received a blow with India’s partition in 1947. Bauji was transferred from Rawalpindi (which was to go to Pakistan) to Ferozepur in East Panjab (India).

Bauji, Beji, Ramesh uncle, Chand aunty and my father left Rawalpindi on 12th August 1947. My father was 15 years old.

The family left Rawalpindi by train about 9 pm and arrived at Ferozepur early in the morning. This was the last train that faced no problems on the way. My father notes: “We read in newspapers that [in the] trains which left later many Hindus and Sikhs were murdered. Our domestic luggage was booked [separately] in [a] goods train and was 100% looted en-route.”

Where were the others at the time of the partition? Uncles – Suresh was working in Delhi College as a lab assistant in a College. Sri Ram was a soldier in the Army posted in Delhi Cantonment. Rajaram was in the Military Engineering Service in Patna. Aunties Satyawati and Raj were already in India at Shahabad near Ambala, Raj was at Patna (her husband RamAsra Jaggi was in Defence Accounts Department). Sister Shanti Dilbaghi was in Pindigheb and her husband Bansi Lal Dilbaghi was transferred to Hansi (Hissar) as a school teacher – at the time of partition. He remained in Hansi for about ten years and then transferred to Jagadhri (Yamuna Nagar).

Ambala and Jagadhri

Bauji and family lived in Ferozpur for about six months after which Bauji was transferred to Ambala City. Bauji retired in 1949 and became an accountant at SA Jain College Ambala City till 1957.

In the meanwhile, in 1955, Bauji got compensation for land and house about 25 miles away from Jagadhri (then in Panjab, now in Haryana). Bauji used to go there periodically. He asked all his sons whether they could look after the land and house which all of them refused as all were far away from Jagadhri. Therefore the land and house was ultimately donated to Vinoba Bhave on the advice of all the five sons.

My father, Ramesh uncle and my mother (and her sisters) also studied in SA Jain College, Ambala. My father was also a lecturer in Political Science in that College for two years before being selected to the Indian Defence Accounts Service (he retired in the rank of acting Controller General of Defence Accounts).

MY MOTHER’S SIDE – FROM JHANG

From my mother’s recollection:

My mother’s grandfather (dadaji; i.e. my great grandfather) had a house and agriculture land in Jhang city. He had two horses and some other animals.

At the time of partition, my mother’s father (Bauji – Balkrishan Chawla – married to Sushila Devi, also fondly called Biji) was posted in Multan and was transferred to Hansi. By that time the whole atmosphere had become very tense and full of fear and uncertainty. Violence had already started. People were being killed and properties were being burnt. Smoke was arising from many places in the Multan.

Fortunately, one of my grand-uncles (Ved uncle) was an officer in the railways at that time. He sent his younger brother to Multan and got Bauji’s household luggage booked by train. The luggage reached Hansi safely.

Finally, Bauji and family left Multan by train on 12 August 1947. Since my mother’s elder brother (Bhapaji) had to appear for his 10th class exam, he was left behind in one of my mother’s grandfather’s (this grandfather was from mother’s side – Nanaji’s) friend’s house in Multan.

The train went up to the Samasatta Junction station and stopped there. All passengers were forced to get down with their baggage. They sat on the platform badly scared and hungry. The platform was full of Muslims roaming here and there. While sitting at the platform and waiting for a further train to take them to Hansi, my grandfather’s family came to know that the entire lot of passengers in that (further) train had been massacred. The whole day thus passed in that dreadful atmosphere. As night appeared, Biji and Bauji became worried about my mother’s security as in that atmosphere all sorts of crimes were being committed.

Luckily, the station master of that station was a Hindu. He offered my grandfather’s family help and asked them to spend the night in his nearby house. Bauji stayed at the platform with the luggage while the rest of the family spent the night in the house of that station master. Next day, fortunately another train arrived and the entire family boarded that train. All passengers were fear stricken and huddled together without uttering a word.

Fortunately, the train reached Hansi safely. That’s why I exist.

Bhapaji came to India much later by air along with my mother’s Nanaji’s friend in whose house he had been left for his exams.

What happened to my great-grandfather’s property in Jhang, no one knows.

My mother (who was just around 11 years old at the time of the partition) remembers that Biji was very close to her grandfather’s elder brother’s family. They used to visit their house in Lahore. After partition, her grandfather’s elder brother settled in Delhi and my mother visited their house in Delhi also a few times along with Biji. But now, she does not remember where that family has gone as we lost contact.

TYPICAL PINDIGHEB ARCHITECTURE

I’ve got this from Flickr:

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