Respectfully Remembering Bhagat Chhajju RamJi Gandhi of Jammu Dated 21-05-2019
( His 30th Death Anniversary falls on 22 May,2019) By: - Er. H. R. Phonsa
Bhagat Chhajju Ram (7-3-1907—22ndt May,1989) was the first SC Minister in J&K:- Bhagat Chhajju Ram was born at Ranbhir Singh Pura on 07-03- 1907 to Shri Bhanga Ram and Shrimati Hari Devi Ji. He was eldest of the three siblings: one brother and one sister. He was studying in8th class at Lahore when his father died. At the time of death of his father he had to quit his studies to take care of the his brother and sister at the tender age of 14 years. His parents belonged to Megh Caste , one of recognized Scheduled Castes out of 13in all in J&K. Bhagat Chhajju Ram was a tall fair colored but thin and lean personality. He was teetotaler and lived a simple but purposeful life. Bhagat Chhajju Ram was one among the first crop of Scheduled Caste political leaders in Jammu & Kashmir who contribute a lot for the welfare of his brethren. A fearless leader always expressed his views in clear terms without fear or favour. Once, while explaining the helplessness and discriminatory treatment meted out to his people he said “In J&K we see urea in fields and Khajurias ( A superior Brahmin sub title) in offices questioning is party leaders that where other are to go”. Ever since creation of J&K State and even after Independence , Khajuria, Dogra, Mangotra,Sharmas, Dubeys etc. Brahmns have dominated education, administrative employment, religious affairs. They were Prohits,Pujaries to the Hindu Rulers of the state so were advisors to this state Kings. So only a courageous Dalit with spine could make such remarks against the powerful ruling class. He mostly substantiated his speech with funny jokes, short stories to make home his point to his audiences .
Bhagat Chhajju Ram started his career as a tailor along with Sh. Duni Chand Bhagat. Due to 1947 turmoil Bhagat Chhajju Ram migrated to Jalander ( Punjab) and established his business in sports goods. But soon he returned back to his native place and started his old job of tailoring and subsequently as a cloth merchant. Bhagat Chhajju Ram was a committed Arya Samaji and had good rapport with the Mahajans a business community of his place. He successfully established Arya Samaj Mandir at RSPURA and at Shastri Nagar Jammu, his old age abode. He made good fortune out of his business. Bhagat Chhajju Ram was an honest person and he maintained this tag throughout his life. He was called Gandhi Of J&K. One of his relations told me that once he stated supplying milk to an army unit with his other partners. Bhagat Chhajju Ram soon pulled out of this business sensing corrupt practices adopted by his partners.
Bhagat Chhajju Ram followed Sadguru Kabir’s teaching and he established Kabir Kalyan Kendra Jiri , Kana Chak , Jammu, an important religious place associated with the supreme sacrifice of a Brahmin farmer Bawa Jitto along with his toddler daughter Kiri, for his rights. Bhagat ji wanted to display portraits of all Dalit Saints in this Kendra. Bhagat Chhajju Ram a man of clean habits, continued with this through out his life including morning and evening prayers as per Arya Samaj tradition throughout his life. Regular walking, massaging his body with Sarson ( Mustrad)oil formed his daily habit. Although he had studied only 8th class but had in depth knowledge of the poverty suffering of poor, so he was taking keen interest in ways and means of mitigation of their sufferings. Bhagat Chhajju Ram had political bent of mind from his childhood and had met Baba Sahib Dr. B.R. Ambedkar at Lahore. Bhagat Chhajju Ram was one among the founding fathers of Megh Mandal in early 1930. He got this organization merged with Harijan Mandal to make it broad based and representative of all Scheduled Castesthen known as Harijans. But instrument to merge Harijan Mandal with National Conference against wishes of many others. Bhagat Chhajju Ram contested unsuccessfully for the Praja Sabha in 1938 but was made member of the J&K Constituent Assembly 1951 . Bhagat Chhajju Ram ji had met Dr. Rajinder Prasad also along with Mahasha Nahar Singh another prominent Dalit leader.
Bhagat Chhajju Ram successfully contested elections for Legislative Assembly in 1962,1967,1983 and remained Minister in the state cabinet for pretty long time. Besides other departments he was Minister for Social Welfare department. Bhagat Chhajju Ram was also MLC. He was Vice President (1967-1970) and Acting President ( 1970-1972) of the Indian National Congress. For a brief period he became a member of the Communist Party when it was formed by many leaders like Ram Paira Saraf, K.D. Sethi ,G.L. Dogra and others. But soon he returned to National Conference. Bhagat Chhajju Ram had close rapport with many National and State leaders.
I had a personal acquaintances with Bhagat Ji from 1960 and he was instrument in getting me admission in the Regional Engineering College ( Now NIT) Srinagar in 1961 from where I passed out as a first Scheduled Caste Engineer in the J&K State in 1966. Till then no body from all Dalit castes put to gather had privilege to qualify as Engineer. Bhagat Ji also snatched for me first appointment by giving a tough duel with then PWD Minister, RS Jamwal in the presence of CM, Late G.M. Sadiq. Bhaggat Ji was ever ready to help all poor and deprived sections of society more so Scheduled Castes. Our leaders of that time namely, Bhagat Chhajju Ram, Babu Parmanand, Choudhary Guran Ditta Mal, Jagat Ram Aryan, Babu Milkhi Ram, Mahasha Nahar Singh and others had dedicated their lives in the welfare of the Dalit masses. They had their personal difference at times but for common cause they were one. The only common matter they did not co-operate, as required was lending helping hand to Amar Shaheed Bhagat Amar nath ji who undertook fast unto death for the cause of Scheduled castes Frankly speaking I also proposed Bhagat Amarnath ji to delay his decision as our samaj was not prepared for such a drastic step.But he was adamant to go ahead with his plans and the unfortunately we lost him. With their active fight of our leaders of the times 40 Housing plot were got reserved/allotted to Scheduled caste persons in the Shastri Nagar Jammu colony by the Housing department. Now we have substantial perence of our people there. This right of scheduled caste had been criminally ignored while developing Gandhi Nagar colony. With these leaders in the Medical and Engineering college Srinagar education the Scheduled caste students were granted with both facilities of Scholarship and education Loan against only one facility in the initial years. Some people do disservice to him by restricting him to a particular caste when he worked for all toiling humanity. This needs to be stopped forthwith.
This son of the soil passed away at his home in Shastri Nagar on 22nd May, 1989 at an age of 82 years. His services to the downtrodden masses shall be long remembered with reverence. Let us salute his memories and his services rendered to poor, neglected, illiterates, ill fed of our society.
Compiled by :-
Email:- hrphonsa @gmail.com Mob:-09419134060
Note:-Any body who intends to get added more information in this article is welcome send it to me on my mail address, but facts must be real duly substantiated with facts. These facts will be added with their names on revision of this article if a need so arises. Any body having Bhagat Ji’s clear/ good portrait may please send me a copy of the same to get it displayed in an important social building house.