Babu Milkhi Ram Ji was an uncompromising crusader for social justice. Bravely facing heavy odds in his personal and social life, he dedicatedly carried on his campaign throughout his life for mass awakening and building up pressure on the Government for granting the depressed classes their Human rights viz: – right to reservation in services, reservation in promotion, allotment of land with ownership rights to the landless poor etc.
He declined the tempting offer for the berth of a Finance Minister in the State Cabinet of the J&K State under then Prime Minister Bhakshi Gulam Mohammad so preferring a life of joyful struggle for others upliftment and for sharing the joys and sorrows of the society in which he was born. He also fought a relentless fight, both within and outside the J&K Legislative Assembly as a M.L.A from 1957-62 against the discrimination meted out to the Depressed classes especially in the affairs of the State administration and he constantly stressed upon imparting them free quality education and implementation of Land to Tillers in a letter and in a spirit.Other leaders like Bhagat Chhajju Ram, Mahasha Nahar Singh, Bhagat Amar Nath, Babu Parma Nand etc.also pursued more or less the same agenda ranging from 1935 when Megh Mandal was established in R.S Pura till their last breath.
As Dr. Babasahib B.R. Ambedkar so Babu Milkhi Ram did too enjoy very big personnel success in the literary sense of the term for serving the society and the mark made by him on the people’s psyche is indelible, indeed. People, old, young, and socio-political leaders, irrespective of their political leanings remember him with a sense of great reverence.
Born on 14 June, 1926 in a family of a cobbler or shoe maker Shri Rohlu Ram of Jammu, young Milkhi Ram was physically strong and mentally alert. He played football and Kabaddi and was also very fond of wrestling and kiting. He was a great lover of sweets and Pakoras. A sense of purpose and firm conviction were reflected in his thought speech and action.
He passed his Matriculation Examination with good marks in 1944. He married to a Middle Standard pass lady, Smt. Ishri Devi in 1947 at the age of 21 years. Shri Rohlu Ram was ditched by one business partner at Jammu so he migrated to Kashmir leaving young Milkhi Ram and other family members under his care back at home. Shri Rohlu Ram never returned back and breathed his last in Kashmir. He brought his body from Kashmir and performed his last rites at Jammu.
Milkhi Ram bravely shouldered the entire responsibility to run the family as an undergraduate by carrying on tuitions and working in shoe making shop. To eke out a living and meet his educational expenses, Milkhi Ram Ji worked as a shoeshine boy and made rubber chapels from torn out Tyres which were then popular among the poor hilly people of J&K.
Next to it, impressed by the social work of Swami Jai Gopal Gir Maharaj of Palouta Sahib Ramgarh, Samba Jammu, a Depressed Class Saint and a follower of Sant Guru Ravi Dass, Shri Milkhi Ram more determinedly chose the path of service to the poor, to the downtrodden and to get rid them of the curse of social discrimination meted out to them in different walks of life. Daringly mitigating the heavy odds throughout his life, he did not budge even an inch from his set goal of “Service to the humanity”. It is also said that the life and mission of Baba Sahib Dr. B.R. Ambedker also influenced Babu Ji when he listened his speech in a Big Depressed Class Conference in Punjab which he attended sometimes in 1951-52. This meeting brought about a sea change in his attitude regarding the issues then being confronted by the country at time.
In later years, Babu Milkhi Ram also came into contact with Babu Jagjivan Ram and both used to have intimate interactions on all matters pertaining to welfare of the depressed class people.
On the advice of Mr. William, then Principal of a private school, Babu Ji served as a teacher for few months as Babu Milkhi Ram was a B.A; B.T teacher. After a considerable gap of time, he felt the necessity of providing legal assistance to the helpless of the villages so he perused his Law studies at Delhi and earned LL. B Degree in 1964. He practiced as lawyer at Jammu, which helped the poor people to get justice. But he charged very very nominal fee. Many cases he fought even free of costs.
In 1952, he founded at Jammu Harijan Mandal (Central) in contradiction with the already existing organisation of the similar name, viz. Harijan Mandal headquartered at R.S Pura founded in 1940 by the Harijan elite after dissolving a single caste organisation called Megh Mandal whose protagonists said were pro-establishment.
After completion of his graduation, he contested the first Assembly election in 1952 which he lost. He, however, won the 1957 Assembly poll but found him alone as a Depressed Class leader in the opposition.
Thereafter, he contested almost all Assembly elections till 1987 but lost all with a lower vote percentage. . But, paradoxically, his popularity, both among the masses and in the political and Government circles, rose day by day. That was, perhaps, due to the extraordinary qualities of his heart and head he possessed and his clean political image. Undeterred by his election failures, Babu Milkhi Ram ji continued to hold high the flag of the Depressed Classes Movement in the Jammu region of J&K state. He offered resistance, led demonstrations and organised rallies and strikes in protest against the discriminatory behavior of the establishment towards the depressed classes.
He provided leadership in Kathua Distt in 1956 to Chhann Rodian depressed classes on hunger strike based agitation when unfortunately, a meeting of depressed classes at Chhan Rorian was stone pelted by the group of goons hired by a depressed class Patwari who, obviously, was misled by certain unscrupulous elements from amongst the non-depressed class which could not like the idea of Depressed class unity and restoration to them their human rights.
(To be continued)
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