Lahori Ram Balley: The Man Who Kept Ambedkar Alive

He resigned from the government service after the death of Baba Saheb in 1956 to dedicate himself to the cause of the Ambedkarite mission.
Lahori Ram Balley
Lahori Ram Balley

Lahori Ram, the last remaining associate of Dr. Ambedkar, passed away on July 6, in Jalandhar at the age of 93. He was born on July 20, 1930, in Jalandhar. He was the founder of Bhim Patrika, a magazine he started in 1958, two years after the death of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar. The magazine was initially in Urdu; however, its Hindi version was also launched in 1965. About 3,000 copies of the 60-year-old magazine are still in circulation in the state. The English version of the magazine was also experimented with but failed. This makes him one of the earliest Dalit journalists post-Ambedkar.

Association with Ambedkar

Lahori Ram revealed in an interview that he persuaded Nanak Chand Rattu, the personal assistant of Dr. Ambedkar, to work with Ambedkar. Although he worked with Ambedkar for six years, his direct interaction with the messiah of the masses was very rare. The last meeting he remembers having with Ambedkar was on September 30, 1956; he fondly remembers it as his longest meeting with him. The crucial decision taken in that meeting was that the Scheduled Caste Federation was disbanded and the Republican Party of India was formed. A party in which Balley served as the National Secretary for six years.

Perpetuating Ambedkarism through Activism

Lahori Ram, who resigned from the government service after the death of Baba Saheb in 1956 to dedicate himself to the cause of the Ambedkarite mission, ensured that "The Annihilation of Caste," the bestselling book of Ambedkar, is published after it ran out of print in 1968. He also ensured that the book is published in 14 languages. Furthermore, Balley started a campaign in the 1970s, along with the members of the All India Samata Sainik Dal (an organization which he also headed), to get Ambedkar's writings published. The Maharashtra Government published a 21-volume book on Babasaheb's writings and speeches. In an interview with an English daily, he claimed that he paid 20,000 to his family to procure the writings of Ambedkar for getting them published. So, certainly, he played a crucial role in sustaining Ambedkarite ideology.

Ambedkar Bhawan: The Reminder of Baba Saheb's Legacy

Lahori Ram also interacted with Babasaheb in his hometown Jalandhar when the latter visited the city in 1951 to deliver a speech. To mark the visit of Ambedkar, Lahori Ram purchased a piece of land in the '60s at the same spot where he made the speech ahead of the 1952 elections and built Ambedkar Bhawan in 1972. He also established Ambedkar Bhawan Trust to manage this property. The trust is also entrusted with the propagation of Ambedkarite ideology. In that process, meetings are organized at the Bhawan, but no political gatherings are allowed. Free coaching is also provided to students to help them prepare for government jobs. The Bhawan, which till now served as the reminder of the legacy of Ambedkar, will now also be known for its co-founder, Lahori Ram Balley.

Author of several books

Balley authored several books in his lifetime. His writings reflect a militant outlook. Some of his writings are "Rangila Gandhi," a book in which he exposed the "vile" side of Gandhi's character. His other book includes "Hinduism: Dharm Ya Kalank," which was a scathing attack on the basic tenets of Hinduism. The book was banned by the Akali Dal-ruled Punjab Government in 2009, although it was popular among the Ambedkarites. In 2022, a teacher in Rajasthan was accused of distributing the books to the students, which was widely protested by the Hindu groups.

Vidya Bhushan Rawat a Delhi based Dalit Activist remembered Balley on Facebook by emphasising on his contribution"It was due to the work of Balley Saheb, the literature of Dr. Ambedkar reached noon and corners of the country and created a powerful movement which might not have been successful politically but was definitely more impactful socially and culturally."

Ground-Level Activist Who Traveled the World

Balley was also involved in ground-level activism, and an anecdote about him is quite popular. Once, an upper caste SHO was not registering the case of a Dalit victim. Balley quite furiously ran after him with his shoe. He also played an instrumental role in propagating Ambedkarite ideology outside India. He often traveled to the United Kingdom, where his brother was settled. He was quite popular among the Ambedkarite NRI circles in the UK, USA, or Canada, where his son Anand Balley lives.

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