Remebering Babu Mangu Ram Mugowalia

Babu Mangu Ram Mugowalia (1886–1980), death anniversary falls on April 22, 2011. He was the founder of the glorious Ad Dharm movement of Punjab.

Mangoo Ram was born on January 14, 1886 , in village Mugowal, Hoshiarpur district, where this father,Harman Dass, had left the traditional Chamar caste occupation of training and preparing hides and attempting to sell tanned hides commercially1. Mangoo Ram’s mother, Atri, died when Mangoo Ram was three, so the father began to depend heavily on his sons – Mangoo and an older and a younger brother for assistance. Because the leather trade required some facility in English, Mangoo Ram’s father was forced to rely on literate members of upper castes to read sales orders and other instructions to him. In payment for their reading instructions for an hour, he would have to do a day of crude labour. For that reason, Mangoo Ram’s father was eager to have his son receive an early education.

He traveled almost all of the undivided Punjab to facilitate the organization of the depressed class movement in the state.  Babu Mangu Rame found the ugly social system of low and high castes. He made his mind to liberate the downtrodden from the internal slavery of Varnashram dharma and started organizing a unique battle against the centuries old Hindu system of birth-based social exclusion. He founded Ad Dharm movement for the emancipation and empowerment of his people. He organized all the ex-untouchable castes falling under the then category of the Depressed Classes in Punjab and reminded them of their rich heritage when they used to be the masters of this land. He told them how they were reduced into worse than slaves in their own land by the alien Aryans who brought with them their sick social system called caste and started them oppressing with the whip of untouchability. He told his people that for us the real battle is the battle against the Chaturvarna system of Brahminical Hinduism.

He openly declared that Scheduled Castes are neither Hindu nor Sikh. They are also neither Muslim nor Christian. They are the original inhabitants of this ancient land called Bharat. Their real religion (Ad Dharm) was much older than Hinduism, Christianity, Islam and Sikhism. All these religion are born after Ad Dharm religion of the original inhabitants of India. He said that the Hindus did not only subjugate them but also made their religion oblivious; and thus made the ex-untouchables their slaves. He said that our real freedom will be to liberate ourselves not only from the British rulers but also from Brahmanism. He got special rights from the Britishers by adding Ad Dharm to the Census list as a separate religion of the Depressed Classes in Punjab in 1931. A great victory of the Depressed class people! Babu Ji also became the pioneer of seeking political power as a key to all the problems of the community. In 1937, his Ad Dharm won 7 out of all the 8 reserved seats in Punjab.

Babu Mangu Ram Mugowalia’s movement was not only confined to Punjab. He stood like a rock with Dr. Ambedkar. During Dr. Ambedkar’s fight with Mr. MK Gandhi at the Roundtable Conferences in London (1930-32) Babu Mangu Ram Mugowalia Ji sent telegrams in support of the former as the leader of the untouchables in India against the latter (MK Gandhi). In 1946, Babu Mangu Ram Mugowalia was elected to the Punjab Legislative Assembly and remained in legislature till 1952.

He was very clear in his understanding that the real emancipation of the ex-untouchables lies in their efforts to revive their own indigenous religion (Ad Dharm), and in worshipping their own Gurus (Guru Namdev Ji, Guru Ravidass Ji Maharaj, Guru Kabir Ji Maharaj). No other religion can liberate the Depressed class people from the quagmire in which they have been straddled for centuries except their own original religion “Ad Dharm”.

He was one of the very few visionaries who correctly realized that the real salvation of the downtrodden lies in their total social and cultural transformation. For that only liberation from the colonial masters would not be sufficient. He was of the firm opinion that unless and until a systematic and all embracing struggle against the Brahmanical orthodoxy based on the Hindu Shashtric principle of purity/pollution is launched, the national struggle against the British rule would not serve the real interest of the millions of the Depressed Class peoples, who had been subjected to all kids of marginalities and oppression for centuries.

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