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RELIGION, POLITICS & LAW
Balwant Singh Khera - The frail man who could prove to be the nemesis of Akali Dal
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Balwant Singh Khera - The frail man who could prove to be the nemesis of Akali Dal



LONG YEARS BACK, Balwant Singh Khera was an unassuming school teacher, but when he ran into stone walling officials of the Punjab Government who could not explain to him why primary school teachers have no promotional avenues, he learnt the ways of struggle and agitation. Decades of his fight forced the Punjab Government to finally set up a Primary Education directorate. "At that time, no one thought I will ever succeed. In fact, those trying to pull my leg used to taunt me as 'Primary Director' when I passed them by," he recalls.
 
 Read Also Related Story:  Sukhbir is right – Panth Khatre Vich Hai.  

Khera knew doggedness pays in life. In his case, at least, it did. When he started his fight for a separate primary teachers' directorate back in the mid-1960s, he prepared the draft in Punjabi but then found that the officers hardly knew any Punjabi. His friend Dr Roshan lal Ahuja translated it into English. The two then tapped a rich friend for Rs 100 to get it printed. While still a teacher, he started dabbling in activist journalism. An old friend of his used to bring out 'Hoshiarpur Times', a local rag. Khera recalls with a glint in his eyes the days when he used to travel all the way to Jalandhar to get it printed, then gather all his family in a room to paste the postal stamps. Soon he was bringing out another pamphlet called "Karrak" for primary teachers. It ran for ten years.

In 1987, Khera took premature retirement. He was to actually retire in 1993. But perhaps his real life time work was to start only later. As nearly 300 youth, mostly Indian and a large number of them Punjabi, lost their lives in the icy waters of Ionian sea near Malta during an illegal human cargo transfer from one to the other vessel, Khera made it his life time's mission to get justice. Leading from the front under the banner of Malta Boat Tragedy Mission, Khera was knocking at all doors. Courts, activists, lawyers, ministers, chief ministers. When he met then Prime Minister IK Gujral, he was astonished to find that Gujral actually believed the propaganda that the tragedy had never happened. The Italian government had denied the tragedy. Later, he met then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh too, but only after he had scoured many avenues and created immense pressure visiting many European countries, and even meeting archbishops at the Vatican, all to garner support for his struggle for justice.

When a couple of Akali Dal MLAs were found to be indulging in what in Punjab is popularly called 'kabootarbaazi' and involves taking people illegally out of the country, Khera was again back in his activist mode in 2001. 
 

For a man who just loves to fight for public causes, the issue of the Shiromani Akali Dal having two Constitutions came almost accidentally. "I read in The Hindu newspaper about a petition that wanted the Supreme Court to outlaw parties that had communal names. How can a secular country have a party called the Muslim League? This set me thinking as to how a political party vying for state power can also lord over a religious body in which only people of one religion can contest and vote. As I probed more, I educated myself about how laws had changed and how the political parties have been amiss in keeping pace."
 

But this is not the only fight. Khera is also leading a fight to bring all political parties under the ambit of the RTI.
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 Read https://goo.gl/zuoCny for this explosive main story of
*Dangerous Liasions* Between Religion & Politics. 
 ---------------------
 Click https://goo.gl/NJza8Y to read The Akali Dal's Defence 

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