17 June, 2021

Letter And Spirit

Bheem Patrika, published since 1958, is our longest-running Dalit periodical

Shammy Mehra
Letter And Spirit

A small, dusty study with stacks of books and periodicals, a typewriter encased in a wooden painted cabinet and a computer covered with a cloth. Other rooms in the house in Abadpura, a Dalit locality of Jalandhar, are stacked with more books, Dalit literature, copies of old newspapers and some spare copies of Bheem Patrika, the oldest and perhaps the only magazine on Ambedkarism published uninterrupted since 1958.

Seated at the ancient desk is editor and founder Lahori Ram Balley, still sharp as a whip even at 83 years. He takes a moment to assess whether we aren’t there to “waste his time”, gestures towards a sofa occupied by more books and then spends the next two hours recounting his fascinating story of how, two months “before the man died”, he came to give his word to Dr B.R. Ambedkar that he would devote his remaining life to spreading his message. Balley was then just one among the scores of Dalit volunteers who hung around Ambedkar in the 1950s: worshipping him like a God, ready to do his...

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