PERSPECTIVE

Monthly Archives: OCTOBER 2019


Exclusive Excerpt - 'Panjab: Journeys Through Fault Lines'
Are you ready to count the corpses of Panjab?
19.10.19 - AMANDEEP SANDHU
Are you ready to count the corpses of Panjab?



‘If you want to understand Panjab, be ready to count its corpses,’ said the photographer as he reached for the drawer in his desk. On that spring afternoon, Satpal Danish and I had met at his shop in the Brahm Buta Akhara, near the Guru Ram Das Serai, next to the east gate of the Darbar Sahib complex in Amritsar.

As spiritual centres go, I believe, Amritsar is a call. At one stage in my life I did not visit Amritsar for eighteen years. Then I visited the city seven times in two years, bringing my teacher, friends, and once my beloved and later wife on her maiden visit to Panjab. This time I had come to Amritsar weary from roaming Panjab over the past few months. I was journeying fifty years after the state was formed, twenty-five years after the militant guns had fallen silent. I wanted to know if peace had returned to the turbulent land.

Danish is one of the few photographers who, with his camera, has closely observed and documented Panjab politics from the mid-1970s to date. Over the past few decades, especially in what is called the ‘dark decade’, which is actually a decade and a half (1978–93), when separatist militancy created dehshat—a reign of fear and silence—in Panjab, his pictures acquired and distributed by Associated Press travelled all over the world and appeared in major publications. Informally, he was also the personal photographer of Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale whom the nation’s discourse portrays as the chief protagonist of the Khalistan separatist movement.

In his shop, from an old translucent plastic bag, Danish pulled out his collection of photographs. He showed me pictures of young boys with guns in their hands in front of Darshani Deodi at Darbar Sahib—their eyes smiling, faces innocent, looks resolute and hands easy on the guns they held. For someone who does not know Panjab, the guns could look threatening. However, given the land’s geography and history, resistance and rebellion are central to it and its people. Sikh lore is full of warrior legends. I am sure that, until the violence became targeted, such a scene did not raise Panjab’s eyebrows. In the beginning of the movement, the militants were in fact called bhau, khadku and munde which translate to brothers, rebels and boys.

Danish took that iconic picture of a smiling Bhindranwale, the one of Bhindranwale standing wrapped in a grey loi (shawl), symbolic spear in hand, and the one of Bhindranwale tying his turban. These pictures came to define the man to the world outside Panjab. As one looks at the many photographs, one can see a dramatic change in Bhindranwale’s face from 1979 to 1984—its gradual hardening reflects the many ways in which the central government and Prime Minister Indira Gandhi were blocking his way and the Akalis were weakening in their stance.

There were pictures of Bhindranwale along with Harchand Singh Longowal, the Akali leader who had led the Save Democracy Morcha during the Emergency, and with the head of the representative body of the Sikhs—Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC)—Gurcharan Singh Tohra, with a hand-held speaker in front of a crowd.There were two specific pictures that fascinated me for how they were seemingly similar, but actually were a counterpoint to each other. The first picture was from October 1982. Bhindranwale and Longowal were sitting on a manji (hand-woven cot), in front of a bolted door. Now, almost three and a half decades later, one can read the bolted door as the doorway to the Indian nation and both these leaders—one emphatic, the other moderate—stood outside the door. It is almost as if they were discussing how to open the door so that Panjab’s issues could become part of the nation’s discourse. Bhindranwale’s sharp probing eyes were on Longowal’s passive face and lowered eyes. Their shoulders were relaxed and they seemed to be at ease.

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Publisher: Westland Publications (an Amazon company)
Pages: 584
Price: Rs 899
Release Date: October 30, 2019
Format: Hardcover in India, Paperback abroad, Kindle Worldwide
---------------

The second picture was from late winter, 1982, a few months later. Bhindranwale and Longowal were sitting wrapped in lois on a manji, sipping tea from battis (big wide steel bowls). It was a warmer picture than the earlier one—a shared ritual of food and camaraderie. Yet, it had a tense undertone. Bhindranwale’s sharp eyes were focussed on Longowal’s face, while Longowal’s eyes were lowered to Bhindranwale’s batti. The picture spoke volumes on how the equations were changing between the two leaders. A resolute Bhindranwale, ready to engage with the Indian state, was in a commanding position. Longowal, willing to compromise with the Indian state, was subdued.

On the white table-top, Danish placed another picture. It was from the day in mid-June, 1984, when, for the first time post Operation Blue Star, ordinary people were allowed entry into the Darbar Sahib complex.Though what the picture depicts is massive, it stuns me through what it does not show but points at. Like how silences sometimes speak louder than words. In the picture, people have climbed on to the top of the 156 feet Ramgarhia Bunga on the east of the Darbar Sahib complex and are peering down in all directions. Unsurprisingly, given the inherent patriarchy of Panjab’s society, all are men. I count twenty-one adults, all with heads covered as mandated in the Sikh tradition—many with turbans and some with another cloth. Some are probably Hindu—the Darbar Sahib is revered by all faiths. There are four early adolescent boys in the picture, about the age I was when Operation Blue Star took place. I feel I am one of the boys. One person is pointing at something specific, showing it to two of the boys.

To me.

The Bunga, one of two such structures in the Darbar Sahib complex, is a three-storey watchtower originally built in 1755 when the Darbar Sahib was attacked twice by Ahmad Shah Abdali or Durrani, an invader from Afghanistan. Its domes had been displaced after an earthquake at the turn of the previous century. Now, the Indian Army had shelled it and its body bore the marks. From their vantage point, the people standing on top of the Bunga can see the blown-off crown of the supreme Sikh seat of justice, the Akal Takht. The magnificent marble structure, lit by xenon lamps from Vijayanta battle tanks, was shelled from armoured personnel carriers, but stood defiant. Finally, as the rays of the morning sun began to peep, two tanks blasted seventy-five 105 mm high-explosive squash head artillery shells and the Akal Takht was reduced to a rubble skeleton.The people can also see the plundered, looted, burnt hollow shell of the Sikh Reference Library. Holes, gaping holes on every building.

The people suspended mid-air look like they are on a boat. A popular Sikh shabad, hymn, says, Nanak naam jahaz hai, chade so utrepaar. The Lord’s name—truth—is the boat and the one who gets on board will get across the bhavsagar—the sea of emotions or the ocean of life. The world has receded: aptly, the background is hazy, everything is dimmed, covered by a bubble of hallucinatory smoke.
 
As I see the picture, I feel not only these people, not only the whole of Panjab, but even I have been sitting on one such Bunga in my mind, looking at Panjab over the last few decades with rising bewilderment. Except for the other Bunga, there are no other structures as tall as these towers in the vicinity. That means, from a distance, the people could also be seeing the inner city of Amritsar. A top angle view of the inner city of Amritsar is remarkably similar to the ventral view of the human brain. Its maze of narrow, winding, entwining by-lanes, katras, akharas and bazaars are akin to the grooves between the frontal, parietal, occipital, temporal lobes, the cerebellum, the basal ganglia and the brain stem. The Darbar Sahib is at the centre of the inner city as is the corpus callosum in the middle of the brain. The way the corpus callosum connects the two hemispheres of the brain and integrates the motor, sensory and cognitive performances, the Darbar Sahib connects the Miri-Piri (temporal-spiritual) aspects of the Sikh faith.

When the picture was shot, the onlookers could not have known the number of combatants and non-combatants killed, injured or imprisoned in the army Operation. Yet, they knew the attack took place when the Darbar Sahib complex was unusually crowded with pilgrims who came from far-flung villages for the 378th martyrdom anniversary of Guru Arjan, which fell in the week of the attack. Operation Blue Star was a watershed historical event precisely because it was an attack by a nation state on the symbol of faith, the corpus callosum of the Sikh community. Since the attack, I have wondered how people keep faith that the nation state they believe in would defend them, their article of faith and their religion? Where, in the human brain, is the organ that creates faith located?

As a new generation has grown up and the nation has gone through a tailspin in terms of its politics, time has exacerbated the wound. The multiple narratives that arise from the event have hardened and lacerated the land and its people, turning it into a landmine. One never knows which stone could explode under one’s mis-step. I travelled through this chequered Panjab to address my bewilderment, to learn how to keep faith and how to trust.

Along with the map of present-day Panjab—partitioned in 1947, rendering gory and bloody the birth of India as a modern nation, trifurcated in 1966, shrinking Panjab to a heart-shaped state, one-seventh its original size, that divided the speakers of a common language, Panjabi, and tore asunder the common culture of Panjabiat by hardening the identities of people into Hindu, Muslim and Sikh—this picture hangs framed in my study, in front of my writing desk. As I draft this book, I sense the men in the picture, while looking at the Darbar Sahib complex, are now also looking at me, pointing at me.

Their gaze unsettles me.

I ask myself if I am ready to count Panjab’s corpses.
 
 
Amandeep Sandhu, Author and Novelist
 
(All photos: Satpal Danish) 
 

Disclaimer : PunjabToday.in and other platforms of the Punjab Today group strive to include views and opinions from across the entire spectrum, but by no means do we agree with everything we publish. Our efforts and editorial choices consistently underscore our authors' right to the freedom of speech. However, it should be clear to all readers that individual authors are responsible for the information, ideas or opinions in their articles, and very often, these do not reflect the views of PunjabToday.in or other platforms of the group. Punjab Today does not assume any responsibility or liability for the views of authors whose work appears here.

_______________________________________________________________

Most shared Punjab Today articles:

 

KYUN KE HUM HAIN HINDUSTANI

Three Women of 1984

 FROM 1984 TO BARGARI - Hurt & angry, we’ve tried rage, anger. Did we miss karuna?   

REVISITING 1984 – RIOT AROUND A POLE     

KARTARPUR SAHIB: A CLARION CALL FOR PEACE IN AN AGE OF CYNICISM

If it could happen to Arun Shourie, imagine what could they do to you?

Healers & Predators – The Doctor is In, & is very corrupt

Amarinder, Badals, AAP — Every party in Punjab is now an Akali Dal

Welcome to 1947. Happy Independence Day. Would you like to step out?

In Pakistan, a donkey pays for democracy – bleeding, its nostrils ripped apart

WOOING THE PANTH: Amarinder a little less Congressy, Akali Dal a little more saffron

"Captain Amarinder Singh ji” and "Rahul”: Reading Sign Language In A Relationship

The Comrade In Punjab - Lost, Irrelevant, Asleep, Even Bored!

WATERS ROYALTY - The Loot that Rajasthan Committed

AMARINDER GOVT's LOVE FOR FARMERS, AND MY DAD's FOR HIS SCOOTER

OF SUNNY KID & HORSE SENSE: The Punjab-Punjab Ties  

TRUDEAU VISIT AND RIGHT-WING MEDIA MACHINE         

 OF NIRMAL SINGH'S EYES 

Mr. CHIEF MINISTER, PLEASE CALL OFF JANUARY 7 FUNCTION         

MR PRESIDENT, PLEASE TAKE BACK HIS GALLANTRY MEDAL       

A SAFFRON JOURNEY VIA CANADA

BAD, BAD WOMAN!

 


 

_______________________________________________________________

Punjab Today believes in serious, engaging, narrative journalism at a time when mainstream media houses seem to have given up on long-form writing and news television has blurred or altogether erased the lines between news and slapstick entertainment. We at Punjab Today believe that readers such as yourself appreciate cerebral journalism, and would like you to hold us against the best international industry standards. Brickbats are welcome even more than bouquets, though an occasional pat on the back is always encouraging. Good journalism can be a lifeline in these uncertain times worldwide. You can support us in myriad ways. To begin with, by spreading word about us and forwarding this reportage. Stay engaged.

— Team PT


 





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Bonhomie between a Muslim Nawab and Kashmiri Pandit diwan
19.10.19 - Justice Markandey Katju
Bonhomie between a Muslim Nawab and Kashmiri Pandit diwan



Pt Tribhuwan Nath Katju was my great grandfather (father of my grandfather Dr KN Katju, former Union Home and Law Minister, Governor of West Bengal and Odisha, and CM of MP). The story of the relation between him and the then Nawab of the Indian princely state of Jaora, Nawab Iftikhar Ali Khan, which I am recounting here, reveals the real state of relations between Hindus and Muslims in India, and belies the false propaganda that Hindus and Muslims were intrinsically hostile to each other. 

But before relating this, I may give the background. I am a Kashmiri Pandit. My ancestor Pt Mansa Ram Katju migrated from Kashmir about 200 years ago and took up service under the Nawab of Jaora. 

Here I may mention that Kashmiri Pandits are of two kinds, those who speak the Kashmiri language (which is totally different from Hindi/Urdu), and those who don't. Those who speak Kashmiri (they would be about 4 lacs today), like my wife, are those whose ancestors remained behind in the Kashmir Valley (until they fled in terror in the 1990s due to the attacks and persecution by Islamic fundamentalists).
 
Those who don't speak Kashmiri, like myself (we know only Hindi/Urdu and English) are about 2 lacs today, and our ancestors had all migrated about 150-200 years ago in exactly the same way, and that was that since we were very proficient in Urdu and Persian, which were the Court languages in the Indian princely states, we got jobs there. The ancestors of Pt Jawaharlal Nehru, Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru, Dr Katju, etc all migrated that way (and not because of religious persecution).

Before 1947 about two third of India was under direct British rule, and one third under the princely states. Jaora was one of the princely states, ruled by a Muslim Nawab.

As I said, my ancestor Pt Mansa Ram Katju (great grandfather of my grandfather Dr KN Katju) migrated from Kashmir about 200 years ago and took up service in the court of the Nawab of Jaora.
 
Nawab Iftikhar Ali Khan 
 
Today Jaora is only a tehsil in Distt Ratlam in western MP (on the border with Rajasthan), but during British rule it was the 4th biggest riyasat in the Central Provinces (as MP was then called), next after Gwalior, Bhopal and Indore. 

For several generations my ancestors served under the Nawabs of Jaora. Pt Tribhuwan Nath Katju (my great grandfather) was diwan under the then Nawab Iftikhar Ali Khan. The two were very fond of each other.
 
Pt Tribhuwan Nath was about 15-20 years older than the Nawab, and as a child the Nawab had played in his lap. For several decades, Pt Tribhuwan Nath served the Nawab loyally, and the Nawab trusted him in everything.

Pt Tribhuwan Nath 
 
When Pt Tribhuwan Nath was on an evening walk, and the Nawab came near him on horseback (he was fond of horse riding), he would get off his horse to wish Pt Tribhuwan Nath, something he would not do for anyone else.

Pt Tribhuwan Nath died in 1945 (the year before I was born). He had retired around 1920, but the Nawab fixed his pension at the same figure as his last drawn salary, Rs 300 p.m. which was then a huge sum. Even after retirement Pt Tribhuwan Nath went daily to the palace, and if due to illness or otherwise he did not come, a messenger from the Nawab would arrive at his residence to enquire of his welfare.

He would come every summer to Allahabad to spend a few months with his son Dr KN Katju (who had become a top lawyer in Allahabad High Court) and his family. The last time he came to Allahabad was in 1935 or so. At that time he received a letter from the Nawab stating 'Panditji, aapke baghair mujhe kuch achcha nahi lagta hai' (Panditji, I don't feel good without you) 

On receiving this letter, Pt Tribhuwan Nath immediately caught the first train and left for Jaora, and on reaching there he went straight to the Nawab and said "Nawab Saheb, aapne yeh baat mujhe pehle kyon nahi batai? ". (Nawab Saheb, why did you not tell me this before ?). Thereafter for the next ten years he never left Jaora till his death in 1945 (at the age of 81), thinking that if he did, the Nawab would be unhappy.

When Pt Tribhuwan Nath died in 1945, the whole of Jaora was in sorrow. The Nawab (who was elder to my grandfather Dr KN Katju) made a public announcement that he was the eldest son of Pt Tribhuwan Nath, so people should first come to him to pay condolence, and only thereafter go to pay condolence to Dr Katju (who had arrived from Allahabad).

This story shows how intimate and amicable were relations between Hindus and Muslims, and the propaganda by some vested interests that they were enemies is wholly false.
 
  
Justice Markandey Katju is former Judge, Supreme Court of India and former Chairman, Press Council of India.
  

 

Disclaimer : PunjabToday.in and other platforms of the Punjab Today group strive to include views and opinions from across the entire spectrum, but by no means do we agree with everything we publish. Our efforts and editorial choices consistently underscore our authors' right to the freedom of speech. However, it should be clear to all readers that individual authors are responsible for the information, ideas or opinions in their articles, and very often, these do not reflect the views of PunjabToday.in or other platforms of the group. Punjab Today does not assume any responsibility or liability for the views of authors whose work appears here.

_______________________________________________________________

Most shared Punjab Today articles:

 

KYUN KE HUM HAIN HINDUSTANI

Three Women of 1984

 FROM 1984 TO BARGARI - Hurt & angry, we’ve tried rage, anger. Did we miss karuna?   

REVISITING 1984 – RIOT AROUND A POLE     

KARTARPUR SAHIB: A CLARION CALL FOR PEACE IN AN AGE OF CYNICISM

If it could happen to Arun Shourie, imagine what could they do to you?

Healers & Predators – The Doctor is In, & is very corrupt

Amarinder, Badals, AAP — Every party in Punjab is now an Akali Dal

Welcome to 1947. Happy Independence Day. Would you like to step out?

In Pakistan, a donkey pays for democracy – bleeding, its nostrils ripped apart

WOOING THE PANTH: Amarinder a little less Congressy, Akali Dal a little more saffron

"Captain Amarinder Singh ji” and "Rahul”: Reading Sign Language In A Relationship

The Comrade In Punjab - Lost, Irrelevant, Asleep, Even Bored!

WATERS ROYALTY - The Loot that Rajasthan Committed

AMARINDER GOVT's LOVE FOR FARMERS, AND MY DAD's FOR HIS SCOOTER

OF SUNNY KID & HORSE SENSE: The Punjab-Punjab Ties  

TRUDEAU VISIT AND RIGHT-WING MEDIA MACHINE         

 OF NIRMAL SINGH'S EYES 

Mr. CHIEF MINISTER, PLEASE CALL OFF JANUARY 7 FUNCTION         

MR PRESIDENT, PLEASE TAKE BACK HIS GALLANTRY MEDAL       

A SAFFRON JOURNEY VIA CANADA

BAD, BAD WOMAN!

 


 

_______________________________________________________________

Punjab Today believes in serious, engaging, narrative journalism at a time when mainstream media houses seem to have given up on long-form writing and news television has blurred or altogether erased the lines between news and slapstick entertainment. We at Punjab Today believe that readers such as yourself appreciate cerebral journalism, and would like you to hold us against the best international industry standards. Brickbats are welcome even more than bouquets, though an occasional pat on the back is always encouraging. Good journalism can be a lifeline in these uncertain times worldwide. You can support us in myriad ways. To begin with, by spreading word about us and forwarding this reportage. Stay engaged.

— Team PT





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Rajeev Dhavan, the Atticus Finch of Our Times
16.10.19 - Justice Markandey Katju
Rajeev Dhavan, the Atticus Finch of Our Times



Senior advocate at the Supreme Court of India, Rajeev Dhavan reminds me of Atticus Finch, the courageous lawyer in Harper Lee’s famous novel To Kill a Mockingbird – based on the actual Scottsboro case – who bravely defended a black man who was falsely accused of raping a white woman (then a capital crime) in Alabama, a state teeming with racial tension.

Finch did this despite threats to him and his family, and despite being ostracised by the townsfolk. When his daughter Scout asked him why he was defending the black man, Atticus replied, "For a number of reasons, the main one being if I didn’t, I couldn’t keep my head high”.

For representing the Babri Masjid Action Committee – an organisation of Muslims – in the Ayodhya land dispute case at present being argued before the Supreme Court, Dhavan has received death threats and his clerk has been physically assaulted in the court premises. What remains overlooked is that as a lawyer, Dhavan is only doing his professional duty, and cannot be identified with his client.

Rajeev Dhavan 
 
I have known Dhavan for a long time. We were classmates in school in Allahabad and again in the law course at Allahabad University. Of all the senior lawyers in India, I hold him in the highest regard. Other lawyers, including senior lawyers of the Supreme Court, make improper compromises when necessary for their self-interest, but Dhavan never does so, and it is precisely this trait which distinguishes him from other Indian lawyers.
 
In today’s surcharged communal atmosphere in India, perhaps no other senior Indian lawyer would have had the courage to appear for Muslims in the Ayodhya land dispute case, but Dhavan did not flinch from his duty, and followed the rule of professional ethics that state that a lawyer cannot refuse a brief, provided his fee is paid and he is not otherwise engaged – a rule that is also enunciated in Chapter 2 of the rules for professional conduct and etiquette framed by the Bar Council of India.

American actor Gregory Peck stars as lawyer Atticus Finch in the film 'To Kill a Mockingbird', directed by Robert Mulligan, 1962.

 
When the great revolutionary writer Thomas Paine was jailed and tried for treason in 1792 for writing his famous booklet The Rights of Man in defence of the French Revolution of 1789, the eminent lawyer Thomas Erskine was briefed to defend him. At the time, Erskine was the Attorney General for the Prince of Wales, and was warned that if he accepted the brief, he would be dismissed from office. Undeterred, he accepted the brief and was promptly dismissed.

However, his immortal words in connection with the case still ring in legal history:

"From the moment that any advocate can be permitted to say that he will or will not stand between the Crown and the subject arraigned in Court where he daily sits to practice, from that moment the liberties of England are at an end.

If the advocate refuses to defend from what he thinks of the charge or the defence, he assumes the character of the judge, nay he assumes it before the hour of judgment, and in proportion to his rank and reputation puts the heavy influence of perhaps a mistaken opinion into the scale against the accused, in whose favour the benevolent principles of English law make all assumptions”

Indian lawyers have followed this great tradition. During the British rule, the revolutionaries of Bengal were defended by Indian lawyers, and so were the communists accused in the famous Meerut Conspiracy Case, Razakars of Hyderabad, Sheikh Abdullah and his associates, the INA accused tried at the Red Fort in Delhi, the assassins of Mahatma Gandhi and Indira Gandhi, Binayak Sen, Ajmal Qasab, Yaqub Memon, Afzal Guru, the Bhima Koregaon accused etc.
 
No Indian lawyer of repute has shirked away from his responsibility on the grounds that it would make him unpopular or that it was personally dangerous for him to do so.
 
In my judgment in the Supreme Court in A.S. Mohammed Rafi vs State of Tamil Nadu, I referred to the legendary American lawyer Clarence Darrow who defended even the most vile and despicable accused persons as he believed that everyone had the right to be defended.

In re Anastaplo (1961) Justice Hugo Black of the US Supreme Court observed,

"Men like Lord Erskine, James Otis, Clarence Darrow and a multitude of others have dared to speak in defence of causes and clients without regard to personal danger to themselves. The legal profession will lose much of its nobility and glory if it is not constantly replenished with lawyers like these. To force the Bar to become a group of thoroughly orthodox, time serving, government fearing individuals is to humiliate and degrade it ".

Rajeev Dhavan is the Atticus Finch and Clarence Darrow of the Indian bar. Long live Rajeev Dhavan!
 
 
 
Justice Markandey Katju is former Judge, Supreme Court of India and former Chairman, Press Council of India.
  

 

Disclaimer : PunjabToday.in and other platforms of the Punjab Today group strive to include views and opinions from across the entire spectrum, but by no means do we agree with everything we publish. Our efforts and editorial choices consistently underscore our authors' right to the freedom of speech. However, it should be clear to all readers that individual authors are responsible for the information, ideas or opinions in their articles, and very often, these do not reflect the views of PunjabToday.in or other platforms of the group. Punjab Today does not assume any responsibility or liability for the views of authors whose work appears here.

_______________________________________________________________

Most shared Punjab Today articles:

 

KYUN KE HUM HAIN HINDUSTANI

Three Women of 1984

 FROM 1984 TO BARGARI - Hurt & angry, we’ve tried rage, anger. Did we miss karuna?   

REVISITING 1984 – RIOT AROUND A POLE     

KARTARPUR SAHIB: A CLARION CALL FOR PEACE IN AN AGE OF CYNICISM

If it could happen to Arun Shourie, imagine what could they do to you?

Healers & Predators – The Doctor is In, & is very corrupt

Amarinder, Badals, AAP — Every party in Punjab is now an Akali Dal

Welcome to 1947. Happy Independence Day. Would you like to step out?

In Pakistan, a donkey pays for democracy – bleeding, its nostrils ripped apart

WOOING THE PANTH: Amarinder a little less Congressy, Akali Dal a little more saffron

"Captain Amarinder Singh ji” and "Rahul”: Reading Sign Language In A Relationship

The Comrade In Punjab - Lost, Irrelevant, Asleep, Even Bored!

WATERS ROYALTY - The Loot that Rajasthan Committed

AMARINDER GOVT's LOVE FOR FARMERS, AND MY DAD's FOR HIS SCOOTER

OF SUNNY KID & HORSE SENSE: The Punjab-Punjab Ties  

TRUDEAU VISIT AND RIGHT-WING MEDIA MACHINE         

 OF NIRMAL SINGH'S EYES 

Mr. CHIEF MINISTER, PLEASE CALL OFF JANUARY 7 FUNCTION         

MR PRESIDENT, PLEASE TAKE BACK HIS GALLANTRY MEDAL       

A SAFFRON JOURNEY VIA CANADA

BAD, BAD WOMAN!

 


 

_______________________________________________________________

Punjab Today believes in serious, engaging, narrative journalism at a time when mainstream media houses seem to have given up on long-form writing and news television has blurred or altogether erased the lines between news and slapstick entertainment. We at Punjab Today believe that readers such as yourself appreciate cerebral journalism, and would like you to hold us against the best international industry standards. Brickbats are welcome even more than bouquets, though an occasional pat on the back is always encouraging. Good journalism can be a lifeline in these uncertain times worldwide. You can support us in myriad ways. To begin with, by spreading word about us and forwarding this reportage. Stay engaged.

— Team PT





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A CORRESPONDENCE WITH AN EX IAS OFFICER
Revolution and Introspection: Could it be hubris that is distorting your vision?
13.10.19 - Justice Markandey Katju
Revolution and Introspection: Could it be hubris that is distorting your vision?



A contemporary of mine in the Allahabad University, where I had studied from 1963-67, who is a retired IAS officer, recently sent me this email :

Markandey

I have always admired you for your blog Satyam Bruyat. But when the entire world seems to disagree with you, is it not time for 'atma chintan' or introspection by you? After all, all NRIs, diplomats, bureaucrats, academicians etc cannot be 'buffoons'. Ask yourself.

Could it be hubris that is distorting your vision? Remember, hubris leads to nemesis.
 
Fond regards
A B 

I sent this reply :

Dear A B

Thank you for your email.

Since there is obviously no possibility of meeting of minds, in view of the condescending and supercilious tone of your email, let us agree to disagree, and leave it at that.

However, I would like to say one thing. When in 1543 Copernicus (in pic) said in his book De Revolutionibus that it is the earth which goes around the sun (the heliocentric theory), instead of the sun going around the earth (the geocentric theory), he was the only one in the world saying this, and the rest of the world was saying the contrary (following the Bible and Ptolemy's theory).
 
In fact even a century thereafter it was heretical and dangerous to propagate Copernicus' theory, as the example of Galileo (in pic), who was almost burnt at the stake by the Roman Inquisition in 1633 for propagating it (and saved himself by recanting) shows. But who in the end prevailed, Copernicus or the Bible? 

So it is wholly irrelevant that the 'entire world' disagrees with me (which, by the way, is not true as there are plenty of persons who agree with me). The question is who is correct.

And as for 'atma chintan', let me tell you that I do it all the time, constantly thinking whether my ideas are correct or not, and sometimes finding they are not, whereas I doubt that NRIs, diplomats, bureaucrats, academicians, etc who mostly have closed, ossified minds (except a very few rare ones) do that.

For example, I have said several times that India is heading for a revolution, as all state institutions have become hollow and empty shells and the people's distress is growing (see my article 'Why celebrate Republic Day when the Constitution has become a scarecrow' online). Parliamentary democracy has really degenerated into caste and communal vote banks.
 
Casteism and communalism are feudal forces which must be destroyed if India is to progress, but parliamentary democracy further entrenches them. So it has to be replaced by an alternative system of government under which India rapidly progresses, but that is not possible within the present framework. A revolution is therefore inevitable. 

Some people ask when will the revolution come, how will it come, who will be its leaders etc? My answer is that it is impossible to answer such questions as one cannot be rigid about historical forms. But one can be sure that a revolution is inevitable in India seeing that everything has collapsed (your own former service, the IAS, has become 90% corrupt, as I am informed), and lately the economy is tanking.
 
No doubt revolution will not happen immediately, or even in the near future. First there will be a prolonged period of chaos in India, maybe for 10-15 years, prior to a revolution. But chaos cannot go on forever. Nature does not like a vacuum. An alternative system is bound to emerge, but it will be after great bloodshed. 

Revolution is not a picnic, as a study of historical revolutions reveals. There is a lot of violence in it, and many people (including many innocents) perish in the process, but ultimately a better world emerges (see the chapter 'The Bishop in the presence of an unknown light' in Victor Hugo's famous novel 'Les Miserables').

When will it come, how will it come, who will be its Robespierres, Dantons, Marats, Lenins and Maos, no one can say at present, and such speculation is idle. As I said earlier, one cannot be rigid about historical forms.

The truth is that we have even today massive poverty, record unemployment (as the National Sample Survey admitted), every second Indian child is malnourished (as recorded by UNICEF, Global Hunger Index etc), over 3 lac farmers have committed suicide (and the trend is continuing unabated), 50% Indian women are anaemic, proper healthcare and good education are almost non existent for the masses, 7 individuals own as much wealth as the bottom half of India's 135 crore people, the Indian economy is sinking with 5% GDP, crash in auto, IT, power and real estate sectors, onion and vegetable prices skyrocketing, unemployment mounting etc. This state of affairs cannot continue forever.

To divert attention of the public from the economic crisis, which the government has no idea how to resolve, it must resort to gimmicks like building Ram Mandir, cow protection, Yoga Day, Swatchata Abhiyan, abrogation of Article 370 etc. And of course lynching of Muslims and making them scapegoats, as the Nazis made of Jews, is a useful technique.

The test of every political system and political act is one, and only one: does it raise the standard of living of the masses? Does it give them better lives? How will abrogation of Article 370, which most of you so called educated people hailed as a great victory for India, give the Kashmiri people better lives? In fact their lives have become miserable due to shut down of mobile phones and Internet (which today are necessities, not luxuries) and curfews and other restrictions for the last 70 days.
 
To say that now businessmen will buy land in Kashmir and set up factories there, giving employment to Kashmiris, is nonsense. A businessman is not a fool. He will never invest in a disturbed area where bullets may be flying around.

When I put my ideas in the meeting of Allahabad University Alumni some time back, most of you were horrified. You just can't face the truth if it runs contrary to your conventional and closed way of thinking.

New ideas usually face strong opposition for a long time, for two reasons: firstly, because most people have conservative mindsets and don't want their thinking disturbed or challenged, and secondly because there are powerful vested interests who feel their interests may be jeopardised by the new ideas (e.g. the ideas of liberty, equality and fraternity at the time of the French Revolution of 1789 which were regarded dangerous by the French aristocracy as they thought they would endanger their feudal rights.)

With best wishes
Markandey

 
 
Justice Markandey Katju is former Judge, Supreme Court of India and former Chairman, Press Council of India.
 
 

Disclaimer : PunjabToday.in and other platforms of the Punjab Today group strive to include views and opinions from across the entire spectrum, but by no means do we agree with everything we publish. Our efforts and editorial choices consistently underscore our authors' right to the freedom of speech. However, it should be clear to all readers that individual authors are responsible for the information, ideas or opinions in their articles, and very often, these do not reflect the views of PunjabToday.in or other platforms of the group. Punjab Today does not assume any responsibility or liability for the views of authors whose work appears here.

_______________________________________________________________

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_______________________________________________________________

Punjab Today believes in serious, engaging, narrative journalism at a time when mainstream media houses seem to have given up on long-form writing and news television has blurred or altogether erased the lines between news and slapstick entertainment. We at Punjab Today believe that readers such as yourself appreciate cerebral journalism, and would like you to hold us against the best international industry standards. Brickbats are welcome even more than bouquets, though an occasional pat on the back is always encouraging. Good journalism can be a lifeline in these uncertain times worldwide. You can support us in myriad ways. To begin with, by spreading word about us and forwarding this reportage. Stay engaged.

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Comment by: Meenakshi

Above article is really an insightful one. It do encourages the people who are thinking uniquely. Thanks for a great write up

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Diary of a Lock-down
Hello, Is There Anybody Out There?
02.10.19 - AMANDEEP SANDHU
Hello, Is There Anybody Out There?



Introduction: On October 2, 2019 it was the 58th day of the Kashmir lock-down. Of Kashmir's people denied of basic amenities, food and essential medicines, and modes of communication and information with each other and with the world at large. For the last fifty-eight days, the Indian government has claimed that Kashmir is 'normal'. Some of us disagreed. We believed if Kashmir is indeed normal, why is it under lock-down?
 
October 2, 2019 was also Mahatma Gandhi's 150th birth anniversary. 
 
Learning from Gandhi's chosen mode of protest against British imperialism, we called for a Cyber Satyagrah. We opened the Cyber Satyagrah to everyone, from all parts of the nation and the world.
 
The idea was dual: one, to protest the government though we had a sense that a government that has deployed 9,00,000 military and para-military troops to control 8 million people would not be moved by a few of us doing a non-violent, personal satyagrah by turning off all modes of communication - phone, Internet, television and radio - for 12 hours from 10 am to 10 pm; two, to gain a sense, to personally experience, what it means to be under lock-down albeit for a very limited period. Then we write about our experience and share it with those who care to read. This we hoped will give those participating in the Cyber Satyagrah and those listening about our experience a sense of empathy for what the people of Kashmir - who have been thrust into lock-down for the last fifty-eight days – are experiencing and undergoing.

Note: I thought I was pretty prepared for the Cyber Satyagrah. The 12 hour lock-down. I even had a dress rehearsal on a recent San Francisco to Hong Kong flight which was 13.50 hours long and on which I had turned off my phone and Internet. What I had discounted was the few movies I saw and the shots of gin and tonic I had had. Plus the fact that it was a journey to reach home. This lock-down was different. I was locked-down at home. Though it can be argued that this was a self lock-down.
-------------
--------------
Hour 1: My in-laws had returned from the United States a few hours before the clock ticked 10 am. We are at their place in RT Nagar, Bengaluru. In my haste to not spend an extra minute beyond 10 am online, I power off my phone. That is when I realise that besides using my phone to make and receive calls, compose and send and receive messages on messenger and WhatsApp, check my mails and Facebook and the Internet, take pictures and share them, I use the phone the most to check the time.

For many years now, I have not had a watch and my phone serves as my timekeeper. Going offline, which means switching off the phone, means being deprived not only of all modes of communication but most of all being denied the facility of checking time. By around 10.10 am, Lakshmi and I get into the car to drive back to our home in JP Nagar, Bengaluru. As soon as I turn on the ignition, the local radio comes up. I shut it down in haste. While driving back, I ask Lakshmi for the time. I honk a few times and wonder if that too is not another form of communication with other drivers on the road. After all, the people of Kashmir are not even allowed to freely drive on the roads. I have read that every 100 meters they are blocked by razor barbed wire coils and sentries rigorously monitor their movement.

Hour 2: By the time we reach JP Nagar in radio silence, I have decided to put my phone on but in Airplane mode. I imagine the people of Kashmir too would be checking time on their phones - minutes, hours, days, weeks, and now close to two whole months. The internet modem at home is on and when I check time again after about an hour I realise that somehow the phone has connected with the Internet. Five messages had come over WhatsApp, a few over Facebook, a few emails too had downloaded. One of the messages is from a young lawyer in Delhi who considers me her elder brother. Of course, I quickly go back to the airplane mode, deny myself the internet signal, turn on the computer and immediately disconnect it from the Internet. Yet, that message from the lawyer sister places me in a dilemma. Now that it has come, can I read it?

I decide not to read it. Yet, its red pending light glows on the WhatsApp. I believe in not keeping any messages to me pending. I feel someone from the big world has sent a missive and I might not be able to respond immediately but the sender deserves that I read it as soon as possible. I feel it is basic human courtesy. Yet, today because I am participating in the lock-down, I keep the messages pending. It hurts me to do something I normally do not do - be apathetic.

Hour 4: I have time to reflect on my work. I realise it is of two types. One is personal - writing, another is official or quasi-official (around my writing) through the Internet over emails. I count how many times I check the phone to get the time. At least nine times in the last two hours. Why am I so eager to check time? I noticed how on the computer, my hand automatically kept moving to click the Internet - to start a browser. Since there are no emails, the day seems empty.
-------------
--------------
I must focus on pending tasks. I decide to focus of the second type of work: compose pending emails, make notes that I have long neglected, finish pending tasks. However, I realise the access to Internet serves another function - of reference, of spell or meaning check, of data access, besides of updating myself about current news, of information of the things important and sundry. I am deprived of it. I am reminded of the situation in Kashmir every time I check my phone to get the time and notice that red pending light on the WhatsApp icon.

Hour 6: There are lists to be made. Lists of those who must get my upcoming book for reviews. Addresses of those folks to be acquired and entered in the list. How can I acquire those addresses when the Internet is down? I decide to focus on heating lunch. I realise that last evening I had given our house help Jayamma incomplete directions: make daal, I need to take it to my in-laws. I always feel hungry when I return from long flights and assumed my in-laws might also feel the same. I forgot to tell Jayamma to keep some daal at home too for lunch today. The fridge was empty.

I decide to walk down to the nearest darshini for a thaali meal. As I step out of home, I realise the people of Kashmir cannot even do that. Not only are they locked in their homes, their markets are also closed. It is a national holiday so the traffic is thin. I am looking at people, wondering if they too, like me, are in the lock-down? Of course, many aren't. Yet, I feel perhaps some are, some understand how I am feeling. Like perhaps the people of Kashmir must be feeling that some in India understand how they are feeling, what they are undergoing.

Hour 8: It is a bit eerie. Though most of the communication over the Internet is visual, text and images, I can sense my ears feel a silence enveloping them. Yet, I am listening more keenly. This is peace, a good space to meditate but I am getting irritated. I feel impatient. I feel tempted to peek once at the world. I resist. I get up from my desk. I walk around a bit.
------------
Also Read: LIVING ON THE EDGE
-----------
Before leaving for the United States, my father-in-law - a central government pensioner - had left his important documents folder with me. I had forgotten to take it to him last night. In the folder is his government medical card. He needs it to fix his and Amma's doctor appointment. I was supposed to send him the card number but the lock-down had begun. I told him I will do that tomorrow. Yet, at seventy-five years now, he is an anxious man. What if he tries to call me today? What if he has already tried many times? He would worry himself. Worrying in a jet-lag from recent travel is not at all desirable for an elder man. I will send him the pictures of the card and the card number tomorrow, I hope he has the patience to wait a day.

My accustomed hand clicks the Internet icon and the Chrome dragon sneers at me: No Internet. Feeling cooped up is becoming unbearable. In any case, it is time for my evening walk.

I decide to go on a long walk. This time I leave my phone behind. Time has indeed slowed down and I do not need to know the exact hour and minute. My walking itself is a privilege the people of Kashmir do not have.

Hour 10: I come back and take a bath. Then I pour myself a drink. There is no friend home this evening. No one could call and say they are coming. There is no music on YouTube. I cannot put on the Caravan music-box which is marketed as a radio. There is no movie to watch. Netflix or Prime are down because of no internet. What should I do? I finish the peg in hand too quickly.
-----------
-----------
I pour myself another drink. I push myself to assess what is going on. On the one hand every indicator shows us that our economy is tanking and on the other hand we have this situation in Kashmir. I realise the government has hit two birds with one stone.
 
The Kashmir situation - including the role of Pakistan - is a distraction which will keep us riled up and will prevent any real questions on the tanking economy. Yet, the government has scored brownie points with its voters who will support it next elections in larger numbers. If someone were to ask the government: the very reason it took the decision on Kashmir was that Pakistan will now be answered then why is it that the government keeps using Pakistan as the reason to continue keeping the people of Kashmir under lock-down? But who will ask? It is an unending mess and the government will reap benefits.

Like all writings on isolation, I am reflecting on how important are signs and response to signs, the act of communication. How important to survival is a system, of sending a message in a bottle that I am here, where are you? How important is not only saying ‘I am here’ but also a response. As Pink Floyd sang in the 1980s, Comfortably Numb - Hello, is there anybody out there?

I start writing this diary of the lock-down.

Hour 11: Time has indeed slowed down. 57 minutes more to go. I want to burst and learn what my mates have been up to in the last few hours. All of us who participated in the Cyber Satyagarah. It is 18 minutes more to go.

At some point the 12 hours get over. It is 10 pm.

In the hour post 12: I pick my phone and switch off the Airplane mode. I go live online. I notice the battery which normally drains out in a few hours is quite intact at 81 per cent. Quickly, the number of pending messages in the red WhatsApp light on my phone turns to 39. Many more messages and notification unfurl on Facebook. A few more mails get downloaded. So many, so many messages!

If I can get so many messages in 12 hours, imagine how many millions or perhaps billions of such messages to and from the people of Kashmir must be pending in the cyberspace over the last 58 days. Messages from relatives and friends outside Kashmir. Messages from the people of Kashmir to the relatives and friends outside Kashmir. I know the Internet is vast but it must now be very heavy with all these messages. All these messages denied their destinations because the Indian government chose to ignore one message that had continued to be delivered for the last seventy years. The message that was embodied in Article 370 - a solemn agreement between the people of Kashmir and the government of India.

The clouds over Kashmir are indeed dense.

PS: when I read part of this long post to Lakshmi she said: the idea of writing it for someone to read tomorrow is itself a privilege. The people of Kashmir do not have the privilege, they do not know if they have a free tomorrow. Yes, it is. Privilege is so layered. Yet, I believe, writing is an act of a witness, recording a testimony. For there must be a court of humanity. Else, how are we to live?


 

Amandeep Sandhu's non-fiction Panjab: Journeys Through Fault Lines will be out later in October.

 
 

Disclaimer : PunjabToday.in and other platforms of the Punjab Today group strive to include views and opinions from across the entire spectrum, but by no means do we agree with everything we publish. Our efforts and editorial choices consistently underscore our authors' right to the freedom of speech. However, it should be clear to all readers that individual authors are responsible for the information, ideas or opinions in their articles, and very often, these do not reflect the views of PunjabToday.in or other platforms of the group. Punjab Today does not assume any responsibility or liability for the views of authors whose work appears here.

_______________________________________________________________

Most shared Punjab Today articles:

 

KYUN KE HUM HAIN HINDUSTANI

Three Women of 1984

 FROM 1984 TO BARGARI - Hurt & angry, we’ve tried rage, anger. Did we miss karuna?   

REVISITING 1984 – RIOT AROUND A POLE     

KARTARPUR SAHIB: A CLARION CALL FOR PEACE IN AN AGE OF CYNICISM

If it could happen to Arun Shourie, imagine what could they do to you?

Healers & Predators – The Doctor is In, & is very corrupt

Amarinder, Badals, AAP — Every party in Punjab is now an Akali Dal

Welcome to 1947. Happy Independence Day. Would you like to step out?

In Pakistan, a donkey pays for democracy – bleeding, its nostrils ripped apart

WOOING THE PANTH: Amarinder a little less Congressy, Akali Dal a little more saffron

"Captain Amarinder Singh ji” and "Rahul”: Reading Sign Language In A Relationship

The Comrade In Punjab - Lost, Irrelevant, Asleep, Even Bored!

WATERS ROYALTY - The Loot that Rajasthan Committed

AMARINDER GOVT's LOVE FOR FARMERS, AND MY DAD's FOR HIS SCOOTER

OF SUNNY KID & HORSE SENSE: The Punjab-Punjab Ties  

TRUDEAU VISIT AND RIGHT-WING MEDIA MACHINE         

 OF NIRMAL SINGH'S EYES 

Mr. CHIEF MINISTER, PLEASE CALL OFF JANUARY 7 FUNCTION         

MR PRESIDENT, PLEASE TAKE BACK HIS GALLANTRY MEDAL       

A SAFFRON JOURNEY VIA CANADA

BAD, BAD WOMAN!

 


 

_______________________________________________________________

Punjab Today believes in serious, engaging, narrative journalism at a time when mainstream media houses seem to have given up on long-form writing and news television has blurred or altogether erased the lines between news and slapstick entertainment. We at Punjab Today believe that readers such as yourself appreciate cerebral journalism, and would like you to hold us against the best international industry standards. Brickbats are welcome even more than bouquets, though an occasional pat on the back is always encouraging. Good journalism can be a lifeline in these uncertain times worldwide. You can support us in myriad ways. To begin with, by spreading word about us and forwarding this reportage. Stay engaged.

— Team PT





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