Remembering Pash on birth anniversary-Pash@65


    While 27-10-09 032

Beech ka Rasta Nahin Hota release-Triveni-Delhi-25-3-89 Paash book release audience-Delhi-25-3-89 Pash article-Pashyanti-Jan.-March 1994 (1)s

Sharing an old post,which gives a glimpse of how Pash became a literary icon in years to come after his assassination in 1988,initially some role was played by me also in organizing these functions at Jalandhar in 1989,1993,2000&2002,in which greatest personalities like Baba Nagarjun, Sujan Singh and Bhagat Singh Comrade Jaidev Kapoor and many Indian illustrious writers participated.But irony is that our leftist political holders of Pash Trust now dont extend even an invitation to me to attend its annual function,as happened this year,when after long gap of many years Pash trust was able to gather large audience by inviting Arundhati Roy,who might have read Pash poetry in my translation,yet the man who did his best to bring Pash on international literary map,was not even invited for the function!

When Pash was martyred by Khalistani terrorists on 23rd March 1988 at his village Talwandi Salem, family was in no position to take care of his literary treasure, which was in his Chaubarha-upper floor room of his home at village. Many people started visiting his house, mostly leftist activists and few of them lifted the writings of Pash from his chaubarah, may be telling family members, but making no itinerary of the poems/writings/published documents lifted from there, it was a kind of irresponsible grabbing of assassinated poet’s  literary treasure. Some of the poems appeared in some volumes later with somebody’s name appearing as editor. Honest conduct would had been to keep all the things in Pash’s house, listing and handing over family to take care till some arrangement could be made by his comrades/friends. Later perhaps same year Pash memorial International Trust came into existence with initial five members-Gursharn Bhaji, Mohinder Singh Jathebandi from India, Avtar from UK, Harsharn Singh Dhido(Pash’brother in law) and Surinder Dhanjal from Canada. Surinder Dhanjal was assigned the duty of convener of trust. The whole literary treasure of Pash should have been transferred to Pash trust, which could have published it in a befitting manner. Pash trust in early years focused on organizing two Pash memorial functions-Birth anniversary-9th September as ‘Kavita Divas’, suggested by Amarjit Chandan and adopted as such by trust. 23rd March-martyrdom day was arranged at village Talwandi Salem, I attended one function there. Now no one calls 9th September as Kavita Divas or Poetry Day!  The first ever function on 9th September  1989 was organised by me on behalf of trust at Desh Bhagat Yadgar Hall Jalandhar, which was a grand success. After few years five thousand rupees Pash memorial award was started and some good Punjabi writers got this award like Santoskh Singh Dhir, Surjit Patar etc. Some awards got controversial, then award scheme was discontinued.

Few early years after Pash’s assassination were like explosion of writings on Pash. Gianranjan brought out Pehl special Pash issue in 1988 itself in Hindi from Jabalpur, to which I contributed a lot.My translation of Pash poetry in Hindi was published by Rajkamal prakashan and released on 25th March 1989 at Delhi by Com Satyapal Dang, in which many eminent Hindi writers participated. Amarjit Chandan came out with Pash poems collection ‘Khilre Hoe Varke’. This momentum continued for many years as in 1993 and 2000 major Indian writers came over to Jalandhar to pay tributes to Pash on birth anniversary functions. However after 2000 things changed. Pash Trust itself was facing controversies. Mohinder Singh Sandhu Jathebandi had passed away. There was concerted effort to control Pash trust by certain individuals and a political group, with whom Pash sympathized, but remained critical of overall conduct of Comrades like in his long poem-Comarade naal galbaat-Conversations with Comrades. Those who had sincerely worked to preserve and promote Pash’s poetry and ideas, were never recognized or respected like Bharat Bhushan. On the contrary certain people pushed their names with the work done solely by Pash’s father Sohan Singh Sandhu, by forcing themselves as joint editors with Sandhu Sahib. After passing away of Gursharn Bhaji, now Pash trust has been made multi member with none of Pash’s old friends or comrade associated with it. Many of trust members have written nothing or little on Pash, some have just pushed their names to work done by Pash’s father. In this situation, inviting Arundhati Roy was an attempt to restore or save the falling reputation of Pash Trust. Audience was expected to come to listen Arundhati Roy, but how much Pash poetry/writings or ideas are promoted by trust, only time will tell. Meanwhile I remember Pash fondly and cherish my association with Pash family.

‘Virtual’ Vs./and Real World!




Life these days has become too complex. Twenty first century has really changed the life styles of people, at least of educated urban middle class radically. Unimaginable things have happened, what even Rahul Sankartytyan did not imagine in 22nd Century-Baisvin Sadi, have come in advance in 21st century, just in first fifteen years. Though the seeds of change were getting matured in last decade of twentieth century.

First major change came with mobile phones. Although mobiles came up in last decade of last century, these became a necessity in 21st century. I avoided to have mobile till 2002, some of my friends avoided even till recently, a few still avoid it. Computer or internet was the other major impact on life. In last two decades of 20th century, Television was the major impact on social life. In India, when colour television came in 1982 in India, and then came a number of serials, which made people remain glued to television sets, that was the time of change in life styles!  It has affected the reading habits of people, which was considerably reduced in favour of television serials/programms. People’s socialising habits were not affected in first phase of TV expansion, as number of television sets was not high, rather it increased socialising for a while as it was community or Mohalla watching of television in few houses, which had television sets. It was particularly true about serials like Hum Log, Ramayna and Mahabharta.

Mobile phones affected life in different way, connectivity with friends-relatives-acquaintances became fast, and it affected normal postal channels of writing letters to each other. Mobile and internet connectivity expanded almost simultaneously in first decade of 21st century. I did not had any computer or email id till 2004 and it took long time to get used to email communication. Internet connectivity first exposed to websites and initially people were creating their websites with payments. Later development of blogs decreased dependence on paid websites and people created their blogs in huge numbers. Wikipedia was another internet discovery which was used by people in millions to create pages. Internet expansion or IT growth was phenomenal in years to come and social sites phenomenon started with Orkut in early years of 21st century and went up to Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn like more popular sites, though number of these sites is too high, yet Facebook has covered one out of seven persons on this earth! This was almost a revolution in inter-people connectivity at universal level and people found long lost friends and contacts through Facebook. Along sides social and knowledge sites, the biggest expansion was of porn sites during all these times, perhaps having more viewers than other sites world over. Mail connectivity outlived its usage in shorter time giving way to mobile sms and now to WhatsApp. Email connectivity now seems archaical  and postal service remains confined to magazines, official letters etc. Telegraph service has already become a thing of the past.

This information technology explosion has shaken so called moral value systems world over and it has particularly hit feudal values of so called ‘purity’ in man-woman or sexual relationships. Sites like Ashley Madison have exposed middle class hypocrisy of fidelity in marital relations and open invitation to ‘cheating’ in marital relations with extra-marital affairs, which include thousands of accounts from India. On social sites like Facebook where men and women freely interact with each other, it has given women more freedom to express herself and assert her identity. Facebook like sites have contributed to democratisation between man woman relations, which had feudal control in Asian and Arab countries particularly. Facebook friendships may have certain cheating instances also, leading even to rapes and murders, but these are exceptions and because of some carelessness. Largely it has opened the window for both men and women to interact freely. Although virtual world ‘friendship’ is very slippery and fluid, yet it has brought men and women closer to each other without the formal bonding of couples, brother-sister, father-daughter or other relational bindings. It has expanded the scope of human relationships to newer paths and helped them get out of social or self-suppression. If one could make study of Facebook account holders inbox communication study, which is little difficult to do, because of privacy setting of people, one would have startling results to see. The whole edifice of single man-single woman relationship will look like a hollow house, where as men and women from unknown territories falling into deep friendships, even love or at least good human communicators will look like a reality, may be just at ‘virtual’ level, but line between ‘virtual’ and ‘real’ looks thin, even when people without any chance of meeting each other in real life exchange such warm feelings, concerns and solidarity that it may give them great solace.

In earlier times, people used to dream and in many people’s lives those beautiful dreams became a life sustaining support, even when none of the dream got actualised in life. In earlier times, letter writing to far away people in different countries was another way of warm human sharing of feelings and ideas, which in many cases never brought a chance for them to actually meet in life. Their mutual letters gave them great consolation, satisfaction and inspiration in their lives, which looked bit better than without those warm exchanges. What social media of 21st century has done, it has reduced the distance of world and made people close to each other at far ends. Sitting in different countries, even when not meeting physically people interact with each other on Skype, almost seeing and speaking the closest possible life of each other, except just touching. Virtual world of today is like dream world of the past. What one dreamt in past, is possible for them now in virtual world, yet something is away from real world.

I have made many friends in virtual world, some of them even met later in real world at USA, Venezuela, UK, and they proved as true, warm and real as they looked in ‘Virtual’ world of Facebook. Many more in other countries are having such interactions that one looks for occasions to meet them in one’s own country or their country or anywhere else in world!  Virtual world interactions make people realise their potentials, temperaments and desire to make friendships, which was very limited before the advent of ‘Virtual’ world! But perhaps like living in dream world was taking people away from harsh reality around, so is perhaps indulging too much in ‘Virtual’ world also make people asocial. A family in present world interacts with each other from their rooms in single house on laptops/mobiles, rather than getting together in common room of family or even at dining table. At even dining tables, people are found fiddling with mobiles most of time, rather than talking/conversing to each other. Like earlier Coffee House revolutionaries, new terms like Facebook revolutionaries have also got evolved, as people share the most radical thoughts but all the time sitting at Facebook, and not joining any protest march physically on street! So new technologies make world easy but very complex, people from whole world are brought at one’s door, yet people at door goes far away from each other, drowning themselves in mobile screens. They like photographs of their loved ones on screen, rather than spending time with their real physical entities! Not strange that even people’s interest in real sex life has given way to indulging in ‘Virtual’ world in beds! Aldous Huxely wrote ‘Brave New World’ and Rahul Samkartyayan Baisivin Sadi-these are now present in ‘Virtual’ world of today!

Lecture on Four Decades after Emergency at Bathinda-31st July


31st July is Shaheed Udham Singh’s martyrdom day and Association for Democratic Rights, Punjab (AFDR-Punjab) decided to hold lecture on ‘Four Decades after Emergency’ to mark the day. Idea was to focus upon the dangers of recent times, which remind people of Emergency days of 1975-77. I had long association with AFDR-Jamhoori Adhikar Sabha in Punjab since its inception in 1979, when I joined its founding conference at PAU Ludhiana in 1979, where I came as part of People’s Union for Democratic Rights(PUDR), Delhi delegate along with Subba Rao, Sudesh Vaid, both no more alive now. Dr. Dharamvira Dv Gandhi was elected founder General Secretary of AFDR at that time. Later on my association continued and I attended many of its meeting at Andhra Pradesh and Bombay to form an all India organisation of Democratic Rights Organisation(AIFODRO), which continued for few years. OPDR(Andhra Pradesh), Lokshahi Hakk Sanghtna(LHS), Bombay, and an Odisa democratic rights organisation were other units of this all India organisation. After I joined Punjabi University as faculty member in 1985, I was elected to its district and state executive for one term. I had joined all India team for fact finding team during terrorism days in Punjab of AIFOFDR) also. However in 1989 or so, differences cropped up with state leadership and I withdrew from organisation. AFDR brought out a highly controversial report on Punjabi University Patiala incidents in 2002 and it refused to publish my rejoinder to that report, so much for its ‘democratic’ conduct of itself! So when AFDR Bathinda President Bagga Singh extended an invitation to deliver a lecture on this occasion, I was little surprised. He is Vice President of state unit of AFDR also. I checked up with him that does he know that past bitter exchanges of me with AFDR. He assured that Bathinda unit of AFDR has taken this decision after full deliberations to invite me only for this function. One reason being that I had spent seven months in Bathinda prison during emergency and there are few among all leadership of AFDR, who had seen the inside of jails. So I went to deliver the lecture and spoke for about one hour 20 minutes, later lively discussion also took place on issues raised by me-of saffronization of education, of land acquisition bill, of police atrocities, of judicial arbitrariness in decisions etc. Other participants included Pro. Aminder Singh, Principal Bagga Singh, Randhir Gillpatti, Sudeep Singh and Shirin and many more through their queries and comments. I was presented with memento by AFDR Bathinda with Shaheed Udham Singh profile on it. Next day’s report in Punjabi Tribune focused mainly on Yakub Menon’s execution, undermining all other major issues, which was little upsetting for me. Not much media reports came up of the function, perhaps some among AFDR leadership, who may not be happy at invitation to me for delivering the lecture, saw to it that the event is suppressed in the media at least!

Emancipation Day-Trinidiad-Indian Diaspora under Colonialism


Colonialism and Indian Indenture ship during 19th Century



Indian arrival and Indian deliverance

While attending some programmes on August 1, 2011, and around, in connection with ‘Emancipation Day’ celebrations, which came this year with the declaration of year 2011 by UNO, as ‘year of the African Descent people’, I remembered participating in various functions/seminars on the occasion of ‘Indian Arrival Day’ in Trinidad & Tobago on and around May 30, 2011. In one of the international conferences on the theme of ‘South Asian Diaspora’ organized to mark the occasion at The University of the West Indies, St Augustine campus, during May 31—June 4, 2011, I presented a paper also on V S Naipaul. Yet going through the background of the two events, something did disturb me. African background people, who were brought here in Trinidad as slaves from many parts of Africa, never celebrate their ‘Arrival’ in Trinidad or in many other countries of the world, whereas people of Indian descent celebrate Indian Arrival day, not only in T&T, but in nearby Guyana and Suriname; also in Mauritius and Fiji, far away, may be in some other countries too. One reason could be that there may not be any record of slaves being brought to Trinidad and many more countries of the world. Though the exact date of slavery is also difficult to identify, yet generally slave trade is on record from 1440 AD onwards in many European countries. It took almost four hundred years hard and harsh struggles to get slavery abolished, including many revolts like those of Bussa in Barbados, Cuffy in Guyana, Sam Sharpe in Jamaica and the Haitian Revolution of 1795-1804.

In Europe, while France under the Jacobins as First republic abolished slavery as early as in 1794, later reinstated by Napoleon in 1804, but finally abolished in 1848; Britain did it in 1834/38, USA under Abraham Lincoln abolished it in 1863; in Tibet, slavery could be abolished only after Dalai Lama left and Chinese Communist Government abolished it after 1949, ironically Arab countries are the last to abolish slavery, thus Saudi Arabia, Oman, Niger, UAE etc. abolished slavery only in sixties and Mauritania is the last country to abolish slavery as late as in 1981. Even if there could be a record of Black/African arrival in different countries, I doubt that they will ever be willing to ‘celebrate’ their ‘arrival’ as ‘slaves’!

The question which disturbs me is: Is the Indian arrival in these countries as ‘indentured labor’ during 1834-1923, an occasion for ‘celebration’? The conditions of ‘indentured labor’ in most of these countries were more like that of semi-slavery and Indian descent people everywhere went through most cruel sufferings at the hands of sugar planters and colonial authorities of the time. Let us have a look at this phenomenon of Indian arrival in various countries.

Emancipation and Indentureship

As the emancipation act was promulgated from August 1, 1834, giving six years of a time called ‘apprenticeship’, meaning transition period for clear emancipation from slavery. On August 1,1834 Governor of Trinidad addressed few elderly Africans to mark the occasion at Government house, there were slogans raising—‘no six years, no six years’ and within four years, Trinidad became, in fact, the first British colony to be completely emancipated from slavery, other colonies followed. Although as per Trinidad historian Bridget Brereton, none of the 20,656 slaves emancipated, was given any compensation to start new life, whereas slave owners were given massive state funding.

As the emancipation act came into existence and thousands of slaves of African descent became free, large numbers of them refused to work at their ex masters, mostly sugar planters, in many countries, colonized by British, French, Dutch and Spain and Portugal. In Caribbean region itself, Trinidad, Demerara(part of Guyana now), Jamaica etc were British colonies, French Guyana, Martinique, Guadalupe etc were French colonies, Dutch Guiana, now Suriname were Dutch colonies—all having sugar planters, now facing the lack of labor. Under the circumstances, India being a huge British colony with immense population, European colonialists looked towards Indian labor, then given name of ‘Indentured labor’.

Govt. of India built this monument in memory of 19th Century Indian indentured labor as late as in Jan.2011

They took off from these sea shores at Calcutta(Madras and Bombay too)

British colonial Government in India made certain rules called Colonial Emigration Acts V and XXXII of 1837 regarding ‘indentured’ conditions. Five years was the minimum term of indentured labor, after which a laborer could return to India at his or her own expense. To earn a return ticket, he or she was to perform ten years indentured labor. Regulations differed somewhat in different countries. Though on paper some safeguards were created, in practice these were never followed, the real conditions of the indentured laborers were just close to the conditions of ex slaves. The masters and their agents used to treat them in most cruel manner, beating-thrashing in blue for little things, raping their women, making women work in most advanced pregnancies, sometime births taking place on work sites, making women work even if the new born or grown child died same morning.


Because of these cruelties, indentured laborers in Mauritius use to commit suicide from a particular hillock, which got the name of ‘suicide hill’, now turned into a monument. Hundreds of indentured Indian labor committed suicide by jumping down from this hill during the period, when indentured labor act was in force. The condition was no better in Fiji, though it may have been slightly less cruel in Caribbean countries. The first emigration from British India started to Mauritius as early as 1834, immediately after the abolition of slavery act was promulgated on August 1, 1834.

A photo of Negro slaves from Mauritius Archives


First ship Atlas from Calcutta, brought Indian labor to the shores of Mauritius on November 2, 1834. And till 1923, even after the indentured labor system was abolished from 1920 onwards, Mauritius received the maximum number of Indian indentured labor from the ports of Calcutta, Madras and Bombay. A total of 453,063 Indians landed in Mauritius, during 1834-1923, maximum in any part of the world.

Indian Indentured labour in Mauritus-1870

Compulsory Neck wearing of Indentured labour-Mauritius-Folk Museum, Mahatma Gandhi Institute

Photographs of indentured labour at arrival in Mauritius-

Details of first batch of indentured labour in Mauritius-Folk Museum

Guyana and Trinidad

The second largest contingent of Indian indentured labor went to now called Guyana from 1838 to 1916. First ship Hesperus with Indian labor arrived in Demerara on May 5, 1838 and total of 238,909 Indians arrived in ships. Trinidad & Tobago was the third country to receive large numbers of Indian labor from May 30, 1845 onwards and here 147,596 Indians came as per Sat Balkaran Singh. First ship to arrive in Trinidad was FatelRazack from Calcutta, a total of 154 ships undertook 320 voyages from Calcutta, Madras and Bombay, to bring Indian indentured labour up to 1917. Out of these only 20 per cent or so, went back to India after indentured system was abolished.

Replica of first Indian ship Hesperus reaching Guyana 5th May 1838

Indian indentured labour in Trinidad &Tobago-Port of Spain City Museum collection

1903 ship Circe bringing Indians to Trinidad & Tobago

South Africa and other countries

South Africa also started receiving Indian labor, mostly Muslims from Gujarat 1860 onwards. Here the first ship Truro with Indian labor arrived from Madras on 16th November 1860. South Africa received 152,184 Indian laborers in indentured act period. French and Dutch colonizers also made agreements with British Indian Government to recruit Indian indentured labour with similar agreements as issued by British colonizers. Thus French colonialists recruited Indian indentured labor for French Guyana, Martinique, Guadalupe etc. Dutch colonizers got Indian indentured labor for Dutch Guyana, now named Suriname from 1873, the first ship LalaRookh from India arrived here on 5th June 1873 and a total on 34,304 Indians arrived here till 1916.

Baba-Mai symbolic statue in memory of Indian indentured labour in Paramaribo-Suriname

Ist Indian ship LallaRookh memorial complex Paramaribo-Suriname


Fiji under British regime was the last to recruit Indian indentured labor, where the first ship Leonidas arrived on 14th May 1879 and it got 60, 995 Indians till 1917. Other countries to receive Indian indentured laborin this period were, Jamaica-36, 412, East Africa, including Kenya and Uganda-32000, mostly Sikhs from Punjab, for building Uganda-Kenya rail link; Reunion-26, 507, Seychlles-6315, St Vincent-2472, St Kitts-337, St Lucia-4350, Grenada 3200 etc. A total of nearly 1.2 million or 12 lakh Indians travelled to different parts of the world during this period. In all countries, Indian indentured labor went through hell, a lot of sufferings and Indian newspapers reported about these cruelties on Indian labor.

Indian indentured labour records in National Archives-Suva-Fiji

Role of Mahatma Gandhi

Since Mahatma Gandhi was invited in South Africa as a lawyer to defend the rights of Indian business men there, the other countries also came into focus. In 1909, Mahatma Gandhi spent few days in Mauritius on his way back to India through sea journey. Dr Mani Lal, a young advocate, who was later, married to the daughter of Dr Mehta, a close friend of Mahatma Gandhi, was sent to Mauritius in 1907. Dr Mani Lal started a paper, Hindustani, from Mauritius in Gujarati and English, Hindi replaced Gujarati soon. Mani Lal spent few years till 1910 in Mauritius and defended Indians rights. Later Dr Mani Lal played a similar role in Fiji, where he went in 1912; he was treated very harshly by British colonial authorities in Fiji and was made to leave the country in 1920.

Mahatma Gandhi visit in Mauritius-1909-Folk Museum collection

Dr. Mani Lal statue in Port Louise-Mauritius


Documentation of Indentureship

Sufferings of Indian indentured labor are well documented in the creative Hindi literature of Mauritius and Fiji. AbhimanyuAnat is most celebrated Hindi writer of Mauritius and he through his many novelslike LalPasina( Red Sweat), the introduction of its French translation was written by French Noble Laureate Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clezio, depicted the horrible sufferings faced by Indian indentured labour at the hands of Sugar planters, mostly Europeans and their Indian agents, colonial police and other officials. Same way Joginder Singh Kanwal in his novels like Savera and Karvat depicted the hardships and struggles of Fiji Indian labour. MunshiRehman Khan, writing in Hindi and Urdu, did it for Suriname Indian labor.

Unfortunately Trinidad and Guyana Indian descent people lost their languages as well and their sufferings in these countries were depicted in English language much later, when their second or third generation became well versed in the language. Peter Jailall from Guyana wrote about Indian indentured labor’s sufferings in his English poetry collection of recent times under the title Sacrifice-Poems on the Indian Arrival in Guyana. V S Naipaul did not focus much on Indian indentured labor’s sufferings in Trinidad & Tobago, though he was born and brought up there, but had references to the sufferings in his classic novel-A House for MrBiswas.

In India also people like C F Andrews, who visited almost all countries, where Indian labour migrated, at the behest of Mahatma Gandhi, BenarsidasChaturvedi, Hindi writer and journalist, Lakshman Singh, husband of celebrated Hindi writer SubhadraKumariChauhan and member of All India Congress Committee (AICC) wrote plays like Coolie in Hindi, basing on Indian laborers sufferings in Fiji, the play was immediately proscribed by British authorities. Tota Ram Shandilya , who returned from Fiji, wrote My Twenty One Years in Fiji, in Hindi, which is translated in English and now an important reference book in Fiji. In these countries freedom struggles against British colonialism started, which were mostly close to Indian National Congress in India, like movement by Shiv SagarRamgoolam in Mauritius, who became the first Prime Minister of independent Mauritius.


DrCheddiJagan was one of the most important organizers and leaders of freedom struggle in British Guiana as leader of People’s Progressive Party, a party with Marxist ideas. In Kenya, Comrade Makhan Singh, a Communist, fought alongside Jomo Kenyatta and his other colleagues for the freedom of Kenya. Monuments of struggles by Indian indentured laborers, along with other communities are found in many countries. In Guyana, where Hesperus, first vessel from Calcutta brought 156 souls on 5th May 1838, out of 170 boarded, 14 died on the way by sickness and drowning.

Dr.CheddiJagan life in pictures in Guyana-Dr.CheddiJagan Research Centre Georgetown

Author with son of legendryDr.CheddiJagan, Dentist Dr.CheddiJagan Junior, senior Dr.Jagan was also dentist.

Author with Donald Ramoutar, PPP Candidate for President Election-November-2011(Elected)-Dr.CheddiJagan Comrade


Walter Rodney

There have been conflicts, rebellions in 1872, 1903 and 1912, 1913, 1924. Walter Rodney, one of the brilliant radical scholars of Guyana, depicted the conditions of Indians and other countries indentured labor emigration to Guyana in books like Lakshmi out of India and History of the Guyanese Working People. Rodney was assassinated in the young age on 13th June 1980 and Guyana national archives are now named after him. In Trinidad & Tobago, massacre of Jahazis, as the East Indian indentured labor were called, as they came on ships, took place in 1884 at the time of holy Eid.



CLR James

CLR James, the radical Marxist scholar-writer of Trinidad & Tobago had focused upon Black and east Indian indentured labor conditions in his writings and during March 1970 Black Power movement in Trinidad, there were banners and calls for Indo-African unity, though some people tried to scare Indians with rumors that Blacks would attack East Indians, to counter it Black Power movement took a massive march in Caroni sugar plantation area and home of large number of Indians, who did not join the march, but showed warm hospitality to the marchers, thus frustrating the designs of those, who wanted to turn this most progressive movement as a Black-Indian conflict.


Need for Monuments

Strangely Trinidad & Tobago has no monument in memory of Black and Indian sufferings in the country, whereas neighboring Caribbean countries-Guyana and Suriname has number of monuments for both communities’ sufferings in their countries. In Suriname there is a monument in memory of 16 Indians and Indonesian indentured labor, who was martyred at sugar factory site, struggling for better wages and living conditions. At suicide hill site in Mauritius, now stands a grand monument in memory of those poor indentured laborers, which died due to the worst cruelties inflicted upon them by colonial authorities and sugar barons. In Fiji, workers struggled in February 1920, even after the abolition of indentured labor system and Fijian authorities in revengeful manner crushed workers strike and forced Dr Mani Lal out of the country.

Monument in memory of 16 Indian and Indonesian indentured martyrs and other wounded labourers at sugar factory Marienburg struggle on 30th July, 1902-Suriname

Slave Route Monument-the hillock behind from where Indian indentured labour committed suicides due to turtures.The heritage site inaugurated by Mauritius President on 1st February 2009.


Deliverance Day

Struggles in these countries and pressure by the national movement in India in favor of this struggling migrated Indian labor, British Government had to finally abolish ‘indentured labor’ system in 1917, through legislation to this effect, as they had to do in case of slavery in 1834/38. Indentures system was also given lease/transition till the end of 1919 and from 1st January 1920, indentured Indian labor system came to a complete stop. So 1 January 1920 was hailed as Deliverance day, as was end of slavery was hailed as Emancipation Day by Africans.

Irony is this that Indians in these countries never focused upon Deliverance Day, which is much more historic day of their life, particularly of present generation people of Indian descent in Mauritius, Guyana, Trinidad & Tobago, Suriname and Fiji, than so called Indian Arrival Day, which is the day to mark the beginning of untold sufferings, deceit, as most of Indians recruited for this scheme of indentured labor, were recruited by agents by telling all kinds of lies, like they are being taken to the countries of goldmines and they will become rich with gold, once they are there, or lies like Mauritius is a country of Ramayana character Marich, trapping innocent but poor, needy Indian rural folk into their trap of prolonged suffering for them.

In fact the day to celebrate in these countries is 1st January uniformly as ‘Deliverance Day’, but what they celebrate is not their deliverance, but their semi slavery status. And by pomp of word ‘Arrival’, they unwittingly give signs of the colonial mindset, as only colonialists had this pleasure of celebrating arrival in colonies, like that of Columbus, Vasco de Gama kind of Spanish colonialists, who became instruments of future colonial conquers in the world of Africa, Asia and smaller countries of Latin/South America, Caribbean! Indians by their arrivals in these countries had got only sufferings for themselves and prosperity for their masters, like ex black slaves suffered.

African-Indian relations

Another sad part of this whole anti-slavery and anti-indentured system movements and freedom from these, is that the integration between East (wrong term, given by colonialists) Indians and Blacks have not taken place at the level, it was desirable. Blacks and Indians both communities were brought to these far off countries by colonial masters. Technically they were free to go back to their root countries after their emancipation/deliverance, some Indians returned to their bitter experiences back home, where rather than being welcomed, they were treated with much contempt and misbehavior due to caste system and orthodox beliefs of crossing impure ‘kala

pani’(black waters of the sea) , so many had to get back to their indentured countries.

Blacks had a more tragic past; their connection to their roots was completely lost due to centuries’ gap in between. Blacks even lost the memory of the place from where they came! Under the circumstances both communities became the naturalized citizens of these countries along with small communities of natives like Amerindians and in the process they all became nationals of new nations after freedom from colonialism.

It would have been natural for these nationals to merge and mingle with each other through inter racial marriages, bringing into existence the new community of mixed race communities, which did not happen. Such was the cultural resistance to such efforts that first feature film-‘Wan Pipel’(One People) by Pim de la Parra, made in Suriname in 1976, brings this reality into focus. In the film Hindi speaking Indian descent girl Rubia dares to fall in love with black Surinamese Roy, she is out casted and harassed by her family, while Roy, who was in love with Dutch white girl in Holland, while studying, and was supposed to go back to Holland to complete his studies; as he came only to see her dying mother, decides to stay back with Rubia. Roy’s father is as opposed to this relation, as are Rubia’s family. After more than three decades of this film, conditions have not changed much. Even the East Indian descent actress, who played this role, was harassed in Suriname and had to shift to Holland!


La DivinaPastora

In Trinidad & Tobago, there is a black statue in Siparia town Catholic church, which is claimed as ‘DivinaPastora’ by Catholics and they believe the statue coming from neighboring Venezuela, but Hindus claim here it to be ‘Sipareeki Mai’, a folk image, which later day Hindu religious fundamentalists distorted it to as ‘Durga’ or ‘Kali’! Chinese Buddhists claim it to be Chinese girl statue, while some believe in the myth of Kampuchean priests bringing it from Kampuchea! The good part of it is that though the statue is part of a Church, Hindus visit the statue for worship or offerings on every Friday, with happy arrangements with Church, though some sectarian trends among Hindus in Trinidad try to whip up ‘Temple’ phenomenon here, like that in ‘Ayodhya-Babri Masjid’ dispute in India. But they cannot whip up hysteria like India; in Trinidad & Tobago, as many Christian and Muslims priests and commoners are of Indian descent and they generally live in harmony here in Trinidad.

La DivinaPastora or Sipareeki Mai in Catholic Church in Siparia-T&T, some relate it to 17th Century Madras temple tradition-Guardian archives

In fact the Siparia formula can be very useful for resolving Babri Masjid site dispute as well, where Hindus with faith in Lord Rama, can be allowed to visit the site once in a week, like in Siparia church site with mutual trust among both Hindu and Muslim faiths. Hindus and Christians of East Indian descent claim Jahazy revolt of 1884 in Trinidad, as part of Indian tradition and not just Muslim revolt, it is called ‘JallianwalaBagh’ of Trinidad here, though the numbers of killings in state attack were nowhere near JallianwalaBagh in Amritsar, where on 13th April, 1919, hundreds of people were shot dead by the notorious General Dyer’s forces, while attending a peaceful protest meeting.

Interesting part of indentured labour immigration to different countries is that in Mauritius, Guyana, Trinidad & Tobago, Suriname and Fiji; large number of people went from east Uttar Pradesh (UP) and Bihar, though some from Bengal and south India also went. In South Africa and East Africa, more people from Gujarat and Punjab and South India went. Later in the early twentieth century, Punjabis went as free labour to USA, Canada and UK. While only Mauritius has been able to preserve its Indian demographic and cultural structure, most of the other countries of the Indian Diaspora are now getting mixed and mingled with other Diasporas in terms of language use. Mauritius is still able to preserve Indian languages—Bhojpuri, Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Marathi and Urdu, where a full-fledged department of Indian languages functions in the Mahatma Gandhi Institute, as part of University of Mauritius to teach these languages, apart from Sanskrit. South Indian temples exist as much as other temples in Mauritius and Fiji.

Thiruvallavar bust in Moka-Mauritius

Sikh Gurdwara in Fiji-Lautoka-

Biggest Tamil Temple in Nadi-Fiji

Fiji and Suriname are able to preserve Hindi as a common language of all people of Indian descent, but other countries have mostly lost the existence of Indian languages in public life and these may be just surviving in some homes and some religious gatherings. Though large number of Indian indentured laborers returned to India after completion of their term, but more than that stayed back and now after three generations are more, they have become most prosperous in these countries.

Indian Arrival Day

The celebration of Indian Arrival day started in these countries, after Indian descent people became prosperous and started sharing political power as part of ruling classes. Mauritius, from the very beginning had Indian descent people in political power. After Shiv SagarRamgoolam, Dr. AneroodJugannath and Dr. Naveen ChanderRamgoolam(son of Shiv SagarRamgoolam) are sharing power, though being in different parties. In Trinidad & Tobago, after BasdeoPandey remained Prime Minister in 1997 period, now Kamla Prasad Bissesar of Indian descent is Prime Minister since 2010. In Guyana Dr. CheddiJagan , a Marxist of Indian descent had been most popular leader of the country, remaining Prime Minister and President for many years. Bharat Jagdeo of Indian descent, from CheddiJagan’s People’s Progressive Party (PPP) remained President of the country since last almost a dozen years and his successor is again of Indian descent, Donald Ramoutar of the same party,who won the elections held in November, 2011. In Fiji, MahendraChaudhary from Rohtak background family was the fourth Prime Minister of the country for short period. Suriname also had Indian descent Presidents of the country like Fred RamduttMisier during 1982-88 and Ramsewak Shankar during 1988-90. Jules Ajodhia had been Vice President during 1991 and 2000-2005, while PretaapRadhakishun remained Vice President during 1996-2000, RamdinSarjue remained Vice President during 2005-2010. Surinamese Vice President is equal to Prime Minister’s position and chairs the Cabinet meetings; the post was created after the abolition of Prime Minister’s post in 1987. PretaapRadhakaishun remained Prime Minister of Suriname, the only Indian descent person to hold the post, for a brief period during 1986-87. However it was in JaggernathLachmon, a former speaker of National Assembly or Parliament with 50 members, Suriname had a strong leader of Indian descent people, whose statue finds a pride place in Independent square of Paramaribo, capital of Suriname. New Zealand had its Governor General AnandSatyanand from Indo-Fijian background. There have been ministers in many countries from Indian descent people in South Africa, Malaysia, Singapore, Tanzania, Zambia etc.

Since Indian descent people after becoming prosperous and part of ruling classes, holding political power, it has created a sense of suspicion in other communities in these countries, particularly when this event of Indian arrival is not marked as somber event and celebrated with certain sobriety, with remembrance of the past sufferings gone through by Indian indentured labor in these place, a century or more ago. At most of the places the event is celebrated with pomp and show, like a happy festival, which is supported by Indian Government official as part of their official diplomatic duties in many ways. When Africans celebrate Emancipation day, they bring into focus the horrible days of slavery through films, exhibitions, lectures, songs and make it an event to remember their ancestors for their sacrifices for the prosperity of present generation; but Indian arrival day rarely focuses upon the sufferings gone through by their ancestors, except in some seminar papers; sadly present generation does not have much knowledge about these suffering of their ancestors, they are too much engrossed in the pleasures of consumerism brought by the prosperity.

It is only after Emancipation and freedom from colonial yoke, that some of the Africans have prospered, but not all. So are with Indian descent people in these countries, some or little more of them, than Africans have prospered in these countries, but only after Deliverance and not before. So Indian descent people in these countries need to learn from history and review their days of celebrations. It is 1st January as ‘Deliverance day, which should be celebrated in all these countries, like ‘Emancipation day’. Arrival day may be marked, like a day of penitence, by way of fasting, in memory of sufferings of those ancestors, who suffered during their Indentured labor bondage period!

…………………………………………………………………………………………………ChamanLal is Retired Professor & Former Chairperson at the Centre of Indian Languages, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), New Delhi.

With Dr. Cheddi Jagan junior at Gy. (5) With Ex Prime Minister Basdeo Pandey of Trinidad-Tobago in Port of Spain (1) with Trinidad minister Bharat and his Punjabi wife (1) With VC Prof. S Murladhar at The University of the Fiji-Lautoke-Fiji-2011 19th June-2011-Labour day procession-rally-Fyzabad-TT (1) 19th June-2011-Labour day procession-rally-Fyzabad-TT (54) aaparvasi ghat Mauritius Arya Sabha HQ Port Louise-09 (5) Baba-Mai statue-Paramaribo-Suriname Biggest Temple of Fiji-Tamil temple Nadi-19-7-11 (1) City Museum-Port of Spain-Trinidad (2) City of Port of Spain Museum-T&T-June-11 (20) Comrade Makhan Singh with Kenyan President Jomo Kenyatta, Vice President Odinga Odinga and minister Etching Oneko after Independence Vice President Divina La Pastora church and temple Siparia-T&T-31-12-11 (22) Donald Ramoutar-President Guyana PPP-11 (4) Dr. Manilal Maganlal statue Port Louise-2009 (2) Fiji Museum-July-11 (5) First Human Landing site Fiji-2011 (3) Dr. Manilal Maganlal statue Port Louise-2009 (2) Folk Museum MGI Mauritius Photos-Feb.-09 (9) compulsory neck wearing of indentured labourer Folk Museum MGI Mauritius Photos-Feb.-09 (33)Gandhi visit Gandhi monument Georgetown (1) Jegennath Lachoman stature in Paramirabo-Suriname J S Kanwal house Ba-Fiji-187-11 (5) Indonesian 1890 arrival monument Marienburg-Suriname-3-9-11 (8) Indentured Labourer memorial Kolkata-2011 inaugration (20) Kher Jagat Singh bust Mombasa-Mauritius-09 (1) Lala Rukh-first Indian ship immigration research centre Paramaribo-2011 (20) Lautoka-Fiji Gurdwara-2011 (3) Marienburg Sugar factory Indian workers 1903 struggle memorial-Suriname-3-9-2011JPG (19) Photos of indentured labourers at arrival Replica of first indian ship in Guyana (1) Shivsagar Ramgoolam house museum Mauritius-09-Port Louise (5) Slave rout monument heritage site Mauritius Feb.09 (2) Walter Rodney archives documents Gy. (4) SAM_1827

Some more photographs

Makhan Singh with minister Etching Oneko, President Jomo Kenyatta and Vice President OgingaOdinga of independent Kenya

Bhagat Singh picture displayed in AryaSamajschool Suva-Fiji

Bhagat Singh photograph in AryaSamaj HQ in Port Louis-Mauritius

Statue in independence square Paramaribo-Suriname of powerful Indian descent leader-JegannathLachoman

Author with BasdeoPandey, former Prime Minister of Trinidad & Tobago

PotulluRamulu statue in Andhra Sabha temple Mauritius

Mahatma Gandhi statue in Port of Spain-T&T

Remembering Pirthipal Randhawa-charismatic student leader from Punjab


Pirthipal Randhawa

It was perhaps early morning of 20th July 1979. I was a JNU student, but the night before I stayed at a IIT Hostel near JNU,in a friend K Sainath’s room to spend time with a common political friend from Punjab. (के साईनाथ  did his PhD from IIT and joined some company in Andhra Pradesh, his family is political family, but I lost touch with him since years, so many lost people have been found on face book, I wish I could find Sainath also!) As usual slept late in hot summer night, but I got up early to go back to my hostel in JNU to get ready for the day. Times of India had come and I made a cursory look-on front page itself, there was shocking news of Pirthipal Randhawa’s assassination at Ludhiana. I woke up Sainath and then our friend, who is now no more alive. All three were speechless, had a brief talk, as our friend was also to leave for Punjab early in wake of this shocking development. After reaching JNU, I had planned some protest, met activists of various progressive student groups-PSO-Progressive Student Organisation, a proto form of today’s AISA, SFI, RSC-Radical Student Centre, AISF etc. Started a signature campaign, on which got signatures from all eminent faculty members like Late Bipan Chandra, Romila Thapar, Late Krishna Bhardwaj, Prabhat and Utsa Patnaik, late GP Deshpande, Manager Pandey and many more. Almost all student activists of those days-Sita Ram Yechuri, DP Tripathy, both remained JNUSU Presidents, other activists etc. signed demanding strict action against murderers. More than five hundred signatures were collected, the memorandum was published in EPW in letters column, but without any name. The same or earlier issue of EPW carried now renowned Punjabi poet Amarjit Chandan report from Punjab. My piece was published by Frontier and Dinman(Hindi, edited by Raghuvir Sahay). I have lost signed copy of memorandum and also Dinman/Frontier issues, but EPW copies I could recover from its archives . We held many protest meetings in JNU and Delhi University, including demonstrations. PUDR also condemned the murder at that time. Pirthipal Randhawa had just come out of Punjab Students Union(PSU) as his studentship in PAU was over, though he was just 27 at that time. He was being drafted into Association for Democratic Rights as its founder General Secretary later, when this vilest act from Akali patronised goons took place. AFDR was formed later in the same year and Dr. Dharamvir Gandhi, now AAP MP was given the task, which Randhawa was supposed to perform. Dr. Gandhi performed that task as competently as was expected from Pirthipal and made AFDR a well known organisation throughout the country in its first few years of formation. Incidentally two members from Punjab in this Parliament learnt their politics under the leadership of Pirthipal Randhawa as part of PSU in those days. Prem Singh Chandumajra, now an Akali MP and an ex minister was also PSU activist in Randhawa’s leadership. He was the elected President of Punjabi University Students Union from PSU. Irony is that even he does not raise the demand for restoration of Punjabi University Patiala’s student union elections banned since 1983!

Pirthipal Randhawa became immensely popular among Punjab students in the wake of 1972 Moga students agitation against killing of some students at the hands of police who were demanding closure of Regal cinema there. No other student leader has acquired such popularity later or before him in Punjab. He was soft spoken but firm leader, he was taken in handcuffs to then Punjab chief minister Giani Zail Singh for negotiations, he refused to talk in such humiliating condition, his handcuffs were removed and talks were held in proper manner.

  I have been corrected here by Baljit Balli, who was President of PSU, with Randhawa as General Secretary, both worked together for 7-8 years before passing on baton to next generation of activists-Sukhdev Patwari, Malwinder Mali, Jaspal Jassi etc.Balli has corrected me further about Randhawa’s sketch made by Imroz. In fact he had come to JNU and stayed with me in 305 Periyar hostel in August 1979 to get the portrait and we both together had gone to Imroz and met Amrita Pritam first. Imroz gave us the portrait in one or two days, which Balli got printed from a press in old Delhi and he took many, may be hundreds copy in poster format to Punjab. If it is so, then many old activists now in late age like mine, may be having the IMroz made sketch, pl. click it on your camera or mobile and share it on social sites. Balli told it was his first and last mmet him eeting with Imroz, but I have met him later as well, in fact in recent years as well at Navyug farm annual Lohri meet at Delhi, he is now 80+, but as cheerful and gentle as earlier. 

I remember him fondly this day, I had few occasions to meet him at Ludhiana and Bathinda, while participated in huge protest march on 7th October 1972 at Ludhiana in those days in solidarity as writer/teacher activist. I was approached by PSU to get a portrait of Pirthipal from eminent artist Imroz, whose house at Hauz Khas was damn near. I approached him with Amrita Pritam also present, had little interaction with her earlier also with a photograph of Pirthipal, he happily agreed to make a portrait in a princely sum of 200/ rupees, neither very high nor low in 1979. He gave me that pencil sketch duly framed and I handed it over to PSU. It presented Pirthi in very soft form, while PSU people wished to have more tougher posture. Sukhdev Patwari, Malwinder Mali and Baljit Balli had taken over the leadership of PSU in post Randhawa time. Perhaps all three came at different occasions to address protest meetings organised by me in Delhi at JNU, DU and some other place. I was active at that time in PUDR in Delhi.

Irony with that portrait was that after three decades it was back to me from some Punjabi University Patiala PSU activists for repairing the damage water has done to portrait and the artists told it could not be repaired, so returned and the portrait was lost. I don’t know if some PSU activist has kept even the mobile or camera click also of that portrait as it was not a digital age yet!

Revolutionary Punjabi poet Pash, who knew Pirthipal closely wrote a tribute in a poem, which is printed on this photograph of Randhawa. Ironically I got the news of Pash’s assassination in somewhat similar circumstances later in March 1988. I was at Rohatk on 23rd March 1988 for a lecture on Bhagat Singh and stayed at my poet-teacher friends-Manmohan and Shubha. On the morning of 24th March I wished to leave the home without waking them up as train was early morning. On railway station, my purse was picked up and I had to return to them for getting some bucks for fare! While I entered their home, Times of India of the day was lying and had usual cursory look, which again had front page story of ‘Punjabi poet Avtar Singh Pash assassinated’. Same shock and speechlessness in three persons!

Punjab Students Union(PSU), Randhawa and Pash were all true admirers and followers of Bhagat Singh and his thought and tried to carry forward his radical ideas in contemporary Punjab. The murder of Randhawa in 1979, in some years led to PSU’s downfall and rise of Bhindrawale’s rightist Khalistani terrorist movement in Punjab and radical movement in PSU , as well as their mentor political ML groups split into many factions. An emerging leftist option was defeated by rightist rise. The conditions are now much worse. A rightist force led by a man, who is shaped in Bhindrawale style-abusive, aggressive, crude  and threatening, is holding state power, as in Germany Hitler held and the leftist-progressive-liberal forces are in disarray, AAP like liberal progressive looking groups are also riding rightist bandwagon in cover of populism and shedding off all progressive forces inside AAP, rather crudely and arrogantly! Pirthipal Randhawa like young leaders are the crying need of Indian society today, who could appeal masses by their gentle yet firm and principled personality!

letters_to_editor-EPW-18th August 1979-

Pirthpalpunjab_murder_of_a_student_leader-EPW-21st July-1979-Randhawa

Jagjit Singh Anand-A symbol of Progressive Journalism


Jagjit Singh AnandAnand-IE-4-7-15

Jagjit Singh Anand-symbol of progressive journalism in Punjab

                               Chaman Lal*

On 2nd June 2013, Jagjit Singh Anand completed 50 years as editor of Punjabi daily ‘Nawan Zamana’  published from Jalandhar, perhaps few have achieved this feet. Two years later, on 19th June 2015, Anand passed away as editor at the age of 93 years plus.

      Anand was born on 28th December 1921 in a well known family of that time in district Amritsar. His father Headmaster Mehtab Singh was well known Sikh scholar. His elder brother Pritam Singh Safeer was well known Punjabi poet and retired judge of Delhi High court, who predeceased him. Anand’s sister was married to first Professor of Punjabi at Panjab University Chandigarh-Dr. Surinder Singh Kohli.

  Anand went to Lahore for higher education, where his active political-social life began. He joined All India Student Federation (AISF), student front of Communist party of India. Seeing his interest in journalism, party involved him in its pre independence Urdu weekly journal ‘Jang-e-Azadi’. After partition, CPI brought its Urdu weekly ‘Naya Zamana’ from Jalandhar in 1952 and Anand was associated with its editing team. Gurbux Singh Preetlari and Tikaram Sukhan were its celebrated editors at that time. CPI converted Naya Zamana into Punjabi daily ‘Nawan Zamana’, as Urdu was losing its readership after partition. Arjan Singh Gadgaj and Surjan Zirvi remained its editors. Jagjit Singh Anand became its editor in June 1963 and continued till his last day. After Communist Party of India split in 1964, Harkishan Singh Surjit and Jagjit Singh Lyallpuri went with Communist Party of India (Marxist), whereas Avtar Singh Malhotra, Satya Pal Dang and Jagjit Singh Anand remained with CPI. ‘Nawan Zamana’ remained as CPI daily, though later its ownership was transferred to Arjan Singh Gadgaj Trust. CPI(M) tried with its weeklies and now is bringing out ‘Desh Sewak’ Punjabi daily from Chandigarh.

  Though ‘Nawan Zamana’ remained broadly a CPI daily, it was liberal in offering its platform to almost every stream of left and progressive thought. As many factions of CPI(ML) did not have any daily of their own, ‘Nawan Zamana’ kept on publishing their views occasionally. In last few years, though it has been losing readership, its Sunday magazine (Aitvarta), has become quite popular among Punjabis settled abroad in UK, USA, Canada and Australia, as well as among Punjabi literary circles in India.

    Jagjit Singh Anand became member of Rajya Sabha from 1974 to 1980, during CPI’s warm relationship with Congress party. Anand was one of CPI’s vocal and enlightened voices in Indian parliament and raised many pertinent issues of Punjab. During Khalistani movement in Punjab, Nawan Zamana was stringent critic of this movement and Anand faced death threats as well and was provided security. He did not deter from his stand and Nawan Zamana was the fearless voice of leftists and rationality in that decade.

  Apart from his journalism and political career, Jagjit Singh Anand was a prominent literary figure of Punjab. He enriched Punjabi language and literature through his original writings as well as translations. His Punjabi translation of Vanda Vasilueska’s classic Russian novel ‘Rainbow’ as ‘Satrangi Peengh’ has been most popular among Punjabi readers. He translated Rajni Pam Dutt’s classic book ‘India Today’ in Punjabi, Murasaki’s classic Japanese novel-‘Genji’s story’ for Sahitya Akademi. He translated Fuchik’s Czeck classic ‘Notes from Gallows’ and many more books. Punjab Govt conferred him with Shiromani Award in 1973 for his writings and journalism. His original writings in Punjabi include his literary autobiography published by Punjabi University Patiala, memoirs like ‘Sujh da Safar’, Chete di Changer chon’, ‘Communist lehar de ang sang’, Cheta chog chuge’ etc. Through his translations, he set the standards of making translation look like original so that Punjabi readers could enjoy it like their own language flavour. He never used obscure words and always made Punjabi language a treat for the mind.

   Anand’s wife Urmila Anand, daughter of Gurbux Singh Preetlari predeceased him, he was bed ridden for few years and has loss of memory. He was admitted to hospital few days before his passing away. He leaves behind-Sukirat and Suangna- his son and daughter. His death was mourned in Pakistan literary and civil society circles also. He will be remembered for his contribution to Punjabi language literature and culture, to make it more rational and humanist.

  # Memorial meeting for Jagjit Singh Anand at Desh Bhagat Yadgar Hall, Jalandhar on 5th July, Sunday at 11 am.

+ Chaman Lal is retired Professor from JNU, New Delhi, also remained sub editor of ‘Jansatta’, sister Hindi daily of ‘Indian Express’., 09646494538

  1. 1098/2, Sector 39-B, Chandigarh

Torturous Journey in Indian Railways-Achhe Din!


Mirzapur st (1) Mirzapur st (2) Mirzapur station-May-15 (1)


Professor (Retd.), JNU, New Delhi

Ex-Coordinator-Centre for Comparative Literature

Centre for Punjabi, Language, Literature and Culture

Ex-Professor-In Charge CUP Library



Former Professor & Chairperson, Centre of Indian Languages, JNU, New Delhi

Former Visiting Professor on Hindi Chair, The University of the West Indies, St. Augustine campus, Trinidad

Former Reader & Head, Dept. of Hindi, Punjabi University, Patiala (Punjab)

Former Reader in Hindi Translation, GNDU, Amritsar

Editor, Bhagat Singh’s Documents in book collections

50+ books in Hindi, Punjab and English, translation of books in Urdu, Marathi

Books on Bhagat Singh and Indian revolutionary freedom struggle

On Indian Dalit Literature

On Punjabi revolutionary poet Paash

Many Translations

Books on Literary Criticism in Hindi, Punjabi and English


1. NationalSahityaAkademi award for Translation of Pash

2. Shiromani Hindi Sahitkar(Punjab Govt.)

3.National Award onSurjitPatar’sHindi Translation by Central Hindi Directorate

Prof.Chaman Lal (Retd.)                                                      Date 2nd July, 2015

Professor (Retd.), JNU, New Delhi

Former Coordinator-Centre for Comparative Literature

Centre for Punjabi, Language, Literature and Culture

Former Professor-In Charge CUP Library

Railway Minister Sh. Suresh Prabhu

Subject: Torturous journey in Indian Railways: For your attention

Dear Sir,

    I have been reading in newspapers and watching in electronic media that Indian Railways have improved a lot and you are a competent minister making journey in Indian Railways a comfortable one. But the ground reality is something different, which you can see from my experience, which is not experience of a common passenger, whose experiences are much worse than mine. I take myself to be somewhat privileged passenger, who could afford to spend more money on my travel than much bigger number of passengers could afford to.

I was invited by a forum in Kanpur to speak on a book release function on 10th May 2015 at Kanpur. Since I wished to visit Mirzapur also to see Shaheed Smark there, I requested organisers to book my return ticket via Mirzapur. They sent me three tickets (Copy attached)-1.Ambala Cantt to Kanpur on Unchahar Express on 9th May. 2. Kanpur to Mirzapur on 11th May and from 3.Mirzapur to New Delhi on 12th May.

My troubles started from Ambala Cant. itself. Unchahar express reached two hours late at Ambala Cant. and became four hours late by the time it reached Kanpur next morning on 10th May at 9 am, while scheduled time was 5 am.

Next day my train to Mirzapur from Kanpur was Jat Murri express at 12.50 pm, scheduled to arrive at Mirzapur by 17.33 pm. This train was delayed for many hours and I had to leave it and travelled by ordinary bus from Kanpur to Allahabad in scorching heat for seven long hours. No refund was given to my organisers for booking this ticket.

My third train’s journey was the worst. Mahananda Express was to depart from Mirzapur at 7.10 am on 12th May. I met Lala Lajpat Rai memorial library and Shaheed Udyan office bearers on 11th late night and they arranged hotel stay for me in Mirzapur,but when I reached Mirzapur station on 12th morning, to my shock the train was cancelled. Worse still, there was no alternative arrangement for reserved seat book passengers in any other train, though these were many. I had to stay for another day at Mirzapur and could get only Magadh Express ticket for 13th May night that too in first class AC. This train was to depart at 23.10 pm, but it was delayed for four hours and I had to spend hot night on platform without any higher class waiting room, despite having first class ac ticket for it. Worse still it became more than six hours late by the time it reached New Delhi. Not only that my organisers got any refund for the cancelled train, I had to pay from my own pocket additional first AC charges for no fault of mine.

If this is the ‘Achhe Din’ of Indian Railways under your charge then I wonder what the meaning of ‘Bure Din’ is!

I don’t hope to get any attention to this letter, yet mailing/posting on social network for public awareness.


Chaman Lal




Former Professor & Chairperson, Centre of Indian Languages, JNU, New Delhi

Former Visiting Professor on Hindi Chair, The University of the West Indies, St. Augustine campus, Trinidad

Former Reader & Head, Dept. of Hindi, Punjabi University, Patiala (Punjab)

Former Reader in Hindi Translation, GNDU, Amritsar

Editor, Bhagat Singh’s Documents in book collections

50+ books in Hindi, Punjab and English, translation of books in Urdu, Marathi

Books on Bhagat Singh and Indian revolutionary freedom struggle

On Indian Dalit Literature

On Punjabi revolutionary poet Paash

Many Translations

Books on Literary Criticism in Hindi, Punjabi and English


1. NationalSahityaAkademi award for Translation of Pash

2. Shiromani Hindi Sahitkar(Punjab Govt.)

3.National Award onSurjitPatar’sHindi Translation by Central Hindi Directorate


Remembering Emergency after four decades


Central Jail Bathinda (3)

It was about 5 am on 26th June 1975,when I was woke up by a police party at a friend’s house roof top at Bathinda. We kept chatting till 2 am or so in a hot June night,while watching stars in the sky. We had our rooftop floor bedding,I had come to Bathinda straight from my school,where I was teaching those days after summer vacations began,rather late that year around 22 or 23rd June. My friend,son of a police officer himself was radical political activist. Police party came to arrest him,but took me also along! We both had no idea,however when we were being taken to police station,newspaper hawkers were shouting…emergency lag gay is…Aaj Ka Akhbaar…so we understood! On the way a middle aged thin weak man being taken to police st.was shouting Indira Gandhi murdabad…emergency murdabad…Later on we found at police station,he was CPM activist Milkhi Ram. At police st.,we found well known radical left activist Ved Gupta was already there. After few hours we four were taken to a magistrate court,where we were remanded to judicial custody for few weeks and sent to Bathinda jail. Much later we found out we were charged  /151-threat to peace with a cooked up story. This was a bailable ordinary offence,but when bail was applied,first rejected then one lakh rupee guarantee asked,reduced by session judge to 20 thousand. Our case was being pleaded by Shaheed Kartar Singh Sarabha family kin Nardev Singh(now no more),well known advocate of Bathinda those days. Meanwhile after 5th July lot many more people were brought to jail,many of my school teacher activist colleagues,other activists from mass organisations,some Akalis,few Jansanghis,little CPM,more radicals or Naxalites,as they were and are called.One old aged Akali activist Lakha Singh, a simple innocent peasant became our good friend. He would ask questions like whether in Socialism, there is no marriage institution and all children are  common  parentage?! Atmosphere in jail became interesting. 64 persons each in two opposite barracks meant only for 32 with cemented beds and jail blankets. Four common latrines. Slowly players took to Volleyball,I got regular books,mostly novels from Public library Rampura Phul. Notable big shots in B class ex ministers Balwant Singh& Balramji Tandon(now Chhatisgarh Governor). After two months,we got bail,my friend went underground(passed away few years ago), I did not go home and went only after two days. In the meantime,the relative,who gave bail bonds,was picked by police. So my family took me to his shop in Bathinda for surrendering before police. The relative in fear of my escape in night,locked me from outside! When next day went to police station,police had arrested my namesake,while not getting me! He was a Jansanghis, another Jansanghis leader Nand Singh goldsmith was also brought. This time they put four of us in DIR case,a draconian law,non bailable. I asked to free my namesake, as now I as under their custody, but he was not let free, as I was not be arrested, but when got trapped, no escape! This time I was given a RSS or Jansanghis tag,as others were,so back to jail after two days,completed seven months,before finally coming out on 27th January 1976! In between got transferred to Patiala jail for ear surgery,where Tohra,Prem Singh Chandumajra( then PSU radical activist, later Akali minister and now MP), Chandershekhar- ex Prime minister were detained. Could spend few days in Rajendera hospital for surgery but with handcuffs on and police guarding,still some friends could meet.
Gurbachan Jagat,,later Lt. Governor of North East state was Bathinda SSP,with image of liberal,perhaps close to CPM leader Harkishan Surjit. When District Govt.Teachers Union then President Jagmohan Kaushal met him about my release,as I was teachers Union activist,but not member of any political party,he expressed helplessness in releasing me! Emergency detention delayed my admission to JNU for two years. In 1975,I was telegraphic ally called for admission interview for first batch  admission in PhD in Hindi,bail was not granted. In 1976,got selected for admission,but mine& Vijay Shankar Chaudhary,both denied admission due to police report!In 1975,eminent journalist Mohan Ram was denied due to same reason. in 1976 MPhil entrance test Udai Prakash, first 1975 batch PhD student and now celebrated Hindi writer of Mohan Das fame met me and became good friend. Later in 1977 attended his marriage and shifted to room no 305 in Periyar hostel occupied by him. We three were emergency victims in matter of admission in JNU. All three were offered admission in March 1977,after Indira defeat. Vijay Chaudhary availed, Mohan Ram decided not to join and I took admission in new batch afresh in July 1977!