Some Books on Punjab


1.When A Tree Shook Delhi: 1984 Carnage and its aftermath, Manoj Mitta & H S Phoolka, 2007 first ed., Rolli Books Delhi, Pages 220, Price 275/ Rupees




I have read this book after ten years of its publication, though it was in my list of reading and I was closely involved with the events mentioned in the book. Of the two authors of the book Manoj Mitta was Times of India reporter in 1984 and H S Phoolka was budding lawyer. Book is divided into two parts-Part one is Uncovering the truth authored by Manoj and part two is-The struggle for justice: An inside account is authored by H S Phoolka, apart from Preface, Epilogue and Annexure. In Preface we are told that despite occurrence of the event in 1984, official papers of more than 1000 files came to light only between 2001 and 2004 during second commission of enquiry-Nanavati commission conducted enquiry and whose reposrt was submitted in 2005. In Annexure extracts from some of VIP testimonies have been reproduced such as of I K Gujaral, Khushwant Singh, Ram Jethmalani, Patwant Singh, Shanti Bhushan, Madhu Dandavate and Justice R S Narula etc. Some black and white photographs of that period have also been reproduced in between two sections of the book.

First part of the book starts with the title-Dateline New Delhi-

The statement given by then Prime Minister and son of slain Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi is quoted from his 19th November-Indira Gandhi-birth anniversary rally at Boat club, where he refers to-‘When a mighty tree falls, earth shakes a little’, in a way justifying Delhi Sikh massacres early that month from 1st November to 3rd November in Delhi and some more cities in India. The same has been taken as a title of the book by two authors with slight change of language! The chapter lists important tragic events till August 2005, when then Congress Prime Minister Manmohan Singh renders unconditional apology in Rajya Sabha for these riots.

In the second chapter the morning of 31st October situation is described graphically by Mitta, when President Giani Zail Singh landed up in Delhi and came straight to AIIMS, where Indira Gandhi’s body lay after being shot dead by his Sikh bodyguards. His car was attacked and damaged by unruly crowd gathered there. Author contrasts Delhi mob violence with Calcutta mob violence where it started at 11 am itself, but army was called by 2.30 pm and it was quelled in no time, whereas in Delhi it was allowed to fester In Delhi it was called much later that too without direct authority to them, the army functioned under Delhi police control. The curfew in Delhi though imposed in 1st November was not forced for 48 hours effectively and only after nearly 3000 killings, law and order was brought back. Rioting started on 31st October afternoon itself. I was working with Jansatta daily then published from Express house at Bahadaurshah Zafar marg and I had direct experience of facing the drunkard mob at 3 am on 1st November night after completing my night shift from 8 pm to 2 am. As in express Maruti van we were 6-7 journalists including Raminder Singh, senior Indian Express reporter we were being dropped at residences in different areas, we saved Raminder Singh with some tact by covering him under seats with all of us over him. Later I did not go to office till 4th November from JNU campus, but participated in peace march etc and seeing JNU students sheltering few hundred Sikhs in JNU hostels.

I myself went to Tirlokpuri and Kalyanpuri to cover the killings which were not covered by media till then and which have been refered to by Manoj in great detail and which a biggest massacre in one place was during those days. But what he has not underlined is that those Sikhs were backward and low cast poor working class Sikhs, which I mentioned in my two reports in Jansatta then. Manoj Mitta has listed data of killed people from government sources, which under counted the killings and also indicated the names of those officers and politicians who had encouraged and shielded killer mobs. How two commission, many action suggesting committees were formed, how non govt. bodies like Citizens committee or PUCL-PUDR joint report Who are the guilty came up, have been described in great detail.

H S Pholka in second part has described his own sufferings during those days as well as his fight for justice for sufferers of Delhi riots, which he is still fighting even after he had become Punjab MLA from AAP party. He resigned his positions earlier as well as now to fight for the cause of Delhi victim families of massacred Sikhs.

Although there is not much new in this book, yet it is written from secular angle and reminds society about the level of communal poison spread in Indian society, which has even worsened in last three years since RSS inspired Modi government has taken over power of central government. Such books serve as conscience keeper for society, which are needed more in such times.

Books on Punjab



  1. Prachin Punjab te usda aala duala(Ancient Punjab and its surroundings)-Punjabi, Jai Chander Vidyalankar, Publication Bureau, Punjabi University Patiala, Translated by Gurbachan Singh Sethi, 1970/1989, pages 36, price 10/Rupees(Paperback)

  Jai Chander Vidyalankar was a well-known historian and supporter of revolutionary movements for Indian freedom. He was teacher of Bhagat Singh and his comrades in National College Lahore and given him references, when Bhagat Singh had left for Kanpur in 1923. After 1947, Vidyalankar lived for long and authored many books. This small book translated in Punjabi seems to be taken from his larger books, may be from his Hindi book-Bhartiya Itihas ki Rooprekaha, published by Hindustani Academy Allahabad, a reprint of his 1933 book. Booklet includes four maps of India of ancient times. Book is divided into four chapters, first being-Bhumi di banavat-Shape of the land. Author says there are two belts of North India-Gangetic belt and Sindh belt-both rivers. Punjab is part of Sindh river belt. He describes it geographically-from Kurukshetra to Prayag or Bihar border is middle area, called Madhesh also, as in Nepal now. Rajstha, Gujarat and Sindh were its western areas, it was Uttrapath. Till Mogul age Afghanistan was part of India. Ghaghar and Saraswati river area is Punjabi speaking area. Potohar and Hazara were its part. As per author Tibetan and Burmese are part of one branch. North west is Kalat-Baluchistan.

 In second chapter-Bhumi da Vikas, Manukh da pargat hone-Development of land and appearance of man-author describes earth to be like one of planet like sun. It split about twenty billion years ago from it and went through ages of Early Palaeolithic, Neolithic, ages about fifty thousand years ago to become man in modern sense from about 10 thousand years ago. Author thinks Aryans were first inhabitants of North India, but no ancient signs are found of civilisation.

  In third chapter author discusses early civilizations-Sindh civilization, Aryans appearing in North West India. While in Sindh civilization, there were no horses, whereas Aryans were expert horse riders. He discusses Punjab in Vedic age.

  In fourth and last chapter author discusses early republics and imperialism. He refers to grammarian Panini, who was from Gandhar area, whose capital Texla was biggest education centre in those days. He refers to Alexander attacks and later Maurya kingdom, Chankya and Chandergutp Maurya. He concludes the book or chapter with this comment that end of Maurya destiny was the end of first half of ancient period. He refers to emerging Buddhism.

    Some of the formulations about ancient India have been challenged by late historians, yet it is good introductory booklet on ancient Punjab geography.


  1. Tarikh-e-Punjab, Kanhaiya Lal, Translated by Jit Singh Sital, Publication Bureau, Punjabi University Patiala, 1968/1987, Pages 470, price 52/Rupees

Punjabi University in its early period, got lots of classical books from other languages translated in Punjabi, as is this book from Urdu been translated by himself an eminent Punjabi writer Jit Singh Sital. The book was originally written in Persian in 1875, which was translated in Urdu by author himself. Kanhaiya Lal lived in Lahore and worked with Lieutenant Governor of Punjab, but kept his writing continued in his off time.

  This history of Punjab is divided into seven parts with one appendix. First part of the book is-About writing the book-, in which he starts with description of ten Sikh Gurus and Banda Bahadur. Second chapter is focussed on twelve Sikh misals-feudatries, which include-Bhangis, Ramgarhias, Kanhaiya Sardars, Nakai Sikhs, Ahluwalias, Dallewalias, Nishanchi Sikhs, Faizlapariye Sikhs, Krodi Sikhs, Shahid Bungians, Phulkians and Shukarchakias. The last missal produced first Sikh king of Punjab-Maharja Ranjit Singh, while Phulkian missal had feudatories of Phul, Jind, Nabha and Patiala. Ahluwalias had Kapurthala state. Third chapter focusses upon Maharja Ranjit Singh rule in Punjab. Fourth is of continuation of Ranjit Singh family rule by Kunwar Kharak Singh, Naunihal Singh and Sher Singh. Fifth chapter is on betrayal by Ranjit Singh darbaris and abdication of kingdom by Duleep Singh to British colonialism. Sixth chapter is based on 1857 first war f independence situation in Punjab and seventh last chapter is on state of Jammu and Kashmir from Gulab Singh rule. In appendix, writer wrote on completing the book with one of his poem and another Persian poem.

 For students of Punjab history it is valuable source book. Interesting part of the book is about 1857 rebellion. General impression is that Punjab king supported British and there was no disturbance in Punjab. But Kanhaiya Lal has referred to disturbances in Ludhiana, Ferozepur, Jalandhar, Hoshiarpur, Kangra , Lahore, Amritsar, Sialkot, Gurdaspur, Gujranwala, Jehlam, Rawalpindi, Gujrat, Jhang, Multan, Peshawar, Hazara, Kohat and almost in eveyr part of Punjab, except present Malwa region.


  1. Gulshan-e-Punjab, Pandit Debi Prasad, Translated by Harmandar Singh Kohli, editor Fauja Singh, Punjabi University Patiala, 1979, pages 244, price 15/ Rupees



 Pandit Debi Prasad was a Deputy collector in North-west province. Book was written in two parts, first when author was a student in Barailee college in 1850. Second edition with addition os second part was published in 1872 from then most important Urdu publishe-Munshi Naval Kishore Press Lucknow. Author knew Persian, Urdu and English. His background is not known, but it seems he was from a Brahmin family of UP. Introduction to the book is by Dr. Fauja Singh. In the end book contain sketches of Sikh rulers of Punjab in many pages, including rulers of Jammu and Kashmir later. Book is history of Sikh rule in Punjab. It begins with Banda Bahadur, then moves on to Ranjit Singh, Kharak Singh, Kanwar Naunihal Singh, Gulab Singh, assasinations of rulers, including of Rani Chand Kaur, Sher Singh, Dhian Singh, Naunihal Singh. Moves on to Duleep Singh, Gulab Singh conspiracies and betrayals, Anglo-Sikh wars of 1845-49. Second part of he book focusses upon British rule in Punjab till 1872, the writing of the book time. Appendix to second part is interesting, it gives details about Sikh religion, Kuka movement, census of Punjab, income-expenditure during 1850-51 etc. Details of neighbouring states are also given.

  It is data and document rich book, it also gives details of 1857 rebellion impact in Punjab. The book is critical of Ranjit Singh rule and says there was no law and order in his rule, all his life was spent in fighting wars.

  It is an interesting book and source material for historians.


  1. Punjab di Sair(Sair-e-Punjab), Rai Kali Rai Sahib and Munshi Tulsi Ram, Translated from Urdu-Giani Lal Singh, ed-Fauja Singh, Punjabi University Patiala, 1988, pages348, price 50/ Rupees

In introduction Fauja Singh underscores that first census of Punjab was taken in 1854, whose details are included in this book. He argues that despite its historic aspect being week, book is useful for historians for source material.

  Book is divided into two parts and four chapters each in both parts. The book describes the conditions of post British occupation of Punjab. Gives details of rivers, Sikh gurus, Ranjit Singh rule it, gives the family tree of Ranjit Singh with her three queens-Mehtab Kaur-Tara Singh/Sher Singh, Jind Kaur-dDuleep Singh and Nakain-Khark Singh-Naunihal Singh. Punjab festival, Hindu marriage rituals are also described. Hindi-Persian-Punjabi vocabulary is given in second part of book.

   This is a very documentation rich book-both authors were brothers, there are some moree authors of districts, whose names are acknowledged. Book was first published from Patiala in 1872 from Munshi Naval Kishore Press Patiala(It was in Patiala too!) The book needs a thorough study, I have not even scanned it properly.


  1. Punjabi Shatabdi(Punjabi Century)-1857-1947, Prakash Tandon, Punjabi University Patiala, Translation G S Khosla, 1978/95, pages236, price 65/ Rupees

 Punjabi Century by Prakash Tandon was one of popular books when it was first published in English in 1961, later its two more parts were published as Beyond Punjab and Return to Punjab. All three volumes were put into one volume by Rupa publishers’ as The Punjabi Saga-1857-2000. Punjabi University Patiala gor Punjabi Century translated from G S Khosla, himself a known Punjabi writer and published in 1978 and brought many editions later. Maurice Zinkin wrote its foreword. Book is autobiographical in nature and the author became one of first Indians to succeed in corporate world. He lived long for 93 years, born in 1911 and died in 2004.

   Book is divided into 17 chapters with brief conclusion. Tandon starts with saying that they are Khatris of Punjab rural side. Born in Gujrat of now west Punjab, family records of Tandon family are preserved in Haridwar, Pehowa and Muttan-Kashmir by family Pandas. In Tandon school education times, History of India was taught as –Hindu, Muslim and British history, British being the ‘best’! That is how James Mill, British colonial historian distorted Indian history on religious grounds. Prakash grandfather Mayya Das born in 1840 was first to join British service. Prakash father Lala Ramdas was born in 1876 in Jehlam, who joined civil engineering course in Roorkee after matriculation. In 1898, he joined irrigation dept. as engineer and served at various places in large state of pre-partition Punjab. Tandons lived in Guru Nanak birthplace Nankana Sahib also. Author has given detailed description of composite culture of pre-partition Punjab-its festivals, rituals etc. Urdu was medium of instruction in schools and author tells that Hindi in Devanagari script was used by Brahmins and women only. Author gives sociological description of Khatri and Aroras, and Brahmins, who were more important. Author considers Gujrat and Kala Sarai to be his ancestral places. Like Pran Nevile in Lahore, Prakash Tandon also narrates stories of love affairs in Mohallas. He describes marriage fixation of his uncle by his mother and related rituals. His aunt Savitri died soon after marriage. And within one year her parents also died, as they got so shocked by her early death. Writer gives description of newly built Sargodha city, where his father was transferred. Author observes that Punjabi fascination for fair colour might have started from Aryan times. Muslim state of Bahawalpur is also described in detail. His description of Lahore is more passionate, he says it is believed that Lahore was set up by Ram’s son Lov, there were two Lahores-one of outside new colonies and the other of walled city. Hira Mandi has got attention in every writer on Lahore, the red light area.

  Writer travelled to London from Sargodha at the age of 18 years in 1929, after graduation, to become Chartered accountant, a new profession. He travelled by ship and spent next eight years in London, travelling to Europe also, marrying a Swiss girl Byard, he spent vacations in her home in Swedan-from Stockholm to Gottland. On his return to India on ship, Tandon was worried about job, which was difficult to get for an Indian on higher post. In the meantime Tandons made house in Model town Lahore after retirement.


   In India Prakash got job and in 1947, he got wire from his uncle Dwarka to rescue them. Writer describes 1947 conditions of partition and twenty lakh people moving in kafilas. His uncle did reach India and started life anew in Karnal, but he died of his own bitch bite. Though all three Tandon brothers had taken plots in Lahore but partition changed it all. All three were working outside Punjab-In Bombay, Bihar and Delhi, later two brothers made houses in Bombay. With the death of Prakash father in 1955, this saga comes to an end.

  This is good narrative autobiography –cum-social history, it might have been popular due to migrated Punjabis could see their stories in this and their nostalgic memories of the left Punjab.


  1. Punjab di Veer Parampara(Punjabi-Bravery tradition of Punjab), (Ancient to Modern Period), Lal Singh Giani-Gujranwalia, Punjabi University Patiala, 1976/1988, 3rd,pages268, Price 20/Rupees


      In the name of Punjab bravery tradition, Lal Singh Giani has focussed more on Sikh community bravery in history of Punjab from ancient to 1971 war period. 1976 first edition preface is by then VC Inderjit Kaur Sandhu. Punjabi University published six books on bravery tradition of Punjab in history. Bidh Prakash wrote on ancient Punjab, Shamsher Singh Ashok wrote on 17th century Punjab, on 18th century Satbir Singh wrote, 19th century covered by Fauja Singh and Satya Rai wrote on 20th century. Sixthe book post-independence tradition was written by G S Deol. Seventh is this book, which tries to cover the whole period in abridged form. May be except for Satya Roy book, all other books perhaps focus on Sikh bravery more rather than Punjab in general, which has nearly 3/4th population of Muslims in united Punjab. Covering vast period of ancient to sixteenth century in just one volume and then focusing one book each on each century, shows the bias of historians related to this project.

         Apart from introduction to present volume, book is divided into six chapters. First chapter of 45 pages covers the period from ancient to 1500 AD, the chapter is based on just two texts-Vedas and Mahabharta, in a way Hindu interpretation of history. Mahabharta’s interpretation is interesting as it shows that most of Punjabi kings of that time sided with Kaurvas and not Pandavs, except one of Poonch-Rajauri. Writer has also blamed both sides-Kaurvas and Pandvas of unfair practices in war. Punjab was called Uttrapath geographically in ancient times. Punjab has been ruled by various rulers, even Greeks and Iranian, s, the impact of Persian language has come from Iranian rulers. Vedic period was marked by tribal lords. Some names of Punjab kings during Mahabharta period are- Jaidrath of Sindh-Sovir, Susharma of Kangra, Shakuni of Gandhar, Sadikshan of Kamboj, Sall of Madra etc. Iranians ruled after sixth century, then Alexander the Greek made many attacks and his war with Porus is famous in history. Porus ruled for long time. Chandergupt Maurya established Maurya empire, Punjab was also under it. Ashoka the great was Maurya emperor. Kushans, Huns also ruled for many ears, before Chandergupt  set up Gupt empire. Harshwardhan was considered best king of Punjab in Pushapbhuti clan. Before Moghuls won over Jaipal and Anangpal were major kings, who had capital in Bathinda also.

             Second chapter focusing on 16th&17th century is called-Renaissance period, which is focused upon ten Sikh Gurus alone.

  Third chapter from birth of Khalsa panth-1699 to 1799 ad is called Neo-Bravery period. Fourth chapter-Expansion of self-rule is focused on Maharaja Ranjit Singh rule in Punjab, before British annexed it. Next hundred years 1849-1947 is description of freedom struggle in fifth chapter and sixth and last chapter focuses upon post-independence wars of 1948, 1965 and 1971 with Pakistan and 1962 with China.

  In freedom struggle chapter-Bhai Maharaj Singh, 1857 first war of independence, Kuka movement-1862-1872, Peasant movement-1907, Dhingra martyrdom-1909, Ghadar movement-1913-16, Jallianwalabagh-1919, Gurdwara movements of Nankana Sahiib-20th February 1920, Guru ka Bagh morcha Ajnala-1923, Jaitu Morcha-1923-25, Violen and terrorist movements-1921-31, which include-Babbar Akalis-1921-25, Naujwan Bharat Sabha-Bhagat Singh-1926-31, INA-1941-45, Partition of Punjab and rehabilitation are listed. Very little mention is made of any Muslim participation and partition related riots are directly blamed on Muslims.

     This is an example of biased history writing.



Sakeena(novel) by Fauzia Rafique


Sakeena-Fauzia Rafique (10)

Sakeena-Fauzia Rafique (6)

  • Sakeena(novel), Fauzia Rafique, 2010, Libros Liberated Publishing Surrey BC, Canada, Pages 206

Sakeena(Novel), Fauzia Rafique, Libros Liberatad, Surrey-Canada, 2011, Pages 206
Fauzia Rafique is Lahore born Canadian South Asian writer. She writes in Punjabi and English. She is a poet and novelist. Sakeena completed in 2004, was first published from Lahore in Punjabi in 2007. Born in 1954, she came over to Canada in 1986. Sakeena has been published in English from Canada in 2011.
Fauzia’s first publication was Aurat Durbar: Writings of Women of South Asian origin, was published from Toronto in 1995. Her second publication was novel Sakeena, first published from Lahore in Punjabi in 2007 and in 2011 the present edition. In 2011 itself,  she published her poetry collection Passion Fruit in both Punjabi and English and in 2013, she published another poetry collection Holier than Life in ebook format. Her latest publication is another novel-The adventures of SahebaN: Biography of a relentless warrior.
Sakeena is dedicated to her mother Zohra Begum by the author and looks to be autobiographical. Author has quoted Sufi poet Madho Lal Hussain’s one Kafi before starting with narration. She has given different meanings of word Sakeena in different languages, but close meaning is tranquillity, as related word Sukoon is-to feel at peace. Novel is divided into four parts-which are actually four stages of heroine Sakeena’s life. First is The Inner Yard-Village 1971, second is Wild Elephant-Lahore 1981, third is struggling with the chain-Toronto 1991 and the fourth and last part is teasing the awake-Surrey 2001.
Sakeena is born in a feudal landlord family in a village fifty miles from Lahore towards Indian border. Sixty households are working for her brother called Bha by her, such is richness of her family. Sakeena has lost her father and brother is head of family, while her mother MaaN Jee has influential position inside household. There is reference to new name of East Pakistan-Bangladesh, as novel is beginning its storyline from 1971. Bha wants his younger sister to study English, but when she addresses his servant as ‘please’, he is angry and tells her not ever address ‘please’ to any of his servant. Bha has ordered Gamu to cut the feathers of her parrot-Toti. Out of so many men and women working for Bha, Sakeena is allowed to talk to Masi Umran daughter Noor Jamalo only. MaanJee observes Gamu’s wife Jeeno beaten blue and white by Gamu and she calls her son to punish Gamu for this brutality. Gamu’s mother also works there. Maulvi says that men can beat women if they are unfaithful. Gamu is asked by Bha, if his wife was unfaithful, he denies. He admits beating her but for ‘being stubborn’. He is given strong beating by Bha’s men and then MaanJee calls him and jeeno together, she tries to softly make him understand not to beat her as ‘he is a good man-Ghulam Hussain. Gamu’s mother is hurt at his beating, but Maan Jee reminds her of her own beating by Gamu’s father, which she says was allowed by Maulvi. Sakeena observes in Gamu house, he is calling his wife Jeeno as whore, to which his mother reacts by taking side of Jeeno. There is detailed description of rural life under feudalism in Lahore area of Pakistan in seventies. There is doll marriage of Nooro’s doll and Sakeena’s.

In next section of novel-Wild Elephant, Lahore of 1981 is focussed. Author gives background history of Lahore, which is four thousand years old to celebrate Ram’s son Loh (Lav). Lahore was ruled by Sikh, Muslim and Hindu Punjabis at different times. Out of fourteen shrines in Lahore, Madho Lal Hussain and Shah Jamal’s shrines are more popular. Bha has got a house in Lahore for Sakeena’s higher education. She wants to do law and goes with rebel girls of her close clan, where she is being sought to be married also. She cries with her mother to stop this marriage, but Maan Jee does not help, though she too cries. Ruffo, sister/relative of proposed groom Khalid, who owns factories had come for bride seeing, but Ruffo, a leftist rebel becomes friendly with Sakeena and they go to leftist rebel’s underground den and are arrested. Sakeena is withdrawn from college and sent back to village. Her proposed marriage does not materialise There are narration of Hindu Bengali girl Nirmala bought as bride by village fellow. There is rape of poor girls, Nooro is married and dies in tragic circumstances. Maulvi charges Jeeno with false charge of having sex with poor Hindu lad of Dai. Sakeena gives a letter to Jeeno for Ruffo friends NGO to help her, where she gets refuge. In 1982, Sakeena is under house arrest of her brother and mother. She meets only Aman Jeevan and Khursheedi. Sakeena marriage is now fixed with some Doctor Ihtesham from Canada. He is elder to her, she is given 75/thousand rupees to buy jewellery and clothes for marriage. She is asked to do FA as private candidate.

In next section-Struggling with the Chain, based in Toronto-Canada in 1991, Sakeena reaches there in 1982 and was received by Ihtesham brother Ishaq and his wife Brenda and she was expected to sleep with her husband that night. Mummie jee holds the house in her control, mother of her husband Ihtesham. Mummie jee is bad mouthing Brenda in morning. She is supposed to take care of Ihtesham Mummie Jee. She gets message that her mother Maan Jee had gone for Hajj to Saudi Arabia. She gets her mother letter from Arabia, she remembers how village Hindu Dai did not go to Indian Punjab after partition that what worse she will get, but when Maulvi convicted her son for adultery, what she might have thought then. Sakeena went back to Lahore for Bha’s marriage in 1984, where she met Ruffo and Majaz, who were leaving for England. She remembers them often and so Faiz Ahamd Faiz poetry she remembers. Mummie jee keeps mistreating her with Ihtesham supporting her mom. Neighbours Michele and Chantal help her. Brenda has also left home and her brother in law. When Sakeena is hit badly, she also leaves and calls Brenda, who help her, but she does not call police. She meets Balvinder from Amritsar, who helps her with the contact of her auntie in Surrey. Though Canadian helpline she leaves her Tornto home with Joyni and Nirmala. She meets liberated Canadian women. Ihtesham makes an attempt to get her back, though he has relations with many women, but she refuses and drinks with Brenda. She is attacked by Ihtesham and is rescued by police, she comes to know about lesbian women and she prefers to move to Surrey in British Columbia.

Teasing the awake is the last part of novel, based in Surrey of 2001. Her life in Surrey is quite free, but dramatic. She is helped settle down by Balvinder auntieManjeet and her husband Mehnga, there she meets Iqbal, who is part of their household and had come from Ludhiana. She starts living with Iqbal, but not sure of being in love with him. In dramatic sequence Iqbal and Mehnga are murdered and it comes out that Iqbal is none else than Sakeena family servant Gamu, who crossed over to Amritsar in 1971 and lived with Manjeet relatives for a while and came over to Canada in 1972 as Iqbal Singh. He paid some money to Jeeno to settle that marriage and paid some blood money to settle murder of Uyo. He was Ghulam Hussain Gamu, she tells Canadian police, but they bring her own record of arrest in Lahore and she explains that it was leftist study circle. The novel ends with her being alone but facing life with courage.

This is an interesting novel with complex reality of divided Punjabi cultural identity in India and Pakistan, but abroad, they tend to join together. Sakeena’s life in Canada also brings the totality of Punjabi cultural identity to fore. The fact that a murderer could change into any of Hindu, Sikh of Muslim identity without being even suspected, shows how close their cultural mores are.

Fauzia Rafique has brought out the complexity of this Punjabi cultural identity despite partitioned in India and Pakistan on the artificial basis of religion, in quite impressive form in her maiden novel Sakeena.

Alvida Prof. Satish Chandra and Dr. Aslam Parvez


CIL Foundation Day-31-10-08 photos by Chaman Lal (1)

CIL Foundation Day-31-10-08 photos by Chaman Lal (15)CIL Foundation Day-31-10-08 photos by Chaman Lal (13)CIL Foundation Day Celebration 31 October,2008 by Rajiv R Kumar (31)

CIL Foundation Day Celebration 31 October,2008 by Rajiv R Kumar (44)

CIL Foundation Day-31-10-08 photos by Chaman Lal (1)

28-29 Oct.-09 CIL foundation Day-seminar photos (152)

CIL Premchand Memorial lecture-31-7-08-JNU (11)

CIL-JNU-Delhi Chairperson office-Feb.-2010 (3)

Last week, Professor Satish Chandra, the well known medieval India historian and one of founder Professor in Centre for Historical Studies(CHS), former Chairman UGC during 1976-81, passed away at the age of 95 years. Earlier in 2014 another stalwart and founders of Centre for Historical studies(CHS) Prof. Bipan Chandra had passed away, a big blow to the centre. Prof. Satish Chandra’s wife Dr. Savitri Chander Shobha was my teacher in MPhil course work and one of earliest faculty members of Centre of Indian Languages of JNU, where I was student during 1977-82 for my MPhil/PhD. After I joined as Professor in CIL in year 2005 and became centre chairperson in July 2007, the first thing I did was to celebrate foundation day of CIL. This function was held on 31st October 2008. Apart from honoring Prof. Namvar Singh and Professor S R Kidwai founders of centre, Dr. Savitri Chander Shobha was also honoured posthumously by inviting her husband Prof. Satish Chandra, who accepted our invitation gracefully and joined the function. Dr. Savitri Chander Shobha remained Chairperson of Centre of Indian languages from 1980 November to 1983 November. I remember CIL students gheraoed her in her office on some admission issue and I as SFC(Student Faculty Committee) member that time brought the JNU Vice Chancellor Y Nayudamma to centre, it was in old campus then and Prof. Nayudamma just walked with us to CIL Chairperson office, while walking, listening to students grievances. At centre office Vice Chancellor took seat with Chairperson and other few teachers and said that students can gherao them as long as they wish, while discussing issues. After an hour or so, students on their own decided to lift the gherao with Vice Chancellor and Chairperson did not feel any anger against gheraoing students. Dr. Chandra’s were perhaps living in UGC Chairman’s official residence and we CIL students were invited by Dr. Sobha to some family function, perhaps marriage of their son without feeling any rancour about the gherao. Later they had perhaps shifted to house no. 165, just close to JNU Munirka side gate, the house which was once used as guest house of JNU, till the present guest house came up. Those were the golden days of JNU democratic culture, not like these days under present administration trained in suppressing all democratic traditions of JNU. These are some photographs of that function. Dr. Aslam Parvez, former Chairperson of CIL, during 1990-92, also joined the function and his pictures are also there. Sadly, just a few days ago, Dr. Aslam Parvez also left the world. Next year in 2009, CIL foundation day was again celebrated and Prof. Mohamad Hasan was honoured, who could not personally join due to ill health but his wife accepted the honour on his behalf. He passed away in year 2010. Prof. G S Bhalla, my patron and friend and Professor Emeritus of JNU is also in one picture with Prof. Satish Chandra and Dr. Aslam Parvez-all three no more among us now.

I pay my tributes to Prof. Satish Chandra and Dr. Aslam Parvez.

Loss of a Colleague and Comrade-Prof. G S Sekhon


Chaman and sekhon

Professor Gurkirpal Singh Sekhon from department of English in Punjabi University Patiala was my colleague in University from August 1985 to 2000, when he retired from service after serving the University for full three decades. Sekhon who had his early education in Moga and moved to England for study and work, joined Punjabi University Patiala in year 1970 and became active in teacher politics of the University. He was active member of Democratic Teachers Front(DTF) from its inception sometime after emergency. Professor G S Rahi also from English department and Dr. Mohan Singh Sandhu, again from English department of Correspondence courses of the University, all three came from Chandigarh every day. All three were good friends and Sekhon was most popular face of the group in University, winning Punjabi University Teachers Association (PUTA) Presidentship and other offices many times. Prof Rahi was kind of ideological leader and was sent to PUTA executive few times. K C Singhal was another popular face of the group from Business Management department. Prof. Gurnam Singh Rahi was first to retire from the University and sadly from the world as well. K C Singhal also left the world due to cancer while in service yet and now Sekhon. I had parted ways from DTF in 1996 or 97, though remained joint Secretary and executive member of PUTA on its behalf in 1993 and 1994. But my relations with Rahi, Sekhon and Sandhu remained cordial to the end. Sekhon lived close to our flat in sector 39-B in Chandigarh and many a times we will cross each other during morning walk. Apart from PUTA activities, Sekhon was good in his subject, especially in grammar and dictionary work and contributed to it. He was not keeping well since many years and was living with his children mostly in Canada or USA. I last met him a month ago or so and thought of keeping in touch with him. We had become friends on facebook in year 2009-10, but he was not very active on facebook.

A day before got a sudden message of his leaving the world, which shocked me. He should be around 77 years of age as he retired in 2000 at 60. He was in good spirits while explaining about his very complex kind of disease, when I met him. I hoped he will  be around with his strong spirit of  resistance, which did not happen. I feel sad at his demise and pay my tributes to him.

This photograph is of perhaps 1985 or 86, when I had joined Punjabi University Patiala little ago! Alvida dear Dr. Sekhon

Reclaim Boat Club As Protest site in Delhi

There have been lot of news and editorials in context of present controversy of shifting protest location in New Delhi from Jantar mantar to Ramleela Maidan. My response to this controversy-
   ‘ Order of National Green Tribunal to Government to shift protest place from Janar Mantar to Ramleela Maidan has come as a shocker to many mass organisations and well meaning personalities. However the fact of the matter is that Jantar Mantar is no place for holding protest meetings. It is like rat hole, where not even ten thousand people can be observed at one time and almost simultaneously twenties of protest meeting with few people and in rare cases large people go on with loud speakers on at pitched level. All speeches are inaudible as these are criss crossing each other and the protest has been reduced to a farce there. CID people roam around and ask the organisers of meetings to hand over their memorandum, which they duly collect. Some media persons are around to click photographs and videograph the event for few minutes and the ritual of protest is over within one to three hours and the every one rush to the media to get few lines or a photograph in next day’s newspaper or evening bulletin of some tv channel
      Capitals world over have large spaces for protest. In Kathmandu, 20 lakh people could gather to protest against King of Nepal and forced him to abdicate in favour of democratic set up. In Paris lakhs of people can gather and in India , the second most populous nation of 125 rore people plus can not get even one lakh people to protest at a single space. Earlier it was at Boat Club, near Parliament that thousands of people could gather in decent manner and hold meetings at distant places towards India gate and hold protest in proper sense. Democratic organisations and individuals should demand the revival of Boat Club as protest site, rather than insisting on Jantar Mantar which is no proper site to hold protest of large number of people, rather it encourages organisations to bring fewer people for protest as there is no space to accommodate them. 
    But I doubt that the present Central government which is bent upon suppressing dissent in every form,  will allow people to hold real protest at location like Boat Club, which like in other parts of the world is close to Parliament and Government site.
 Chaman Lal,
Former President, JNU Teachers Association, New Delhi

An Open letter to Prof. Pradipta Chaudhary on accepting Deanship-SSS


Dear Professor Pradipta K. Chaudhari,

This is a bit surprise letter for you. Normally I would not have written this letter to you or may have sent my greetings, if you had assumed the charge of Dean-SSS in normal circumstances at your usual turn in seniority of JNU faculty. I am writing this letter with certain anguish, having remained part of JNU as student and faculty and having served JNUTA President for a year. Though we have not interacted much, but I remember only pleasant exchanges of hello with you occasionally.

Professor Pradipta Chaudhary, I don’t know under what circumstances you were either persuaded or yourself wished to take over the appointment of Dean-SSS, when at least five Professors including one from your own centre were senior to you and deserved to be appointed Dean in normal circumstances. Not all five, but only Professor senior next to Professor C P Chandershekhar should have been appointed Dean and in case he or she had declined to accept the responsibility under whatever circumstances, the next senior Professor should had been considered for appointment. Already as per media report, four Professors senior to you, have protested at their seniority being by passed to appoint you as Dean. Here I wish to remind you a similar situation arising out in your own School-SSS in 1999, this I had come to know when I was denied Chairpersnship of my centre-CIL in SLL&CS in 2007, when I was President of JNUTA. Professor Nandu Ram from your own School was being denied his due Deanship as per seniority in your own School and person next to him was appointed as Dean. Not only JNU Faculty/JNUTA protested over it, even the person next, who was actually appointed refused to accept the responsibility at the cost of his colleague being by passed in seniority. And the order was cancelled very next day and Prof. Nandu Ram was appointed Dean. I wish you had shown same grace to your senior colleagues as the Professor in 1999 had shown and told JNU administration clearly that you don’t wish to accept Deanship, even if it is an honourable post at the cost of JNU traditions of democratic practices, even if Vice Chancellor has certain arbitrary power to indulge in such unhealthy and undemocratic, even anti-academic practice. Like you my colleague at that time in 2007, Prof. Veer Bharat Talwar also did not show the grace and fell into trap laid by then VC/administration, for which he was never appreciated by JNU faculty at large. While accepting such out of the way appointment is like accepting undue favour and the price to be paid is to lose your dignity and independent judgement and act as per the wishes of the authority, who had bestowed this favour. It means you have to harass your colleagues, who hold independent opinions regarding JNU administration and are critical of Vice Chancellor’s arbitrary conduct and bulldozing all democratic institutions like Academic council, where I understand he does not respect the opinion of majority, but pushes his own agenda even when himself in minority. Prof. Talwar appointed by passing me in seniority did the same to harass me in various ways, though he could not succeed, due to my stiff resistance and left his Chairpersonship halfway, after one year only.

Professor Pradipta Chaudhary, though so many of us have retired from JNU, yet many of us remain concerned about its academic excellence and democratic structure. We feel proud of its alumni as well as remaining part of JNU faculty and as and when we hear and see its excellence largely based on its democratic culture is being undermined or compromised, we do feel concerned and express our concern. I can share with you first-hand account of an interview held of some centre of JNU, which might be the standard practice in other centres as well-

   “Chairperson of concerned centre of which interview is being held is five minutes or so late, due to traffic jam and as chairperson expresses regret about it, he/she is told that chairperson would not be allowed to put any question to candidates concerned for late coming. More than 15 candidates are shortlisted, all eligible, but Vice Chancellor having his favoured candidates in mind, declares only PhD degree holders will be considered, which only two are and only one appears out of the two. VC blatantly tells the selection committee to give more than 75 marks to PhD degree holders and less than 50 marks to non-PhD degree holders. Rather in bizarre manner, a most favoured candidate of VC, who had missed flight and is traveling by train, which is being delayed is interviewed on candidate’s mobile on skype at the insistence of VC. Any academic suggestion of the Chairperson of the centre is arrogantly ruled out and the VC favoured candidate is selected. Never in the history of JNU, had any VC behaved in such bizarre manner in selection committees as the present VC is behaving, making a total mockery of interview and selection process of candidates in such manner. I am told that his predecessor Prof. S K Sopory had made the interview so transparent that each interview was video graphed. Now would you become a tool in this administration’s hands to select such candidates for Faculty appointments in JNU? The way Professor Nivedita Menon has been punished by raising questions in selection committee against Vice Chancellor’s such bizarre attitude in selection of candidates of his own choice and perhaps of his own academic level, has silenced many chairpersons and Deans. I am not naming the centre or persons concerned in this particular interview, as they can become victims of this VC, as already Prof. Nivedita Menon has become. But if this Vice Chancellor has any sense of transparency and clear conscience about appointments let him put on JNU website all selections made by him with videos of the interview and details of marks etc. It has recently been done even by Supreme Court in matter of selection of higher judicial positions at High Court or Supreme Court level to bring transparency in selections by citing clear reasons for appointing judges.”

During earlier NDA government too, a Reader or Associate Professor was appointed VC of Baroda’s prestigious University by then Chief Minister of Gujarat, who is now Prime Minister and that VC has harassed most eminent art critic and Dean of Fine arts in Baroda University at that time. The same pattern now is being followed in JNU, where a person of non-academic or low level academic stature is handed over the most prestigious University of the country and one of best known in Asia and world for the purpose of bringing the University to same level of academics standard, from where the present Vice Chancellor comes. I am attaching my letter to then JNU VC, when I was denied Chairpersonship of my Centre in 2007, though as JNUTA President I did not made it an issue, despite more than 250 teachers at that time submitted signed protest to VC against this decision and bodies like FEDCUTA too protested. This letter has all these details.

Professor Pradipta Chaudhary, this is an open letter, you can reject it out rightly, as you may do, yet I do believe that every person has some conscience, which is sometime suppressed under adverse or tempting circumstances. Your own teachers in your own centre have upheld the dignity of teaching profession as well as of independent scholarship like Prof. Prabhat Patnaik, when recently he was subjected to much discourtesy by this very JNU administration of which now you will be a part and under compulsion to defend its all wrong doings, which your colleagues like teachers like Prof Patnaiks or colleagues like Prof. Arun Kumar had never done. In fact School of Social Sciences has earned the most respectable School status in JNU because of its high academic standards in centres like yours or CHS and others and its scholars who are world renowned like Prof. Romila Thapar. I only wish and hope that sooner than later and after watching the conduct of JNU administration, your conscience will wake up and you will retract the step taken in a little unthinkable manner, but rational thoughtful retrieval from it will certainly enhance your status as an academic and as well as good colleague to your long faculty friends.

With best wishes for your conscience awakening

Chaman Lal

Chaman Lal,

Professor(Retired), JNU, New Delhi

Former President JNU Teachers Association(JNUTA)

Fellow(Senator), Panjab University Chandigarh

Other mail
Cell no. +919646494538




The Vice-Chancellor



Dear Prof. Bhattacharya,


We are deeply disturbed to learn that Prof. Chaman Lal who is in line to be Chairperson, CIL/SLL&CS has been asked to choose between continuing as President, JNUTA or becoming the Chairperson.   It has been argued by the authorities that holding   both posts together would lead to a conflict of interest.


In this connection we would like to point out that while the post of Chairperson is a statutory   position the post of President, JNUTA is a purely voluntary position with no statutory requirements.  Therefore the Administration’s insistence that Prof. Chaman Lal choose either one of the positions has no basis in the JNU Act.   Further there are members of the JNUTA EC who have been Chairpersons.  Even in the current EC two members are Chairpersons who have functioned without any conflict of interest between the two.


It would appear that this position is meant to ensure that Presidents of JNUTA are penalized for their political convictions by being denied statutory posts to which they are entitled due to their seniority.


It is, therefore, incumbent on the administration to reconsider this faulty perception and allow Prof. Chaman Lal who happens to be elected JNUTA President to take up the post of Chairperson to which he is entitled.



Kamal M. Chenoy,Member JNUTA EC

Raman  P Sinha,Vice President,JNUTA

Charanjit Singh,Vice President,JNUTA

Anuradha M Chenoy,Former President JNUTA

M.M. Kunju,Secretary,JNUTA

Shankar Basu,former President JNUTA

Avijit Pathak,Chairman,CSSS






Professor Chaman Lal                                                              Dated:-3rd July, 2007

Revised—29th August, 2007

Centre of Indian Languages (SLL&CS)

Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi -110067 (INDIA)



The Vice Chancellor

J.NU., New Delhi


Subject: Issue of overruling seniority principle for appointing Chairperson of C.I.L




This communication is to put on record my protest for by passing my entitlement to become Chairperson of Centre of Indian Languages, which has become due in unusual circumstances, due to voluntary retirement of recently appointed Chairperson, Prof. Purshotam Aggarwal. As per seniority list, I was to be appointed Chairperson of the Centre, but by blatantly ignoring my seniority, without any tangible reason, next teacher in the list has been appointed as chairperson. It has almost never happened in the history of JNU. In 1999, in Centre for the study of Social Systems, Prof. Nandu Ram was bypassed under almost similar circumstances, but faculty protested and even the next person declined to accept this ‘favour’. The orders were reversed within one day and Prof. Nandu Ram was appointed as Chairperson as per his seniority. Seniority principle or convention is given away only under certain very special circumstances, like—(i)- Teacher concerned himself/herself is not inclined and gives in writing, (ii)- Concerned faculty member is seriously unwell and not in a position to discharge his or her responsibilities. Even in such cases his or her consent is obtained, (iii) – There are serious allegations against the concerned teacher such as of moral turpitude or financial irregularities etc. In my case none of these conditions exist. Only verbal communication, which occurred between me and Rector-1, is like follows:

Rector- You are to be appointed as Chairperson of your Centre, so you should resign as JNUTA President.

I was taken aback and took it half jokingly, how it could be put to me like that? I had contacted Rector in context of conveying JNUTA extended EC‘s decision to him and the meeting was fixed at four p.m. on 28th June ’07. I told Rector that in any case, this is not the issue for this meeting and we will discuss it later, if need be. In the meeting this issue was not referred to at all. As I told this conversation to Dean of our School, he also on his own apprised the Vice Chancellor and Rector to stick to seniority principle. He conveyed his advice verbally on telephone. Incidentally, few months ago, on the issue of appointment of Dean, SLL&CS, some representations and counter representations were sent to administration and I as JNUTA President  had clearly and firmly told the VC/Rector, not to violate seniority principle, which fortunately was not violated at that time. After Dean talked to Rector, he called me on phone and discussed at length the issue of appointment of Chairperson CIL. I must say that he was very nice and courteous, but he insisted that it would be difficult for him to convince VC, if I do not agree to relinquish President JNUTA’ position. I said that in the past, as well as in present JNUTA team, there are chairpersons, so why insist in my case? In fact persons like Prof Yogender Singh, Prof Sivatosh Mukhrejee had held both positions (President JNUTA and Chairman Centre) with distinction.  My colleagues in JNUTA sent a formal letter also to VC on this issue, bringing these facts to his attention. I made it clear to Rector that they should expect me to be a responsible chairperson, which I assured I would be. But as far as position of JNUTA President was concerned that was between me and the faculty.






I told him that I can even put this issue to be discussed in JNUTA GBM and if GBM advises me to step down from any one of the positions, I would honour their advice. But in principle administration should not make the issue of chairpersonship conditional with quitting JNUTA Presidentship. I also conveyed that under present circumstances it would even destroy my reputation as an upright and principled person, if I resign as JNUTA President to accept Chaipersonship of the centre. In fact being Chairperson is not such a big thing for JNU faculty, many teachers have declined it due to their academic engagements. But to use it to browbeat people into subjugation, that is alarming for JNU faculty.

Sir, I need not say that I am loyal to this institution more than anyone in your administration, for me institution means its traditions of academic excellence, democratic conduct of dialogue and discussions and enlightened rational behavior. These traits are not achieved through sycophancy, but through convictions, which allows for dissent. Unfortunately the present administration of the University seems to be insensitive to the ideas of the person, in whose name this university has been established- Jawaharlal Nehru. I feel more concerned about that. So with these words I register my strong protest, not for my person, but for the sake of this great institution’s democratic traditions.

Yours truly,

Chaman Lal


Copy to:


Rector 1&2


Visitor of JNU—with a request to administration to send it through their channels, as I do not wish to approach him directly.

Press Release

10 July 2007

The Federation of Central Universities Teachers’ Association (FEDCUTA) takes a very serious note of the draconian actions taken by the Vice-Chancellor of Jawaharlal Nehru University against the teachers and the students of the university. The decision of the JNU Vice-Chancellor not to appoint Prof Chaman Lal as the Chairperson of the Centre of Languages because he is the duly elected President of JNU Teachers’ association is shameful and highly objectionable. This action not only flouts the laid down laws of the University but it also suggests a heinous attempt to trample upon the democratic rights of the academic community. The Vice-Chancellor has deliberately undermined the fact that while the President’s post in a teachers’ body is voluntary in nature, appointment of the Chairperson in a University Department is strictly according to the laws of seniority laid down by the University itself. The FEDCUTA strongly condemns the reprehensible attempt of the VC to coerce Prof Chaman Lal to relinquish the post of JNUTA’s President in order to be appointed as the Chairperson of CIL as it vitiates the academic atmosphere of the University. To make matters worse, the Vice-Chancellor has come down heavily on agitating students by rusticating them despite the fact that the students have submitted written apologies for their action and the earlier order of suspension against them has been revoked. These two above-mentioned actions reveal the undemocratic functioning of the JNU VC and highlight his heinous design to impose an autocratic regime by suppressing the democratic rights of the University community. The FEDCUTA warns the JNU authorities to refrain from such draconian acts, otherwise the entire teaching community of all the Central Universities would be mobilised against any move to curb the democratic rights of teachers.






(Amardeo Sharma)                                                                          (Tabrez Alam Khan)

President                                                                                            Gen. Secretary




Remembering Samar Sen in Centenary Year


Remembering Samar Sen in Centenary Year

Chaman Lal

I met Samar Sen only once in life in February 1980 on my first visit to Calcutta. But I knew his name from much earlier period, perhaps from 1969 or so, when I may have seen Frontier for first time at my home town Rampura Phul in Bathinda district of Punjab. I became regular reader of ‘Frontier’ from 1971, when I joined Panjab University Chandigarh as a student of M.A. in Hindi. Some of my friends in Chandigarh at that time were readers of Frontier, like Hindi poet Kumar Vikal. Frontier was available in those days in Chandigarh at English Book Depot or shop in Sector 22. It was famous shop in those days for intellectual gathering as well. Punjabi and Hindi writers of the city used to sit in Sector 22 Coffee house and visit English Book Shop nearby. There was a corner around the shop, which was perhaps called ‘Lovers Corner’ also, though it was used more by writers in evening. I knew in those days also that Samar Sen was a well-known Bengali poet, apart from being editor of Frontier, but his Frontier editor image over shadowed his poet image. His poetry was not easily available in Hindi or English and those were the days of ‘Spring Thunder’ and Frontier represented it most widely throughout the country.

After the passing away of Samar Sen, I wrote to Frontier, which was published in the section-Tributes to a Crusader, compiled by Debabrata Panda from Frontier messages included in commemorative volume brought out by Frontier or Samar Sen Friends in bilingual form, major part in Bengali with a small section in English, which included some writings in Translation from Samar Sen, few articles on his writings and personality as well. I was teaching at Punjabi University Patiala at that time and was part of editorial board of Punjabi literary journal ‘Sardal’ at that time. In fact I wrote a piece in Punjabi on Samar Sen and also translated a part of ‘Babu Brittanta’ in Punjabi, which were published in Sardal, edited by famous playwright Gursharn Singh. I reproduce from that volume what was ascribed to me –
“Chaman Lal, a distinguished Punjabi writer(member of editorial board of ‘Sardal’, literary magazine of Punjab People’s Cultural Forum(Punjab Lok Sabhiachar Manch), and a much known activist of democratic rights movement, had only one occasion to meet Samar Sen, that is in 1981(Actually it was 13th February 1980-checked from notebooks now) on his way to Assam, as a member of a PUDR fact finding team and that has left, he writes ‘a deep impact on me’. Mr. Lal has been reader of Frontier since his student days from 1971-72. He writes-‘Frontier always played a significant role in shaping my opinions about various social situations’. As the news of Samar Sen’s passing away reached there, Chaman Lal writes: I and my friends here in Punjab really feel very sad, though we feel Samar Babu lived a glorious life’. Till the end he stood like a rock against all odds. Even when democratic movement showed signs of cracks, Samar Babu never wailed, though his anguish over the situation reflected in editorials could not have been missed.”

In 1969, when I probably first time must have seen Frontier, I was Hindi teacher in a nearby school to my home town Rampura Phul and was influenced by left movement, particularly its Naxalite stream, which in Bathinda area was more under the influence of T Nagi Reddy group, who were subscribers of Frontier either individually or getting through some book shop. After my return from Chandigarh in 1972, I had been getting copy of Frontier and also Filhal in Hindi, which was almost a ditto copy of Frontier in its get up and contents. After joining JNU, New Delhi as a research student in 1977, I continued my access to Frontier through Geeta Book Shop at campus, which probably still continues to sell Frontier, but the number of copies sold might have decreased. During 1977-80 period large number of students and faculty from JNU, used to buy Frontier from Geeta Book shop. I had become active in PUDR in those days and it was as part of PUDR team consisting of Prof. G P Deshpande, Prof. Dhirender Sharma and myself, which proceeded to Gauhati at the invitation of PUCL Assam. On our way to Gauhati, we had halted at Calcutta on both ways for few days. While Prof. Deshpande stayed with his friend and then Finance minister Ashok Mitra, Prof. Sharma at some other place, my stay in Calcutta was arranged by Sujato Bhadra, who was a friend in JNU student days and had returned to Calcutta, getting a teaching job in a college. I probably stayed in his house, but spent time with many of his friends including Debashish Mukhrejee, who was APDR secretary then, Kallol Chakravrati, who received me at Calcutta station on my very first visit to the city. On my own, I was keen to meet Mahasweta Devi, whom I had already met and interviewed in Delhi in 1979 and Samar Sen. I was taken to a meeting by Sujato or Debashish, where Mrs. Sushital Roy Chaudhary was also present. From my notes I saw that I visited Ashok Mitra’s house also, who was living in his own flat, despite being a minister and there was no security at all around the building, where his flat was. I met Prof. Amlendu Guha also at his place, who might had come to see Prof. Deshpande. We were served breakfast in his home, just like in any other middle class home. I also met journalist Sunanda K Datta Ray in Statesman office and Hindi weekly Ravivar editor Surender Pratap Singh in Telegraph office. I had met Punjabi literary figures of Calcutta as well during that visit.

I was not terribly impressed by meeting Mahashweta Devi in her rented house at Bulygaunj, she was a tenant of CPM MP Jyotrimoy Basu at that time. Frontier office was too humble, so was its editor Samar Sen, when I met him. He called Ashish Mukhopadhyaya also while we chatted for about an hour or so. Probably I met Debabrat Panda also in Frontier office at that time and had independent postal communication with him later for some years. I have lost those post cards of Debabrat now. Samar Sen definitely impressed me with his simplicity and commitment in that short meeting.

While I became contributor to Frontier during Samar Sen days, I continued to subscribe and contribute to it after Timir Basu took over as its editor. In 2004, I got one lakh rupees Punjab Government best Hindi writer award, out of which I decided to send life subscription to many Hindi, Punjabi and English progressive literary journals, it was at that time, I became its life subscriber. I developed my taste for EPW and Mainstream also during my student days in JNU and later for Analytical Monthly Review, when it started its Indian edition from Kharagpur. Aspects of Indian Economy and Frontline are few other journals, which I try to read or at least scan regularly.

I regard Samar Sen as one of most significant writer and editor, who has contributed immensely to promote leftist/Marxist ideology and helped in growth of movement based on these ideas. His contribution is perhaps more than many of movement’s leaders, as he had provided an open platform to all groups to share their ideas and programmes without any bias for any particular group. But I wish to know him more as creative writer also. I can’t read Bengali, so I am trying to acquire his writings-poetry and prose both in English or Hindi to read and if possible to write upon as well during his centenary years. Meanwhile I wish that Frontier and also Analytical Monthly Review must continue to exist as these are most crucial journals to disseminate Marxist ideology and movements throughout the world.

Chaman Lal, a retired Professor from JNU, is regular contributor to Frontier.
Ph.  09868774820
H. No. 2690, Urban Estate, Phase-2, Patiala (Pb.), 147002

Oct 15, 2017

A Trip to Cuba



Socialism In Action

A Trip to Cuba

Chaman Lal

My long awaited visit to Cuba materialised from 9th to 17th December, 2011. I have been trying for this visit from the beginning of my assignment in Trinidad & Tobago in October end 2010. In fact my reluctant acceptance of this assignment was due to the close proximity of Cuba and Venezuela to the country and a chance to visit the two nations with hopes of seeing Socialism in action. Developed friendship with Cuban and Venezuelan embassies in Port of Spain from February beginning, meeting the ambassadors from both the countries on some function organised in Bolivarian embassy of Venezuela. Started attending many functions and expressing my solidarity as well, addressing a few. Became member of ‘Friends of Cuba’ and gave the proposal to Cuban and Venezuelan embassy to deliver lectures on Che Guevara and Bhagat Singh. The proposal was sent to Cuban embassy in Delhi, where Ambassador Miguel Ramirez was personally well acquainted and had my book on Bhagat Singh. However, nothing worked out, tried through CPM leader Sita Ram Yechuri, Dr Lal Khan, through face book sites, through Pritam’s Trotskyite friends, through Indian embassies in Cuba and Venezuela, through Socialist party activists form Margarita, where I had gone. So as last attempt, I had to take recourse to Travel agency and opt to go as Tourist, as I was put to link with Producto travel agency by Cuban Counsellor in Trinidad Ana Silvia. This was going to be an expensive trip, but I could not miss the chance as from India it would have become more expensive. It came to nearly 2400 US dollars or one lakh twenty thousand plus rupees in Indian currency.

So I took flight on 9th December evening via Panama, wished to spend a day in Panama, but visa problem created unnecessary complication and dropped the idea to stop over for one night, though later came to know that Indian official passport holders did not require Visa, so had to miss the one day trip. From Panama changed the flight and reached Havana at late night 11.45 pm or so. The man from travel agency came to receive and put me on a taxi, entering which got my back jerked.

I was put up in Cuban govt. Neptune hotel of middle level, room was OK. Did not sleep well in first night, was ready by 9.15 am on 10th morning, when travel agency man Rafael came around 10 am, with whom I planned my week long trip. On first day I could just reach Revolution square after 1.30 pm only. I had exchanged dollars with Cubar currency Pesos and had to spend three Pesos for half an hour use of internet at hotel computer. First thing I saw in Havana was Revolution Museum, depicting the history of Cuban revolution in pictures, paintings and documents. Kept on clicking on my not very good camera and mobile. After completing round of Revolutionary museum, saw real ‘Granma’ sea boat yacht, on which Castro-Che came with total of 82 guerrillas to make revolution in 1956. Started journey on 25th November and reaching Sierra Maestra mountains by 2nd December. By the time Granma reached Cuban shores, Batista army had attacked them viciously and only 15-20 Guerrillas survived including Castro brothers, Che Guevara, Camilo Cienfuegos and few more. They found each other in few weeks and organised Cuban people in such a way that by 1st January 1959, they could liberate Cuba from Batista regime and make socialist revolution.

From Granma, walked over to Capitola, the capital site of Batista regime, more like Capitol of Washington. Took photographs sitting in old Cuban cars put on display, saw huge queues for film show in cinema house there, had a look at old classic theatre and Jose Marti statues around.

On 11th December Sunday had walk towards sea side near hotel. For city tour went first to Revolutionary Plaza, a huge spacious place with very big white statue of Jose Marti, around which all Cuban Govt offices are there, on one side National Library and on offices sites-two huge artistic sketches of two popular heroes of Cuba-Che and Camilo are displayed. National theatre was also around the area. We were taken to Cuban rum and cigar factory shop, where I bought few cigars and rum. Later on we moved to Old Havana city, having charm of its own, saw one bar, where Hemingway was a regular visitor, sometimes Castro joined him. Hemingway signature and phonographs figure there, small but always crowded place. Perhaps took one mojito shot there. Met two Mexican tourists and got clicked also with one black lady. One artist just made sketch of mine in pencil and gifted me, but could not pay him anything. Returned to hotel by early evening. Producto agent Rafael came to tell Santiago arrangements. Went for long walk among localities and saw people’s houses and their living style. Small houses, many people sitting outside courtyards. Hardly any house with a car. The huge houses vacated by Cuban rich fled to Miami, were all turned into embassies, government offices, schools etc.

On Monday 12th December, after getting ready went to Rafael office, got some currency problem settled from Republic Bank, in which I had account in UWI Trinidad. Went to visit University of Havana first and met Dr Carmen, who was waiting in Che Guevara study dept, she gifted a book for JNU VC/library in Spanish. Later met Milagros in Che centre and gave her my papers on Bhagat Singh. From there came over to Jose Marti research centre, met its director Dr Rafael, an old scholar, bought few books from bookshop there of Jose Marti. Before that visited Indian embassy in Havana and had lunch and coffee there. In afternoon moved to Hemingway museum, a bit away. Huge house, where Hemingway lived now turned into museum. His bedroom or study room, full of books, his working room and his old typewriter on it, which I clicked also, etc. Could only be seen through glass walls. Saw his huge personal boat or yacht, which he had bought in those days in 7000 dollars, huge amount. Hemingway was quite close to Fidel Castro, as he was later to Marquez, outliving both! Bought few music dvd’s from shop there. Moved to Indian embassy from there and embassy staffer from Bathinda side Suresh Kumar took me to his house where he lived alone and served me with Cuban rum and cigar. He thought, I could be close to Trinidad’s Indian High Commissioner, but he found I am not, so he lost interest. He dropped me at my hotel, near his house, where I had my dinner.

On 13th December I visited Che Guevara home also, which is now turned into research centre. It was closed for renovation, met some officials, Che daughter was abroad and could not get any connectivity to his other family members.

On 14th December visited ICAP-Cuban government institute for friendship with other countries’ peoples. Met its director Odalio and pacific in-charge Ringberton, presented them Bhagat Singh Jail Notebook copies, they promised to send one copy to Fidel Castro, one copy was sent earlier through Trinidad Cuban ambassador. It was pleasant discussion and they arranged for my Santiago ICAP contacts also. This day visited Sun house handicraft market also, bought few items. Also took long round, visiting Alicia Alfonso art/dance museum, walked through statues of African and other revolutionaries including one of Salvador Allende of Chile. In different places saw busts of Gandhi and Tagore somewhere. Could not reach Indian embassy before its closure time, so had to reach hotel on taxi, from where moved to Indian ambassador Deepak Bhojwani’s house for a party. His wife Shaila Arshi, a Punjabi woman was from JNU, could be my contemporary. I enjoyed this evening with some cultural items including one on Tagore. Met ICAP Vice President and former Cuban ambassador to India Ramirez, who came with his family-a warm meeting and with few other Cubans. Had Mojito shots and took dinner before coming over to hotel.

I gifted my Bhagat Singh Jail Notebook and other books to Ambassador Bhojwani also. Bhagwat Swarup Ketyar, second senior embassy official was helpful in many things.

On 15th morning got ready in time for going to Santiago. Taxi driver Williams’s father came today to drop me at airport. On the way he shared lot of interesting stories about Fidel Castro, he being a Communist party member was privy to such stories. He told how Castro spent more than a month in Chile after Allende came to power and made a stirring speech there. Flight to Santiago took earlier than time at 12.15 pm and reached by 1.40 pm. But it took two hours to reach hotel and on the way crossed Moncada Bridge—a site of Castro’s 1953- 26th Julio movement attack on Moncada garrison. After having nice lunch of fish, walked up to Young communist league, ICAP and other offices/buildings on straight road, moving up to Communist party regional office. Spent some time in party office watching Fidel Castro photographs, was irritated by bureaucratic attitude of communist cadres of mass organisations. Walked for more than two and half hours covering 6-7 kilometres. Met young communist cultural workers. Had two cocktails or rum punch before dinner.

On 16th December-Got up too early and went for walk. Walked through hospital building and few other buildings with graffiti of Cuban revolutionaries.

Got ready by 9.30 am and went to ICAP office, they arranged for English knowing young man to accompany me on their office old fiat car with broken doors. I got gasoline filled for ten pesos. First we came to revolution plaza, where grand monument of revolutionary Antonio Maceau with 2-3 swords in hand. Under the monument, there is museum of revolutionaries, which is very impressive. From this Plaza Fidel had proclaimed liberation of Cuba. From plaza we moved to a place—a house from where Fidel Castro began attack on Moncada on 26th July with 104 men, out of which more than sixty were killed and Castro sentenced to 15 years imprisonment—his court statement became classic—’History will absolve me’! It is a house now well preserved as museum, belonged to two women close to party. Moved to actual garrison site which again is now museum with photographs of all attackers including those who were martyred. The clothes, torture weapons etc. displayed in this museum now. On return had lunch of pork-rice at some reasonable restaurant, but did not like its taste, but it’s common Cuban food. Saw one woman beggar there. In evening there was ICAP cultural function in support of “Free Cuban 5′. I joined the function. Bolivian group’s musical performance was quite good, got clicked with them. I was also invited to speak and spoke for about ten minutes, expressing solidarity. Returned to hotel and afterwards to airport for return flight to Havana by 8 pm, flight was at 10.50 pm, had sandwich. Flight took long time and reached Havana by 12.15 am, reaching hotel by 2 am.

17th December—Santa Clara—Got only four hour rest, got ready by 8.30 am. Taxi driver Williams waited for an hour. After breakfast, took 276 kilometre journey on eight lane highway, reaching Che monuments by 11.30 am. Spent three hours at grand monument with huge Che statue, 220 martyrs’ graves. A sombre hall where Che and Tania’s last remains are placed, which cannot be clicked. One feels humbled there. Met library researchers there, gifted my Bhagat Singh’s Jail Note Book. One senior researcher came over with me to city to show the revolutionary monuments—Railway station, where Che’s 23 warriors captured train full of army men and weapons, now a museum. Monuments in city. Santa Clara quiet town with Che statue at city hall with a child in his arms. Bought few t-shirts etc. Did not eat or stop due to time constraint. Only on return journey stopped at two places to have some food. While on return journey watching photographs on camera, formatted the camera by mistake and felt horrified by losing the precious collection of so many photographs.

Returned to Port of Spain by next day. With the help of UWI centre was able to recover 80-90% of photographs but quality suffered, still felt happy that my Cuba’s most cherished visit photographs were not completely lost!

Out of all my trips abroad, Cuban trip was the most cherished one and yet I was not able to write its travel account, though started writing on 21st December 2011 but only a paragraph, except for taking hand written daily notes on my 2011 diary. Now after five years, I have been able to type down the diary notes based account of Cuba trip.

[7th November 2016,
October Revolution Centenary Day]

Vol. 50, No.7, Aug 20 – 26, 2017

Partition 1947 shows Gurinder Chandha’s flawed sense of historical depiction of events


Partition 1947 shows Gurinder Chandha’s flawed sense of historical depiction of events

The film portrays Mountbatten as a humanist, but his role in dividing India does not make him the person as has been shown.

|   Long-form |   02-09-2017

Chaman Lal



The first thing that comes to mind about Gurinder Chadha’s Partition-1947 is why does a film need two English names even though one is for its Hindi version.

Chadha has based the film on two books – Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre’s much-popular Freedom at Midnight (1975) and another lesser known book by Narendra Singh Sarila – Shadow of the Great Game: The Untold story of India’s Partition (2006).

Although Sarila’s work is lesser known among popular books, it is valued more in academic circles and was translated in Hindi by reputed publisher Rajkamal, which published it in 2008 (even before Harper Collins published its Indian edition in 2009).

Its first edition was published by Carroll and Graf publishers New York in 2006. There are a number of books on Partition and some much more important than these two, but Chadha wanted to make a feature film and not a documentary. So, she perhaps chose the text which has some dramatic elements in it, just as Freedom at Midnight.

Gurdas Maan earlier made a film on this book’s narration of Boota Singh’s tragic story, Shaheed-e-Mohabbat in 1999.

Chadha’s film was released in the UK in March 2017 as Viceroy’s House and in India as Partition-1947 in Hindi in August this year to mark the 71st year of Partition and to coincide with the opening of Partition Museum in Amritsar on August 17.


The film begins with the arrival of Lord Mountbatten in India to oversee the grant of Independence under the new Labour government of the UK which came to power following the defeat of Conservative Winston Churchill in 1945.

Churchill was considered diehard anti-India and critical of even Mahatma Gandhi, generally a favourite of British rulers. Churchill had made nasty remarks even on the 1943 Bengal famine, which had killed lakhs of people.

Sarila was the secretary (or ADC) to Lord Mountbatten and the film is made in a way from Mountbatten’s perception.

The film portrays Mountbatten as a humanist and pro-Indian person, but his role to divide India at breakneck speed without bothering about consequences (of massacres among communities) does not make him the person in history as has been shown in the film and related books, which have been written on the testimony of Mountbatten himself.

Mountbatten was related to British monarchs and has no political experience, he remained a high navy officer before and after being the last viceroy and first governor general of post 1947 India.

The film is otherwise moving and brings tears to the sensitive viewers as has happened with Fatima Bhutto and myself and another Sikh gentleman watching the film in Chandigarh during the same show.

But dispassionate analysis of the events in the film and in history does not absolve Mountbatten, Congress leaders and Mohammad Ali Jinnah of the worst crimes against humanity in history. Nearly one million Hindu, Sikhs and Muslims killed each other in communal clashes, more than 14 million suffered the worst conditions of migration in the scorching heat and rainy weather of August, not to mention the untold tortures and crimes against women of all three communities.

Chadha’s own ancestors suffered during Partition and her concern is well taken, but her sense of historical depiction of events is flawed.

In fact, the man Cyril Radcliffe who was asked to divide India and Pakistan by drawing just a line on the map felt guilty himself and did not charge any fee for the “dirty work” he was asked to do.

It is “revealed” in the movie that the plot was already hatched by the Churchill government and the boundary lines were drawn by him in 1945 itself – the same were to be drawn by Radcliffe, it was ensured. The secret papers were shown to both Radcliffe and Mountbatten, who is being shown to be devastated by the conspiracy of Churchill and yet fulfils the colonial design to keep Soviet Union away from the post-partition political game. To create Pakistan as the new colony of US imperialism since Nehru was showing pro-Soviet tilt in his thinking.

But a feature film needs a story and a hero and heroine. So, Partitionhas Jeet, played impressively by Manish Dayal, and Aalia, played equally well by Huma Qureshi. A Hindu boy and a Muslim girl, who fall in love and meet in the end like most films with happy endings.

But all that come after lot of Partition-related pain.

Interestingly, Raja Samar Singh Sarila, son of Narinder Singh Sarila, has played the role of his father as Mountbatten’s ADC in the film.

A lot of creative literature, paintings and films have been dedicated to Partition and will continue to be done. Perhaps Indo-Pakistan joint venture in Punjabi, Khamosh Pani or Garm Hawa, may have scored better than any other films on the subject till date.

Partition-1947 could have been more impressive, had it focused more upon the last five years. The film fails to bring to notice the one positive attempt to avoid Partition made by the Cripps mission, first in 1942 and then in 1946 as Cabinet mission led by Stafford Cripps, who was a leftist among Labour leaders and had offered the federal scheme of India. If one looks at it after 70 years, the federal India proposed by Cripps was the best option in those days to avoid Partition. It could have saved million lives and many millions suffering.

The Mountbatten’s biggest criminal act was to force Partition in just two-and-a-half months – from June 3 partition plan of Mountbatten to August 14, 1947 (birth of a new nation Pakistan).

He had time till June 1948 and there was no need to rush through. The best time, if at all there were any, could have been November 1947 or April 1948 – the weather conditions would have improved and the armed forces too would have been properly trained to stop massacres.

In fact, Dr BR Ambedkar was in favour of Partition but with peaceful mutual migration of communities. Alternately, Jinnah and Nehru could had been stricter in not allowing any mass migration of communities and both countries could have lived with minorities in more peaceful manner after 1947.

But a film is a film and it must have a story. So, Viceroy’s House has communal tensions in its own staff, who fight in front of him, though may not be to that extent as has been exaggerated in the film, making an excuse for Mountbatten to hasten the Partition process.

He did it, but history can not absolve him of shirking away his responsibility of not controlling violence under his command. Most of the violence took place from August 1946 – Muslim League direct action call to August-September 1947.

Ironically, Mountbatten did not die naturally as he was assassinated by Irish nationalists at the age of 79. And they claimed it to be just revenge from British colonialists.

Chadha though has an eye for detail, which she uses in this film effectively. The film was not allowed to be shown in Pakistan on the pretext that Jinnah has not been shown in a good light, which is partly true.

But the film shows the human urge for love and empathy despite all the hatred generated by religious or other divisive tendencies, and gives a message that the “heart cannot stop beating even during a bloody partition”.

Also read: How Gurinder Chadha’s film shows all our heroes had  feet of clay


Chaman LalCHAMAN LAL @profchaman

The author is a retired professor of Jawaharlal Nehru University and the author of Understanding Bhagat Singh.

Why Is the RSS Afraid of the Revolutionary Punjabi Poet Pash?


Why Is the RSS Afraid of the Revolutionary Punjabi Poet Pash?

After objecting to Rabindranath Tagore, Ghalib and writings on M.F. Hussain, the RSS ideologue Dinanath Batra now wants a poem by Pash, which depicts the general oppressiveness of society, removed from textbooks.

The biggest ideologue of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) on education, Dinanath Batra, recently came out with a proposal to remove Avtar Pash’s only poem ‘Sabse Khatrnak’ from the class XI Hindi textbook Aaroh. The poem by the revolutionary Punjabi poet – who was killed by Khalistani terrorists on March 23, 1988 – was first published in 2006.

The National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) revised its textbooks for all subjects under the National Curriculum Framework of 2005. History and Hindi are the two subjects that had invited the ire of RSS. The expert committee in Hindi was led by professor Namvar Singh as its chairman and professor Purushottam Agarwal as chief advisor. For history, professor Neeladari Bhattacharya was the chief advisor.

On August 18, 2006, BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad (now the law minister) raised the issue of the publication of “objectionable” material in NCERT books in the Rajya Sabha. Interestingly, the whole debate was in Hindi and I had gone through it in 2006, before writing an article titled ‘Issues and Facts about NCERT Books‘.

But now, one cannot find Devanagari script on the Rajya Sabha website in order to read this page. There is a good record of the Rajya Sabha Official Debates, but little record of Rajya Sabha Verbatim Debates – this particular issue was part of the latter.

I remember a comment by Sushma Swaraj in which she had labeled Pash a ‘Naxalite’ poet. Even Abani Roy, the leader of Revolutionary Socialist Party, made uncharitable remarks on Pash in that debate. Since we used to exchange views, I had contacted Roy to express my resentment at his comments, from which he tried to wriggle out by saying that ‘He wanted Pash not to be taught in the lower classes, he may be taught in higher classes.’

Punjabi poet Pash. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Roy apparently did not know that Pash’s poem was included in class XI textbook and not for younger students.

Now, Batra, who retired as a Hindi teacher from a school, has not only objected to Pash’s poem, he has also targeted Rabindranath Tagore, Ghalib, Urdu phraseology in general, writings on M.F. Hussain, etc. Whatever BJP MPs had said of Hussain in 2006 in a Rajya Sabha debate has been repeated by Batra now.

Just as the reference to Tagore being omitted from NCERT books created a stir in Bengal and even in the the parliament, Punjabi writers too have vehemently come out against Batra/RSS’s recommendations.

Incidentally, Akka Mahadevi and Pash are the only two non-Hindi poets included in the class XI textbook.

Pash’s poem – included in an anthology – veers towards the philosophical. While talking about oppression in society, the poet muses on the significance of dreams and he finds ‘the death of dreams’ as the ‘most dangerous’ human predicament. Perhaps the RSS and its cohorts are afraid of dreams, as dreams lead to inspiration, which further lead to transformational ideas of better humanity – which is dreaded by RSS like often by religious fundamentalist bodies. So the dreamer poet, who was assassinated by religious fundamentalists, now must be kept away from young minds in school.

But why has Pash offended the RSS so much? Read his poetry and the answer immediately becomes clear.

Pash is one of the major Punjabi poets whose works are a part of the syllabus of several universities. Pash’s works have been translated into major Indian languages like Bengali, Gujarati, Marathi, Telugu, Malayalam, Kannada, Hindi etc. The University Grants Commission, in its model course designed during earlier NDA rule, had recommended teaching Pash.

His poetry has been compared to that of Pablo Neruda and Lorca, and he was murdered for confronting Khalistani terrorists directly through his poetry.

The Pash Library in Karnal, which was established in the memory of policemen of Haryana slain by Khalistanis, has now been closed by RSS chief Manohar Lal Khattar. Pash, in one of his poems, has referred to ‘the critics with red turbans.’ Had he listened to the interpretation of his poetry in Rajya Sabha and by Batra, what term would he have coined for such literary critics? Perhaps ‘literary critics with red turbans and bhagwa (saffron) minds.’

Born on September 9, 1950, Pash’s first collection of poetry ‘Loh Katha’ (Iron Tale) came out in 1970 and earned him instant recognition. His 1974 collection ‘Uddade Bazan Magar‘ (After the Flying Hawks) and 1978 collection ‘Sade Samian Vich’ (In Our Times) immediately made him one of the major Punjabi poets of his generation.

Translations of his poetry got him recognition throughout India. After 1978, till his assassination a decade later on March 23 – a day of his own hero Bhagat Singh’s martyrdom – he published a few poems in journals, but not in any collection. In this period, he brought out journals, set up a school and challenged the Khalistani interpretation of Gurbani.

He then moved to the US due to threats from Khalistani terrorists, but continued writing against both state and Khalistani terrorism in poetry and prose. On a visit to India in 1988, the day he was supposed to return to US with his village friend Hansaj, both were assassinated in his village Talwandi Salem near Jalandhar. His complete poetry was published in different volumes after his assassination and recently his complete prose collection ‘Talwandi Salem nun Jandi Sadak’(The road going to Talwandi Salem) has been published.

Out of Pash’s nearly 200 poems, T. C. Ghai has translated 102 poems in English as well. Two films have also been made on Pash. Rajiv Kumar, the internationally renowned director of Chamm and Nabar, made Apna Pash and another director made Chauras Chand.

Pash’s very first poem is titled ‘Bharat.’ It announces his own sense of nationalism, which is based on working people’s India. And the rejection of Indian nationhood comes in a poem titled ‘A Petition for Disinheritance’, based on the misbehaviour against Sikhs traveling on the Ambala-Delhi highway during the time of the 1982 Asian games.

If Pash attacks the Indian state for its oppression, he does not spare Bhindranwale followers for their cruel acts as well. Were he alive today, he would have definitely written about the murders of intellectuals and dissenters.


Pash Poems (20)

Chaman Lal retired from JNU as Professor in Hindi Translation. He has translated poetry of Pash in Hindi and edited documents of Bhagat Singh in several languages.