Remembering Pirthipal Randhawa-charismatic student leader from Punjab

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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

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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’.

Prof.chaman@gmail.com, 09646494538

  1. H.no. 1098/2, Sector 39-B, Chandigarh

Torturous Journey in Indian Railways-Achhe Din!

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

Prof.ChamanLal(Retd.)

Professor (Retd.), JNU, New Delhi

Ex-Coordinator-Centre for Comparative Literature

Centre for Punjabi, Language, Literature and Culture

Ex-Professor-In Charge CUP Library

 

  www.bhagatsinghstudy.blogspot.com

www.drchaman.wordpress.com

www.twitter.com/ProfChaman

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chaman_Lal

www.facebook.com/Dr.Chaman.JNU

Date

 

 
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

Awards

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.

Yours

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

Awards

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

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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!