Letter to DU Vice Chancellor on Dyal Singh College namechange issue









Professor Chaman Lal (Retired)                                   Dated:–22ND November 2017

Professor& Former Chairperson

Centre of Indian Languages (SLL&CS)

Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi-110067

Fellow (Senator), Panjab University Chandigarh

Former Visiting Professor, The University of the West Indies, Trinidad Tobago

Former Professor Head, Comparative Literature/Punjabi, CUP, Bathinda

Former President JNUTA


Subject: Regarding Dyal Singh College Name Change issue


Dear Professor Yogesh Tyagi,

I am writing this open letter to you at a considerable risk to your career, as a letter written in utmost social concern from a former JNU colleague, can put you in bit embarrassing position, even if you ignore or reject it. As the socio-cultural atmosphere of Indian society, having reflection on educational institutions has been vitiated so much by certain forces in society, now ruling the country, that any talk of reason has become almost impossible. Yet I am taking this risk to make you aware of the certain facts regarding the controversy of Dyal Singh College (Evening) to be renamed as ‘Vande Matram College’ (morning), while functioning from the same building.

In this respect I wish to bring certain facts to your notice, as I understand that Management Committee of Dayal Singh College with common President for both morning and evening college, is bent upon changing the name of evening college to Vande Matram College as morning college and the matter has been referred to affiliating University of the college for approval, which is Delhi University itself. In fact as the history of the college explains that Dayal Singh college was set up by Dayal Singh Trust and which was continuation of Dayal Singh Trust from its origin Lahore, where the Dayal College already existed and continue till date, which I myself visited in year 2008, when I as JNU Teachers Association(JNUTA) President had gone for a conference invited by All Pakistan University Teachers Federation and Peshawar University Teachers Association, along with four other colleagues from JNU-Dr. M M Kunju(Then JNUTA Secretary), Prof. Khwaja Ekram and Dr. Raman Sinha from CIL and Prof. Akhlaque Ahan from Centre for Persian Studies. The front pictures of Dayal Singh College whose name is now changed to Govt. Dayal Singh College Lahore and other Dayal Singh named institutions in Lahore are attached with this letter.

  1. The decision of Dayal Singh College Delhi management committee to change name of the reshaped morning college as Vande Matram has invited strong resentment from various quarters in Delhi and Punjab. Delhi MLA Manjinder Singh Sirsa has protested very strongly on the change of the name of the college, though he is part of Akali-BJP political alliance in Delhi and Punjab and the gentleman who is heading Dayal Singh college management committee is from BJP, which probably has been nominated as Chairman of committee from your office. There was a time when only academician’s used to be nominated as Chairmen of College managements by Delhi University! Apart from MLA Manjinder Singh, many teachers and student activists from College and Delhi University itself are opposing and protesting against name change, yet Chairman and Principal of college are paying no attention to the views of these important sections of society.
  2. In Punjab also this unthoughtful decision of Chairman is giving rise to great resentment. Lok Sabha member from Patiala Dr. Dharamvir Gandhi and few student organizations have criticized this decision. Many intellectuals/Advocates and writers have also condemned this move of College Chairman. The most significant daily of the region founded by Dyal Singh Majithia himself in Lahore from 1881-The Tribune has not only written a strongly worded editorial to oppose this decision, it has carried many reports and articles to show how irrational and provocative this decision is for Punjabi people who love their heritage in the form of personality of Dyal Singh Majithia-the great philanthropist, visionary and promoter of modern education, Banking and journalism in pre-partition Punjab, whose legacy continues even today in Delhi, Karnal and Chandigarh in particular.
  3. Dyal Singh Trust society itself, which is running Dyal Singh College Karnal and which gifted this college to Delhi University in 1978, after running it from 1959-almost for two decades, is feeling betrayed and offended at this decision of present Chairman of the college which is now managed by University of Delhi itself as University College.
  4. I wish that as Vice Chancellor of the University to know and understand the reasons behind this reaction of the Punjabi community at large, so that before taking any decision to approve or reject the name change decision of College Chairman, you are able to see its pros and cons and I am sure that you will not approve any such unthoughtful decision of management, which is not in the larger interest of the higher education and harmony of Indian society.
  5. The reasons behind such strong reactions from Punjab and Delhi are based on Punjabi people’s pride in its heritage in the form of contribution of Dyal Singh Majithia to Punjab’s enlightenment, which can be equaled only to Ram Mohan Roy’s contribution to Bengali society’s enlightenment. And this change of college name in the place contributed by Dyal Singh Trust to DU, looks immoral, illegal, politically motivated and as an insult to the great son of Punjab and Punjab’s heritage. In fact Punjab Government in Pakistan has not only preserved the heritage of Dyal Singh by retaining its name on College and library, it promoted it further by setting up Dyal Singh Research Foundation in Lahore a decade ago or so. While a so-called religious-Islamic state preserves the common pre-partition Punjab heritage and a ‘secular’ republic Indian state tries to demolish that heritage by changing the name of the great man of history! What an irony. Read The Tribune stories, how India would be ridiculed by such unthoughtful decisions in Asia and the world in field of education.







http://www.tribuneindia.com/news/editorials/renaming-legacy/500835.html (Editorial-21st November)









Punjab Chief Minister has also condemned the name change in his tweet-

Capt.Amarinder Singh‏Verified account @capt_amarinder

Following @capt_amarinder


Strongly oppose renaming of Dyal Singh College as #vandemataramcollege. Founder Dyal Singh Majithia was a progressive visionary. We should preserve his great legacy instead of indulging in petty name changing games.



   To dwell a bit further on the issue. After partition in 1947-48, a Camp college was set up under Panjab University jurisdiction to cater the needs of lakhs of refugee students migrated from West Punjab. Though Delhi University had its own colleges, as a special provision Panjab University was allowed to continue this college in its area of jurisdiction till 1958-59 and finally it was merged with Dyal Singh College as a natural process. Dyal Singh College continuing from Lahore was set up in Delhi and Karnal and Camp College became part of it and it got affiliated to Delhi University, thus ending Panjab University role. Eminent Political Scientist late Prof. Randhir Singh had taught in Camp College for many years.

  1. One is perplexed about the name change process. Argument is given about Ram Lal Anand College and Desh Bandhu College of evening stream being name changed to as Arya Bhatt and Ramanujan College in morning stream respectively, both on the names of historic personalities. But Dyal Singh College has different history, the trust which gave it to Delhi University in 1978, its successors should have been consulted before taking such decision. Evening College turning into morning could have been named Dyal Singh Majithia College, adding Majithia word or making it Dyal Singh College-2, till it functioned from this very location. As and when new college gets new location, new name could have been considered. And why the name-Vande Matram? Dyal Singh was influenced by Brahmo Samaj, why Brahmo Samaj College was not considered? And how many colleges in the country are named on songs-even if it is a national song? Would another college would be named as ‘Jan Gan Man’ college-on National Anthem? Institutions are named on personalities, why instead of ‘Vande Matram’, its author Bankim Chander Chatterjee name was not considered? Vande Matram is part of Bankim Chander novel-‘Anand Math’ in chapter ten of the novel. Why ‘Anand Math’ college name was not considered? These examples are not suggestions for naming any college, these examples are cited as argument to show the absurdity behind changing the name to ‘Vande Matram’. ‘Vande Matram’ name for college is not only an absurdity coming from a skewed mind, it seems to have a political design to create divisions in society and undermining the diverse cultural heritage of the country.
  2. So in view of the above mentioned facts and factors, I appeal you- do not approve the name Vande Matram College for earlier name Dyal Singh college (Evening). In fact you can form a committee of historians/academicians/Trusties of Dyal Singh trust/Punjab and Delhi Govt. representatives to review the whole process and reach at such decision, which does not damage the heritage of Punjab and Dyal Singh institutions. I know how hard it is for you to take independent decisions as Vice Chancellor since the autonomy of the Universities is undergoing greatest stress for the last three years. You could not even accept Bhagat Singh Archives from me, despite your earnest wish to do so, thinking Bhagat Singh had been kept in detention in Viceregal lodge (now your office in DU) for a night during Delhi bomb case trial days

Still I hope and wish that as a fair minded person, you will be able to stand for reason and heritage and don’t succumb to oppressive tactics from the power arrogated forces.

With best regards

Chaman Lal





To understand the issue better I am pasting some historical references to Dyal Singh Majithia from eminent historians like V N Dutta and few other important writers-(Extracts are given here, full file of writings is attached for your perusal and making print copies)



            SARDAR Dyal Singh Majithia was undoubtedly one of the most remarkable pioneers who led India out of the darkness of ignorance to the enlightenment of modernity. He did for North India what Raja Rammohun Roy had done for Bengal three quarters of a century earlier. It is unfortunate that we know so little about his contribution to liberal education, a factor which was instrumental in Indias freedom.(B K Nehru)


A visionary with a difference

By V. N. Datta

THE 19th century Punjab was at the bottom optimistic and melioristic and believed that something radical could be done about all sorts of arrangements in society that would promote material well-being and intellectual advancement. Each age leaves its mark on its generation. Sardar Dyal Singh Majithia had a different cast of mind from those of his forefathers. This was so because he belonged to an era of vital social and economic changes as contrasted with the period which was marked by military adventurism and political chicanery.

Dyal Singh Majithia had a lively and questioning mind. He had influential social connections which gave him entree into every political and intellectual sphere partaking fully in the life around him. The whole story of Sardar Majithia cannot be reconstructed without recourse to conjecture and imagination as the documentary evidence helpful for some parts of his life is almost wholly lacking for others.

He belonged to the family of the distinguished ruling chiefs of Punjab, who had held high positions in the times of Maharaja Ranjit Singh and his successors. His grandfather, Sardar Desa Singh, was Ranjit Singh’s trusted military general who was later appointed the Governor of the hill states of Mandi and Saket. He also acted as the civil administrator of Harmander Sahib in Amritsar, a responsibility he discharged with fervour. Because of his meritorious services Ranjit Singh conferred on him the title of “Kisrul-Iktdar”. Sir Lepel Griffin estimated Desa Singh’s income from various jagirs and other sources at 1,24,250 per annum. Desa Singh died in 1832, leaving behind three sons: Lehna Singh, Gujar Singh and Ranjodh Singh.

Dyal’s father, Lehna Singh, was an extraordinary man and, in many ways, an innovator. He was highly respected for his integrity of character, mild manners and amiable disposition. He inherited a major portion of his father’s estates. He acted also as the Governor of the hill states and was the chief administrator of Harmandar Sahib. Deeply interested in science, he set up his own laboratory for conducting experiments. Through his contacts with the British he acquainted himself with scientific knowledge in England and procured some literature on the subject for his own studies. An engineer, he improved the Punjab foundries and invented the clock which showed the day, the month and the changes in the moon. Though deeply interested in astronomy he was not converted to the Copernican system and still continued to believe in the earth’s immobility.

Ranjit Singh was greatly impressed by Lehna Singh’s diplomatic finesse and, therefore, sent him on several diplomatic missions to negotiate with the British on important political matters. In this connection he met Lord William Bentinck, Lord Auckland, Lord Ellenborough and Alexander Burnes. He was conferred the title of Hasham-ud-Daula (Lord of the State). During Chand Rani’s brief regime of violence and disorder it was proposed to appoint him as Prime Minister, but he was considered too mild a person for such a challenging task which needed ruthlessness and twisting of politics. When he witnessed how Punjab was breaking up due to the sinister designs and high-handedness of a few self-aggrandising and self-destructive individuals overpowered by overweening ambition during Mesar Julla’s regime, he left Punjab to settle in Benaras where Dyal Singh was born in 1849.

Henry Lawrence, the British Resident, who had much sympathy for the Punjab Chiefs, persuaded Lehna Singh to return to Punjab and appointed him a member of the Council of Regency in August, 1847. Henry Lawrence had high opinion of him and thought him the “most sensible Sardar in the Punjab”, but also noted his timidity in recourse to action when it was needed. Lehna Singh avoided controversies and loathed pettyfogging and intrigues. He foresaw the rolling clouds of disaster for Punjab and, therefore, left for Benaras again on January 14, 1848, and never to return. Lehna Singh died in 1854 leaving his five-year-old son, Dyal Singh, under the tutelage of Sardar Teja Singh, formerly the Commander-in-Chief and a member of the Council of the Regency. Dyal Singh inherited a large patrimony from his father. The most significant feature of the history of Punjab in the 19th century was its remarkable process of modernisation, and in this transformation certain aspects of urbanisation gained prominence in the various channels producing the changes were education, the Press, the means of transport and communications, the bureaucratic set-up and land settlement. It is not often realised that in the transformation of Punjab the Punjabi elite played a vital role to which Kenneth Jones in his studies has drawn our attention.

Dyal Singh kept himself substantially in touch with some of the influential members of the Bengali elite in Lahore. He had great admiration for the Brahmo Samaj which had initiated social and educational reform in Bengal. It was Surendranath Banerjea who had suggested to Dyal Singh the idea of setting up an independent paper for creating an enlightened public opinion in Punjab. In his memoirs, Surendranath Banerjea wrote about Dyal Singh: “He was one of the truest and noblest men I have come across. It was perhaps difficult to know him and to get the better of his heart for there was a certain reserve about him which hid from public view pure gold that formed the stuff of his nature.”

Seetalchandra Mookerjee served as the first Editor of The Tribune who was followed by Seetalakanta Chatterjee and B.C. Pal. During the 1919 disturbances Kalinath Ray was the Editor who was tried and arrested. Gandhiji had to intervene on his behalf and send a petition to the Viceroy about his release.

The Tribune became a success within a short time so much so that when Dennis Fitzpatrick was the Lieutenant-Governor of Punjab a civilian wrote to The Pioneer of Lucknow that Punjab was ruled by the Lieutenant-Governor and The Tribune. It remained Dyal Singh’s cardinal principle not to interfere in the working and management of the paper, and he left complete freedom to the Editor to use his discretion in running the paper. He emphasised in his Will that the paper should remain entirely free from any taint of communalism which was vitiating the atmosphere in Punjab.

Aristocratic in bearing, Dyal Singh was a reserved and taciturn person. He was a man of few words. Not a profound thinker, ideologue or scholar of the library, he possessed immense Punjabi commonsense of seeing the reality of things. He disdained controversies. This does not mean that he kept himself aloof when important issues of national interest were involved.

The very first issue of The Tribune on February 2, 1881, stood for the promotion of modern knowledge through the English language. About 25 articles supported by strongly-worded editorials in The Tribune knocked down Leitner’s argument and created a strong public opinion in favour of Dyal Singh’s stand on higher education. Ultimately, the government had to yield! Though separate arrangements for imparting oriental learning were made, instruction in higher education began to be given through the medium of English.

Dyal Singh Majithia, a public spirited liberal imbued with lofty ideals, left a rich legacy of a creative force calculated to produce far-reaching consequences for generations to come. His institutions continue to function in Punjab and elsewhere and act as a stimulus to the lives of so many people. Unfortunately, political developments took a different turn from what he had envisioned. He was out-and-out a liberal person, but his liberalism got swamped by the rising tide of communalism which led to the Partition of India. The value system he had projected with his insightful intellect has much relevance for us. He had the vision of a secular, prosperous Punjab, free from conflicts, and bustling with ideas and verve.


An educationist par excellence

By Justice Dalip K. Kapur

Sardar Dyal Singh had vast property in Lahore, Amritsar and Majitha. He made a will creating three trusts. These were the Tribune Trust, the Dyal Singh College Trust and the Dyal Singh Public Library Trust. He appointed three eminent lawyer-friends to be the trustees of The Tribune, but included some educationists, and among them was Dewan (later Raja) Narendra Nath in the College Trust. In the Library Trust, he included some well-known persons. The college and library took shape quite a long time after the Sardar’s death, as the will was challenged by the widow and another lady, Mrs Catherine Gill, who claimed to be Dyal Singh’s wife. The case was fought up to the Privy Council. The judgements upheld the Trust and give a good picture of Sardar Dyal Singh’s philanthropy and reputation.


The College Trust was well-endowed with property in Majitha and Amritsar, so it was able to start functioning again at Karnal and in New Delhi. Dewan Anand Kumar, Vice-Chancellor of Punjab University, who was the main Trustee, was responsible for opening the college at both places. The Karnal college had a small beginning but went on improving. The New Delhi college was very well housed. It had a beautiful building, and was doing well, but the government put some restrictions which forced the trustees to give up the college. It was the hardest decision to make. Huge amounts of money, the college building and all its assets were given to Delhi University. This was one of the blackest deeds of the national government. It was forced because the trust could not run the college under the University Grants Commission. It had no way to meet the deficit, all the income was taken by the commission and the trust was required to meet the deficit from “other sources”, which was impossible as there were no “other sources”. When the college was set up in New Delhi, the Central Government had done its best to rehabilitate the refugee college through the Rehabilitation Ministry, but later the government evolved an unworkable scheme, which led to the trust giving up its assets to save the college from closure. The college is still called Dyal Singh College, New Delhi, but no longer under the trust.

The Karnal college, on the other hand, has gone from strength to strength. The 10+2 policy, and the creation of the university at Kurukshetra, had led to the college having only a two-year B.A. course. That is not enough. The trustees with immense vigour and enterprise have set up Dyal Singh School, which is one of the leading schools of the area providing education up to the secondary level. A huge new building is under construction. The efforts regarding the college and the school principally of Dewan Anand Kumar and now Dewan Gajendra Kumar, have resulted in the creation of an institution of which the Sardar would be proud. There is now a move for some post-graduate courses. Some have already been started.

A pioneer in banking sector too

By Prakash Tandon

Punjab National Bank emerged in the late nineteenth century, inheriting the traditions trade and

banking and influenced by the impact of modern British banks, depicting the resurgence of the new Punjab. One of the ideals of the new elite was to start their own modern bank, professionally run with Indian capital and management, wide public participation and no personal control or ownership

His greatest contribution perhaps was in the area of institution building. The rugged individualism of the Punjabis made them averse to forming and working together in voluntary associations. Dyal Singh, on the other hand, was an admirer of British institutions and their parliamentary system, though he did not like the bureaucracy and never cultivated its executive officers. He saw the need to build institutions in Punjab and in less than two decadesades found number of them; the Dyal Singh High School, College and Library. He helped all institutions with which he was associated with wisdom and guidance.



Spreading the light of learning

By Brig Yash Beotra (retd)

“PROPAGATION of sound liberal education and dissemination of knowledge to inculcate pure morality”, was one of the cherished obsessions with Sardar Dyal Singh Majithia, a many splendoured personality. And to achieve this lifetime wish of his, he bequeathed assets worth over Rs 30 lakh way back in 1895, through a will, the last will and testament of his, to establish three premium institutions in Lahore (now in Pakistan):

(1) The Tribune – to spread knowledge through the print medium.

(2) Dyal Singh College – to disseminate knowledge through formal education.

(3) Dyal Singh Public Library – to spread knowledge through books.

The library was closer to his heart, as Sardar Majithia was himself a voracious reader, with a personal collection of more than 1000 volumes on various subjects. He dedicated his palatial building in the elite area of Lahore for establishing a premier public library.










H.No.2690, Urban Estate, Phase-II, Patiala (Pb.)-147002


Email: – prof.chaman@gmail.com mobile no 09646494538







Belated but welcome recognition-Gyanpeeth award@92-Krishna Sobti

                                           Chaman Lal*

         The most pleasant news of the day is Gyanpeeth award to one of the most celebrated Indian writer Krishna Sobti, who proudly writes in Hindi, but who is respected worldwide, not only for his writings, but for upholding the dignity of writing profession as well. In fact one of the reason for her belated recognition by Gyanpeeth is her uprightness. Amrita Pritam, Punjabi author, just six year older to Krishna Sobti, with whom Sobti fought legal case over the title of the book-‘Zindaginama’ for 26 years, though losing the case decided after Amrita Pritam;s death, received Gyanpeeth award much earlier in 1982. Krishna Sobti was equally significant when Amrita Pritam got this award, Sobti won Sahitya Akademi award for her classic novel ‘Zindaginama’ in 1980. Born in Gujarat district of pre-partition Punjab in 1925, her latest novel published in 2017 is ‘Gujarat Pakistan se Gujarat Hindustan’. After partition Sobti worked for some time in Gujarat in India. 22 years, which she spent in pre-partition Punjab have come alive in her classic novel ‘Zindaginama’ which was translated in Punjabi by celebrated Punjabi novelist Gurdial Singh, who incidentally was awarded Gyanpeeth award again much earlier jointly with Nirmal Verma in 1999, another contemporary of Krishna Sobti. She was awarded Sahitya Akademi Fellowship, highest honour way back in 1996, which she returned along with her Akademi award in 2015, after the assassination of Prof. M M Kalburgi in 2015. Like historian Romila Thapar she also declined to accept Padamshree offered to her in year 2010. Krishna Sobti never compromised in life either in job or in writing and when she was a Fellow in Indian Institute of Advanced Study during earlier NDA regime and then Chairman of IIAS tried to saffornise the institution, Sobti was in forefront to oppose it and wrote a very strong letter to chairman, which went viral by postal mail in those days, as it was not yet social media age. In these days when young Indian girl students are fighting ‘Pinjra Tod’ battles in Universities singing Faiz-‘Bol ke lab azad hain tere’-Speak out that your lips are free, Krishna Sobti’s fierce independent life lived by her characters like ‘Mitro Marjani’ or her own life, choosing to live with a writer partner in late age without bothering for so called ‘moral police’ of society. She has been an inspiration to younger generation and fellow writers who raised the voice against atmosphere of intolerance in post 2014 period and writers like Krishna Sobti and Nayantara Sehgal took the cudgels even in their late eighties or nineties of age. In her non fictional writing Hum Hashmat, she exposes the hypocrisy of society.

My association with Krishna ji is almost four decades old. In 1993-94, I got her Rubru programmes in Punjabi University Patiala and prior to that I wrote on her novels-Zindaginama and Ai Ladki. I requested to deliver valedictory address to national seminar and ‘Black and Dalit:Some Issues ‘ in Indian Institute of Advanced Study Shimla in 1997, which she delivered in her inimitable style. Before leaving Delhi in 2013 end after retirement from JNU, New Delhi, only person I visited was Krishna ji in her Mayur Vihar residence. I went along my JNU PhD student who had done her thesis on analysing English translation of Krishna Sobti’s novels. During my Punjabi University Patiala days one of my student did her MPhil in Hindi literature on her novels. I kept on requesting Krishna ji and Bhisham ji to write sequel to Zindaginama and ‘Maiya Das ki Madi’, both novels have historic perspective on pre-partition Punjab but conclude in pre-partition time, though I did not succeed in my request. I am happy at Gyanpeeth award announced to her today and rather than congratulating Krishna ji for it, I congratulate Bhartiya Gyanpeeth on this very judicious and welcome announcement, though perhaps two decades late!

Prof.chaman@gmail.com 09868774820

*Gyanpeeth spelled in English as Jnanpith!


Ajmer Singh Aulakh Demise of Another People’s Playwright


Ajmer Singh Aulakh

Demise of Another People’s Playwright

Chaman Lal (prof.chaman@gmail.com) retired from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, as professor, and was part of the radical literary movement of the 1970s in Punjab.


Ajmer Singh Aulakh, the notable Punjabi playwright, passed away on 15 June. He left behind a legacy of revolutionary plays that stand testament to his progressive ideals. His funeral, much like his life, was a celebration of literature, music, and progressive values. He is survived by his wife and three daughters who continue the work he had begun.

He was two months short of completing 75 years of life, when early in the morning on 15 June, without the knowledge of anyone, he breathed his last. Around 2.30 am, his wife and a caretaker had attended to him and helped him rest because he was in discomfort, but when they touched him around 5 am, he was no more. He had been brought back to his home just five days previously from Fortis Hospital Mohali, where he was being treated palliatively for a few weeks due to the unbearable pain brought on by his cancer. While discharging him from hospital, the doctors had cautioned the family—his wife Manjit Aulakh and their three daughters, Supandeep, Sohajdeep and Ajdeep—that his cancer had spread through his body, though, surprisingly, it did not affect his brain, and he had been alert until a few hours before he passed away. On the night of 14 June, he chatted with the family, enquired about news, and listened to some text until 10 pm. He was in a cheerful mood, as was always the case, even during terrible bouts of pain.

Born on 19 August 1942, in the village of Kishangarh Farwahi, close to Mansa in Punjab, Aulakh had suffered from incurable cancer since 2008. Doctors were not hopeful that he would survive beyond two or three years, but Aulakh fought cancer with the indomitable spirit with which the characters in his plays fight against their oppression. His family, friends, the several organisations he was part of, and even the Punjab government, under both the Shiromani Akali Dal and the Congress, extended financial support during his medical crisis. Even the Punjab assembly paid tributes to him after his death.

On 29 November 2013, he wrote a brief will in Punjabi and signed it. A translation of it is provided below.

My last wish is that after my death –

(1) My daughters, whosoever is present at that time, should light the pyre.

(2) No religious rite like bhog, etc may be held, only [a] memorial meeting may be held. In this meeting, no political speaker [should] be allowed. The number of speakers should be limited, and socially they should include my friends, writers, cultural activists, and representatives of workers-peasants, [and] organisations.

(3) [The] memorial meeting should not be unnecessarily long.

Aulakh’s daughters lit his pyre as per his wishes, and his remains were put into a canal flowing through the village of Farwahi. On 25 June, a large memorial meeting was held at Mansa. The meeting was conducted according to Aulakh’s directions. A few thousand people attended, mainly farmers and farm labourers from the state. The meeting was addressed by his friends, the eminent writers Gurbachan Singh Bhullar (fiction writer), Surjit Patar (poet), Atamjit (a playwright like Aulakh) —all three of whom had returned their Sahitya Akademi awards along with Aulakh in 2015. Plays and songs were performed, and Aulakh’s three daughters presented a choreographed rendition of his life and his resolve to continue with the revolutionary tradition of cultural transformation through plays and literature. Even at his cremation on 16 June, a large number of farmers, farm labourers, and intelligentsia participated with flags in their hands, raising slogans like “inquilab zindabad!” and “people’s writer Ajmer Aulakh amar rahe!” An MP and MLA from the Aam Aadmi Party and government officials were also present and laid wreaths.

Ajmer Aulakh was born in a poor farmer family and became friends with Hakam Singh Samaon, the legendary Naxalite hero of Punjab, during his student years. (Hakam Singh passed away several years ago.) Aulakh did not have to struggle much to find a job. The Nehru Memorial College in Mansa was set up in 1965, the very year that he completed his master’s degree in Punjabi, and he joined the college as a lecturer in the same subject. He retired in 2000 after 35 years of teaching at the institution. Once a private college, Nehru Memorial College was taken over by the Punjab government in 1994. Aulakh’s eldest daughter, Supandeep Kaur, is its present dean of cultural affairs.

The year 1967 witnessed the “spring thunder of Naxalism” in the country, and Aulakh’s friend, Samaon, was one of its forerunners in Punjab. Aulakh was also influenced by the movement, but his area of interest was literature. He wrote plays, some of which were staged by different theatre groups in rural areas across Punjab, and he formed his own drama group, which his wife Manjit and his daughters also joined. He directed many of his plays himself, but he also worked alongside other directors.

The Naxalite movement had a great impact on the literary sphere during the 1970s, and the biggest names in contemporary Punjabi literature matured and developed as writers during the early phase of the movement (1967–80). Many new literary journals emerged during the movement and Hem Jyoti, an already renowned literary journal, became the mouthpiece of the radical Punjabi literary–cultural movement in the 1970s. Many Punjabi writers were arrested and tortured at the time, including Pash, Amarjit Chandan and Sant Ram Udasi, all of whom eventually became acclaimed literary figures. A few underground poets like the late Harbhajan Halwarvi, who later edited the daily Punjabi Tribune, returned and joined the literary movement. Gursharn Singh, Waryam Sandhu, Attarjit, Surender (the editor of Hem Jyoti), Kewal Kaur (the editor of Rohle Ban), and several others were arrested and jailed for different periods of time, but they escaped torture.

Emergency and After

Aulakh was also arrested during the Emergency, and we both remained in Bathinda Jail for many months. There were serious debates on the role of literature in revolutionary movements and a group was formed in October 1973 under the title “Panjabi Sahit–Sabhiachar Manch” (Punjabi Literary–Cultural Forum) with the intention of crafting literature from a Marxist perspective. The T Nagi Reddy group from the Marxist–Leninist (ML) stream was the organising spirit behind this forum. The group functioned for a few years, during which time its 15 members were Pash (deceased), Gursharn Singh (deceased), Amarjit Chandan (now based in London)Waryam Sandhu, Ajmer Aulakh (deceased), Sant Ram Udasi (deceased), Attarjit, Chaman Lal Prabhakar (this writer), Sabinderjit Sagar, Buta Ram, Niranjan Singh Dhesi, Surinder Singh Dosanjh, Surender Hemjyoti (deceased), Kewal Singh (no information about his whereabouts), and Megh Raj (deceased). Buta Ram was elected as the group’s convenor, and the meetings, which sometimes ran for days at a time, were held in the members’ homes. Staples of Marxist literature like Marx, Engels, and Lenin on Literature and Art were discussed at length during these meetings. Megh Raj was the political personality selected to oversee and guide the group. One of the meetings was held at Aulakh’s house in Mansa as well. However, the group lost its stream during the Emergency as many of its members were trapped in jail. Surender’s journal, Hem Jyoti, was then made into the forum’s mouthpiece. Amarjit Chandan and Pash were made editors alongside Surender, and later Pash was replaced with Harbhajan Halwarvi, after the latter came over-ground and became part of the forum. One of Aulakh’s short stories, “Behkada Roh” was published in the March 1975 issue of Hem Jyoti.

Besides the literary–cultural movement, a radical student movement organised under the leadership of Pirthipal Singh Randhawa of the Punjab Students’ Union (PSU), who was assassinated in 1979, gathered strength. PSU was a mass organisation active in colleges and universities, and it held many cultural events, including poetry recitations and theatrical performances. Aulakh and Gursharn Singh’s plays, and the poetry written by Pash, Sant Ram Udasi, Lal Singh Dil, and a few others, were popular among students. Gursharn Singh’s plays became extremely popular in rural areas, where hundreds of presentations were organised all over rural Punjab during the fifth centenary celebrations of Guru Nanak in 1969. Since Ajmer Aulakh was teaching in a college, and its affiliated university, Punjabi University, Patiala, was holding annual drama festivals and competitions, Aulakh’s plays became major hits in these annual competitions. Every year some team or the other would win a prize for a rendition of one of Aulakh’s plays.

Aulakh wrote nearly 13 one-act plays and about 20 short plays, apart from dramatising stories by other writers. In the early period, Aulakh’s one-act plays, Aabra Cadabra and Arbad Narbad Dhundukara (Eons and Nebulae), were a big hit at festivals. His other one-act plays to become immensely popular were Bigane Bohad di Chhan (The Shadow of the Alien Banyan Tree) and Annen Nishanchi (Blind Sharpshooters). He wrote eight full-length plays, which include Satt Bigane (Seven Aliens), Kehar Singh di Maut (Death of Kehar Singh), Salwan, and Bhajjian Bahin (Broken Arms), which was based on a story with the same name penned by Waryam Sandhu. One of Aulakh’s plays, Jhana de Paani, is available in a English translation—Waters of Chenab.

The Artist as Protester

Aulakh received the Sahitya Akademi award in 2006. His other awards included the Sangeet Natak Akademi award, the Shiromani Natakakar award bestowed by the Punjab government, the Punjabi Sahit Akademi award, and the Pash memorial award. Guru Nanakdev University, Amritsar, also honoured him with an honorary Doctor of Letters degree. Despite this widespread recognition, however, Aulakh remained committed to his pro-people concerns. Most of his plays are based on poor farmers, the women’s struggle against landlords, government-instituted anti-farmer policies, and attempt to expose the state’s oppression of struggling people.

Amidst the outbreak of the Khalistani terrorist movement, Aulakh continued to stand for progressive values, and he wrote plays against both the state and Khalistani terror. After Pash’s assassination at the hands of Khalistani terrorists on 23 March 1988, Aulakh was somewhat unnerved. A few months after the assassination, Aulakh commented on it in his report on the 50th anniversary of the Progressive Writers’ Association (PWA) held in Barnala, Punjab. “The artist should not say things directly. In his view Pash would not have been killed, had he confined himself to writing poetry and not condemned the terrorists openly” (Kumar 1988). All the same, Aulakh was vocal in attacking oppressors, including terrorists, in several of his plays. Gursharn Singh did so as well and perhaps was even bolder! Aulakh also joined many of us authors who protested by returning awards in October 2015, after Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare, and finally M M Kalburgi were assassinated by Hindutva terrorists.

Apart from executing his role as a playwright and director, Aulakh contri­buted to the larger democratic movement of Punjab as well. He remained a patron of the Kendri Punjabi Lekhak Sabha (Progressive Punjabi Writers Organisation) and was also president of the Association for Democratic Rights, Punjab. Earlier this year, after the eminent Punjabi novelist Gurdial Singh’s death, hundreds of working class people paid him homage by organising a memorial meeting at his home town, Jaitu. In 2011 too, when the author Gursharn Singh passed away, hundreds of farmers and labourers and middle-class intelligentsia held mass memorial meetings, during which they emphasised the idea of accompanying revolution with revolutionary songs, slogans, and printed pamphlets. The same new radical cultural tradition was followed during Aulakh’s commemoration on 25 June. During these times, when religious fundamentalism has state-backed power and ransacks society at large with its fascist methods of killing and maiming people, asserting Bhagat Singh’s atheist and revolutionary spirit (even during the public mourning of our writers’ deaths) is certainly an act of resistance, and a welcome one at that! By honouring Ajmer Aulakh’s last wish, his family, friends, and comrades have paid him a real and well-deserved tribute!


Kumar, Kuldiip (1988): “The Literature of Conflict,” Sunday Special, 10–16 July, p 70.

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 prof.chaman@outlook.com/prof_chaman@yahoo.com
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.
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Oct 15, 2017