Saturday, 19 January 2008

Visiting Sites relating to Bhagat Singh in Pakistan

Visiting Sites relating to Bhagat Singh in Pakistan

Chaman Lal

During my first visit to Pakistan, visiting sites relating to Bhagat Singh’s activities was an added attraction. Accompanied by Zubair, well known progressive story writer of Punjabi, I first went to Bradlaugh Hall, which few people know now. Hall is in dilapidated condition and some training school is being run from there. From the shape of building, one can well imagine that it was a grand building once. National College established by Lala Lajpat Rai, where Bhagat Singh was a student, was located in this building. Fortunately, the foundation plate is still intact. The foundation of this headquarters of freedom movement was laid by Surender Nath Sen in 1900. It would be better if Government of India could impress upon Pakistan Govt. to get it declared as heritage building. Lajpat Rai Hall of Lahore, which housed famous Dwarka Dass library, now in Chandigarh, is now held by fingerprint bureau of Pakistani police. I could not visit this place; I could not locate Khwasarian village, nearby Lahore, which was the abode of Bhagat Singh family for many years. Even river Ravi bank, where Lala Lajpat Rai and later the remains of Bhagat Singh , Rajguru and Sukhdev were cremated or Bhagwati Charan Vohra gave his life in bomb explosion, while testing, could not be located. Ravi has perhaps dried up and people say it has become a ‘nallah’. They also say that India has stopped releasing water to river Ravi. However I could easily locate the place of Saundras killing and DAV college hostel nearby. There is not much change in that area, except that DAV College and hostel have turned into Govt. Islamia College and hostel now. But the SSP office remains the same as was during Scott’s time. I was also able to visit ‘Phansighat’, execution spot of Lahore jail, which has now been demolished and Shadman Chowk or’ Fountain Chowk’ instead has come up. It is a residential colony now, with no trace of jail or its historicity, where hundreds of freedom fighters were hanged. Democratic Pakistani activists do gather on 23rd March at Shadman Chowk and burn candles. They also plan to put a plaque nearby, indicating its historicity. Bhagat Singh lived in many houses of Lahore during his underground days and people still talk of those houses. One such house is said to be on Jail road. Najam hussain Sayeed, well known Punjabi writer lives on jail road, but he has no idea of that house.

I could go to birth place of Bhagat Singh with newly met local friends, who arranged a car, which took us first to Waris Shah’s mazar at Jandiala Sheikh. We crossed through Sheikhupura. Visiting Waris Shah mazar was an experience, where every year competition of singing ‘Heer’ is held and it starts with singing of Amrita Pritam’s “ Aaj Aakhan Waris Shah nun………’. From Jandiala , we moved to Nankana Sahib. It is a small town, but the access road is huge. Pakistan has paid more attention to its roads and correctly boasts of its motorways from Lahore to Peshawar. But Pakistan lacks in railway services. Nankana Sahib has eight Gurdwars in its vicinity, including the main one, where in February 1921; morcha was started against Mahants, who were polluting the pious place. Mahants, supported by British colonialists had killed nearly two hundred Sikhs, before vacating the Gurdwara. Inside the Gurdwara, there is ‘Shaheed Jand(tree)’, where one protestor Lachhman Singh was burnt alive. In Nankana Sahib, most of the Gurdwaras relate to Guru Nanak’s childhood stories—where he was born, where he played, where he studied etc. I took ‘langar’ with my Muslim friends of Lahore, who had accompanied me there.

From Nankana Sahib, there was direct route to Jadanawala, though road patch was bad for few kilometers. Crossing Jadanawala, a tehsil town, we reached at the road leading to Chak No. 105, before we could ask someone on the way, a pleasant surprise awaited us. There was a tin board on roadside, painted with Bhagat Singh picture behind bars. Some Jasbeer Singh from Faislabad( Old name Lyalpur) had put this signboard, with his email address. It became easier for us. When we were reading the signboard, some people came close to us and seeing our interest in Bhagat Singh told us the lane to his village. They suggested that before going to village, we should meet one Farhan Khan nearby. As it turned out, Farhan Khan is 82 year old gentleman, retired as Excise officer, having his factory named as Gulab Farm, adding Bhagat Singh town on the signboard. He belonged to Chak NO.107, Pathankot nearby. We reached his place and he welcomed us warmly. In his drawing room, there was old but framed, glass broken black and white photograph, the typical hat wearing popular photograph. Farhan Khan was too happy talking about Bhagat Singh family. He was five years old, when Bhagat Singh was martyred, Bhagat Singh’ younger brothers, names he did not remember (Obviously Kulbir Singh and Kultar Singh), used to meet him. The man was such admirer of Bhagat Singh that I wanted to present him a copy of his writings, but I had no spare copy.I had taken few copies, recently published in English by Leftword and NBT. Farhan Khan got it photocopied, borrowing it for just one hour or so, the time, which we spent at house of Bhagat Singh. We moved to Chak no. 105, accompanied by the man sent by Farhan Khan. It was getting dark. The road to village was not very good. When we reached there, it was not the old house; it was now being shared by three Virk brothers. Pakistan have as many Virks, Randhawas, Sehgals, Bhattis,Cheemas, Waraiches,Gills or Sidhus etc, as much we might be having in our part of Punjab. It was almost four canal land area, which is now shared by Iqbal Virk, Sadiq Virk and Mushtaq Virk families- the three brothers, who were allotted this house after partition. They had migrated from Virk village from Amritsar. Out of the three, Sadiq Virk is no more, but his family lives there. When we reached there were few women working near Chullah, later on we could meet Akhtar Virk, son of Mushtaq Virk, who is now advocate at Faislabad. He told us that not only this house, they also acquired 17 acre Mango garden of Kishan Singh, father of Bhagat Singh. Asked about the value of this much land, we were told it was six lakh per acre, which meant that it has value of more than one crore rupees today. Though Bhagat Singh family also having garden at Chak no. 105, was not known earlier to us, yet it came as no surprise to me. The judge, who wrote judgment for the execution of Kartar Singh Sarabha, has clearly mentioned that Kishan Singh (father of Bhagat Singh) has contributed one thousand rupees (nearly one lakh rupees of today) to the cause of Gadar party in 1914 or 1915. The legend of Bhagat Singh and family becomes more fascinating, because their commitment to the nation overstepped their comforts in life. It is no wonder that Waqar Ahmad, a political science student from Peshawar becomes enamored of Bhagat Singh and reached me through mail, just to know more about Bhagat Singh. Waqar remained in touch with me on phone during my stay in Lahore and was hoping to meet me, as Peshawar University Teachers Association was trying very hard to get visa cleared for me, so that I could visit Peshawar. We had welcomed Peshawar University teacher’s delegation recently in JNU. And it was also during my stay in Lahore, Raza Naeem, a columnist for Dawn, reached me through mail to get a copy of ‘The Jail Notebook and Other writings’ of Bhagat Singh, compiled and introduced by me and published by Leftword on this 23rd March, for reviewing it in ‘Dawn’. I could leave a copy for him in Lahore, apart from talking on phone many times. Raza wanted to hold discussions in Karachi about Bhagat Singh.

Lyalpur was built by British officers as a planned city. This area has very fertile land, so the peasants from other parts of Punjab were encouraged to buy lands here, just as many Punjabi peasants had gone to Terai area to buy lands. Interestingly more people from Doaba went there. They were allotted lands in villages named as Chak with numbers. The families which shifted here attached the name of their village or area to these numbered chaks. Thus Chak no. 65 is Mukundpur, Chak no 67 is Gidderpindi, Chak no. 104 is Samra, Chak no.105 is Bange(From Banga of Doaba),Chak no 106 is Khurla, Chak no. 107 is Pathankot,Chak no. 109 is Bajajanwala and so on. These names continue after partition as well. Only the landowners and inhabitants of the houses have changed. We were told that prior to 1965, there were not many restrictions and lot many people used to visit these places. After 1965, restrictions increased, recent years, there again has been some relaxation and people are again coming to visit these places. We were told that a bus full of Punjabis from Canada had come to visit the place last year. After partition Lyalpur, renamed as Faislabad, became the centre of textile industry. It is now the third biggest city of Pakistan, after Karachi and Lahore. But the city has probably suffered the same problems as has been faced by Ludhiana. Faislabad cloth is rated high in Asian market.

Chaudhary, 98 year old first photo journalist of Pakistan, worked with Faiz Ahmad Faiz, who took over as editor of ‘Pakistan Times’, in place vacated by ‘The Tribune’. Earliest photographs of Pakistani leaders have been shot by F.E. Chaudhary, a Christian. He is the one, who shot the pictures of Central Jail Lahore, when it was being demolished in 1960’s. He has kept that file of photographs, which includes the photographs of ‘Phansighat’, where Bhagat Singh, Sarabha and so many other freedom fighters were executed. I tried to capture these photos through my ordinary camera, but did not succeed. And what was the wish of Chaudhary, who is living with his son, Principal of a Christian school in Lahore, a most pleasant man to talk? He wanted to locate his friends of pre partition days, who had migrated to Delhi, mostly photographers. One name he mentioned is of C.L.Soni and co., another Shankar Dass and Co. There were three brothers Meeting people was an enriching experience for me. I had already some contacts and also many references. I was keen to meet Salima Hashmi, daughter of legendry poet Faiz Ahmad Faiz, who along with Faqir Aazijudin, both well known artists and art scholars of Pakistan had recently visited Fine Arts deptt. of Punjabi University Patiala, in context of a seminar. So one evening I spent with Hashmis at their Model Town house, where once Faiz lived. Prof. Salima hashmi is now Dean, Visual Arts of Beaconhead University Lahore, after retiring as Principal of famous National Art College of Lahore. Her husband Prof. Shoib Hashmi, retired Economics Professor is columnist for some dailies and jolly person. Their daughter is named as Meera and granddaughter as Anya. Salima told that Faiz Ahmad Faiz had heard shots of firing on Saundras, as he was somewhere close to DAV College that day. These shots were also heard by legendry Communist leader of Pakistan late Mazhar Ali, this was confirmed by his wife and mother of famous writer Tariq Ali—Tahira Mazhar Ali, whom I met at her house and presented Bhagat Singh’s writings, she is also among those, who celebrate Bhagat Singh in Pakistan. Tahira Mazhar Ali, at the age of 82 years and Salima Hashmi, both are active in democratic movement of Pakistan. Salima had taken part in a women’s rally during my stay. Leftist activists in Pakistan are called ‘Surkhe’(Reds) in popular parlance . One such ‘surkha’, I met by chance at Fictionhouse bookshop, a progressive publisher and bookseller of Lahore. Fictionhouse has published almost all books of eminent historian Mubark Ali, both in Urdu and English. As I had taken some photocards of Bhagat Singh and Dr. Ambedkar to distribute in Lahore and I handed over one such card to fictionhouse owner, an old man present there asked me to give one card to him also. Then he introduced himself as Aslam Raheel Mirza, Communist Party of Pakistan’s worker. He said that we celebrate Bhagat Singh day every year.

An interesting happening in Pakistan also got related to Bhagat Singh. Nawab Mohd Ahmad Khan was a prosecution witness (Sarkari gawah) against Bhagat Singh and his comrades in Lahore Conspiracy case. He rose to become an honorary magistrate in Pakistan. He was murdered at the same place in 1970’s, where Bhagat Singh was executed i.e. Shadman Chowk. Further coincidence is that Zulifkar Ali Bhutto was trapped for the murder of this man by Zia ul Haq and hanged in Lahore jail in 1977. Now everyone in Pakistan say that Bhutto was framed in this case with US complicity. Also every Pakistani says that Zia ul Haq’s eleven year rule was the blackest period of Pakistan history, worst than all other military rulers like Ayub Khan, Yahya Khan or Parvez Musharf. Zia regime completely smashed the secular, liberal and democratic fiber of Pakistani society and had thrown it into prolonged struggle to regain its democratic freedoms back. At this moment Pakistani society has awakened and is now struggling to overcome the most poisonous effects of Zia regime. Let us wish and hope that they succeed.

Chaman Lal

Professor, Centre of Indian Languages(SLL&CS)

J.N.U., New Delhi-110067

Chamanlal1947@yahoo.co.in Mob. 09868774820

6 comments:

kamal said...

I need famous Heer of s. Bhagat Singh ( Jadon Veer Bhagat Singh Saheb Noo, dita Phansi da hukum suma, aundi howan wali naar noo kise dasya pind wich jaa). Can I get the complite HEER? If yes Pls. mail it to me at kanwalkishorekathuria@gmail.com

watever said...

sir
can you please name or gimme ea lalink of aal the procedngs
who gave the GAVAAHI aginst him and two oders
i want day by day and each and every detail of hat proceding
i think sir you will help me...........
rgrds
sumit.kaliramna@orientcraft.com

Anonymous said...

Rather excellent idea and it is duly

Professor Chaman Lal said...

Bhagat Singh di ghori in Urdu letters is posted on blog and facebook.
Proceedings edited by MJS Waaraich are under print

kamal said...

SIR I COULD NOT FIND THE GHORI . YOU ARE REQUESTED TO SEND ON MY EMAIL ADDRESS. REGARDS

Professor Chaman Lal said...

It has been posted now,also another article in Urdu has been posted