Jallianwala Bagh massacre: 100 years later

The police, pipes, and memory

The memory project: Sukhi Sunger on the dhol with the Vancouver Police Pipe Band   | Photo Credit: V. V. Krishnan

Constable Sukhi Sunger wasn’t born in India. Both his parents were though, and in 2004, on a personal visit to the country, he found himself in Jallianwala Bagh. The site moved him so much, that even with more than a decade left for the commemoration, he put a calendar alert on his phone to come back and mark 100 years of the massacre at the site, to reconnect and remember some of his ancestors.

After Sunger’s more than decade-long service in the Vancouver Police Department, he was invited earlier this year to be part of their pipe band — one of the oldest in the world. Since turning a hundred years old in 2004, the Vancouver Police Pipe Band has had a visit to India in the pipeline for over a year now. Finally here, the band has pegged its trip to the festival of Vaisakhi on 14th April this year. Back home, they lead the Vancouver annual Vaisakhi parade. But now, in a serendipitous overlap for Sunger, their more solemn agenda is to honour the memory of the lives lost on April 13th, 1919 at Jallianwala Bagh.

Canada, a fellow former British colony, identified 1.4% of the population as Sikh, in its 2016 census. As early as the 1990s, Vancouver was known as home to one of the largest Sikh populations in the world outside of India. And now, says the Vancouver Police Department’s deputy chief constable Steve Rai, Sunger is possibly the only Sikh Punjabi member in any pipe band through North America.

On Tuesday night, at the Residence of Canada here in Delhi, the band, with its 24 touring members — the youngest is in their 20s, with the oldest almost 75 — made an entry onto the lawns with a grand march, playing Sixth of June. Once on stage, it was their “usual repertoire,” says Pipe Major constable Cal Davis.

Some of the tunes were written by band members, too. They played Lord Lovett’s Lament, Pathfinder, and Crescent Beach.

But when Sunger kept the Scottish drum aside and took up the colourfully tassled Punjabi dhol, it was clear that they’d made an effort to include some specials: For over the next few minutes, the summer evening air was filled with Muhammad Iqbal’s Sare Jahan Se Accha. The melody in pipe music, was carried by the unmissable strength of Sunger’s dhol.

The Vancouver Police Pipe Band will be performing multiple shows in different locations in Amritsar on April 13 and April 14; one show in Nawanshahar on April 15; and their final show of the tour in Chandigarh on April 16.

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Printable version | Jul 30, 2021 7:48:05 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/music/the-police-pipes-and-memory/article26804863.ece

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