Punjab: In a fractured land

Navtej Sharma, former chief secretary of Punjab Ramesh Inder Singh and Amandeep Sandhu in conversation with journalist Mandira Nayar 

Updated - March 20, 2023 07:50 pm IST

Published - February 10, 2023 06:09 pm IST

Venue TTK Auditorium, Music Academy, Chennai SEE MAP

Time & DateFeb 25 , 2023 , 02:30 pm - 03:30 pm

Three writers, including two bureaucrats, took to the stage at the LFL session on “Punjab: In a fractured land” on Saturday to explain to the audience the essence of Punjabiyat that holds the community together and the myth and reality of the image Punjabis often have outside the state. 

They were unanimous in the opinion that politicians and political parties should stop polarising the people of Punjab and instead care to govern the state with efficacy. 

The panellists representing three different writing traditions included diplomat-turned author Navtej Sarna who in Crimson Spring has looked at the forgotten sacrifices of ordinary men and women by revisiting the worst British outrage at Jallianwala Bagh.  Former civil servant Ramesh Inder Singh’s, Turmoil in Punjab: An Insider’s Account is about the politically turbulent period between 1978 and 1994, fuelled by the operations Blue Star, Woodrose and Black Thunder I and II.  Journalist Amandeep Sandhu’s  Panjab: Journeys Through Fault Lines talks of the past and present of Punjab, in the backdrop  of green revolution, emergency, Punjab insurgency. The session was moderated by journalist Mandira Nayar. 

Mr.Singh said Punjab suffers from a geopolitical curse and has always been the gateway for invaders from the 8th Century. “This has given the attitude to Punjabis to live in the moment, respect and respond to the situation; but the State has been uniquely unfortunate in the leadership it got because it was either reduced to an instrument or failed to see how and why militancy erupted in Punjab.” 

Mr. Sarna compared writing about Punjab to writing about a civilisation. But people have made a caricature of themselves and have been large hearted enough to be able to laugh at themselves, he said. Punjab is about but not only about bhangra, Patiala peg and a chicken leg in hand. It is also a land known for music, poetry, Bhakti saints. It has fought many battles and it is difficult to obliterate the wounds. What people need is acknowledgement of their pain and justice.” 

Mr. Sandhu said Punjab is a story that everybody has heard but a sense of who Punjabis are, is lacking because the people of Punjab have never been able to tell their stories since the gurudwara movement in the last 100 years. “The farmers’ protest taught us to build our narratives.” 

The panellists were unanimous that the onus of peace lies on the State and central government irrespective of the political parties. So far none, has cared to heal Punjab, they said and made out a case for good governance in the state.   

They touched upon issues such as the recent rise of Amritpal Singh, a Khalistan sympathiser, who is reawakening memories of militancy and bloodshed that the state is trying to put behind or how from a land of agrarian sufficiency, the state today is at the edge of desertification and the increasing band of disgruntled youth given the lack of employment opportunities 

Their books touch upon fault lines that still persist in the state. They said, people are unwilling to tolerate injustice, making it imperative for political parties to play the role of nation building and not fractured federalism. 

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