Indian Punjabis visiting Lahore now need to be cautious of sedition law


Jagtar Singh

Chandigarh, August 24: It is not just former Congress MP from Mandya Divya Spandana aka Ramya whose comments after return from Pakistan have let all hell loose in Bengaluru as she questioned perception of Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar who had described the neighbouring country as ‘hell’. Majority of the Punjabis in general and the Sikhs in particular who cross the Attari-Wagha border as part of various delegations can easily be booked under sedition after their return. The messengers of hate would not understand it. Visiting Lahore is altogether a different experience.

It is Rohtak or Hisar  that might seem to be different to a resident of Chandigarh or Punjabi in Delhi but not Lahore. The spirit of Punjabiat and nostalgia is too dominating.

Manohar Parrikar perhaps does not know that as the people-to-people interaction between the two Punjabs was heading towards a crescendo, one could hear at the  joint conclaves either in Lahore or in Amritsar or Chandigarh that the border fence should be uprooted. It would have clearly been  anti-national seditious activity. There were too many delegations crossing over every year till the forces which are opposed to the opening of Wagha border and people to people interaction sabotaged the peace movement. None in Lahore would talk about Kashmir. They would talk about Amrita Pritam and recite you her poems. They were not the agents of the ISI.

Liquor is banned in Pakistan. However, this hospitality would be extended almost by every family hosting their guests from across the Radcliffe line.

Lahorians would ask why can’t they go in the morning to Amritsar, a 40 minute drive, in the morning, have  Amritsari breakfast, spend the day and return in the evening. The Amritsari would ask when would the time come when  he would have dinner in Lahore’s  famous food street after shopping in Anarkali and return early in the morning to be at work. People were looking for open border like in European Union but the messengers of hate put brakes on that narrative.

The worst sufferers during partition of India were the Punjabis and they are the people who are the most nostalgic now. Trade fairs are now a regular feature and so are theatre people and artists visiting regularly, although now the movement is curtailed.

Ramya is not wrong and that is what the Saffron Bhakts should understand rather than spreading hate.

These messengers of hate perhaps don’t known that the Chandigarh Press Club and the Lahore Press Club have sister club status. Members of Chandigarh Press Club are  treated as members when they visit the Lahore Press Club and vice versa. Panj Darya Media Conferences used to be held alternately at the two places with the journalists having experience that would be different from the tension generated by the hate mongers. Parrikar and company should go back to the newspaper files of the period when these conferences were held. The lawmakers from the two sides have also been visiting each other. The record of the Punjab Assembly of pre-partition period is part of the Lahore Assembly archive.

The partition was perhaps the most brutal and barbaric  historical accident during which lakhs of Punjabis suffered. That is now the past.

Then there is another very significant aspect and it is the relationship of the Sikhs as a community with Punjab that is now part of Pakistan. Nankana Sahib, the birthplace of the founder of the Sikh faith Guru Nanak Dev, is on the otherwise of the Radcliffe line. Sikh pilgrims from across the globe visit this place twice a year.

School students who have  gone across the border on the two sides get the biggest surprise when they learn that they are the same on the two sides. Ramya is right in her comment that “People there are like us”.

Parrikar should know that in case Punjab is to progress, the best way forward is to open the border for free movement of trade and people. Terrorists don’t need a passport and the border fence is no deterrent to them.

It was for this reason that Capt Amarinder Singh as the chief minister hosted his Lahore counterpart at his Moti Bagh Palace in Patiala and started Punjab-Punjab games. That narrative must be taken forward. He is the best known face in Pakistani Punjab too as he is the only Punjabi ‘Maharaja’.


Jagtar Singh


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