Saturday, September 26, 1998
A land of peace, ironically
By Amita Sharma
It is one of the biggest ironies of history that plains of Panipat are more known for the wars that were fought there than for the men of peace and harmony that it has produced over the ages. The historic town was known for its Sufi saints, the most respected of which was Baba Bu-Ali- Shah Qualandar. Born in 1209, the saints parents were from Persia, who came to India for purposes of trade. Baba, whose original name was Sharif-ud-din, took spiritual education from Maulana Siraj-ud-din "Maki" for about 40 years in and around the town of Panipat.
Later, he shifted to the Qutub Minar area of Delhi and interacted with Sufi saints who used to frequent Mehrauli at that time. Baba then went into the jungles and attained greater spiritual heights. He returned to Panipat to preach his message of love and brotherhood.
He had a number of disciples,including Sultan Giyas-ud-dins son, Mubarak. He died in 1324 and his mazaar at Panipat still attracts thousands of devotees during the annual Urs. The mazaar and the mosque associated with the Babas name were constructed by Allaudin Khiljis sons Khizar and Shadi Khan.
The Devi Mandir, built by the Marathas during the Third Battle of Panipat, is also a major landmark. It is spread over an area of about two square kilometres and once had a large pond before it. The water to this pond was supplied through an underground channel from the Yamuna. However, only the dry bed of the pond now remains. It is used now as a festival ground during Dashera and Navratri. The Devi Mandir attracts thousands of devotees every year.
However, Panipat is known the world over because of the three bloody battles which were fought here. Each of these battles proved to be the turning point in the history of Hindoostan and had far-reaching consequences socially and politically. The First Battle of Panipat was fought between the armies of Ibrahim Lodi and Babar in 1526. Lodis army was routed and Babar assumed the throne of Delhi. With him started the line of Mughal rulers who decisively shaped the history and culture of north India. After winning the battle, Babar constructed a mosque, Kabuli mosque of Rani Bagh, It is an architectural wonder but unfortunately little is being done to preserve its glory.
Hem Chander alias Hemu was born in a Dhoosar Vaish family at Rewari around 1500 AD. His father was a shopkeeper. Hemu, through hard work and sheer dint of courage, quickly rose to become the Commander-in-Chief and Prime Minister of the Soor Kings. When Humayun became the Emperor the second time and the successors of the Soor dynasty were fighting among themselves, Hemu gained prominence. He ascended the throne of Delhi on October 7,1556, after the death of Humanyun and assumed the title of "Vikramaditya". He had won 22 battles by then.
The Second Battle of Panipat was fought on November 5,1556, between the forces of Hemu and Akbar. During the battle, an arrow pierced his eye and he was captured by Akbars regent Behram Khan. He was later put to death. It is said that no warrior, except Rana Sangha, had received so many wounds as Hemu did in battle. A memorial dedicated to Hemu stands in the industrial area of Panipat.
The Third Battle of Panipat was fought in 1761 between the Afghan raider Ahmed Shah Abdali and Marathas led by Sardar Sadashiv Bhau. This battle lasted for about five months and over 70,000 Marathas were killed. The Kala Amb memorial was constructed on the spot where Sadashiv Bhau was killed in action. It is said that so much blood was shed during the battle that a mango tree, irrigated by the blood, turned black. Hence, the name Kala Amb. This mango tree was later felled and bought by a well-known poet of Haryana, Pandit Sugan Chand. He used the wood to fabricate a door which can still be seen in Gandhi Memorial Hall, Karnal.
The Gazetteers Panipat
One hundred and sixty years ago, the compiler of the East India Gazetteer, Walter Hamilton, quoted two reasons for Panipats claim to fame. First, that it has the shrine of Muslim saint Shereef ud Deen Abu ali Cullinder and, second, "for having been the scene where two of the greatest battles ever fought in India took place, both decisive of the sway of Hindostan."
He missed out on the second, battle fought between the armies of Akbar and Hemu in 1556. Of the first battle there is only a brief mention. In it Ibrahim Lodi "was slain and his army totally discomfited" by Babar, leading to the commencement of the Mughal dynasty in Delhi. But of the third, which he called the second, there is a vivid description. It was fought between the Mohammedan army under Ahmad Shah Abdali, the ruler of Kabul, and the Marathas led by Peshwa Sedasiva Bhow. Of the former the largest contingent was of the Durranis of Cabul, "about 29,000, were all men of great bodily vigour; their horses of Turkish breed, and very hardy."
After describing the respective numerical strengths of the two forces the Indians had more horses and canon, while the invaders had more soldiers he writes; "The armies continued in front of each other from the 26th of October 1760 to the 7th of January 1761, during which time many bloody skirmishes took place, which generally terminated in favour of the Durranis. At the date last mentioned, the Maharatta army being reduced to great distress for want of supplies, the Bhow determined to quit his entrenchments and give battle. The conflict continued nearly equal from morning until noon, about which time Biswass Row, the Peshwas son, a youth of 17, was mortally wounded, which appears to have decided the fate of the battle, as the Maharattas then fled in all directions, pursued by the victors, who gave no quarters in the heat of the pursuit."
The Gazetteer says that there were about half a million men, women and children in the Maratha camp. It is not clear why so many of them would be present around the battle field. At any rate, 40,000 persons were taken alive and those who fell in the hands of the Durranis were mostly murdered "alleging in jest as an excuse that when they left their own country their mothers, sisters, and wives desired that when they defeated the unbelievers they would kill a few of them on their account."
At the time when Hamilton compiled his book, Panipat, in its greatest extent, was four miles in circumference, and "was formerly surrounded by a brick wall, which partly remains. It was formerly also a considerable commercial emporium," importing salt, grain and coarse textiles while exporting coarse sugar.
Of the Mazaar of Bu-Ali-Shah Qualander, he writes; "To this shrine the present emperor of Delhi, Acber the second, was carried while young by the unfortunate Shah Allum, who consecrated on the spot a lock of his hair to the saint interred below. This ceremony imposes the obligation of suffering the lock of hair to remain untouched until after the lapse of a certain period of time it can be cut off on the very spot where it was originally selected for consecration."
Unfortunately the Mughal emperor of that time could not afford the expense of another trip nor risk the confusion that his absence would have created in Delhi and was therefore advised to postpone the final rite.
House of looms, industry
WHEN Mahatma Gandhi visited Panipat in 1947, he asked the people to take to the charkha. Since then the handloom industry has flourished in Panipat. The town has more than 24,000 looms which turn out fabrics, durris and other handloom products for export. Besides, there are an equal number of looms that cater to the domestic market. In the pre-Partition days, there were only a few Muslim weavers who produced the simple khes.
After Partition, the Muslim weavers migrated to Pakistan but the weavers who came from Pakistan brought about a revolution in the handloom industry. By 1970, the export of the handloom products of Panipat to foreign markets had begun.
The turnover of the industry which was then Rs 1 crore, shot up to Rs 425 crore in 1996-97. Fifty per cent of the handloom material exported from the country comes from Panipat.
Today this sector gives employment to more than 1.5 lakh persons in Panipat. But exporters face discomfiture when foreign customers visit the town and find it extremely dirty and in a shambles. Even the water is not free from pollutants. The government had asked the municipality to set up treatment plants for the effluent emitted from handloom units, but the municipality has not taken any action so far.
In the recent past, Panipat has expanded beyond its municipal limits. But in spite of all its handicaps and limitations, the town is internationally known for its woollen hand-made carpets which earn about Rs 60 crore worth of foreign exchange every year. The carpet export promotion council, however, has not included these carpets in its list of five categories of carpets that are to be promoted. The woollen carpet manufacturers have demanded that their carpets should also be enlisted with the council.
The town is also famous for its blankets, which have a market abroad. The manufacturing of fabrics entails certain constraints, such as the high duty levied on the import of machinery.
Moreover, it is a seasonal industry that operates for only there to four months in a year. Therefore, any natural calamity or political unrest can affect it adversely.
The town also houses big and prominent industries. The Indian Oil Corporation Limited, which is the largest commercial undertaking in the country, has one of its refineries in Panipat.
The refinery is amidst lush green fields about 20 km from the town and 100 km from Delhi.Build at a cost of Rs 3868 crore, the refinery has an installed capacity of 6 million metric tonne per annum. It is referred to as Indias most modern refinery. It is equipped with machinery from France, Denmark, and the USA.
The refinery is capable of processing both indigenous and imported crude oil. The refinery can annually produce about 8 lakh tonne of petrol, 9 lakh tonne of jet fuel, 6 lakh tonne of kerosene and 21 lakh tonne of diesel.
Nearly 66 per cent of the petroleum products are transported to various locations through eco-friendly pipelines, while the remaining are sent by rail and road. The refinery will eventually meet the demand of petroleum products, of not only Haryana but the entire north-western region, including Punjab, Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Chandigarh, Delhi and western Uttar Pradesh.
The Panipat refinery marks the dawn of a new era. It is bound to enrich the quality of life and boost the industrial development and all-round progress of the state.
The National Fertilisers Limited (NFL) has also set up a plant in Panipat. It is situated on the National Highway No 1. The unit, which began commercial production in 1979, has won a number of awards in the fields of production, productivity, safety, welfare innovation, environment protection, skill etc.
The plant is also well known for its commitment towards ecological balance and social welfare in the region.
The plant ensures that no harmful gases are discharged by it. The unit regularly monitors the level of emission from various stacks. The NFL also runs a modern township, spread over 100 acres. There are 900 dwellings in the township. AS
Town minus amenities
THE historical town of Panipat is in a state of utter neglect. Mounds of uncovered garbage are a common sight in all localities. As there is no proper drainage system, the stench emanating from the open drains pollute the area. The parks in the town too are in a dilapidated state.
A 29-acre park was constructed by the Panipat Municipal Committee in the memory of the famous Urdu poet, Altaf Hussain "Hali", 22 years ago. It is now in a state of neglect. The park named "Hali park" was popular among children and elders alike. It had a lake with boating facility.
The lake was constructed in about 13 acres. For the past seven years, however, dirty water has been flowing into the lake from the nearby colonies. The administration had sold some land of the park to nearby factory owners to overcome the financial crunch faced by the municipal council.Now one finds that the roses in the park have withered and the birds and animals, housed in the mini zoo, have perished.
Residents of several local colonies have been living in miserable conditions due to the absence of sewerage. In some parts of the town, the sewers remain blocked for several months at length. The municipal authorities have, however, failed to take remedial measures. In certain colonies, sullage can be seen flowing in open areas.
Even the manholes remain uncovered.Many parts of the city remain unlit at night because most of the bulbs on lamp posts and street-lights are fused.The administration has not taken any steps to replace them. Even the GT Road, which passes through the town, is poorly lit. Certain stretches of the road are without lights, thereby making them accident-prone. The roads of the town too are broken at various places.
In the rainy season the Panipat bus stand gets stand water-logged. Though the population of the town is more than four lakh, bus service continues to remain poor. During rush hours in the morning as well as in the evening, long queues can be seen at the bus stand. Sometimes, the passengers even have to wait for hours to board a bus.
Panipat, the handloom house of India, is also getting polluted due to the presence of both small and big industries in and around the town.
The housing problem faced by handloom weavers also remains unsolved Most of the workers come from nearby villages and have to walk five to six km to reach their place of work. The state government had built a colony for weavers near Hali park. But certain handloom manufacturers allegedly got quarters allotted under fictitious names and later sold them at a premium. Thus the weavers continue to remain without shelter.
Panipat also suffers from erratic power supply. The power distribution system in the town seems to have totally collapsed. There are frequent power cuts. The problem gets compounded when the power crisis hits water supply.
As the thermal plant produces electricity from coal, there is a lot of air pollution in the town. The chimneys of the boilers release nitrogen and sulphur di-oxide, which are harmful for human beings and animals. The government had set up a pollution control board in October, 1990, to remove pollutants from water. AS
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