|Saturday, October 21, 2000||
WHEN grievances are not attended to, they accumulate and emit highly inflammable gas: one burning match-stick thrown on it can cause an explosion of unforeseen dimensions. We have many books on terrorism in Punjab but none of its off-shoots in the Terai districts of Uttar Pradesh. Dr Jitinder Kaur, who teaches Political Science in Khalsa College (Delhi University), and has already three books to her credit: one on corruption in the management of the Delhi gurdwaras and two on the political perception of the Punjab peasantry, has come out with a fourth on Terrorism in The Terai (A.P.Ajanta). Its a small book with a limited scope meant to examine the origins, eruption and impact of violence and means adopted to quell it. We can learn much from it.
The Terai is a narrow belt of land between the foothills of Garhwal and Kumaon comprising districts of Nainital, Bijnor, Pilibhit, Rampur and Shahjahanpur. It was originally inhabited by Tharu and Boksa tribals. It was full of dense forests, malarial swamps and wild animals, including tigers, leopards, bears, wild boars and elephants. The tribals eked out a living out of fruits of the forest.
At the end of the World War II, the UP government decided to open the region to agriculture. The first to come were farmers from Bengal and Bihar. Pandit Govind Ballabh Pant, Chief Minister of UP, extended an invitation to Sikh farmers, expelled from Pakistan. They were more enterprising and hard working than Bengalis and Biharis. Also, more aggressive. They were granted afforested land in generous measures. They acquired more by encroaching on neighbouring lands, buying off or bullying the tribals. Within a few years, the Terai became the most prosperous agricultural region in the country.
It took the state government some years to wake up to the fact that they had got more they had bargained for. It tried to dispossess Sikh farmers from lands they did not legally own but had tilled and harvested for many years. Terai Sikhs became an aggrieved community. Then came "Operation Blue Star" and "Woodrose" and attacks in Sikh gurdwaras in Punjab, followed by the widespread violence against Sikhs after the assassination of Mrs Gandhi. Sikhs began to feel an aggrieved community and fought back as best as they could. The best they could think of was to terrorise the state administration, the police and the public. As in the Punjab, so in the Terai, in the beginning they were religiously and politically motivated. Then they turned into dacoits living on extortion and robbery. The very people who had given them sanctuary became police informers. So also, as in the Punjab so in the Terai, the police tried to settle its scores by picking up innocent people and killing them claiming that they had been killed in encounters. It detained thousands of people, almost all Sikhs, under TADA accusing them of harbouring of helping the terrorists. And as in the Punjab, so in the Terai, it was only after the peasantry turned against terrorists and the police stopped persecuting innocent people that the two were able to join hands and stamp out the menace.
Jitinder Kaurís credentials are impeccable. Although a Sikh teaching in a Sikh college, financed and managed by the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Committee, she exposed widespread corruption practiced by it. Likewise in her latest book, she spares neither the terrorists nor the UP police while analysing the course of terrorism in the Terai. It is an objective and scholarly study from which we can learn many lessons.
Farewell to the Shivaliks
A welcome addition to Kasauliís landscape are refugees from Tibet. There are only about a dozen families who have opened up small kiosks made of gunny-sacks, tarpaulin and wooden planks along the most frequented stretch of road extending from Janki Mullís building housing the main provision store run by Guptaji, a tailor and a photographer, to the Kalyan Hotel from its statue of a black cocker spaniel and a liquor vend. They sell woollen goods like sweaters, scarves and gloves. Tibetan refugees, wherever they are, manage to live amicably with the locals. They are courteous, ever-smiling and law-abiding. In the very short season extending from April to end October, they manage to sell enough to make both ends meet. Then they go down to the industrial township of Parwanoo for the winter. The Cantonment Executive Board used to charge them Rs 10 per month per stall. The rental rates were raised to Rs 70 per month. They paid that as well as other taxes. The Board allowed vegetable and fruit-sellers to set up stalls as well. The Board has now served them notices to shut shop so that it can build permanent shops. Nothing wrong with that provided those hapless victims of persecution are assured they will get the first option to resume their trade where they were and the kiosks are not auctioned to highest bidders. There is a lot of pressure from local shopkeepers who have a lot more money to take over the site. This would be unethical and unfair. Tibetan refugees are our guests till as long as they can return to their homeland. And Kasauli will not be the same without their winsome smiles.
As often in the past, most days I was in Kasauli it rained intermittently every day and night. But in the morning I left, the sky was an azure blue and hills looked rain-washed and bright green. I had to wear my sweater, dressing gown and a shawl against the cold. Half-an-hour down the hill, it became warm enough to shed woollen garments. An hour later we were caught in traffic jams at Parwanoo, Kalka and Pinjore. For many years I have been hearing of plans to build a by-pass which would skirt round these growing towns but so far not even blueprints have been prepared. Chief Ministers of the states concerned are concerned with more important matters like staying in power. By the time I got off at Kalka railway station, I was sweating and cooling off under the hot breeze churned downwards by ceiling fans.
I had an uneasy feeling that I was being given a final farewell. In Kasauli, Munshi Mohan Lal, our local millionaire who comes to me at least once on every reset for my kadam bosi (feet- kissing) came twice ó the second time to invite me to a reception for his son-in-law who had been elevated to the rank of a Brigadier in Lucknow. And at Kalka station, there was quite a turnout of celebrities to shake hands with me: A.S. Deepak, Poonam (Editor of Preet Lari) and her husband, Gaur and the pretty Nagina. Cold drinks were served all round. I was escorted to my seat in the Shatabadi Express where Kashyap, conductor-cum-man of letters, took charge of me. They may have wanted to bid me a final farewell but I have no intention of allowing them to do so. Come next spring, I will be back in the Shivaliks.
I was running high temperature
As high as hundred four
I consulted a doctor and he said
"You have viral and nothing more".
My fever did not subside a bit
Its intense pain I could not bear
Another consultant told me then
"It seems to be a cause of malaria"
The fever persisted for over a week.
So, I rushed to another guy
"You are seized of typhoid"
The third doctor said with a sigh.
What is wrong with my health
Will the docs please correctly tell?
If you canít diagnose a ministerís disease
How can I hope to get quite well!
(Contributed by G.C. Bhandari, Meerut)