Wednesday, January 9, 2002, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

They don’t flee even during war, shelling
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

A family of Rai Sikhs
A family of Rai Sikhs living on the Indo-Pak border. — Photo Rajiv Sharma

Indo-Pak Border (Amritsar), January 8
The Rai Sikhs, who link their lineage to a Rajput clan, are known as “tigers” of the border belt as they do not flee even during shelling from across the border.

They are the permanent inhabitants of the border. About 20 lakh members of this poor community are spread in the entire 533-km Indo-Pak border spread in Gurdaspur, Amritsar and Ferozepore districts of Punjab.

A visit to the border belt revealed that despite the Army build-up, the children of Rai Sikhs were playing with Army jawans while the women and men were busy farming to eke out their living.

This is the second generation of Rai Sikhs who have been guarding the border belt in the most trying situations ever since they had migrated here after Partition of the country. “We are eyewitness to the destructions in 1947 and the 1965 and 1971 wars. We used to supply ration and milk to jawans by crawling during the bombardment”, said Mr Harnam Singh, Mr Sher Singh and Mr Kesar Singh (all above 80 years), residents of Dagg village, near the border.

Mr Sardari Lal, son of Mr Kehar Singh of the same village who met TNS at his house in Tutan village near the border, said that the Rai Sikhs could not go to any safe place as they did not have any relative in other parts of the state. He said at the time of Partition, they (Rai Sikhs) had migrated from Shekhupura district in Pakistan.

Interestingly, the marriage of Mr Jaspal Singh, a Rai Sikh, was recently solemnised at Mehdiana village near the border. Mr Mohinder Singh, father of the bride, said the marriage was fixed after the deployment of the Army in the region.

Prof Sukhbir Singh, lecturer of Punjabi at Khalsa College who belongs to the border area, said that Rai Sikhs were the ‘sword arm’ of the country in the true sense as despite poverty, they served the nation in a big way during war time. He said he had never seen any Rai Sikh migrating to a safer place.

Interestingly, the Rai Sikhs play a key role during the Assembly elections as they have a considerable influence in all three border districts. They have more than 50,000 votes in the Jalalabad (Ferozepore) constituency and no candidate can win the election without their support.

On the other hand, Mr Shiv Kumar, a panch of Nagg, said that out of 50 members of his joint family (including three brothers and their family members) not a single one had shifted to safer places. A retired BSF head constable, he said that the old and young members of his family would help the Army in every manner.

He said he had spent his entire service on the border and would love to die in the battlefield for the sake of country. He said the family had given a portion of his house to Army officers. However, he lamented, not a single official of the district administration had come to help the villagers at this crucial juncture.

Narrating the experience of the Indo-Pak war of 1971, Mr Shiv Kumar said Pakistan had captured the Indian BSF chowki at Fatehpur which was recaptured by Sikh 8 and Rajput regiments on December 17, 1971. The residents of the border belt had assisted the Army in a big way. He said the senior officials of the district administration must pay frequent visits to stop the exodus of people from the border belt.Back

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