Giant of Punjabi literature
Giani Kesar Singh passed away in Canada on September 21
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

A multifarious personality, Giani Kesar Singh was a voracious reader, a great freedom fighter and a prolific writer who authored about 25 historical novels in Punjabi, especially on the Ghadar Movement.

He served as a Civil Administrator of the Indian National Army (from 1943 to 1945), secretary, Shiromani Akali Dal (1948 to 1957) and was the guide of Golden Temple for two years.

After authoring ‘Jangi Kaidi’ (Prisoners of War), he was hailed as Leo Tolstoy, of Punjabi literature. He breathed his last in Canada on September 21 at the age of 95.

Bhai Vir Singh wrote the first Punjabi novel ‘Sundri’ in 1899. This book was written at the time when Sikhs were at a moral low after the fall of their empire and the anexation of the Punjab by the British.

The purpose to write such novel was to remind the Sikhs of their glorious past and to capture the divine spirit of the Khalsa.

After a gap of 100 years, Giani Kesar Singh wrote ‘Hathiarband Inqlab’ in 1998 to relive the patriotic spirit. This novel has much wider canvas than Bhai Vir Singh’s novel, though both works are based on historical facts.

The seventh chapter of the novel is of autobiographical nature that reveals many hidden aspects of his INA days.

The novel also gives vital information on the activities of Netaji Subhash Chander Bose, Lala Hardyal, Veer Sarvakar, Kartar Singh Sarabha.

He also throws light on the days when he founded the Youngman Sikh Association in Penang.

Interestingly, his name once figured among those who had attained ‘martyrdom’ in the list published by the INA. On this, Netaji Subhash Chander Bose quipped, ‘the dead Kesar Singh would be more beneficial for the movement against British government’.

He was born in Mughal Khalsa village of Rawalpindi, now in Pakistan. He was orphaned at the age of three and had to spend his childhood in Amritsar’s Dera Sant Gulab Singh and orphanage. He got his Post-graduate degree from Khalsa College, earning it through hard labour. Then he came in contact with Netaji Subhash Chander Bose and senior commanders of the Indian National Army and went to Malaysia, where he developed his passion for writing. His first book was in English ‘Indian Independence Movement in East Asia’, published by Singh Brothers, Lahore, few months before the Independence. The foreword of the book was written by Sriyut Sarat Chandra Bose, brother of Netaji with his autographs. Sarat Bose, wrote, “Very little is known to the younger generation about the great Indian revolutionaries who left India in the early years of this century and went to Japan, China, Siam, Malaya and other lands and started their revolutionary activities there with the object to liberate India from foreign yoke. Sardar Kesar Singh has done well in giving to young India a short account of the activities of those great revolutionaries who dreamt dreams of India’s freedom and worked for their realisation. The greater part of his book is devoted to the Indians National Army — its formation, its dissolution, its reformation under the leadership of its supreme commander Netaji Subhash Chander Bose and the fight it launched for the achievement of Indian Independence.”

After the death of his first wife, Giani Kesar Singh moved to England and then settled in Canada in 1963. He also served in the Education department of Canada for 14 years.

His last master piece ‘Hathiarband Inqlab’ (Armed Revolution) was published by Singh Brothers, Amritsar, in 1998. He was honoured with the ‘Shiromani Sahitkar’ by the Punjab Government last year. Mr Kuljit Singh of Singh Brothers was one of the last ones from Amritsar to meet ‘Gianiji’ when he was on his deathbed. Most books by Giani Kesar Singh were published by Singh Brothers.

Many historical novels authored by Giani Kesar Singh gave authentic information about the great martyrs associated with Amritsar, including Shaheed Udham Singh, Madan Lal Dhingra, the first Indian to be hanged in a foreign country and Pandit Sohan Lal Pathak (Patti).

Many hidden aspects of this multifarious personality, whose intellectual range was truly impressive, come out in his autobiography. It cinematically recaptures his past and days of underground life. It is a rich and evocative memoir of the author, who grew up in an orphanage of Amritsar like Shaheed Udham Singh. While the epic historical novel ‘War and Peace’ by Leo Tolstoy originally published as Voyna i mir in 1865-69 is panoramic study of early 19th-century Russian society, noted for its mastery of realistic detail and variety of psychological analysis is generally regarded as one of the world’s greatest novels, Giani Kesar Singh’s ‘Jangi Kaidi’ has vividly captured the atrocities committed on Indian freedom fighters by the Japanese. The novel also offered a new kind of fiction, with many characters. It is described as one of his two major masterpieces, the other being ‘Hathiarband Inqlab’, which is one of the longest pieces of fiction in Punjabi literature, running into 728 pages.

Few would dispute the claim of ‘Jangi Kaidi’ to be regarded as one of the greatest novel in any language. This massive chronicle, to which he was devoted, portrays the struggle of freedom fighters. His piercing insight lends universality to the work. In his Autobiography ‘Aatam Katha’, Giani Kesar Singh has not just written about the patriots, but also about his own contributions to the freedom struggle. 

‘Gadar’ means revolt or rebellion. The Gadar Party was a revolt against the British rule in India and it was started and organised by Indian immigrants to Canada and the USA. Giani Kesar Singh was one of the heroes of this struggle. The movement was the result of general and natural reaction to the political, social, and economic conditions that prevailed in India in the year 1904, and on the minds of the brave and courageous of Punjabis. They were hard pressed by the adverse economic conditions prevailing in the Punjab at that time to earn their livelihood.

The former Vice-Chancellor of Guru Nanak Dev University, Dr S.P. Singh, says the canvas of Giani Kesar Singh’s novel was vast that covered freedom movement, INA activities in South Asian countries. ‘Lehar Vadhdi Gai’, used to be read like a ‘text book’ by the Communists. He documented the contribution of gurdwaras in Canada and other countries to further the Gadar movement. He collected historical documents. His personal library has rare documents and pictures of the freedom fighters. Giani Kesar Singh took pains to collect information on Shaheed Madan Lal Dhingra, the first Indian who attained martyrdom in a foreign country, with the help of renowned Punjab poet Balwant Bawa and wrote a beautiful novel.

Giani Kesar Singh also wrote a biographical novel on Baba Hari Singh Usman, who was born in 1880 at Baddowal, Ludhiana district. He served the British Indian Army for a short spell. At the age of 27 he went to the USA but found the atmosphere choking because the Indians were given a shabby treatment. He then joined the Gadar Movement.

Baba Hari Singh was entrusted with the delicate and dangerous task of accompanying the ship laden with arms and ammunition, procured with German assistance, to centers of rebellion in India.

There is also marvelous description of one Mewa Singh Gill, a revolutionary from border village of Lopoke (Amritsar). He was responsible for the assassination of Hopkinson, a Canadian officer who was disliked by the ‘rebels’. He was born in India (English father, Indian mother), and could speak Indian languages fluently. He had established a ring of informers who used to report to him about the activities of the Sikh community. He played an active part in refusing admission of Sikhs who arrived at Vancouver in the Kamagata Maru.

The flash point, leading to his murder was the false evidence which he was to give to save one of his stooges who had murdered two Sikhs in cold blood. Mewa Singh Lopoke, a devout Sikh and known revolutionary, shot Hopkinson on October 21, 1914, on the court premises before he could give fabricated evidence. After the killing, Mewa Singh surrendered to the police. He was hanged in a Canadian jail on January 12, 1915; his day of martyrdom is celebrated all over Canada to this day.

‘Janj Laryan Di’ is based on the supreme sacrifice of seven Gadri Babas. He has also penned novel on Shaheed Udham Singh. He made emotional reference to Pandit Sohan Lal Pathak , another freedom fighter of Amritsar district, who was born on January 7, 1883, in the house of Pt Chanda Ram, a poor Brahmin of Patti, Amritsar.

Pathak had resigned his job as protest against the Headmaster’s ordering him to break off contacts with Lala Lajpat Rai and other national leaders. Thereafter, he became the Joint Editor of the Urdu journal ‘Bande Matram’ working under Lajpat Rai. Giani Kesar Singh writes that he was shocked to learn that the ‘near and dear ones’ of Pathak made his statue, showing him wearing ‘dhoti’ to project him as a leader of a particular religious class.

The fact remained that Pathak used to keep two revolvers with him and hence was a secular and great revolutionary.

Sohan Lal Pathak shifted the field of his activities to Burma. Immediately, a search was started for the arrest of this dangerous revolutionary. It was not easy to lay hands upon him, as he knew the local language and moved freely in the country in the dress of the native people.

At last the government succeeded in arresting him in August 1915 at Memyo (Burma). He was detained in the fort of Mandlay during his trial. The court declared him guilty and sentenced to death. He died on the gallows on February 10, 1916.



Dullo flags off campaign against drugs
Manish Kumar Singal
Tribune News Service

“I want to see the Punjab youth as ‘gabroo jawan’, and not as lying in the drain after consuming drugs,” said Mr Shamsher Singh Dullo, President, Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC), while addressing a rally organised at Amritsar to create awareness against the menace of drugs.

He then flagged off a bus and a van with a medical team and pamphlets containing information about drugs and de-addiction. Even while Mr Dullo was addressing the rally against drug abuse, some persons sitting in those buses and vans were consuming liquor.

Mr Dullo said Punjab was famous for its youth who have now finished themselves with drug abuse.

“Not long ago people would offer milk and curd to their guests but now they offer liquor and drugs.”

He requested all the parties to unite together and fight against the drug abuse. He said the administration and politicians and the system was all equally responsible for the drug abuse and it was the moral responsibility of all politicians to help the youth to come out of the drug addiction. He also donated cheques worth Rs 5 lakh to Ms Bans Kaur and Mai Namo, who suffered on account of drug abuse.



Muree school delegation in India to celebrate
founder’s day
Tribune News Service

A 20-member Pakistani delegation, led by Mr Farooq H. Kiyani, Principal, Lawrence College, Murree, arrived in India to participate in the 146th founding anniversary function to be held at Sanawar, Himachal Pradesh, on October 3 and 4.

Besides the principal, the team includes 17 students and two faculty members, lady teacher Ms Noreen Tufail and Mr Imtiaz Akhtar Ranjha. The group visited the Golden temple and the Jallianwala Bagh.

Mr Kiyani, while talking to the Tribune, said the students would perform four regional dances from four provinces of Pakistan.

The dances are: Sindhi (Sindh), Bhangra (West Punjab), Baluchi (Baluchistan) and Khattak (North Western Frontier Province). Murree Lawrence School is a sister establishment of Lawrence School, Sanawar, and Lovedale School, Ooty. He said they would also visit Chandigarh, Shimla, Delhi, Ajmer Sharif during their nine-day stay in India and return to Pakistan on October 8.

He said it was for the first time after the Partition that these three institutions established in the pre-partition India by Sir Henry Lawrence in mid 1880s would celebrate their foundation day. He said all the boys and the faculty members felt excited on their first trip to India.

He said that ‘Sanawar’ Lawrence school was established as the first co-education school in the world, setting the trend for co-ed institutions. Lawrence School at Mount Abu (Rajasthan) had been converted into a police academy.

The schools were originally British orphanages but were later converted into institutions of learning during the British rule. He said there were plans of an exchange programme in the near future in which students would be able to study for two years in the other country. He exhorted the educationists in both the countries to remove misconceptions from the minds of the students.

Welcoming the guests, Dr A.L. Adlakha, President of the Services Club said this kind of bonhomie would encourage people-to-people contact and set a platform to diffuse any misgivings and misconceptions.

Haris Hussain Shah, a student, said he loved watching Indian movies and Shahrukh Khan was his favourite actor. He also loved watching TV serial ‘Kaun Banega Crorepati’ with Amitabh Bachan anchoring the programme. He said he hardly found any difference between the two countries other than the language scripts on shops, milestones and direction boards and felt completely at home.

Earlier, DAV Public School gave a rousing welcome to the guests from across the border on their arrival in the city. Ms Noreen, the only lady in the group in an interaction with Ms Neera Sharma, Principal, said there was need for more higher educational institutions in Pakistan and career counseling was one aspect that they were looking into in India.



My City
Amritsar has lost things, but retains charm
Geetanjali Korpal

Amritsar, despite quite a few works on its face, is a very adorable city. Its contours have ‘constantly changed since its inception but its charm remains intact, rather it is for keeps.

At the time of the Independence it was surrounded by orchards of guavas, loquats, peaches and apricots, now it bristles with posh localities and luxury hotesls. In the 1940s people went to the canal, Chatiwind gate for morning walk and boisterous bath. Wrestlers flexed their muscles at various akharas in Sakatri Bagh and other places, now jean-clad damsels throng various restaurants to relish pizzas and young boys frequent bars to guzzle beer.

Despite the change in food habits and entertainment modes, charm of Amritsar is wafted all around as it lies in the denizens of the city. Residents are full of fun and frolic. Harmandir Sahib, Durgiana Mandir, Shival Bhaian are the main religious places where old and young come to pay obeisance, serene faces humming shabads and shlokas present an enchanting scenario.

My fellow citizens heartily relish puris and chhole and delicacies like tikkas and tandoori chicken, but are not perverse slaves of the palate. They haunt libraries like Moti Lal Nehru library to pore over heavy volumes. Book Lovers’ Retreat in Gandhi Bazar and knowledge house in Pink Plaza are veritable stores of paperbacks.

Various types of cars whiz pass on the roads though one misses horse-driven buggies of yore.

Ram Bagh Garden, commonly known as Company Bagh, is a unique feature of the city. Anyone who is averse to pubs and abhors clubs can relax and find amusement in the panoramic flowerbeds and buildings built by Maharaja Ranjit Singh.

My city, my dear city has, however, lost on the things. There are no more mehfils of classical music. There was a time when the holy city had quite a few Gandharva Mahavidyalayas imparting instructions in the various ragas and during Holi a congregation of classical musicians used to be held at Durgiana.

A delightful sense of pride sweeps over me when I reminisce about the celebrities Amritsar has thrown up. Dr Saifuddin Kitchlu, Dr Satyapal, Gurdial Singh Dhillon, Giani Gurmukh Singh Musafir, Master Tara Singh, Dr Baldev Prakash were some of the public men who did the city proud.

Literary heritage of the city is also very rich. Many of the earlier newspapers published from Punjab were based at Amritsar. Saadat Hasan Manto, the great Urdu short story writer, and Mulk Raj Anand hailed from Amritsar.

The city profusely provides for your palate and pride. Maah-ki Dal and pranthas served at Kesar da Dhaba in the middle of the city and lassi sold at Katra Sher Singh have no peer all over the world.

The city, especially its crisscross lanes in the old city present a scene of hell during Holi. The sense of fun of the people of Amritsar expands to a perverse dimension. What to talk of urchins, even mature ladies of the city go berserk and pelt the passerby with garbage. Thus during a few days of the spring season one feels like fleeing the city.

Incidentally, during mid 1930s, when Pt Jawaharlal Nehru was led from Lahore to Sarhali in Tarn Taran district via Bhagtanwala side he was so appalled by the garbage that was amassed there that he burst into anger and exclaimed: “Had I born in the city of Amritsar I would have set it on fire and fled away.” Mercifully, Bhagtanwala side is no more a dumping ground of garbage.

I wish that my dear city would have the Indian Coffee House culture. Strange enough it has not occurred to any entrepreneur to set up a place where one may talk over a steaming cup of the beverage. Another wish is to add attraction to the city by reserving a potion in the Ram Bagh for free-for-all lectures like Hyde Park of London.

Anyway, Amritsar is a city of cozy life, free from hassles and madding crowds of the metropolis and barrenness of modern towns. I love Amritsar and would like to be born here, and here, again.



Punjab needs infrastructure to boost exports
Neeraj Bagga

Exporters from Punjab voiced concern over lack of proper infrastructure during the seminar on ‘Export Promotion from the State of Punjab’ organised by the Federation of Indian Export Organisation (FIEO), Northern Region, and sponsored by the Indian Institute of Industrial Economics and Development Society here.

They felt the need of the hour was to develop a working culture without bureaucratic hurdles to lead to the path of prosperity.

Mr Anand Seth, Joint Deputy General Manager, FIEO, read the key note address in the absence of the Northern Region Chairman, Mr R.K Dhawan. It stated that the predominantly agriculture-dependent state, Punjab was exporting to the tune of Rs 10,000 crore annually.

Mr Kadyraliev, Minister Counsellor, Embassy of Kyrgyzstan, New Delhi, was the chief guest. He said Punjab had tremendous scope for export to the Central Asian Republics. The Russian economy was growing at over six per cent over the past several years and it commanded a trade surplus of over $ 120 billion.

On basis of the data available, Amritsar with exports worth Rs 1,400 crore during the past financial year was third in the state while Ludhiana topped with Rs 6,100 crore. Jalandhar is second with exports worth Rs 2,800 crore.

The state’s exports rest upon high-quality yarn, textiles, readymade garments, hosiery, bicycle and its parts and pharmaceuticals. Punjab witnessed magical rise of nearly 20 per cent during the past year. However, the state needed to undertake technology innovations, up-gradations, and aggressive marketing to further boost exports.



Khalsa Diwan pilgrims return from Pak
Our Correspondent

A delegation of 100 pilgrims, including students and members of the Chief Khalsa Diwan (CKD) returned to India after visiting various religious places in Pakistan on the occasion of the death anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev.

The delegation visited Gurdwara Dehra Sahib at Kartarpur Sahib, Panja Sahib at Nankana Sahib and Gurdwara Sacha Sauda. They were accorded a warm welcome by the officials of the Pakistan Government and the people. The bhog of Guru Granth Sahib was held at Kartarpur Sahib and a Chandoa and Rummala were also presented for the holy book by the Chief Khalsa Diwan president, Mr Charanjit Singh Chadha.

Mr Chadha stressed upon the need for a corridor from Dera Baba Nanak to Kartarpur Sahib, which would time for the devotees. He announced that every year a group of Chief Khalsa Diwan members and students of different Sri Guru Harkrishen Public Schools would visit Pakistan. He also thanked the Pakistan Government for its hospitality.

Other prominent personalities to visit Pakistan were: Dr Manmohan Singh Khanna, former Principal, Medical College Amritsar; Mr Gurinder Singh Chawla, Mr Piara Singh, Mr Surjeet Singh from Jalandhar, Mr Gurmeet Singh from Chandigarh and Mr Harbhajan Singh Brar, president, Sai Mian Meer Society.



New spine surgery heals faster
Tribune News Service

A new technology which involves minimal invasive procedure and also lesser loss of blood during surgery has come as boon for patients suffering from spinal injuries.

Dr Ajit Singh Randhawa, a pioneering neuro-surgeon of the city, recently returned from the USA after getting acquainted with the technique and procedures.

The technique, ‘minimally invasive spine surgery’ costs slightly more than ordinary surgery but proves to be more beneficial to the patients. “In this surgery, the recovery is faster and it could possibly be ‘daycare surgery’.

In conventional surgery, the recovery is slow, and there is loss of blood and muscles and the patients feel much weaker after the surgery.

In this method, the recovery is possible within a few hours, said the doctor.

He is one of the 21 pioneer neurosurgeons selected from all over the country to get acquainted with this technological marvel in the USA.



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