Holy city votes in secular cast
Varinder Walia and Ashok Sethi

Guru Ram Dass invited people from all walks of life, regions and states to live in this city. This is how it got its composite culture.

No wonder therefore that in the Holy City of the Sikhs, three of the four Assembly constituencies are Hindu dominated. This is why even the Shiromani Akali Dal claims only one seat out of four Assembly seats from its partner, Bhartiya Janata Party.

During the rule of Maharaja Ranjit Singh many communities from Rajasthan, Gujarat and other states settled here. Since the King had a vision to establish Amritsar as commercial hub, he invited trading communities, including Marwaris and Gujratis to the city. A good number of Maheshwaris, Kanujias and even Parsis made Amritsar their home town. It has been for long home to Himachalis, whose number has swelled to more than one lakh now. The Kashmirs, especially the artisans and small portion of labourers, reach here in the winter to eke out a living , some of them prefer to stay on.

The common heritage has created a unique bond resulting in the victory of political stalwarts of different political dispensations in both Sikh and Hindu -dominated four city Assembly constituencies. Instead of the division of votes on communal lines, the election process made the composite culture strong. During the turmoil of the eighties the people maintained their cool.

The Congress, BJP and earlier the Jan Sangh have won many electoral battles.

The walled city saw a dramatic decline of voters during the last election. The figures show a decrease of more than 16,000 votes to the present level of 7,0437 with fair sprinkling of Hindu and Sikhs, making the Amritsar central Assembly constituency the smallest in the state. The election officials claim that a number of families have left the congested localities of the walled city. Interestingly, the election in 1997 had shown an increase in the voter strength to the extent of 3000 . The officials attribute this change to the return of families who had shifted during the peak of terrorism from the periphery of the city to the secure environ of the walled city.

Amritsar West and North have got new voters ,between 20,000 and 35,000 respectively.

The estimates show that Amritsar is among the fastest growing city ,with annual population growth of 4 per cent against the national growth of 2.4 per cent.

This spurt could be attributed to the large influx of labour force from Bihar, UP, Orissa and urbanization.

The demographic pattern of the Amritsar Lok Sabha seat too has changed, following the migration of a large number of Sikhs to urban areas during the turmoil of the eighties.

They said goodbye to the farmhouse culture and built houses in urban areas.

The Amritsar Lok Sabha constituency, which included border areas of Amritsar and Gurdaspur districts, had witnessed a series of bomb blasts, police encounters and firing incidents in those days. All this led to demographic changes.

That was why the BJP used to field Sikh candidates against Mr R.L. Bhatia, now Governor of Kerala. Mr Bhatia contested 10 times from here, out of which he lost on four occasions. Only once he lost to a Hindu candidate, Baldev Parkash, national vice-president of the BJP, in 1977 during the Janata Party wave.

On other three occasions, he lost to Sikh candidates, Kirpal Singh (1989), Daya Singh Sodhi (1998) and Navjot Singh Sidhu (2004).

Giving the break up of votes of different communities starting from North with a total electorate of 1,85566 , Sikhs constitute about 40 per cent while the remaining are Hindu voters. The largest constituency of the city is the West with total electorate of 228781 with Sikh constituting 38 per cent and Hindus 48 per cent . It is followed by South with voter strength of 1,38737 which is dominated by Sikhs (60 per cent).

The labour dominated constituency of West returned CPI's Dang couple many times and later Mr Om Parkash Soni for two terms.

The Central constituency remains the smallest in the state which is dominated by Hindus with 75 per cent.

Amritsar has always dominated Punjab politics. Stalwarts like Giani Gurmukh Singh Musafir, Comrade Satya Pal Dang and Dr Baldev Parkash, Gian Chand Kharbanda, Kirpal Singh, Faqir Chand Sharma, Balramji Dass Tondon, Laxmi Kanta Chawla, Prof Darbari Lal, Maninderjit Singh Bitta and Mr Manjt Singh Calcutta were among those who represented Amritsar in the Punjab Assembly.



Dr Manmohan Singh

Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh never influenced politics of the city. To the question whether Dr Singh should play a pivotal role for his city, many residents replied “yes”. He has been dreaming that the city should emerge as major industrial and commercial hub and even suggested that one can have his breakfast in Amritsar, lunch in Lahore and dinner in Kabul. The residents feel that the dream could come true only if he contested from Amritsar.



Voters say

Renu Jain
Renu Jain

Sunit and Renu Jain, residents of Gate Khazana, said that they would vote for the candidate who understood the problems of the common man and voice their concerns in the House. They said that they were not satisfied with the working of their MLA as he had done nothing. They are least impressed by leaders who appear like seasonal rain for getting votes. The MLAs should also initiate steps to keep prices in check.

Parveen Sehgal
Parveen Sehgal

Mr Parveen Sehgal, a shopkeeper, said that he would vote for a candidate who will raise his voice against unemployment ,corruption in government offices. The government should stop privatization of education and provide more facilities to students in educational institutes especially in the Sports Department.

P.K. Chopra
P.K. Chopra

Mr P.K. Chopra, a businessman ,said that he would support the candidate who would raise the voice of the trading community. He said the Congress government led by Capt Amarinder Singh had done a commendable job by promoting multinational companies in the state which would provide employment to the youth of the state. He said the government should develop various shopping centres such as the Nehru Shopping Complex, which were lacking basic facilities.


Ms Babita, a resident of Batala Road ,said that she was not satisfied with the performance of the MLA of their area as he had done nothing for the development of the area. She said the MLA had started repair of lanes just two months before the elections were announced.



Educate sons to avoid Nithari shock: Tara Gandhi
Sanjay Bumbroo
Tribune News Service

The society should change its mindset towards their children, especially boys, to stop incidents like Nithari or Muktsar killings, said Ms Tara Gandhi Bhattacharya, niece of Mahatma Gandhi.

Ms Bhattacharya while talking to The Tribune said that parents ,especially the mother, should change their mindset towards their sons and should try to give proper education to them. She said the parents were not teaching moral values to their children as they over look means as long the children achieve the end of acquiring money. She said the decline in the moral values was leading the society to disaster and we should not blame the government for this. She said if we feel responsible for such incidents then only can we solve such type of complex problems.

She said the government should look into the psychological aspects of the Nithari and Muktsar killings and try to initiate steps to stop such type of incidents. She said we should provide talented and dedicated teachers to educate the children and give them proper training. She said the boys were not getting good education and utter carelessness on the part of the people was the main cause behind this. She said we have to remove this attitude of carelessness and provide proper education besides teaching them moral values. She said the mother can motivate children with affection.

Commenting on the concept of Sarvodaya which was for the reawakening of the spirit to respect all types of life on this planet, Ms Tara Gandhi said that there was need to change ourselves first before changing others. She said it was distressing to note that even after 60 years of Independence we were witnessing killings like Nithari. She said it was nothing but the exploitation of the poor during the British .

Expressing shock on the presentation of the Mahatma Gandhi as a violent person on a website, she said such things would not kill the Mahatma. She said the government must promote the Khadi movement to stop exploitation of the poor and provide job opportunities to the youth.

Ms Tara Gandhi also visited the Wagah Joint Checkpost and watched the Beating Retreat Ceremony. Later, she visited the Golden Temple and also paid tributes to the Martyrs at Jallianwala Bagh. 



Just a thought
Order of God’s grace

After around a two -hour drive via the bypass from Jalandhar, I was in the Galiara of the Golden Temple. I had to crane my neck to spot the board of Jallianwala Bagh amidst the many signboards that dot this crowded lane. I walked bare foot to feel the path from where the Baisakhi revelers went in the garden, but did not come out. The very thought of bullets snuffing the revelers in front of the only exit, sent a shudder down my spine. Moreover, the stone-paved path was cold.

As one turns left at the end of lane, you are in front of the portrait gallery of freedom fighters -- Bhagat Singh , Udham Singh , Madan Lal Dhingra and Rabindernath Tagore. (He had returned the knighthood to mark his protest against the butchery in the Jallianwala Bagh). These revolutionaries not only wanted to oust the British from India but were also committed to building an egalitarian order.

What motivated Baisakhi revelers to gather in the Jallianwala Bagh and eventually fall to the bullets of General Dyer?

Standing close to the canopied well, I tried to fathom the depth of the izat (honour) of those girls who had jumped to death as bullets burst around them.

Govind Nihalani’s TV serial, Tamas, showed one girl after another jump to death, one hears:

Soora so pahchania jo lade deen ke hait

Purza ,Purza kat mare kabhun na chade khet

These lines sung by the devout in Prabhat Pheris have woken up many an agnostic like me.

The magesty of the flame–shaped memorial dwarfs the framed bullet holes on crumbling walls. As one reaches the martys’ flame, stones on spots from where Dyer’s squad shot people who were dreaming freedom jut out like a sore thumbs.

As one is in the galiara, one experiences godly order in the traffic chaos. No mode of traffic has got dated here. A car gives way to the horse -cart as an auto surprises both by scooting away and billowing smoke clouds. Is this the freedom that martyrs died for?

As one is inside the Darbar Sahib one is impressed by the orderly behaviour of those very people who throw traffic norms to the wind and would not let go of a chance of settling scores there and then.

Along with the SGPC employees ,visitors lend a helping hand in various activities within the temple complex. Discipline cast in the dye of religion transforms into instruments of change. Mahatma Gandhi understood it and used it to stir our consciousness with success.

It is dark when I switch on the car ignition. I drive through the blinding light beams of vehicles headed to the holy city.

When I touch Jalandhar after two and half hours in one piece, I thank the Guru who has said, “Nanak naam chardi kala, tere bhane sarbat da bhala”.

As I pass by the SSP’s office, I find members of the Pendu Mazdoor Union having community lunch in almost the same orderly fashion as the visitors had at the Golden Temple. These workers who are agitating for the release of their comrades, wash their plates. This community service restored my faith in people’s action.



Indo-Pak students get-together
P.K. Jaiswar

An open debate was held at Delhi Public School under the school linkage programme .Participating students from Pakistan spoke about the changing lifestyles of the youth in their country.

The students said net-cafes, chatting and the fast-bike culture was catching on in their country. In the poster making competitions on “God, humans and science” and “water scarcity” brought out the common problems faced by people of both the countries.

The Pak group led by Mr Khurram Ilyas, Director ,Lahore School ,favored lesser expenditure on defense build-up and more on development between both nations for prosperity. He said that both the governments should relax stringent visa regimes as a first step towards easing relationships and promotion of trust.

For students and staff of Delhi Public School (DPS) this Lohri festival was a 'unique' experience, as eight students from Lords International School, Lahore ,and three of their faculty members joined in the festivities this time. Students of both schools tested their skills in kite-flying competition .The girls learnt the art of Rangoli. They shared traditional sweets 'bhuga' 'khajoor', 'gachchak' and offered 'rewri' and 'til' in the bonfire.

The Pakistani guests enjoyed traditional Lohri songs like 'sundar mudariye' on the beat of dhol. Earlier, the Pakistan students also performed colorful dances -Bhangra of Punjab, Khattak of North Western Frontier Province, Balochi of Baluchistan and Sindhi of Sindh.



RSS essays peace
P.K. Jaiswar

Let us work for making India a nation of spiritual bliss and material progress by 2020 so that it can take its rightful place in the comity of developed nations in the world," said Mr Mohan Rao Bhagwat, All India General Secretary, RSS ,addressing a gathering of writers, thinkers and professionals from all over Punjab, Haryana, Chandigarh, Himachal and Delhi in Amritsar.

He was here to participate in a special function organized to honour eminent authors who had contributed to the Essay Writing Project launched by the Panchnad Research Institute, Chandigarh ,as part of the birth centenary celebrations of M S Golwalkar, second Sanghchalak of the RSS.

Earlier, Mr Bhagwat presented shawl, memento and citation to Mr Proful Garodia of Delhi (In absentia), Dr. Avyakt Ram Mishra of Allahabad, Dr. Shashi Bala of Gaziabad and Dr. Rajneesh Arora of Amritsar.

He formally launched the Institute's Website - PANCHNAD.COM on this occasion.

In his welcome speech, Dr. B L Gupta, one of the founders of the Institute, gave a brief account of the role, vision and activities of the Institute and said Panchand that was launched in 1984 had now emerged as a premier forum in the North West comprising Punjab, Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal, Chandigarh, Haryana and Delhi for free exchange of views and ideas of all hues and persuasions. He talked about the multifarious challenges before the nation and said it was the duty of the intellectual community to come forward to think, discuss and search for solutions for our social, economic and political problems. 



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