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A mini Punjab in UP
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

Moradabad/Pilihibit, May 10
It is said a Punjabi wears his attitude and heart on his sleeve. But, here in western Uttar Pradesh, a large number of land-owning Jat Sikhs don their Punjabi identity on their vehicles.

All of them have Punjab or Chandigarh registration numbers to show where they originally hail from. The registration numbers are like their own “code” to identify each other on the roads of an “alien” land.

Be it a flashy Ford Endeavor, the rough and tough Scorpio, the stately Mitsubishi lancer or the Tata Safari, all vehicles of these Punjabis have the “PB” or “CH” registration numbers. A few Haryana registration numbers can also be spotted. In some cases, the “PB” is written in bigger font that the rest of the number.

It looks rather odd to find all these swanky Punjab or Chandigarh registered cars in the dusty by-lanes of these areas. A young man, Pavittar Singh, whom the Tribune met in Muzzafarnagar opens up. He replies: “This is our identity”.

“The registration numbers stand out in any crowd. This also provides a kind of immunity from the local toughs. They all know that Punjabis are best left alone,” he says with a matter-of-fact look on his face.

The same go for the houses of these Punjabis. Located in rural UP towns, these houses bespeak of affluence and opulence. “Scented candles, plush sofas complete with plasma screen TVs and air conditioners make it a home away from home,” grins another.

“Our farm houses in the Pilihibit area are some of the best in the region. Many of them have their own swimmings pools,” says Surendra Rajput, a local resident.

While in places like Bareilly, Moradabad and Muzzafarnagar, the use of spoken Punjabi is restricted to conversations within the community, in Pilihibit even non-Punjabi shopkeepers understand the language as their clients are usually Punjabi land farmers. Even candidates of different parties make it a point to address small congregations of the “Punjabi community” separately.

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