M A I N   N E W S

Keeping martyr’s memory alive
Aruti Nayar
Tribune News Service

Dalhousie, July 11
For the Dalhousie-based NGO Kalakar Evam Lekhak Manch (KALAM), it was indeed a proud moment when in the presence of the locals, the statue of Sardar Ajit Singh, Bhagat Singh’s uncle, was unveiled.

Ajit Singh was a freedom fighter and a revolutionary in his own right and had travelled far and wide to do consciousness raising about the need to free India. Dalhousie has more affinity with Punjab because of the geographical contiguity to Gurdaspur and Pathankot. It may not have basked in the media strobes as much as the more powerful capital but it could definitely teach a lesson or two in community participation to many hill stations.

In 2002, KALAM was formed by the late Dr Prem Bhardwaj, who passed away last year (he was the then Sub-Divisional Magistrate, Dalhousie). The aim was to create a platform for artists, writers and creative persons to exchange views and showcase their talent.

KALAM also made it a point to honour the memory of all those martyrs who had given up their life for the country.

The general secretary, Baldev Khosla, a senior assistant in the PWD, ensures that the forum meets quarterly. A meeting on August 14 is a must because, as Khosla says, “that was the day India was still undivided”.

Khosla recounts the efforts of the late Motilal Goswami, an Ayurvedic doctor, who would single handedly visit the Samadhi, be it rain, hail or snow, to keep the memory of Ajit Singh alive.

Manmohan Bawa, a Delhi-based Punjabi novelist who owns hotel Mehar (where his brother late Manjit Bawa often painted and where Netaji Subhash Chandra stayed), is another member who participated zealously in KALAM’s activities.

Dr (Capt) G.S. Dhillon, the Principal of the Dalhousie Public School, funded the revamp of the Samadhi at Panjpula and the sculpting of the statue but he insists that it was truly a team effort. For all the members, it was just a way of paying back to the town they had made their home.

Born in Khatkarkalan village in Jalandhar district, Ajit Singh had studied at DAV College, Lahore, and Law College, Barreily. He plunged into the freedom movement and left his law studies. In 1907, he was deported to Mandalay Jail in Burma along with Lala Lajpat Rai. In 1946, he came back to India at the invitation of Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru and after staying in New Delhi, came to Dalhousie to recover from tuberculosis.

A fiery revolutionary, who had travelled as far as the US, Italy (where he assisted Netaji), Germany and Brazil, he had actively opposed the Land Acquisition Act during the British rule and had popularised the catchy slogan “Pagri Sambhal Jatta” (written by the Punjabi poet Bankey Lal) to denote how the loss of the land of the peasants was in fact loss of their honour.

At most of his meetings, he exhorted the people not to put up with injustice. After one such fiery speech, there were shouts of “Majhe de zor nal, Malwe de shor nal, asi nahin har de”. When Ajit Singh died on August 15, 1947, in Dalhousie, he had “Jai hind” on his lips and his last words were, “The mission of my life has been accomplished with India attaining Independence.”

That there was absolutely no effort on the part of the government to institutionalise the memory of a freedom fighter was indeed a shame. But it is heartening that the local community effort has triumphed. From an obscure spot which had a small bust of the martyr, the NGO managed to beautify the spot and make Ajit Singh’s Samadhi a bustling spot where tourists could pay homage to the martyr.

Kalam’s effort

The statue of Sardar Ajit Singh, who was closely associated with the grooming of martyr Bhagat Singh, was unveiled on Sunday at Panjpula in Dalhousie.

It was sculpted by Ravi Gurung, an arts teacher at the local Dalhousie Public School. The statue replaced the earlier bust. The decision to install it was taken in 2002. Air Commodore A.K. Mahajan, chairman of the manch, gave a brief insight into the life of Ajit Singh and his participation in the freedom movement.

Prof Jagmohan Singh, a nephew of Bhagat Singh, was also present on the occasion. There was a patriotic song recital and a classical dance performance on the occasion by the children of the Dalhousie Public School.

(By Sanjeev Singh Bariana)





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