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Atal’s healing touch helped ease bitterness of ’80s
Akali Dal patron Parkash Singh Badal honours Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee at a function to lay the foundation stone of an oil refinery at Phulokhari village in Bathinda district.

Atal’s healing touch helped ease bitterness of ’80s

17 Aug 2018 | 2:03 AM

SELDOM has the stunning diversity of our country found a signature fully matching the richness and the indefinable colourfulness of its character. It has often been as difficult to reduce India to the definition of a nation-state as it would be to fit the dynamism of a living landscape into a static frame.

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Harcharan Bains

SELDOM has the stunning diversity of our country found a signature fully matching the richness and the indefinable colourfulness of its character. It has often been as difficult to reduce India to the definition of a nation-state as it would be to fit the dynamism of a living landscape into a static frame. But one man often seemed to do just this with an ease which was as effortless as it was amazing. 

It was Punjab’s good luck in the late 90s that it had in Atal Bihari Vajpayee a friend who could love and rebuke it in the same breath and yet be loved and respected for it. As things stood towards the end of 1996, a Congress government which had been celebrating its glorious blunders had left the state almost headless. And yet it claimed to have “brought peace back to the blood-spattered fields of Punjab”. The claim was as false as it was provocative. 

The fact was that though the security forces had accounted for a large number of militant groups, many of them allegedly the progeny of the state itself, the fact was that the social landscape of the state still hung below a tense sky in which tempers were on a dangerously short fuse. The two sisterly communities, which had been made the victim of sinister conspiracies of petty squabblers in Delhi, were still ominously wary of each other and peace was still a distant dream. 

Peace in Punjab is nothing if it is not accompanied by the celebratory bonhomie, ungainly big hugs, and laughter, loud and lusty enough to be puzzling to the uninitiated. The people of the state had witnessed and experienced that kind of mirth and bonhomie as their signature tune in the past. But up until the middle of 1996, the spirit of the state was still suffering the bruises of 1984 and what preceded it. The spirit of the state was crying aloud for a messiah — or at least someone who could put his gentle hand on its weary and wounded shoulders.

To be sure, Vajpayee was not that messiah. But he came as close to it as was humanly possible. As he assumed office as the Prime Minister, Punjab heard a language from the national capital which it had not been used for quite some time now. Suddenly, there was talk of a healing touch, of understanding the hurt psyche of the patriotic people. Instead of the harsh prose of the 80s and the early and mid-90s, suddenly there was a poetic refrain in the words emanating from Delhi towards Punjab. And no one loves poetry like Punjab and Punjabis do. 

Vajpayee came to Punjab and reminded them of their own heart full of love. In sharp contrast to the ominous tones of “teaching Punjabis a lesson,” Vajpayee said in Ludhiana, “The country has nothing that it can teach you and there is a lot it needs to learn from you.” More than Chandigarh, more than the Punjabi speaking areas lost during the reorganisation, what Punjab craved for was love, understanding and a restoration of its patriotic pride.

The poet in Vajpayee was quick to understand this sensitivity, and even quicker to respond to it. And suddenly, by Ferurary 1996, much of the bitterness of the 80s and 90s was already on its way out, though not completely gone yet. 

Today, when Vajpayee, whom his friend and colleague Parkash Singh Badal describes as “the tallest statesman of his era and a sage statesman”, is no longer with us, it is not just Punjab which will be feeling a little lost and a bit like an orphan. The spirit of the nation which takes pride in its secular cosmopolitanism will also be desperately searching for the smiling, affectionate and statesman-like figure of the poet-politician. 

Vajpayee symbolised India like few leaders of his generation did, and almost no one today does with a completeness which is so desperately required. One hopes that the countrymen do not forget that the only way to pay tribute to the spirit of Vajpayee is to respect the secular and cosmopolitan spirit of India as it has stood down the centuries. The country will miss the fragrant innocence which he so richly exuded.

(The writer is former media adviser to ex-Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal)


Leaders pay tributes to former PM

A towering personality

Atal Bihari Vajpayee was a towering personality who will always remain a beacon to inspire young politicians to tread the path of value-based politics. He was a multifaceted personality and a fine human being. Capt Amarinder Singh, Chief minister

Tallest indian statesman on world stage

Vajpayee was the tallest Indian I have worked with. India will forever remember him as a symbol of peace and communal harmony. He was a hero and even his opponents found hard to not admire him. Parkash Singh Badal, former CM

Served nation without any vested interest

Atal Bihari Vajpayee was a farsighted personality. His vision and contribution to prosper the nation can never be ignored. He was humble, yet firm by nature who served the nation without any vested interest. Gobind Singh Longowal, SGPC President 

Stayed in touch with all workers

Vajpayee’s sincerity on staying in touch with all his workers and his humility in carrying out his role, including that of Prime Minister, came from his incomparable strength. Avinash Rai Khanna, National Vice-president of the BJP

Cabinet panel to probe report leakSacrilege

Cabinet panel to probe report leak

17 Aug 2018 | 1:12 AM

CHANDIGARH: A Cabinet sub-committee will probe the alleged leak of the Justice Ranjit Singh Commission report on the role of police officers behind the Kotkapura and Behbal Kalan firing incidents that followed the Bargari sacrilege incident before its tabling in the Vidhan Sabha.

I-Day bounty for Ludhiana

I-Day bounty for Ludhiana

17 Aug 2018 | 1:12 AM

LUDHIANA: Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh announced several development projects worth Rs3,600 crore for Ludhiana district during the Independence Day celebrations after unfurling the National Flag during a state-level function at Guru Nanak Stadium here on Wednesday.

FIR in Kotkapura firing names none

17 Aug 2018 | 1:12 AM

CHANDIGARH: The state government claims that action has been taken against police officials for allegedly opening fire at a mob protesting sacrilege incidents in Kotkapura.

Will seal Indo-Pak border with ‘smart fence’: BSF

Will seal Indo-Pak border with ‘smart fence’: BSF

17 Aug 2018 | 1:12 AM

ATTARI: The “smart fence” along the India-Pakistan border to thwart any vulnerable element to cross the border is priority of the Border Security Force (BSF).

More than 24,000 trees felled illegally to widen canal: NGT

17 Aug 2018 | 1:24 AM

CHANDIGARH: The National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Thursday held officers of the Punjab Forest Department responsible for illegal felling of 24,777 eucalyptus, sheesham and keekar trees to widen the 800-km-long Bist-Doab canal during the SAD-BJP rule in 2016.

Stop glorifying waiver: Farmers

17 Aug 2018 | 1:12 AM

SANGRUR: On the Independence Day function at Police Lines here, Cabinet Minister Sadhu Singh Dharamsot launched the second phase of the debt wavier scheme and handed over certificates to 11 farmers, waiving Rs 19.72 lakhs.

Cong backing parallel Jathedars, claims SukhbirPolitical Conferences at ISSRU

Cong backing parallel Jathedars, claims Sukhbir

17 Aug 2018 | 1:12 AM

ISSRU (LUDHIANA): Akali Dal president Sukhbir Singh Badal on Wednesday rejected the report of the Justice Ranjit Singh Commission and said Punjabis would not let the Congress and the “bogus” Jathedars to weaken the SAD and wrest control of the SGPC.

Cong shielding Akalis: Khaira

17 Aug 2018 | 1:12 AM

LUDHIANA: After paying tributes to martyr Karnail Singh Issru, AAP MLA Sukhpal Singh Khaira held a meeting with volunteers, which was also attended by locals at Issru village on Wednesday.

Will expose Badals’ role in sacrilege cases: Jakhar

Will expose Badals’ role in sacrilege cases: Jakhar

17 Aug 2018 | 1:12 AM

ISSRU (LUDHIANA): Punjab Congress chief Sunil Jakhar on Wednesday said the Justice Ranjit Singh Commission report would bring out the truth regarding the role of the Badals in the police firing and sacrilege cases in the coming session of the Assembly.

Rivers in spate, crops in 16 villages submerged

Rivers in spate, crops in 16 villages submerged

17 Aug 2018 | 1:12 AM

TARN TARAN: Crops on more than 16,000 acres in 16 villages of the Mand area were washed away due to the rising water of the Beas and the Sutlej. The water level in the rivers has gone up since Wednesday.

Canal breach destroys crops, farmers seek relief

17 Aug 2018 | 1:12 AM

FEROZEPUR: More than 200 acres of agricultural land was submerged due to 25-feet-wide breach in the Lachhman Canal near Hajara Singh Wala village in the Mamdot block.

Cracks on embankment trigger panic

17 Aug 2018 | 1:12 AM

MUKTSAR: Panic gripped residents of Bhullar and a few adjoining villages here after huge cracks appeared on the embankment of the Rajasthan feeder canal and water started seeping into the Chandbhan drain.

Kathua Case

DC backs plea seeking handcuffing of accused

17 Aug 2018 | 1:12 AM

PATHANKOT: The Pathankot Deputy Commissioner (DC), Ramvir, has supported his district police chief’s plea on handcuffing all seven accused in the Kathua rape and murder case.

Building plan approval goes online

17 Aug 2018 | 1:12 AM

CHANDIGARH: The Department of Local Government on Thursday rolled out its ambitious flagship programme of “e-Naksha”. The Online Building Plan Approval System (OBPAS) will help citizens in saving time by not making rounds of offices to get their building plans approved.

Ludhiana court reserves order on former SSP’s plea

17 Aug 2018 | 1:12 AM

LUDHIANA: The court of Sessions Judge Gurbir Singh on Thursday reserved the order on the plea of Vigilance Bureau’s (VB) former SSP Kanwarjit Singh Sandhu.

Vidhan Sabha session from August 24-28

17 Aug 2018 | 1:12 AM

CHANDIGARH: The state Cabinet in its meeting on Thursday decided to summon the next session of the Punjab Vidhan Sabha from August 24 to August 28.

Briefly

Pakistan balloon lands in Muktsar

17 Aug 2018 | 1:12 AM

MUKTSAR: Just a few hours before the Independence Day celebrations, a balloon from Pakistan landed at a field in Muktsar town on Tuesday night, creating panic among residents.

Controversial ASI ‘forcibly retired’

17 Aug 2018 | 1:12 AM

PATIALA: Almost two weeks after six youths were allegedly tortured at Sanaur police station, the Patiala police on Thursday “forcibly retired” the erring ASI, Narinder Singh.

Huge quantities of spurious milk, milk products seized in Punjab

16 Aug 2018 | 9:52 PM

CHANDIGARH: Teams of the food and drug administration seized huge quantities of spurious milk, milk products and adulterants from two units in Punjab’s Patiala and Moga districts on Thursday, an official said.

Punjab govt declares holiday on Friday as mark of respect to Vajpayee

Punjab govt declares holiday on Friday as mark of respect to Vajpayee

16 Aug 2018 | 8:41 PM

CHANDIGARH: The Punjab Governor and Administrator, UT, Chandigarh, V.P. Singh Badnore on Thursday expressed his heartfelt condolences over the demise of former Prime Minister and veteran leader of Bhartiya Janta Party, Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

Punjab cabinet condoles death of Balramji Dass Tandon

16 Aug 2018 | 1:23 PM

CHANDIGARH: The Punjab cabinet on Thursday paid tributes to Chhattisgarh Governor and former minister of Punjab Balramji Dass Tandon, who passed away on Tuesday. The cabinet observed a two-minute silence and remembered him as a seasoned politician and an able administrator who worked tirelessly for overall development and prosperity of the state, an official spokesperson said.

Justice Ranjit Singh submits final report on sacrilege cases

Justice Ranjit Singh submits final report on sacrilege cases

17 Aug 2018 | 2:16 AM

CHANDIGARH: The final report on the sacrilege cases in Punjab,was submitted by Justice Ranjit Singh (retd) to CM Capt Amarinder Singh on Thursday.

Punjab CM calls for freedom from drugs to mark Independence Day

Punjab CM calls for freedom from drugs to mark Independence Day

15 Aug 2018 | 7:11 PM

LUDHIANA/CHANDIGARH: Calling for ‘Nashe ton Azadi’ (Freedom from Drugs), Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Wednesday launched ‘Tu Mera Buddy’ programme to take the war against drugs to schools and colleges to mark the 72nd Independence Day.

BSF offers sweets to Pak Rangers at Attari-Wagah border on I-Day

BSF offers sweets to Pak Rangers at Attari-Wagah border on I-Day

15 Aug 2018 | 7:05 PM

ATTARI: The Border Security Force (BSF) on Wednesday gifted traditional Indian sweets to Pakistani Rangers at the Attari-Wagah border on the occasion of the country's Independence Day.

Amarinder honours 17 personalities with state award

Amarinder honours 17 personalities with state award

15 Aug 2018 | 6:56 PM

LUDHIANA/CHANDIGARH: On the occasion of the 72nd Independence Day, Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh conferred state awards to 17 eminent personalities for their outstanding contribution in various fields.

New book brings together Khushwant Singh’s best on Punjab and its people

New book brings together Khushwant Singh’s best on Punjab and its people

15 Aug 2018 | 2:49 PM

NEW DELHI: Four years since the death of the legendary Khushwant Singh, a new book brings together some of his finest writings on his native land–Punjab–and its people.

Capt announces Rs 3,600 cr worth of development projects for Ludhiana

Capt announces Rs 3,600 cr worth of development projects for Ludhiana

16 Aug 2018 | 3:16 PM

LUDHIANA: Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Wednesday announced a slew of development projects worth over Rs 3,600 crore for Ludhiana district.

Independence Day celebrated in Punjab, Haryana, Chandigarh

Independence Day celebrated in Punjab, Haryana, Chandigarh

15 Aug 2018 | 4:23 PM

CHANDIGARH: Punjab, Haryana and their joint capital Chandigarh on Wednesday celebrated the Independence Day amid tight security arrangements.

Electronic summons to be delivered to litigants

Electronic summons to be delivered to litigants

15 Aug 2018 | 4:16 PM

NEW DELHI: Summons will now be delivered electronically to litigants in the form of e-summons with the Supreme Court on Tuesday launching new apps.

Cops quiz Bishop for 9 hrs, tape it

Cops quiz Bishop for 9 hrs, tape it

15 Aug 2018 | 11:22 AM

JALANDHAR:The Kerala Police team in the city questioned Bishop Franco Mulakkal through the night regarding an alleged rape complaint filed by a nun and left in the wee hours of Tuesday.

Five AAP ex-workers booked for ‘misbehaving’ with Mann’s guards

Five AAP ex-workers booked for ‘misbehaving’ with Mann’s guards

15 Aug 2018 | 1:39 AM

BARNALA: Five former AAP leaders from Mehal Kalan constituency have been booked for allegedly misbehaving with the security staff of party MP Bhagwant Mann.

Bonhomie at border

Bonhomie at border

15 Aug 2018 | 1:39 AM

AMRITSAR: The Pakistan Rangers presented sweets to the BSF on the occasion of their country’s independence day on Tuesday. Wing Commander Bilal handed over boxes of traditional Pak sweets to BSF Commandant Sudeep Kumar.

SFJ misleading Sikhs: RajoanaBriefly

SFJ misleading Sikhs: Rajoana

15 Aug 2018 | 1:39 AM

PATIALA: Balwant Singh Rajoana, who is on death row in former Chief Minister Beant Singh’s assassination case, on Tuesday expressed concern over the Referendum 2020 campaign spearheaded by the US-based Sikhs for Justice (SFJ).

Revoke leaders’ transfers or face protest: Teacher unions

15 Aug 2018 | 1:39 AM

GURDASPUR: Resentment is brewing among the Education Department’s ministerial staff after 10 union leaders, who were in the forefront of a protest on August 7, were shifted to other districts.

PWD officers to tend trees along highways

PWD officers to tend trees along highways

15 Aug 2018 | 1:39 AM

SANGRUR: The Punjab PWD (B and R) Department has set a target of planting total 1,73,741 trees along three national highways (NH) crossing from the state.

Flood alert in Fazilka

15 Aug 2018 | 1:39 AM

FAZILKA: A red alert has been sounded in Fazilka district to deal with a flood-like situation in the coming days. Manpreet Singh, Deputy Commissioner, Fazilka, has directed the officials concerned to be ready to deal with floods as excess water is being released from the Hussainiwala headworks.

Soon, civilian flights from Halwara airport, says CM

Soon, civilian flights from Halwara airport, says CM

15 Aug 2018 | 1:39 AM

LUDHIANA: Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh on Tuesday announced that civilian flights would be started from the Halwara airport very soon. The Chief Minister said the Union Government had given its nod and necessary approvals.

175-km human chain formed

175-km human chain formed

15 Aug 2018 | 1:39 AM

ABOHAR: Thousands of people on Tuesday assembled on roadsides in different segments of Sriganganagar to form a 175-km-long human chain that touched Rojadi, the last village of the border district.

Give audit reports to get SC grant: Sampla

15 Aug 2018 | 1:39 AM

CHANDIGARH: Union Minister of State for Social Justice and Empowerment Vijay Sampla on Tuesday said no pending grants worth around Rs 800 crore for SC scholarships would be released till Punjab gave the audit report of the earlier released money.

Rectify faults in sewerage lines or face action: Sidhu

15 Aug 2018 | 1:39 AM

CHANDIGARH: With number of Congress MLAs criticising faulty sewerage works in various towns and cities, Local Government Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu on Tuesday instructed sewerage-laying companies to rectify shortcomings within one month or he would recommend registration of criminal cases against them.

Panchayat Polls

Cong MLAs against dist-wise reservation

15 Aug 2018 | 1:39 AM

CHANDIGARH: A number of Congress legislators on Tuesday expressed reservation about a recent Cabinet decision to revert to district-wise reservation of panchayats for women and Scheduled Castes.

Sikh leaders push for clemency to Rajoana

Sikh leaders push for clemency to Rajoana

15 Aug 2018 | 1:39 AM

NEW DELHI: A SAD delegation led by its president Sukhbir Singh Badal met Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh in Delhi on Tuesday. The delegation’s meeting with the Home Minister lasted for about an hour in his North Block office.

Rains ease storage in Bhakra, Pong dams

Rains ease storage in Bhakra, Pong dams

15 Aug 2018 | 1:39 AM

CHANDIGARH: Rains that have lashed the region in the past two days have wreaked havoc but they have also proved to be a saviour for dams where the storage situation was critical this year.

HC seeks Centre’s reply on Tytler passport row

15 Aug 2018 | 1:39 AM

NEW DELHI: The Delhi High Court on Tuesday sought the Centre’s response on a plea by Congress leader Jagdish Tytler, who has challenged an order to impound his passport for allegedly furnishing false details to the authority concerned.

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