Debating India
Home page > Public directory > History > Punjab has come a long way since the years of turmoil

Punjab has come a long way since the years of turmoil

Friday 24 March 2006, by BARUAH*Amit

AMRITSAR: It’s a sign of absolute normality. As a young reporter, this correspondent had gotten used to the ubiquitous AK-47s and self-loading rifles (SLRs) in the hands of the Punjab Police during the years of turmoil in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Today, as one lands at the Raja Sansi Airport, you only see Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) men holding "dandas". Nothing else. It’s a sight to behold; Punjab has become normal since one visited here more than a decade ago.

The drive from the Raja Sansi Airport, some 10 km outside the city, takes us barely 10 minutes. Along the route, one sees more "danda"-wielding Punjab police personnel; a sign you do not get to see even in Delhi these days.


Manmohan a little late

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh arrived here a little after 9 p.m. to flag off the first-ever Amritsar-Nankana Sahib bus service to Pakistan on Friday. Accompanied by his wife Gursharan Kaur, Dr. Singh will wave off the bus a little before noon.

Four of us correspondents travelled separately in the spanking-new Brazil-made Embraer VVIP aircraft. Its plush interiors, we are told, are far superior to the Indian Air Force 737, which the Prime Minister used. The two aircraft arrived within minutes of each other at the airport.

The Embraer, apart from the frills, comes with a state-of-the art anti-missile system. No pictures are permitted inside the aircraft, we are told by the crew minutes before the 14-seater aircraft takes to the sky. When you travel abroad with the Prime Minister, the press and the official delegation have little to do with each other.

But, here, at home, the press gets to travel in the official motorcade of the Prime Minister in a fleet of white Ambassadors. The only black car is the Prime Minister’s bullet-proof BMW, imported by the previous National Democratic Alliance (NDA) Government.


New bus service

Dr. Manmohan Singh has come to inaugurate a new bus service to the mecca of the Sikhs in Pakistan, Nankana Sahib.

He could not have arrived in Punjab on a more historic day - March 23 - the 75th martyrdom day of Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev.

Not far from here, the three brave men - Bhagat Singh was only 23 - were hanged to death by the British in the Lahore Central Jail.

On March 23, 1931, the three young men cheerfully went to the gallows at 6 p.m., lustily shouting "Inquilab Zindabad."

According to Bhupendra Hooja’s "A Martyrs Notebook," the news of the hanging spread like wildfire in Lahore.

The British were afraid of the bodies; these were taken to the banks of the Sutlej near Ferozepur, some 80 km from Lahore.

Thousands of young men reached the spot along with their leaders and retrieved the half-burnt bodies of these martyrs, brought them to Lahore and consigned them to the flames on the banks of the Ravi on the evening of March 24, 1931.


India remembers?

Once you are in Amritsar, Lahore today doesn’t seem far away given the fact that there are now going to be three bus services and one train link that join the Indian and Pakistani Punjabs.

Apart from the Samjhauta Express and the Delhi-Lahore bus, there’s a new, four-times a week bus service between Amritsar and Lahore.

And, from Friday, Sikh pilgrims can look forward to a once-a-week bus to Nankana Sahib, the birthplace of Guru Nanak.

Punjab-to-Punjab diplomacy seems be going well, given the impressive number of transport links across the Attari-Wagah border. With these links in place, the time has come for India and Pakistan to open visa offices or even consulates in Lahore and Amritsar.

The people are waiting.

See online : The Hindu

SPIP | template | | Site Map | Follow-up of the site's activity RSS 2.0