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Monday, May 8, 2017

this punjab village of drug smugglers has a web of escape holes through walls

Cops grapple with holes in drug nest

At Jagraon village, smugglers use escape routes in houses to fox police
Jupinderjit Singh
Tribune News Service
Kul Gehna (Jagraon), May 7 Inhabitants of this “village of drug smugglers”, located close to the Sutlej in Jagraon, are all too aware of the proverb “vanish into thin air” as each of the 35-odd houses built in a cluster has an escape route. The secret passage is used by criminals to escape every time the police come calling. More than 60 FIRs have been registered against its residents over the past two years — nearly 200 of its 300 residents, barring children, have been named in at least one drug smuggling case.

 A web of square or circular holes of different sizes in the walls connects each house, allowing smugglers to flee during police raids. The smugglers move from one house to another before landing in the fields. They then make a dash for the river, crossing it before the police can reach them. For a well-built cop, it is difficult to follow them through the holes. Another series of small holes in the walls are used to quickly dispose of drugs in case of a raid. Contraband, including heroin, smack and opium, packed in small pouches is moved from one house to another till the police call off search. 

The Jagraon police have plugged these holes in the past, but new ones reappear soon after the raids. In a rare access to these houses, The Tribune found small gates in the boundary walls, big enough for a child to pass through. A few days ago, the police plugged these escape routes with bricks and locked the small iron gates. “It is literally a cat and mouse game,” says Jagraon Senior Superintendent of Police Surjeet Singh, who ordered the plugging of holes soon after taking charge last month. “But it is a painstaking task as the smugglers try to be one step ahead of the police. It is not easy for an officer to ensure the holes are plugged at all times.” 

Assistant Sub-Inspector Balour Singh, who oversaw the plugging operation recently, says he knows the “horoscope” of each family and pays them regular visits to ensure the escape routes remain shut. “Your life is always on the line when to visit the village. Women embrace you, pleading for mercy or grapple as the situation warrants. Children clutch on to your legs, restricting your movement. A number of policemen have been injured in the process,” he says.

 The house of alleged high-profile smuggler Paramjit Singh, alias Pamma, is located right at the entry to the village. Its high walls and air-conditioners inside point to the lifestyle he enjoys. “Most of villagers, including Pamma, are farm labourers. Some drive tractor-trailers for sand miners. It is hard to acquire air-conditioners or cars from daily wages,” says the ASI. Four other notorious smugglers belonging to the village have been on the run ever since the new Congress government turned the heat on drug smugglers. A resident, who claims to have given up smuggling a long time ago, says most of the village houses were “kutcha” in the beginning. “Villagers have graduated from smuggling illicit liquor in pouches or bottles to poppy husk in gunny bags and then opium in polythene bags. They have now switched to the easier and more lucrative “chitta” (heroin), which can be easily concealed in small pouches.” As “chitta” business flourished, almost all houses were rebuilt, says the ASI.

‘Cat and mouse game’
"It is literally a cat and mouse game... It is a painstaking task as the smugglers try to be one step ahead of the police. It is not easy for an officer to ensure the holes in the walls are plugged at all times." Surjeet Singh, Jagraon SSP
Safety exit in 35 houses
  • A web of square/circular holes in the walls connects each of 35 houses, allowing drug smugglers to flee during police raids
  • The smugglers use the route to escape into the fields and subsequently cross the Sutlej. It’s hard for well-built cops to follow them through the holes
  • Another series of small holes in the walls are used to quickly dispose of drugs in case of a raid

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Here’s Bhagat Singh’s pistol, out of oblivion

Here’s Bhagat Singh’s pistol, out of oblivion

The Tribune tracks down weapon that changed course of history at BSF centre in Indore

Jupinderjit Singh
Tribune News Service

Indore, November 22
Lying in oblivion for almost half a century as just another of the 294 relics at the Border Security Force’s Central School of Weapons and Tactics in this Madhya Pradesh town, Shaheed Bhagat Singh’s pistol is finally getting revered status here.

Till recently, Assistant Commandant Vijendra Singh, who imparts briefings on the history of weapons to trainees, would talk about a US-made .32 Colt rimless and smokeless pistol as a small chapter in the growth of weapons from 1531 onwards.

All that changed after a four-part series by The Tribune — based on the findings of an Indian historian in Lahore — and subsequent reportage on the possible whereabouts of the freedom fighter’s pistol.

The weapon was used in the killing of British police officer JP Saunders in Lahore on December 17, 1928, and played a pivotal part in the Lahore conspiracy case that saw Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev being hanged and attaining legendary martyr status.

Assistant Commandant Vijendra now devotes a lot of time talking about the weapon and its rich history while the trainees, including a group of DSPs on a refresher course, vie with each other to get photographed with it.

“I am overcome with emotion as I hold the great martyr’s pistol in hand. I have held so many weapons in my long career but none like this one,” says IG Pankaj, who is the director of the BSF weapons’ school.

“No one here had any idea that the pistol belonged to Shaheed Bhagat Singh,” he admits candidly.

After The Tribune furnished details of the pistol to him to look for in the BSF records, a team found an entry in an old register but an obstacle came up next to locate the exact weapon. For preservation purposes as well as for better display, all weapons in the museum are painted black. The staff had to remove the paint to find the real one. “We removed the paint and to our great joy, the number 168896 came out clearly on the barrel with matching details.”

Commandant HS Bedi and other officers of the BSF confide that the discovery of the pistol in their museum was news for them. “It is amazing. It was always here and no one knew it,” he says.

Such is the craze that the museum is witnessing an unprecedented footfall. The weapon is now kept separately in a glass case on a pedestal. But the description about its importance is yet to be displayed alongside.

“We are preparing a special place for displaying the pistol along with Shaheed Bhagat Singh’s portrait and documents at the new museum building that is under construction. We would prepare a gallery of the documents, including clippings of The Tribune that brought the weapon back from oblivion,” the IG says.

In Chandigarh, publisher Harish Jain, who has penned several books on Shaheed Bhagat Singh, can’t hide his excitement. “No photograph of the pistol is available anywhere. This is the first time it would be in public domain.” Co-author and historian Malwinderjit Singh Waraich says it would be a dream come true for him to see the pistol.

Bhagat Singh’s pistol found in BSF’s Indore museum

Bhagat Singh’s pistol found in BSF’s Indore museum

US-made Colt was on display along with other weapons, but there was no mention of its history

Jupinderjit Singh
Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, November 8
Believed to be “missing” for years, the pistol used by Shaheed Bhagat Singh to kill Assistant Police Superintendent John Saunders in Lahore on December 17,1928,  has been found at the BSF’s Central School of Weapons and Tactics (CSWT) museum at Indore where it had been on display without any mention of its history.

Historians had been raising questions about the pistol. The Tribune, that recently carried a series of reports on the martyr’s court case files and the “missing” pistol and other exhibits, had found that the pistol was in possession of the Punjab Police Academy, Phillaur, till October 1969.

The IG and Commandant, Pankaj, CSWT, today called up The Tribune, informing that the number of the pistol, an automatic .32 bore US-made Colt  (butt number 460-m and body number 168896)  “match with a pistol in our records.” The Tribune had   sent him details of the pistol accessed from the files of the Phillaur academy.

“We have found it. The numbers sent match with those on the pistol. It will now be displayed with the martyr’s name,” the IG said excitedly.

The Tribune had reported two days ago that the pistol was last seen at the Phillaur academy on October 7, 1969, when it was moved, along with seven other weapons, to the CSWT, Indore. On the same day 39 years ago, a special tribunal of three judges had delivered the death sentence to Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev.

The pen with which one of the judges had signed the death sentence was shifted from the Police Academy to the Punjab Cultural Department and subsequently to the museum in Bhagat Singh’s memory at his native village Khatkar Kalan. But his pistol could not be traced.

Meanwhile, the Punjab Congress said, “It is not just just a weapon. It’s a symbol of our fight against oppressive (British) rule. We will bring the martyr’s pistol back to Punjab.”

Cong to seek copies of martyr’s files from Pak 

Jalandhar: Congress Legislature Party chief Charanjit Singh Channi on Tuesday promised to seek copies of the files pertaining to Shaheed Bhagat Singh from Pakistan if his party comes to power in the state. Paying tributes to the martyr at Khatkar Kalan village (Nawanshahr) on the second day of his Jawani Sambhal Yatra, Channi said some of the files related to the trial of Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev were in the archives of the Punjab and Haryana High Court. “However, most of the record has come out through individual efforts. The researchers, not the governments, have mainly compiled his writings.” TNS

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Bhagat Singh’s pistol was last seen in Phillaur 47 yrs ago Records show it was transferred to Indore, historians ask govt to trace it

A path-breaking finding on Shaheed Bhagat Singh.
Historians and Researchers on Shaheed Bhagat Singh have finally got  something to cheer. The Tribune has found traces about  the missing pistol used by the great freedom fighter to kill a British Police official John Sanders. The whereabouts of the pistol were not known since 1930. Anyone who can throw some further light (please contact me 9872999203; Jupinderjit Singh, Special Correspondent, The Tribune. Chandigarh)

Bhagat Singh’s pistol was last seen in Phillaur 47 yrs ago Records show it was transferred to Indore, historians ask govt to trace it

Jupinderjit Singh
Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, November 7
Shaheed Bhagat Singh’s pistol with which he killed Assistant Police Superintendent John Saunders in Lahore on December 17, 1928, was last seen at the Punjab Police Academy (PPA), Phillaur, on October 7, 1969. 

The automatic .32 bore pistol of Colt US make with butt no. 460-m and body no. 168896, was transferred to the Central School of Weapon and Tactics (CSWT) of the BSF in Indore the same day. However, CSWT officials said the pistol was not exhibited in their museum. 

Earlier in its four-part series, The Tribune highlighted that researcher Aparna Vaidik had, through a rare access to case files of the martyr, found that the weapon was missing. Based on the record of 160 files lying at Punjab State Archives in Lahore, she said the weapon could be either at Lahore Fort, police malkhana, Gwalmandi, Lahore, or the PPA, Phillaur. 

On its pursuit, The Tribune found the records related to the weapon. As per a record register of the PPA, it was among the eight weapons transferred to the CSWT on October 7, 1969. Kuldip Singh, Director, PPA, said no reason had been given for the transfer of the weapon. “Eight weapons, including the martyr’s pistol, were taken to CSWT, Indore, by a BSF commandant as per our records.”

With the latest discovery, it is now known that the weapon was in India at least in 1969. Earlier, as per the records, the weapon was given to DSP (CID) NK Niaaz Ahmad Khan in Lahore on October 16, 1930. Assistant Commandant Vijay Roy, CSWT, said no such weapon was displayed in their museum at present. “We don’t have it there, but we will look into the records. It might have been transferred to another museum,” he said. Meanwhile, historians have termed it an important discovery.

 Gurdev Singh Sidhu, who has also authored a book on the martyr, said:
 “The revelation is an important discovery. We at least know that the pistol was in India and is within our reach somewhere. The Punjab Government should make efforts to trace it..” “If the pistol reached Phillaur, then the other exhibits must also be brought here,” said Harish Jain, Chandigarh-based publisher and researcher on Bhagat Singh.
first published : November 7, 2016 .. The Tribune.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Middle - Chess on LoC

Jupinderjit Singh

MY first visit to Uri town, the latest target of a terror attack, was some 13 years ago. I was visiting the Valley as a journalist and not a tourist. The situation was such that from Jammu to Srinagar, there was fear of a terror strike. Only two dhabas were open. At one of the dhabas, a group of soldiers nearly took away our taxi, saying they were in hot chase of militants. The taxi driver pleaded against it. Fortunately, I had an Army letter authorising my visit to the forward areas. It saved the driver for that day. 

The Brigadier at Uri was warm and welcoming. He had deputed a young Captain to look after me. “Be safe, no adventurism,”  the Brigadier cautioned me in a chilling voice and a smile that gave me goose bumps. We drove in a Jonga on the zigzag road that climbed one hill and came down the other. The Jhelum, the de facto border between India and Pakistan, criss-crossed the Valley, flowing beautifully in the deep gorge. We passed tiny hamlets and apple and apricot orchards. 

The destination was an advanced military camp near a village called Sultan Dhakki, a few hundred metres short of the LoC. I was thrilled to inhale the aroma of roasted meat that wafted from somewhere in the vicinity. The Captain pointed down the hill towards two large vessels, where food was being cooked by soldiers in the open in the village common ground. That would be our dinner. 

 I was delighted. But still worried about the night stay in bunkers. I needn’t have. After a few turns, we stood in front of an opening in a rocky hill. It was a khul ja sim sim experience. I could have fathomed that the Army had burrowed into the hills and created an accommodation, no less than a five-star stay. 

After bathing, we sat outside for a cup of tea and snacks. The spot was at a safe angle from the enemy behind the hills. “You will see Diwali at night as  rockets will fly,” chuckled the officer. His soldiers grinned. 

As we talked, the conversation veered around on how soldiers kept their mind off death and bullets. “I play chess,” the Captain said. “Voila! I too,”  I exclaimed. Soon, two armies were set in black and white on the chessboard. It took me no more than 10 moves to grab the rook and the queen. The officer was visibly hurt. He was losing in front of his jawans, who sat around us in a semicircle. He lost the second too, after much struggle. One last game, he said, ordering meat for both of us in a tone that expressed his anger. He won the third. 

Back in the lodge, he sipped beer and remarked: “I was flustered. It was not about losing or winning. It was about you killing my army while it had not moved from its squares. No jawan would like an officer, or for that matter a government, that lets this happen to them.”
first published in The Tribune Sept 23, 2016

Friday, September 9, 2016

Sidhu came, spoke but did he conquer?

#navjot sidhu #punjab politics #AAP #Akalis #fourth front #bains

Jupinderjit Singh

After a long wait Cricketer, commentator, TV personality and ex-MP of the BJP, Navjot Singh Sidhu came before media , spoke but did he conquer? This is the question he left gapping after about 45 minutes of speech peppered liberally with his oft-heard Sidhuisms based on couplets and idioms.

For a man who chose to speak through his wife and MLA and namesake Dr Navjot Kaur Sidhu for last over two years, the four time BJP MP revealed , to quote his own words, just  a trailer about the political happenings involving him for quite some time. 

He had remained mum like his well-guarded silence over several chapters of his life sports as well as political life. For instance, he is yet to reveal why he left India’s cricket tour of England mid-way over some tiff with the captian, Mohd. Azharudin. 

No kind of questioning and cajoling of all these years by media or others have cracked him up to reveal the secret.

Of the scores of issue he raised with thumping of chest and animated hand gestures at the press meet on Thursday, Sidhu’s speech can be summarised in three main parts.

One, that he was tired of being used as a decorative piece by his parent party-the BJP, the alliance partner-the Akalis and the prospective partner –the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).  Second , on his political plans, he left the media and the state residents with another 15 days of wait to reveal the future plans-whether he will float a party or not.

And the third and the seemingly most important and most stressed by him was that he has been sacrificing and will sacrifice anything for the preservation of Punjab, Punjabi and Punjabiyat. Sidhu gave examples of how he spurned offers of money, position and other attractions to continue his principled life where he puts the state above his  party and his own self. The third point is where the people of the state would like to know more from him.

Sidhu asserted to make any sacrifice for Punjab but in the same breath he answered a query on continuing with the Kapil comedy show. Pat came the reply, “I have been doing shows and politics earlier also.” It clearly means that he will continue to do so. Sidhu sand his wife, who is a BJP MLA from Amritsar –east continue to be members of the party. 

Sidhu has not resigned from the BJP. For him, all doors are open. His wife has been most vocal critic of the Badal led SAD-BJP government. She has been demanded breaking up of alliance. Sidhu too dwelt long on how Badals were a block in his dreams of making Amritsar city, a modern city. He used less harsh words for the BJP and by not resigning he continues to cling on to the party.  

Has he given enough indications about his intent to  Punjab voters. They are already caught in a three way poll fight. Will they want a fourth one in him?  Will he deliver in 15 days or like the Sidhu of past few years he will play the victim, the one who is persecuted by all and yet keep his options open. 

Sidhu has reversed his fortunes and what people said about him in his past. He was called a stroke less wonder by cricket critics. he went on to become sixer sidhu. he was called shy and introvert. he left it all behind by becoming a no holds barred commentator and speaker. Perhaps, he willtake cue from that. The wait for 15 days has begun.

(the writer is a special correspondent with The Tribune. This is his personal blog)

Monday, December 21, 2015

Middle - The Tolerant Indian

key words: Middles. creative writing, tolerance, Indian, Prime Minister Narendra Modi

Jupinderjit Singh

MR Prime Minister, 

like millions of Indians, I too am aghast at the ongoing debate on intolerance in the country. I am not writing this to take a side. There are too many intellectuals busy in arguing and counter-arguing the issue. But yes, I am pained, rather deeply pained. For, no country and its citizens are more tolerant than us. 

I can prove you that. Our life is all about tolerating something or the other every moment of our existence. Start from the air we breathe or the water we drink. I wonder if anyone has more tolerating immunity than us. Anti-pollution policies are framed, crores are spent and yet we tolerate the deterioration in these basic elements of our survival. 

We call our river sacred and yet we tolerate its pollution. We are so tolerant on throwing all kind of pungent, poisonous stuff in water bodies and still happily take dip in those. Not just rivers, we tolerate people throwing garbage on roads and streets. In fact, our tolerance starts in the wee hours of the day. Loudspeakers atop a religious place shake us out of our slumber and disturb children’s studies. We let it be. The milk we drink is without the promised nutrition. The fruits and vegetables we eat are laced with chemicals and contain dangerous metals. But do we complain? No. We tolerate. 

We also ignore people jumping red lights. We tolerate people jumping queues or forming a third or fourth queue on a road. We tolerate people pushing and jostling us at bus stands, railway stations and markets. We tolerate when VIPs get preferential treatment. We even smile and embrace our destiny when VIPs first get darshan of deities in religious places. We tolerate never-ending serials, high-decibel meaningless TV  debates; we tolerate the same kind of movies and see them happily. 

We tolerate paying 10 times more for popcorns and water. We tolerate political parties promising the moon during every election and we don’t remind them. We tolerate listening again and again to their anti-poverty slogans. We play along with their divisive politics. We tolerate riots. We tolerate scams. Our farmers tolerate spurious seeds and ineffective pesticides. They tolerate selling potato for Re 1 kg only to buy it later at Rs ten a kg. We tolerate delayed medicare and salaries. We tolerate when merit is ignored merit and remain happy in the ‘chalta hai’ attitude. 

As a nation, we tolerate the regular killing of our jawans at the borders. We even take the brutal beheading of our jawans in our stride. We tolerate those occupying our lands. We smile when they interpret our offer of friendship as weakness. We forget soon the bomb and terror attacks on our motherland. We tolerated for long a PM who rarely spoke and the one who seems to be staying more abroad than in the country. No, Mr PM. The whole debate and accusation of India being an intolerant country is wrong. We are tolerant in each breath we take.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Middle-Beyond the Divide

 Key words : Indo-pak border, indo-pak unity, border life, crossborder firing, Istanbul, UK, Atatturk Airpot
Beyond the divide
Jupinderjit Singh

IT was music to my ears when I overheard a conversation in chaste Punjabi after spending four days in Istanbul where one could converse in either Turkish or English. I had just settled in a waiting lounge at the Ataturk Airport after the tiring security checks.  

Behind me sat three middle-aged, burqa-clad women, with a young man and a man of about 50.   They discussed shopping and the food they had brought along. I was enjoying their conversation when a security officer asked for their passports. The woman coolly switched to British-accent English, much to my surprise.  
The officer asked them several questions. They responded politely. As he left, one of the women cussed and switched back to Punjabi: “These goras try to act smart and superior but we have handled many of them.” All smiled.
Soon, another officer came along to check their passports again, this time concentrating on the younger male in the group. He also asked questions from an Indian, seated near the Pakistanis. It seemed the officer was headed towards me when he got a call on his walkie-talkie and walked away. This time the Indian vent his ire in Punjabi:
 “They single us out — Indians and Pakistanis — especially when one is headed to England.” The woman joined in, calling him brother: “Nice of you to bracket Indians and Pakistanis as ‘us’. The westerners ruled us, looted our jewels and resources and left us poor, forcing us to migrate to their countries.” I wanted to participate in the conversation but hesitated, perhaps because of the years of hatred for Pakistan. I come from a border village whose land is divided by the Radcliffe Line. I have seen cross-border firing and terrorism from close quarters in J&K.  The Indian continued:
“They ruled us due to our petty divisions. Even now we are fighting amongst ourselves.” The older man agreed: “True, the avaam (public) has suffered much. If we were united, our economy would have been better.” The conversation weighed on me.  Later in Manchester, I went to a grocery store to buy a SIM card. I started conversing in English but the shopkeeper stopped me: “Appan taan ik haan. Apni zubaan vich gal karo (We are one. Let us speak in our mother tongue).” I asked if he was from India. “No, Lahore but the ancestry is the same.”
I told him my village Khalra-Bhikhiwind (now in Tarn Taran) was less than 15 km from Lahore. I also  shared that my father-in-law was born in Lahore and had an Indian passport. He was always singled out for questioning at airports.  He responded with an insightful smile. “The world has moved on. But we are still stuck in time. The British have given us the opportunity to live together in their country. If we can coexist here, enjoy each other’s festivals, why can’t we do it back home?” he asked, pointing to ‘Happy Diwali’ greetings outside his shop.

first published in The Tribune dated November 9, 2015.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Aruna's rapist traced, regrets the incident

Aruna Shanbaug’s assailant is alive: Tired of memories, I want to die

For 42 years, says Sohan Lal Singh, son of Bharta Valmiki, life has been a penance. “I gave up non-vegetarian food, bad habits like smoking bidis and drinking. I had a daughter before I was sentenced, and she died while I was in jail. She died because I made a mistake. For many years after my release, I didn’t touch my wife. A son was born 14 years after I left jail.”
READ: Can’t press fresh charges against Sohan Lal: Police
All this, because of the “haadsa” (incident) with “Aruna didiji”. “Mujhe bahut pachchtava hai. Main unse aur apne bhagwan se maafi maangna chahata hun (I have deep regret, I want to seek forgiveness from her and god).”
The “haadsa” Sohan Lal refers to took place the night of November 27, 1973 at the King Edward Memorial Hospital in Mumbai. A sweeper at the hospital, he brutally assaulted “didiji” Aruna Shanbaug, a nurse who remained in a vegetative state for 42 years, triggering a debate on euthanasia before her death on May 18 this year.
READ: A girl called Aruna Shanbaug
Sohan Lal spent 7 years at the Yerawada jail in Pune. And then disappeared. Some said he had moved to a Delhi hospital, other said he died of tuberculosis, still others said AIDS had got him.
But all these years, he lived in his ancestral home in Dadupur and then moved to his father-in-law’s house in Parpa, both villages in western Uttar Pradesh. He worked as a labour hand to make ends meet. Age has caught up with him — he says he is 66 but his son puts his age at 72 — but he continues to work for a labour contractor at a power plant 25 km away.
Wearing a rudraksha mala and carrying a photograph of his guru in his wallet, Sohan Lal says he learnt of Shanbaug’s death only after a journalist from the Sakal newspaper came looking for him earlier this week. The television in their two-room house was not working — the village was without electricity for a week — and the family does not read newspapers.
“I leave home at 6 am for work and return by 8 pm. I get Rs 261 a day. I have to cycle nearly 25 km to work. Where is the time to read newspapers?”
Sohan Lal lives with his wife, two sons, a daughter and three grandchildren. His sons also work as labour hands, earning Rs 200-300 a day. One of his two daughters is married and lives elsewhere. His wife has gone to Pune to attend a wedding in the family.
He rubbishes reports that he had returned to KEM Hospital after serving prison time.”My son told me newspapers wrote this. That I tried to kill her (Shanbaug)... I could barely sleep for 10 years after the incident. How was it possible for anyone to go back to the hospital after such a thing? I left Mumbai, why would I go back to the hospital to see her?”
He had also heard that people believed he had died of “a deadly disease.” “My son would tell us these things and my wife would cry. I wish I had died. My sons would have taken care of her. I am tired of the memories, I want to die now.”
Reluctant to discuss the KEM Hospital incident, he opens up after moving away from fellow workers and neighbours. “Everything happened in a fit of rage. There was a fight, it was dark, and I panicked. We both hit each other, I may have pulled the ornaments they said I stole during the scuffle. There was no rape... they beat me up in the police station and kept saying it was rape. I did not rape her, it must have been someone else,” he claimed. Later, he says he does not “remember anything” about the rape.
He spoke of a “troubled relationship” with Shanbaug who was with the animal experimentation unit at KEM Hospital. “Aruna didiji was always picking on me. She knew I was scared of dogs... there were other sweepers, but she picked me each time the dogs had to be fed or their cages swept. I told the doctor in charge and my supervisor to transfer me, I complained about her but no one listened. Who listens to a jamadar (sweeper)?”
He can’t recall the date of the incident that “destroyed everything.”
“That night I had gone to ask Aruna didiji for leave for a few days. My wife’s mother, who then lived in the house where I now live, was very ill. My wife wanted to visit her but Aruna didiji refused. She said if I took leave, she would complain about me in writing, saying I did no work, that I stole dog food, and still wanted leave,” he said.
“I had not done any such thing. I was scared of dogs, so how could I steal their food?... I had seen Aruna didiji playing cards with ward boys and other nurses during duty hours. When she threatened to complain and not give me leave, I told her I would tell her supervisor about her. After that, there was an argument and a physical fight. I don’t know what I did in rage,” he said.
Eldest son Kishan says that four years ago, he told his father about the rejection of the euthanasia plea on behalf of Shanbaug. “My father prays twice a day, but that day after I told him, he prayed five-six times. I told him what the papers said, that her family was gone, that she had been living in the hospital. He was agitated and began trembling. When the Supreme Court rejected the plea, he became stable again.”
“He does not talk about the case, and we don’t feel comfortable asking him. In our culture, you cannot ask a father what he did to a woman. But my uncles have told me so many times how he destroyed our lives. We could have lived in Mumbai...”
Younger son Ravindra says his mother told him about the case when he was 12. “She told me I should forgive my father, that the papers were exaggerating his crime. She said my brother was angry with my father but I should love him because he had made a mistake. But he never even sent me to school. I cannot even write my name, how do I forgive him?”

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Anna's interview : people in Punjab have slept for long

on record
‘People have slept far too long’
Jupinderjit Singh talks to Anna Hazare Social activist

Tribune photo: Pawan SharmaTHE chinks in their organisational structure notwithstanding, Anna Hazare and Gen (retd) VK Singh managed to draw sizeable crowds during their “Jantantra Yatra” in Punjab last week. The yatra began from Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar. Unlike his previous rallies and agitations, he was not flanked by one-time favourite comrades Arvind Kejriwal and Kiran Bedi. Instead, VK Singh, who had fought a long battle with the UPA government over his date of birth, brushed shoulders with him. Both leaders attracted fans during the rally. Ex-servicemen made a beeline to meet the General. Women and children were missing at the rallies but some waited for long at the place where Anna had a transit accommodation. Women were seen touching his feet while carefully covering their head with a “dupatta”. Some children supported his “'Mein Anna hoon” cap and shook hands with him.

The motive is not just spreading awareness among the masses about the corrupt system and the need for change. Anna aims to mobilise people for a “mega Jan Sansad” in New Delhi in September. He called upon people to submit their names and phone numbers so they could be incorporated in his battle for change. People did not respond in thousands but some did. People criticised the security ring of his volunteers, bouncers and the police around him, saying his inaccessibility did not make them optimistic about his talk on the common man’s empowerment. Excerpts:

Why did you launch the campaign, which you describe as a second freedom movement, from Punjab? Are you satisfied with the response?

We have got an overwhelming response from Punjab. The people of the state have always been known as fighters. They fought invaders for centuries. Punjab is my “karam bhoomi”. It is here that I fought the 1965 war. It is here that I got my awakening of dedicating my life for the cause of people. I chose Punjab as it was here that I read a book by Swami Vivekananda on devoting one’s life for the welfare of people. I was 26-year-old then. I was unhappy with life and was contemplating suicide when the awakening came about. Punjab has produced many martyrs. I sought their blessings in cleansing the country they had saved while sacrificing their life.

Did you attract anticipated crowds?

I am satisfied. We did not organise big rallies. Our venues were markets and street corners. I could see people waiting for long for our rath yatra to arrive. They cheered us. I told them the yatra was not funded by anyone. The vehicles were running on the personal expenses of the occupants and the open donation given by people.

What is the objective of your campaign?

We have had agitation and hunger strike against corruption in the system and the idea is to empower the common man through the office of the Jan Lok Pal. This nationwide journey is to contact the masses outside their houses and educate them on how politicians and bureaucrats had become their masters instead of their servants. We are inviting people to join us at the “Jan Sansad” in New Delhi in September. People have slept for too long.

Is your aim to change the government or change the system?

I have been saying at my rallies that I am not against any political party or individual. I am against the prevailing corruption in the country. I am against the milling of the common man. I am against price rise. I want a system where people choose their leaders directly. Why do we need political parties or groups with their biases, regionalism and selfish vote banks? People should recommend honest and virtuous persons to Parliament.

Will the Jantantar Morcha contest elections or support any political party or group?

Our present aim is to shake the system with the “Jan Sansad”. After that we will see what has to be done.

Arvind Kejriwal was once your close aide. Is there any possibility of reconciliation?

Kejriwal wanted to float a political party. I had reservations about it. But I am in constant touch with him even now. We spoke two days ago only. I advised him not to go for his proposed hunger strike. The “forces” want to finish us off. They want to divide us. I am with anyone who honestly stands against corruption.

The Morcha does not have much organisational structure. How will it mobilise people to support its agenda?

People will come. They have to realise that tainted persons are dangerous for the country. At present, over 160 MPs are tainted. Over 30 ministers are facing charges. This has to stop.

What kind of model of governance do you have in mind?

I want a system where only deserving people should go to Parliament. I want the common man to have the power to reject the tainted, the greedy, the corrupt and the criminals. It is people who brought freedom. It is people who formed Parliament. Those sent inside Parliament were mere representatives of people. But now they have become masters. I want a system of Parliament where honesty and character of a leader are important, and not his power and money.