Celebration of Life Ceremony – S. Budh Singh Dhahan – Sunday June 3rd at Khalsa Diwan Society in Vancouver

It is with a heavy heart that we announce the Celebration of Life Ceremony of Sardar Budh Singh Dhahan (December 5, 1925 – April 20, 2018) scheduled to take place in Vancouver this Sunday.

Sunday June 3rd
10:00 am- 12:00 noon
Khalsa Diwan Society
The Sikh Temple
8000 Ross Street, Vancouver
(Northwest corner of South East Marine Drive and Ross Street)

Budh Singh Dhahan passed away peacefully on April 20, 2018 in Nawanshahar, Punjab, India but his vision lives on in Canada and India. A visionary bridge builder among diverse cultural and religious groups, he demonstrated his skills as an international collaborator in education and healthcare, and a prosperity and peace maker. He turned his idealism and vision into reality by mobilizing groups and communities to cooperate on initiatives that brought about lasting change.’

Uddari stands by his wife Kashmir Kaur Dhahan, and children: Harinder Kaur, Raghbir Kaur (Bachittar Singh Jawanda), Manjit Kaur (Ajit Singh Thandi), Barjinder (Barj) Singh (Rita Janet Dhahan), and Kuljinder Kaur (Gurtek Singh Shoker); his fourteen grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

View Obituary
Sign the Guest Book
More information
View in Punjabi PDF
Budh Singh Dhahan – Obituary – Indo-Canadian Times
Contact the Family
Barj S. Dhahan: bdhahan@sandhurstgroup.ca

Nigar Ahmad – A Great Punjabi Woman

nigar-ahmad1Nigar Ahmad (1945 – 2017)

Nigar Ahmad, an educationist and a woman’s rights activist, was one of the founding members of Women Action Forum (WAF) established in the 1980s to fight General Ziaul Haq’s Islamicization policies that attacked women’s status in Pakistan. Later, Nigar founded Aurat Foundation and served as its Executive Director for many years.

Her contributions to the enhancement of the status of women include mobilizing women candidates to run for local government during the 1993 and 1997 general elections, organizing networks of citizens’ action committees in 70 districts to provide support to women; organizing national conferences and radio programs to inform peasant women on health and agricultural issues. ‘She was a consultant to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in 1991 on the gender impact of a watershed management project in Azad Kashmir. She presented a case study to the Asian Development Bank on a pilot on credit for rural women, and, as a consultant to the United Nations Development Fund For Women, has been involved in a rural credit and gender sensitization training program of UNDP staff. Nigar has also been involved with the National Commission on the Status of Women, and the South Asian Partnership. She was a coauthor for the report on Women’s Development Programs for Pakistan’s Eighth Five-Year Plan.’ (wikipeacewomen.org)

Nigar was awarded the Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah Life Time Achievement Award in 2010 for her work for the empowerment of women. She was one of the 1000 women proposed for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005, and a nominee from Pakistan of the Global Sisterhood Network.

Nigar was suffering from Parkinson’s disease. She was admitted to a hospital in Lahore for chest pain where she passed away on February 24, 2017. She was the daughter of Mian Riaz Uddin Ahmad, a prominent civil servant in the Punjab.


This is what Nigar had to say for George Bush, i wonder what she would have said for Donald Trump.

Fauzia Rafique

Uddari Weblog

‘A standing ovation and a burning fire…’ by Harsha Walia

Arthur Manuel was undoubtedly one of the most committed and passionate and strong and inspiring Indigenous leaders of our time. I remember a talk that I was moderating that Art was a speaker on and someone else before him was describing three generations of Indigenous struggles. When Art spoke he said “So all these three generations you were talking about, I was part of all of those” as he went on to recount his forty plus years of unwavering efforts to challenge Canada at every level.

He was received, as he often is, with a standing ovation and a burning fire in everyone’s bellies.

When people ask me about law school, I say that I learnt more from Art than any class I attended. What (little) I do know about injuctions, trespass, criminal contempt, section 35, Sparrow, Calder, Delgamuukw, Tsilhqot’in is from Art. Like many others, I turn to Art’s words and cite him (including his trail blazing book Unsettling Canada) when it comes to understanding the scope of settler colonization and land theft.

His voice and clarity of vision is unparalleled, especially for settlers like me to heed.

When people ask me about burnt out in the movement, I recount the countless times I spent with Art in the middle of the night or early morning when he was passing through town on his way on the road in his truck for the next thirty hours straight to a community he had been invited to to speak about Rights and Title, the UN, the Treaty Process.

And when I would ask Art about if he ever got tired, he would say “when I get tired, I sleep. And then I get up and fucking fight for my land back.”

When people ask me about solidarity and alliances, I think of Art making so much time and room in his heart to listen to struggles of marginalized peoples resisting everywhere. He made so many trips into the city to attend gatherings in the downtown eastside, migrant and refugee community meetings, meetings in labour halls, and most especially with Indigenous peoples worldwide fighting extraction.

Art was also uncompromising and relentless, being a thorn in so many peoples side and yet winning everyone’s respect for his unwavering dedication.

When people ask me about intergenerational movement organizing, I speak about Art and how he patiently took me under his wing when i was an eager clueless (still am) twenty year old and so generously invited me into his whirlwind world of archives, maps, maze of policies and laws from the UN to WTO.

I think of the tremendous lineage of the whole Manuel family and what intergenerational legacies of resistance look and feel like, in the everyday teachings shared around kitchen tables that I’ve had the honour of joining at times.

Art was a leader and a mentor, and also a wonderful and generous and kind friend – he came for almost every cheesy birthday bash, when he drove through town every few weeks we’d go to his favourite Chinese restaurant (and sometimes if i could convince him to go to Green Lettuce :), he insisted on being our unofficial wedding photographer, he gave my baby her first basket that she slept in.

When things were hard in life, I would wake up to short late nite texts “Hang in there” or a personal favourite “Knock knock. Whose there? Hug”

All my love and prayers go out to Art’s family, his siblings, his children, his beloved grandchildren whom he absolutely loved sharing photos and antecodes of, the Secwepemc nation, and all those who held him close and were touched by his fire and heart. Art was a brilliant visionary, an inspiring leader, a mentor, teacher and a most generous friend. He is irreplaceable and it will take all of us to fulfill his consistent and clear vision of Indigenous self-determination and nationhood. As an ancestor, Art will continue to guide and lead us.

Rest well friend, rab rakha.

arthurmanuel-harshawaliaHarsha and Art



More here:

Intellectual, activist, ‘giant’ Arthur Manuel sung out by family across the threshold to the other side

Arthur Manuel was loved and respected by many including my friend journalist Haider Rizvi, who came to know Art while working at the UN and whose accidental death in 2015 i haven’t mourned yet.
Fauzia Rafique

Goodbye Sabri


Written by Randeep Singh

I was not a fan of Amjad Sabri. I don’t know any of his tunes. Why am I mourning his passing?

Sabri was one of the leading singers of qawalli in the subcontinent. As part of the Sabri brothers, he performed in dargahs, concert halls and stadiums around the world.

He was shot dead today in Karachi. The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility. In the past ten years, Pakistan’s Sufi Islamic culture has been bombed, murdered and assailed. Shrines are attacked, worshippers are killed and festivals are fired on.

No one is pure in the Land of Pure. Not Sabri, a devotee of Allah and His Prophet. Not Farid or Data Ganj, Sufi poets and cultural icons of Pakistan. Only the new guardians of Islam show the straight path. They are the masters of the day of judgement …

Goodbye Sabri. May your voice lift the spirits of those you left behind. May Pakistan preserve your legacy and the spirit of its culture.

‘I’m Charlie / I’m Ahmad – Je Suis Charlie / Je Suis Ahmad’ by Fauzia Rafique


If we don’t believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don’t believe in it at all.’ ― Noam Chomsky

I am Charlie
In protest and condemnation of the slaughter of 10 unarmed journalists of French magazine Charlie Hebdo, their bodyguard, and a police officer, by a faction of religious extremists who were ‘offended’ by the publication’s cartoon depictions of Prophet Mohammad.
Pakistan’s Blasphemy Laws are based on this same thinking where hundreds of non-Muslims and Muslims face brutal lynchings and killings each year from militants claiming their religious sentiments were offended.
The perceived inciting of this ‘religious offence’ is given as a valid reason to shoot, kill, behead, stone, burn, drag- other humans.

I am Charlie
To stand with grieving families and friends now facing trauma of the violent killings of loved ones.

I am Charlie
To strengthen and support progressive movements in France and elsewhere so that this incident is not used to further victimize Muslims, immigrants, People of Color, rights activists and other outspoken or vulnerable groups.

I am Charlie
To show solidarity with Vive Charlie Hebdo! to uphold our right to Freedom of Expression.

I’m Charlie
To challenge the argument that because Charlie Hebdo is seen to be a ‘racist’ publication (or ‘bad’ journalism) feeding into the systemic racism and Islamophobia of French society, we should not be enthusiastic in condemning the killings or going all out in support of the Freedom of Expression movement. This gives me the chills. It reminds me of some of the ‘reasons’ or ’causes’ of rape given to us that are based on the belief that women cause themselves to be raped by wearing provocative clothes or by staying out late at night or any number of things; Or that a child’s playful behavior invites an adult abuser to sexually abuse them. To say that a racist publication was attacked because it purposefully offended religious sentiments of Muslims in France and elsewhere, is actually saying that the victims of violence caused the violence by offending the sentiments of the attackers. Isn’t this the basis of ‘honor’ killings, blasphemy killings, and other hate crimes against women, minorities and under-privileged people in Pakistan? As well, enough victim blaming and shaming happens against underprivileged population groups in Canada. It’s not about the publication or attacked persons nor it is about placing value on them, but fighting the mindset that wants to or needs to annihilate it’s critics.

I’m Charlie / I’m Ahmad
To honor the Muslim police officer who may or may not have been ‘offended’ by Charlie Hebdo but he gave his life defending the journalists.

I am Charlie
To resist and fight the loud echoes in my ‘progressive’ circles scaring people with ‘Islamophobia’ allegations; and, the convoluted thinking of extreme religious fundamentalists who are silencing people by inflicting death.

I am Charlie
To insist on my right to investigate, describe, satirize, humourize and criticize without fear everything that concerns me.

I may detest what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.’ —Voltaire

Images and some information from PEN American Center‘s facebook and web pages.

‘Three Deaths in the Summer of 2014’ by Sana Janjua


An extraordinary painter
had died in Pakistan
with his mind
split from the agony of
rush-wounding consciousness,

and an Ahmedi woman so ordinary
no one would remember her name
was killed with a child in her womb.

When he was alive,
he was always dying
from the pain of having witnessed
too much of what happened
on ordinary days in Pakistan
in the last two decades.

When she was alive,
she was always singing songs
so that when her son grows older,
he can extraordinarily endure
the withered weather of wrath
unlike the painter.

I don’t remember all of that,
because my doctor says
my memory is suspended
to allow for survival.

I don’t remember that
one day when I was ordered
to convert, to bow down
to a god who will not forgive me
for the sin of having been born
on the wrong side of the fence.

I don’t remember how
I was called an imbecile
on that one evening when my heart
had already sunk below
the canal that weaved the
periphery of my city.

I don’t remember those many
nights when I would wake up
howling because the cage was
smaller than the limits of my
imagination, and I was drowning
in the venom of a decayed love.

But, what I do remember
is how I threw stones at your
martyred memory having
thrown away the last remnant
of my now deceased heart.

Art work by Ahmad Zoay.

A Pakistani Canadian playwright, performer and a poet, Sana Janjua is a co-Founder and the President of Surrey Muse since 2011.


‘Children of Peshawar’ a poem by Ashok K. Bhargava 


Muzzled flowers
Bullet ridden walls
Blood soaked books
Ask us –
What is this barbaric devastation?
We won’t live for it

Dec 18, 2014

Sign this petition
Separate Religion from State
Declare Pakistan to be a Secular Democracy

Support this action
Public Meeting in Rawalpindi
Organizing society against the fascist onslaught


Shafqat Tanvir Mirza moves on!

1932 – 20 November 2012

A beautiful life, an amazing body of work!
Thank you, Shafqat Tanvir Mirza.
See you soon.



Infromation from Asif Raza


‘RIP Dear AI’ by Fauzia Rafique

AI, the great defender
of our rights, succumbed
to injuries late
last night.
Born UK July 1961
Died USA May 2012

Injuries were inflicted by the self. Yes, SELF. No,
self is not a terrorist
organization. I meant, ‘self-inflicted’ as in inflicted by himself on
himself for himself. Yes, AI
was innovative. He chose to print
his suicide note on a sizeable sign at a prominent location
on an elegant street
of Chicago.

Lucid as ever, he says: ‘Human Rights
for Women and Girls
in Afghanistan
Unsurpassed ori-gi-nality, as usual,
of course. O’ women and girls, harken, side with
a mighty global abuser
of your rights
to fight
those slight-y local abusers
of your rights.
Long Live AI!
Go AI! Go AI!

The suicide note
is not that short, there’s more: ‘NATO: Keep the Progress
’. Yes, it does
say ‘NATO: Keep the Progress going’!
Onward, Christian Soldiers, marching as to war!
Nara-e-Takbeer, Allah-O-Akbar! Haidri, Ya Ali!

Yes, it does mean, keep collecting the booty
of your military excursions
from those poverty
stricken lands. Oh, how they gloat
over their righteous nobi-li-ty
with their international bands, kill qaddafi, invade
syria, bomb iraq, occupy afghanistan, attack iran,
mission impossible pakistan, i can break
my neck back
-wards trying to ascertain
the very height
of their aggression,
of your capitulation. The guinness book
of records all yours, this year, agai-n,
as it was yours with
your Cageprisoners.

Here, i light a candle
as i curse the darkness. Yes,
we light candles with our tongues when
we talk with our hands. No, it’s unclear
if AI ever,
saw it falling around
us. His barbed-wired candles don’t eat
this darkness, only take
our attention
from it.

On that elegant street of Chicago
under that sizeable sign where you stepped
out in your cheer-leading costume
the biggest ever abuser
of our rights. Indeed,
you do have the cheeks, may be pink, in the plain sight
of hundreds of war vets returning
from battlefields bearing the impact
of nato-ized ‘progress’, and thousands
of people walking in the wake, to tell you, we are
in favor
of your wars.

RIP Dear AI,
it’s time for amnesty.

For us, the prisoners of NATO’s progress
-ing wars. We,
and our youth armed with our dollars
taken to far-off battlefields to die
and to kill: us, and
our youth, armed
with our dollars!
And you hail these hitlers
to keep it on! Now, google
is since search
-ing for ONE, at least
1 of your 300 million members
who is happy
to find you
in the feet of the military wing
of the international mafioso warlords, human
rights violations excuses
for occupations, victimizing
the victims killing civilians, there
seems to be no end to the worldwide ambitions
of your war gods.

RIP Dear AI,
it’s time for amnesty.

from unmanned attackers, tar sands hackers,
defense-budget backers. Amnesty
for us
the people of the earth
from this fast-spreading virus
of violence and greed,
NATO. Amnesty!
for us, the people
of this world.

NATO Summit, Chicago June 2012

Peter Benenson, the founder of Amnesty International, used the proverb “Better to light a candle than curse the darkness” to illustrate the design of its emblem.
‘Nara-e-Takbeer, Allah-O-Akbar’, call of the great, the ‘Takbīr or Tekbir (تَكْبِير) is the Arabic term for the phrase Allāhu Akbar (الله أكبر). It is usually translated “God is [the] Greatest,” or “God is Great” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Takbir). Also, a Muslim war cry.
‘Haidri, Ya Ali’, call of Haider: Lion. Refers to Hazrat Ali who was also called Saifullah, the Sword of Allah. Another Muslim war cry.

Now published in

Buy it here


Holier Than Life
Fauzia’s Web Page
Update: June 2013

Related content at Uddari
‘For Amnesty International occupation is women-liberation’ by Sahar Saba
‘English Wars’ by Krisantha Sri Bhaggiyadatta
THE SHOCK OF RECOGNITION: Looking at Hamerquist’s ‘Fascism and Anti-Fascism’ by J. Sakai
‘Pakistan’s Mock Oscar’ a poem by Fauzia Rafique
‘U.S. Savage Imperialism’ by Noam Chomsky

Fauzia Rafique

Muslim Woman Killed in California

A woman was beaten to death in California in the style of vigilante-ism of religious fanatics working in Pakistan. Here in North America, divinity changes into racism nurtured over centuries by the White Supremacists. This killing, the murder of Trayvon Martin, and other hate crimes against Native peoples, gays and people of colour, are getting a boost with the US ‘anti-terror’ campaign.

About this particular instance, Uddari was advised by our reader ‘limbic’ via comments, that it may be an honour killing by the woman’s family instead. Here’s a link they provided containing a detailed report: salon.com/2012/04/07/ in addition to a few more links that can be seen in the Comments section of this post. Many thanks, ‘limbic’.

Muslim woman from Michigan beaten to death in California home

An Iraqi-American woman who recently lived in Michigan was found beaten to death at her home near San Diego in what might possibly be a hate crime. A note calling her a terrorist and saying she should go back to her country was left next to her body, according to family members.

The death on Saturday of Shaima Alawadi, 32, after three days in the hospital has prompted an intense outpouring of anxiety and outrage from some, especially among Arab-Americans and on social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook. Some drew comparisons with the killing of Trayvon Martin, an African-American teen shot dead last month in Florida.

“I’m really disturbed,” Suehaila Amen, president of the Lebanese-American Heritage Club in Dearborn, told the Free Press. “It’s quite frightening.”

Police told the San Diego Union-Tribune they are investigating her death in El Cajon, near San Diego, as a homicide.

“A hate crime is one of the possibilities, and we will be looking at that,” Lt. Mark Coit of El Cajon police told the Union-Tribune. “We don’t want to focus on only one issue and miss something else.”

Alawadi, a mother of five born in Iraq, was found by her 17-year-old daughter on Wednesday.

“I found her on the floor… in her own blood with a letter next to hear head saying go back to your country you terrorist,” Fatima Al Himidi, told 10News, a TV station serving the San Diego area.

The woman and her husband were born in Iraq, moved to the U.S. in the 1990s, and recently lived in Michigan, according to an Associated Press report that cited the Union-Tribune. The victim’s husband had previously worked as contractors to help the U.S. Army train U.S. soldiers going to the Middle East.

Shaima wore a hijab, an Islamic headscarf. She had received a similar threatening note earlier, but ignored it, assuming it was a harmless joke, her daughter said.

“A week ago they left a letter saying this is our country not yours you terrorist, and so my mom ignored that thinking it was just kids playing a prank,” she told the TV station. “But the day they hit her, they left another note again, and it said the same thing.”

The city of El Cajon has a growing Arab-American population. Last night in Arab-American communities, “everybody was talking about” the death of Alawadi, Amen said.

At 33, Amen is roughly the same age as Alawadi and also wears a hijab.

“This is something that’s really scary,” Amen said. “For a woman like myself who wears a hijab, you’re an open target. You’re always looking over your shoulder because of how you’re dressed and because someone might have skewed perceptions of the community.”

On social media sites, people expressed concern she was killed because of her ethnicity and religion. Some compared her to Martin, the African-American teenager killed in Florida who was wearing a hoodie. They say that both were minorities killed, one for a hoodie, the other for a hijab.

A Facebook page was created Saturday called: “One Million Hijabs for Shaima Alawadi.” Hijabis is a term sometimes used by Muslims for women who wear hijabs. The Facebook page reads: “She could be your daughter, your sister, your friend. We cannot let the children in this country grow up in a world so full of hatred that a woman wearing a head scarf is afraid for her life, that a black kid wearing a hoodie is afraid for his life… We are all Shaima. We need a Million Hijab March.”

On the Facebook page, the words “this oufit doesn’t say ‘kill me’ on the label” is on a photo of a woman wearing a hijab.

Shaima’s death drew a response from a range of people, including Rabbi Avraham Berkowitz, with the Orthodox Jewish group Chabad.

He wrote on Twitter this morning: “Outrageous that this murder happened in the USA! May Shaima Alawadis murderer be found & brought to justice.”

Paul Rieckhoff, the CEO of Iraq & Afghan Vets of America, wrote on Twitter: “As an Iraq vet, and as an American, I am beyond outraged by Shaima’s death. This could have been so many of my friends.”

Amen noted that the family of the woman had helped the U.S. Army.

“How much more American can you get than to serve the country with pride and honor,” Amen said.

“Shaima Al-Awadi’s murder, like Trayvon Martin’s, was a senseless murder based upon racial animus,” said Dawud Walid, an African-American Muslim leader from Detroit who is executive director of the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. “We must come together as a society to have frank discussions about the toxic rhetorical environment which we currently live in that leads to such wanton violence.”

The daughter of the mother told the TV station in San Diego:

“She’s such an innocent woman. Why? Why did you do that?…We’re not the terrorist. You are.” Contact Niraj Warikoo: nwarikoo@freepress.com or 313-223-4792


Way to go, Jagjit Singh!

Jagjit Singh, the ‘King of Ghazal’ who sang Ghalib so well, moves on at 70.
His wonderful contributions to this world will still remain.
Thank you for all the songs.

Love and respect to Chitra Singh.

Jagjit Singh, the ghazal maestro, dies
NEW DELHI: Renowned ghazal singer Jagjit Singh, 70, passed away at 8.10 am in Lilavati Hospital on Monday morning.

Jagjit Singh was admitted to the Lilavati Hospital on September 23 after he suffered brain haemorrhage in suburban Bandra where a life-saving surgery was performed on him.

“Jagjit Singh passed away at 8.10 am after having a terrible haemorrhage,” Dr Sudhir Nandgaonkar, hospital spokesperson, told PTI.

He is survived by his wife Chitra Singh.

Jagjit Singh was born in Sri Ganganagar, Rajasthan. He had four sisters and two brothers and he is known as Jeet by his family.

Popularly known as “The Ghazal King”, he gained acclaim together with his wife in the 1970s and 1980s, as the first ever successful duo act (husband-wife) in the history of recorded Indian music.

Recipient of Padma Bhushan award, he has sung in several languages including Hindi, Urdu, Punjabi and Nepali.


A Great Punjabi Woman – Sushila Chayn 1923-2011

Sushila Chayn née Sharda, who passed away in October 2011 at age 88, was a Punjabi communist activist and leader of the [East] Punjab Istri Sabha. She devoted her entire life to the cause of national freedom, workers movement and the emancipation of women.

Born to Hindu reformist Arya Samaji parents of Pathankot she came into contact with Bibi Raghbir Kaur who was a Kirti-Ghadar Party member of Punjab State Legislative assembly, and became a political activist moving to the communist party headquarter in Lahore in 1941. At the time, she also worked amongst women in the district of Montgomery.

She displayed her organising skills in the kisãn peasants conference held in Fatehgarh Korotana in Ferozepur (now in Pakistan). Then she was deputed to work in Kangra district. This was the time when she got married to a party activist Chayn Singh Chayn. Along with Tahira Mazhar Ali, Vimla Dang and other Punjabi socialist women she worked day night collecting funds and other support for the victims of Bengal Famine.

A few yeas later in 1947 when the united Punjab was dismembered, Punjabi communists began to organise peace committees thus saving hundreds of Muslim, Hindu Sikh men, women and children from sectarian violence. Sushila was an important part of it, and later worked tirelessly in rehabilitating women victims of partition.

After 1947, the Chayn couple moved to Jalandhar and they both participated in the 1959 peasants’ anti-betterment levy agitation – Khush-hasiyati tax morcha.

She was the first ever woman panch of her village panchayat council in Daduwal. Till the end Sushila tackled the social problems at the grassroots level – dowry, domestic violence, casteism and inter-caste marriage.

Sushila is survived by her husband and their daughter Savita.

Sushila Chayn’s picture taken by Amarjit Chandan in Jalandhar, 1986.

‘Gursharan Singh: A Devout Punjabi’ by Bhupendra Yadav

Gursharan Singh as Bhai Manna Singh. Amritsar 1972, photo from Amarjit Chandan Collection

Punjab has its vibrant revolutionary tradition starting with Bhagat Singh. With the death of Gursharan Singh, fondly known as Bhaaji respected brother, a link with this tradition has been broken. If the worst crisis of East Punjab since 1947 was the Khalistani mayhem, Bhaaji emerged heroically from it. Born into a devout Sikh family, he lived in his ancestral house Guru Khalsa Niwas in Amritsar, wore his turban and did not trim his beard. This made him a ‘critical insider’ for Khalistani militancy and made his opposition to it more meaningful.

Bhaaji’s opposition to Khalistan was in a league different from others. He did not issue sanitised statements from behind bullet-proof podiums or well-guarded houses. He moved fearlessly in villages and towns of East Punjab with the determination of a soldier for democratic socialism against Sikh extremism. This experience gave him the faith to advise activists, ‘Your doubts will melt and you will find a way if you go to the people.’ On the day of his cremation, some 150 groups pledged to carry people’s work forward on Bhaaji’s inspiration.

In 2007, the Centenary year of Bhagat Singh, the whole of India caught revolutionary fever thanks to films like The Legend of Bhagat Singh, Rang de Basanti etc. It goes to the credit of Bhaaji that he celebrated the memory of Bhagat Singh in Punjab two decades before this. Around the Martyrdom Day, viz. March 23, Bhaaji would hit the streets of East Punjab with his cultural troupe since the 1980s.

Bhaaji used street theatre as the medium to spread ideas for change and he dipped his ideas for change in the earthy wit of Punjab. His enduring fame was created by Bhai Manna Singh – a play that was telecast from the Jalandhar station of Doordarshan for more than a year between 1985-86. Bhai Manna Singh is a character who stands for reason amidst slippery social climbers and cunning power brokers. Some thought it was a character Bhaaji represented in his daily life.

The Green Revolution produced economic development in East Punjab. But this growth came with a cultural lag. Bhaaji put this dilemma beautifully. ‘Just a few feet away from Punjab’s flourishing modern agricultural fields exists an impoverished culture. This culture is full of fear for the weak and packed with ethical deprivation for the strong.’ The son of a famous doctor in pre-Partition Punjab, Bhaaji took a Master’s degree in Chemistry. From 1961, he earned his livelihood for twenty years as a cement technologist with the Canal and Irrigation department of Punjab Government. He contributed to the research of strengthening the bunds of reservoirs like Bhakhra. His social conscience bid him to oppose the Emergency (1975-77) and he was promptly jailed for it.

A man of immense sensitivity, Bhaaji observed keenly and expressed vividly. One dark day at the height of the Khalistan movement in 1987, we sat huddled in a meeting of one Democratic Forum at a small hall in Patiala. The Khalistanis were called people without a just cause by one speaker and condemned for bloodletting without meaning by another. As the chairperson of that meeting, Bhaaji rose to speak at the end.
‘I oppose Khalistan due to two simple reasons stemming from experience. I have seen the Partition of united Punjab. I was a good player of hockey in college and was habituated to good cheer. But after seeing the bloodshed and listening to all those horror stories then, I have not laughed whole-heartedly ever since 1947. Secondly, I oppose Khalistan because I have two daughters and these fellows have no program for the future. All they are doing is making vulnerable people more insecure. And all they will do is ask women to cover their head or even face, stay home and live like caged birds. I cannot approve this.’

Though all of us had spoken our minds as frankly as we could, Bhaaji had spoken from his heart truthfully. He carried the day.

My first encounter with Bhaaji was in 1985. Navsharan, the elder of his two daughters, and I were colleagues at a research institute in Chandigarh. On my request, he carried a pair of blankets for me from Amritsar to Chandigarh. He lived in Amritsar amidst his big joint family, large theatre group called Amritsar Natak Kala Kender and larger group of fans. I learnt much later that Amritsar was as much well known for Bhaaji as it was for its woollen goods and the Golden Temple. Somewhere it hurts my conscience that I saddled a man of his stature with a domestic chore like buying a pair of blankets in Amritsar, carrying them 300 kms away to Chandigarh in an ordinary bus and delivering them to a lout like me. Who said great men do not do ordinary chores?

Bhupendra Yadav teaches History in Rohtak University.

From Amarjit Chandan