Archive for January, 2022


PANJAB review by Pawan Gulati

   Posted by: aman    in Other

Dear Friends,

I am pleased to share this review of both the English and Panjabi translation by Pawan Gulati. I believe word of mouth the best endorsements – when readers read and write about the readings. Thank you Pawan Gulati ji.

‘Panjab Journey Through Fault Lines’ is 559 pages, amazingly microscopic peep into what lies inside out in present day Panjab by Amandeep Sandhu, a Bangaluru based writer and journalist. Published by Westland in 2019, it created a buzz across India but Punjab somewhat missed or ignored its captivating glow beyond one’s comprehension.

Now the book has come about in Punjabi as ‘Punjab: Jinhan Rahan Di Main Saar Na Jana’ translated by Yadwinder Singh and Mangat Ram, published by Singh Brothers Amritsar. Born in Rourkela, The writer’s connections with Panjab remained remote, though he studied in a Sainik School situated in Panjab.

Most of the earlier impressions of his motherland comes to him through his interaction with his father or ailing mother but the deep urge to connect with the roots and understand the real Panjab leads him to embark on this travel. From the surface, Punjab looks surreal to a stranger with its Bhangra, tandoori chicken, sufis, langer, Bhindrawala, green revolution, partition, five rivers and so on.

However, the three year travel in the hinterland, grain markets, border towns and villages, protest sites, university corridors besides meeting with common people, activists of various hues, stakeholders, students engaged in battling out fault lines of sociological operation – table of Panjab afflicted with innumerable ailments of body, mind and soul leads him to an altogether different Punjab.

What he finds out is indicated through a line of a popular punjabi lyric: ‘Jeho je tu smajhe Mahiya, oho ji mai hain nhi…’ on the very first page of this book.

The fault lines he grasps with his passionate, sensitive eyes are well captioned in 16 chapters as Satt (Wound), Berukhi (Apathy), Rosh (Anger), Rog (Illness), Mardangi (Masculinity), Dawa (Medicine), Paani (Water), Zameen (Land), Karza (Loan), Jaat (Caste), Patit (Apostate), Bardr (Border), Sikhya (Education), Lashaan (Corposes) and Janamdin (Birthday).

What he lays bare through his searching insights is a shredded Panjab bereft of hope, eager to escape the reality through suicides, drugs, migration or quick-fix jugaads. The chapter Rog (Illness) is a traumatic pitch where he combines the personal with the political in startling precision, with such passionate touch that one is about to cry. Looking at his mother’s cancer stricken body, he observes the ailments afflicting his State. One ailment leads to another, a bigger one but the super-specialists focus on one and allow the other to creep into fatal proportions, are contented that one ailment is at least under control, failing to view the catastrophic onslaught being brought about by the other. Here, his mother’s ailments turn into metaphorically the ailments of Panjab.

Without indulging into any far-fetched intellectual jargons, he neatly makes it obvious that Panjab has missed a holistic approach so far its body mutilated, mind and soul wounded by its very own masters.

To understand the problems faced by the state and its population, he delves deep, not satisfied with what the newspapers tell or the the narratives built over the years project, into the intricacies and dimensions experienced and perceived at micro level. Yet, he analyses the big picture ably aided by credible data to draw upon the wrath of times. The identities and resources both human and natural then reveal themselves as he journeys across the state as keen observer accompanied by some friendly activist, friend or reporter. Although, his search is to understand the present Punjab, the journey goes beyond the times back and forth mapping history, geography and psychology of Punjab.

His search removes his self-doubt and reaches the conclusion: Panjab is an extensive exercise in how to keep one’s faith alive- it tests the faith of those who believe in it. Sandhu reflects further that the only pillars that stood in the ruins of Panjab were its resistance to power and hegemony. He concluded the book in 2018.

A vibrant farmers movement in 2020 against agricultural laws displayed its stamina and courage creating a near hegemony on the discourse of Panjab, vindicating what Sandhu opined about the pulse of Punjab. Not just what it seeks to convey through its sober, steady and subtle narration leading from one point to another in wonderful cohesion, the style is markedly fresh, direct, uninhibited and yet full of microscopic depth of all labyrinths and nuances of Punjab polity and social spectacle at large.

Worth a read by one and all who cherishes or claims to know Punjab.

Dear Friends,

Over many months Raksha Kumar worked on a story probing of of the most well kept secrets of the Indian IT sector: caste.

She had a long discussion with me and quotes me in the story.

Please read here …

Dear Friends,

the year long Farmers Protest and victory has become a model for resistances across the world. Sonali Kolhatkar invited me to write this piece for YES! Magazine. Thank you!

‘One of the main slogans of the protests was “Kisan Mazdoor Ekta Zindabad,” or “Long Live Farmer-Worker Unity.” When young and old Hindu, Muslim, and Sikh farmers, supported by urban folks, came together, they negated the right-wing BJP ploy to divide society along cleavages of religion, caste, and gender. Instead, the protests united the farmers through their kirrt—work.’

Please read here …

Dear Friends,

Pheroze Vincent from The Telegraph presents the issue Sikhs have with naming Sahibzade Shaheedi as Veer Baal Divas and linking it with narrow nationalism. He provides contextual history and references and also quotes me and my Facebook post.

“… the Sangh forgets that names are also a matter of dignity. When you name a thing, it can’t talk back to you. But when you name people or an historical event, it makes no sense to name them if the core people do not find dignity in the name…”

Please read here…



Des Raj Kali on PANJAB in translation

   Posted by: aman    in Punjab

Dear Friends,

Excellent writer and reader, Des Raj Kali conducted five shows on PANJAB Jinna Rahan Di Mian Saar Na Jaaana - the Panjabi translation of my book by Yadwinder Singh and Mangat Ram. The book is published by Singh Brothers, Amritsar.

Kali Sa’ab focuses on an important aspect: reading.

He asks us, how do we read? Then illustrates from different readings of the book with his commentary.

As a writer one seeks one’s readers. Many have read PANJAB Journeys Through Fault Lines, many have reviewed it, many readers have sent and posted messages. With respect to all of them, I feel the way Kali Sa’ab is reading the Panjabi translation is a lesson in ‘reading’ itself.

To me, this is the function of literature: to show us how to read and write.

Please view and listen to his talks through links below:

Episode 1, January 2, 2022

Episode 2, January 3, 2022

Episode 3, January 4, 2022

Episode 4, January 6, 2022

Episode 5, January 7, 2022

Then there is an earlier program when the book just reached him and he cited the book in his message.

Personally, I am stunned. I have never experienced a critic peel layer after layer of any of my books for a whole week to give both me and the readers a sense of their depth. It has been hugely educational as well. Indeed a lesson in reading! I feel I have been heard, I belong. A silsila has started.

Thank you Kali Sa’ab!

Posted January 2nd, 2022

Dear Friends,

The newly launched Bangalore-based newspaper News Trail has asked me to write a bi-weekly piece for them. Here is the third piece. Earlier two pieces were hard copy as the new news site was being set up. This one is on the scenario in Panjab after the farmers returned triumphant from Delhi. Thank you Neena Gopal for the opportunity.

‘Traditionally Punjab has had two political parties – Akalis and Congress; in 2017 it had three, AAP joined the fray; this time it is five with BJP + Punjab Lok Congress and farmer’s Samyukt Samaj Morcha throwing their hat in the ring. The field is split wide open but certainly BJP which had become persona non grata in the last year in the state is gaining traction. We are yet to see whether it serves as a win for them but it certainly divides the people’s votes and gives them a foothold in the state.

‘Meanwhile, the date the SKM had decided – January 15th – is approaching. During the protests, the SKM had mandated that no political party would be part of it. As of now, given that almost two-third of SKM unions are participating in elections, it is yet to be seen how SKM recasts itself or will it be unable to hold the central government accountable over their promise to set up a committee to decide on MSP for the whole country.’

Please see here …

Dear Friends,

On January 7th evening, Arfa Khanum from and I discussed PM Modi blaming a security lapse to cancel his Ferozepur rally, after which the Hindutva eco-system has started issuing ‘repeat of 1984 pogrom’ threats to the Sikhs of the country.

‘Take one step towards Panjab, its people know how to love.’

Please see here … 51.07 minutes. Hindi.


After the Farmers Protest: Cynicism

   Posted by: aman    in Punjab

I posted this after 19 Panjab unions out of 32 decided to form a political party to contest upcoming state elections in early 2022.


In the preface of my book PANJAB, having looked at the multiple, structural, systematic betrayals of the people in the land, I asked: where is that organ in the human body where trust is located?

Ever since the Farmers Protest started, I have been pained how urban middle class, rest of India, later panthic groups, stayed away from the struggle. When many critiqued the Samyukt Kisan Morcha from past experience with individual leaders, I listened to them carefully and hoped they would be willing to give a new union body a chance. It was always edgy. If the SKM had not won the protest, if the protest had cracked, the critics could have been proved right.

I have said it earlier too, and repeating it here: as weeks changed to months, it was clear the protest was cadre-led, not a leader-led. For those of us who knew internal parleys, we would often hold our heads in our hands on the behaviour of individual SKM members. It is the cadre, through their resolve, that kept the SKM together. That is why, to me the protest was a people’s movement and that was its greatest gain – a model other marginal and struggling communities can adopt. That, to me, was a victory of democracy.

In private conversations, right from the beginning of the protest, I told many folks who asked, that I do not trust three people in the protest. One was Yadav (we have spoken earlier about him), another was Rajewal, and the third will be named when it is time. This is Rajewal’s time.

Last evening, it was clear that while there are less than 20 days to the meeting with the government on Minimum Support Price, SKM has split vertically. 22 out of 32 unions want to contest elections. They have formed a new party Samyukt Samaj Morcha. They could fight Panjab elections in alliance with AAP.

This post is not about why farmer union leaders should take on a political role, or about whether they will win, or how they will change the nature of politics. When one leader – Charuni – wanted to enter politics, my view was this is not a good idea but it is his call. But a vertical split when a major intervention is pending? When Agriculture Minister Tomar yesterday said, government has taken one step back on Farm Laws but will come up with new laws after assembly elections?

This post is about why people become cynical. People become cynical when their leaders, ignoring the people’s power, betray their trust, and start seeking personal mileage. Had it not been for the farmers protest, all these leaders would have been just known in their blocks and districts. My hunch is, like AAP came out of a people’s movement, but succumbed to the neo-liberal and communal framework, the new party, SSM will also meet the same fate. That is because, unlike SKM did during protests, the SSM is not setting up its battlefield but is entering an old turf. Traditional parties will make mincemeat out of them.

But before we get there, even if we do not consider the humongous, year long effort to put up the protests, will Rajewal or any of his partners answer this question: did 727 people die in protests so you could take personal mileage out of it?

The answer to this question does not depend on what happens next. It depends on the moral framework of these leaders who want to contest elections. We know there will be no answers.

I still do not know which is the organ where trust resides, but I certainly know how cynicism creeps in. It does when leaders forget they won because of the cadre and become ambulance chasers.