The Times of India – Tongas make a comeback in Amritsar

Yudhvir Rana

Amritsar-Panjab-India, 20 November 2017. Fun to ride, cheaper to hire and eco-friendly, tongas seem to be making a comeback in Amritsar. The horse-drawn carriages driving through the congested bylanes give an ample view of the glorious past of the old city.

The tongawalas are happy that from a little over a dozen tongas, the number has nearly doubled within a year.

“About four decades ago, there were around 500 tongas in Amritsar. Dedicated ‘tonga’ stands were earmarked by the municipal corporation. But now they operate from near Ghee Mandi, which is closer to the Golden Temple,” said president of Amritsar Tonga Union Surinderpal Singh.

He said even a few years ago, there were 15 tongas and now the number has crossed 24. He wants the government to come forward and support the tongawalas and construct a dedicated tonga stand. “The royal transport can add to the glory of the city,” he said.

He also said that tongas are the “nonpolluting taxis” and the tourists visiting Amritsar love riding these carriages. “Many a times, hotels make advance bookings for the foreigners and tourists,” he said.

Meanwhile, the tongawalas said that most of the horses complain of medical problems, especially because the animals inhale toxic fumes emitted by diesel-powered rickshaws in the city. Surinderpal also said that a major chunk of their income goes into the medical expense of horses.

Tongawala Tara Singh has been in this business for the past 40 years. He complained that the modern means of transport has ruined the business. However, he is happy that the tourists love taking a ride in these carriages. “Tourists prefer riding the tongas over e-rickshaw and auto,” he said.

Singh also said that this light curricle drawn by two horses do not cause any pollution. “The horse waste is used as manure. Traffic has increased manifold on the streets. But we obey the traffic rules,” he said.

Tongawalas take the tourists to the Golden Temple, Jallianwala Bagh, Durgiana Temple and Vaishno Mata temple. They don’t go to Attari international border despite repeated requests from the tourists. Surinderpal said most of the tongas plying in Amritsar are ‘old’ and need urgent repair.

Yati, a tourist from Jaipur, was thrilled after a tonga ride. “Rickshaws, e-rickshaws and autos are everywhere but it is a unique experience to ride a tonga,” said Yati.

“I had heard about tongas and had seen them in movies. This is my first experience of riding a tonga and I am thrilled,” said another tourist Taran Bansal. He suggested that there should be several tonga stands and a dedicated lane for tongas too in Amritsar.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/chandigarh/tongas-make-a-comeback-in-amritsar/articleshow/61717176.cms

Advertisements

The Times of India – Dal Khalsa wants refugee status for plane highjacker Gajinder Singh

Bharat Khanna

Patiala-Panjab-India, 19 November 2017. Remembering its founder leader Gajinder Singh on his 66th birth anniversary, the Dal Khalsa wants United Nations (UN) to give refugee status to its patron since, in international parlance, he is a stateless person. For this, they are all set to appeal to UN too.

Notably, Gajinder Singh along with his colleagues hijacked the Indian plane on September 29, 1981 and is living in self-exile in some undisclosed country.

“It is ironic that he has to spend his life in oblivion despite the hard fact that he has undergone the life imprisonment for hijacking”, said party’s senior leaders H S Dhami and Kanwar Pal Singh.

In a statement, they didn’t mention as to where he was based now. However, he said Gajinder Singh remains the patron of the Dal Khalsa, which unfailingly continues to uphold the spirit of the ‘mission for independence’ started by him.

Some believe that Gajinder Singh has settled in Pakistan after his release from jail in November 1994.

The leaders of Dal Khalsa said the case of Gajinder Singh is fit for the refugee status as he is a person who cannot live in his homeland as despite having undergone long imprisonment for hijacking and despite the fact that he is entitled to the legal defense of not to be tried for the same offence twice under the notion of ‘double jeopardy’.

“Earlier, we were reluctant to write to world body but now we have decided to approach UNHCR (The UN Refugee agency) to get the status for him” said, Kanwarpal Singh.

Taking a dig at Indian establishment, they wondered if India can give asylum to Tibetan leader Dalai Lama and has initiated process to give the same to Pakistan’s rebel Baluchistan leader Brahumdagh Bugti presently living in Switzerland, why New Delhi has been creating diplomatic obstacles to Gajinder’s settlement in any country of his choice.

To drive their point home, Dal Khalsa alleged that India thwarted Gajinder’s effort to settle down in Germany in July 1996 and it did the same again in late 90’s in UK. “The then government shot off a letter to our local party office informing that Gajinder Singh won’t be given asylum if he enters UK.

The decision was unilateral as Gajinder never applied for asylum there. Although it’s altogether a different matter that UK has granted asylum to Pakistan’s rebel and MQM chief Altaf Hussain.”

They further said, “In 2001, India placed his name on the most wanted list, however his name has not been mentioned in the latest list of India’s most wanted.

Continue with its witch-hunting attitude, Indian government allowed the re-opening of the hijacking case after 36 years and currently two of the members of hijacking team who have returned to India are facing the sedition charges afresh at Patiala House, Delhi. The next date of hearing is November 21.

They added that Gajinder wasn’t involved in any terror case other than the 1981 hijacking one to which he has already undergone life sentence in Pakistan.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/chandigarh/dal-khalsa-wants-refugee-status-for-plane-highjacker-gajinder-singh/articleshow/61715106.cms

Sikh24.com – Twenty-two SGPC members rebel to form new “Panthik Front”

Sikh24 Editors

Jalandhar-Panjab-India, 18 November 2017. A Panthik front under leadership of former SGPC General Secretary S. Sukhdev Singh Bhaur has come into existence.

Official information about it was shared with media following a meeting of twenty-two current SGPC members and seven former SGPC members at Gurdwara Dukh Niwaran situated in Guru Teg Bahadur Nagar of Jalandhar.

SGPC member S Sukhdev Singh Bhaur has been appointed as convener of this new Panthik Front and S Gurpreet Singh (Fatehgarh Sahib) & Jathedar Jaswant Singh have been appointed as spokespersons.

Beside them, a seven member team has been also constituted to chalk out agenda in relation to election of a new SGPC President on November 29 and other affairs in future.

Interacting with media on this occasion, S Sukhdev Singh Bhaur said that there was a sharp wrath among Sikh masses over SGPC’s failure in tackling desecration row and imposition of amended Nanakshahi calendar.

He added that the SGPC appointed Akal Takht Jathedar Giani Gurbachan Singh also needs to give clarification about the former Jathedar of Takht Sri Damdama Sahib Giani Gurmukh Singh.

SGPC members Bibi Kuldeep Kaur Tohra, Baba Gurpreet Singh Fatehgarh Sahib, S Surjit Singh Garhi, S Jaswant Singh Pudain, S Shingara Singh Lohian, S Surjit Singh Tugalwala, S Inder Mohan Singh Lakhmeerwal, S Kuldeep Singh Nathupur, S Mohinder Singh Hussainpur, S Sarbans Singh Manki, S Nirmail Singh Johal Kalan, S Amrik Singh Junaitpur, S Harpal Singh Pali and Baba Gurmeet Singh Trilokewal were present during the meeting and have given support to the new front.

http://www.sikh24.com/2017/11/18/22-sgpc-members-rebel-to-form-new-panthik-front/#.WhJq1jdrzIU

The Independent – Scottish Sikh ‘faces further torture’ after being taken back into police custody in India, campaigners say

Jagtar Singh Johal tells lawyers he has been tortured with electricity

Lucinda Cameron, Hilary Duncanson

London, UK, 19 November 2017. A British Sikh man arrested in India and allegedly tortured by police has been returned to police custody, campaigners have claimed.

Jagtar Singh Johal was moved to judicial custody after appearing in court in Punjab on Friday, sparking hopes the “physical torture” will come to an end, the Sikh Federation UK said .

However, the federation said he was later returned to police custody for the next two days without charge after he was taken to an area magistrate by police from another district.

His legal team are said to be concerned this period will be used to try and “falsely link him” to unsolved cases in the area.

Mr Johal, from Dumbarton in West Dunbartonshire, was detained in Jalandhar in the state of Punjab on 4 November.

The federation says no official charges have been brought against him, but local media reported Mr Johal’s arrest was linked to the killing of Hindu leaders in Punjab.

Mr Johal, 30, who got married in India last month, has told lawyers he has been tortured with “body separation techniques and electrocution to body parts”.

The Sikh Federation said that following his court appearance in Punjab, he was sent to jail until 30 November, when he will reappear in court.

It said he has had a brief meeting with his in-laws and a UK official, but business cards from his lawyers and the British High Commission representative were later taken off him.

He is also being denied fresh warm clothing, it is claimed.

His lawyers are said to have applied for an independent medical examination of Mr Johal.

Bhai Amrik Singh, chair of the Sikh Federation UK, said: “Many are asking why Jagtar was not allowed the business cards for his two lawyers or for the British High Commission representative or allowed to accept clothes from his family.

“The Indian authorities clearly have much to hide and the British and Scottish governments must do much more to secure his release.

“We will be challenging the Foreign Secretary next Tuesday when he appears in the Commons to answer questions from MPs.”

Hundreds of Sikhs held a demonstration outside the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in London in support of Mr Johal on Thursday.

An FCO spokesman said: “Our consular staff in New Delhi have visited a British man who has been detained in Punjab. We have met his family to update them, and have confirmed that he now has access to his lawyer.

“We take all allegations or concerns of torture and mistreatment very seriously and will follow up with action as appropriate.

“When considering how to act, we will avoid any action that might put the individual in question or any other person that may be affected at risk.”

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/jagtar-singh-johal-british-scottish-sikh-man-tortured-police-india-custody-sikh-federation-uk-a8063906.html

The National – Fresh concerns over arrest in India of Jagtar Singh Johal

Kirsteen Paterson

Edinburgh-Scotland-UK, 18 November 2017. A Scot “tortured” in India was almost completely covered up when British officials met with him in an Indian facility, a leading Sikh MP claims.

Preet Kaur Gill, the first female Sikh elected to the House of Commons, says detained Jagtar Singh Johal has been classed as “vulnerable” amidst serious concern about his treatment by police in the Punjab.

The 30-year-old Dumbarton man was with his new wife and his cousin when he was arrested on the street on November 4.

Local reports state that he is accused of funding the purchase of weapons connected to the targeted killings of high-profile Hindus, and of “influencing the youth” by publishing material related to the deaths of thousands of Sikhs in pogroms in 1984.

His local MP Martin Docherty-Hughes has accused authorities in the Punjab of treating Jagtar as an “easy target” in a clampdown on critics of human rights abuses.

Meanwhile, his older brother Gurpreet Singh Johal has branded the arrest “opportunist” and says it has “broken” his family.

No charges have yet been brought and yesterday Jagtar, known as Jaggi, appeared for a third court hearing after claims of torture emerged.

He attended a lower court in Bagha Purana, Moga, flanked by a contingent of police officers. According to his lawyer, he has been subjected to electric shocks and “body separation techniques” while being held by police.

The internet marketer has been transferred out of their custody and into jail to await another court date on November 30, according to the Sikh Federation, which is running a #freejaggi campaign.

The organisation’s chair Bhai Amrik Singh said: “Hopefully the physical torture will now come to an end, but the mental torture of false imprisonment continues”.

The case has drawn strong criticism of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and British Consulate after no officials appeared at Jagtar’s first hearing.

Gurpreet said the UK Government had given the case “no attention” and failed to meet with him before these sessions.

In an interview with BBC Radio Scotland yesterday, MP Gill said officials had frustrated the judicial process by failing to turn up. She said: “Because of the British arriving late to court, that date was extended and so he had a further hearing date, to which they didn’t attend.”

On Thursday the FCO confirmed that staff had now met with Jagtar. Discussing this and torture claims, Gill, who chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on British Sikhs, said: “When they met him he was in the presence of two police officers. He was covered up and quite well padded up. All they could see was his face and his hands.

“Jagtar did ask that he wanted to see them on his own. They said they would try and do that.

“They assessed him as being vulnerable, which is really, really concerning.”

A coachload of Scots travelled to London to join a protest of around 400 people outside the FCO on Thursday, with the case attracting interest throughout the UK. Gill said: “There is a significant diaspora of Sikhs in this country. They want to know that they can come back and forth to their homeland”.

External Relations Secretary Fiona Hyslop says the Scottish Government is “deeply concerned” about the case, and that the First Minister has requested updates as more information is made available.

Meanwhile, Canada’s New Democratic Party (NDP), which is headed by Sikh Jagmeet Singh, has contacted his foreign affairs minister to suggest that the Canadian Economic Development Minister Navdeep Bains could intervene.

In a letter, NDP politician Cheryl Hardcastle suggests Bains, who is in India, could “offer his assistance on the ground”.

Hardcastle says this would be justified because Canada is a signatory to the UN Convention Against Torture, adding: “We hope that Jagtar Singh Johal is allowed to have a fair trial, [and] is provided with access to an independent medical examiner as requested by his legal team.

“It is crucial that he not be subjected to any further torture while in custody of Punjab Police.”

Acknowledging international interest in the case, Docherty-Hughes said: “There has been an incredible response to the campaign to help Jagtar, with messages of support pouring in from people all over Scotland and across the world.

“Thanks to the strength of this campaign, the Foreign Office and British High Commission is now taking action to provide consular support to Jagtar. Whilst this is welcome news, concerns remain about the possible torture of my constituent during his detention in India.

http://www.thenational.scot/news/15669239.Fresh_concerns_at_condition_of____tortured_Scot____arrested_in_India/

The Hindustan Times – Despite ‘solving’ targeted killings, Punjab wants NIA to continue probe

Punjab police have last week nabbed five persons accused of killing people under a conspiracy to spread communal violence

Ravinder Vasudeva

Chandigarh-Panjab-India, 17 November 2017. Even after claiming to have solved the cases of targeted killings of right wing leaders in the state, the Punjab government still wants the National Investigating Agency (NIA) to go ahead with its probe in one of the cases, that of Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) local leader Ravinder Gosain’s murder in Ludhiana last month.

The probe into Gosain’s killing was handed over to NIA by the state after the RSS top brass raised this demand before chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh.

Punjab police have last week nabbed five persons accused of killing people under a conspiracy to spread communal violence.

“Though we have solved the cases and Gosain’s murderers are also the same men who killed the others, we still want the NIA to go deeper into the case.

The NIA has expertise in dealing with inter-country terror issues, thus it would be in the interest of the nation if the central agency investigates the case further as perpetrators of these killings are in other countries, including Italy, UK, USA, Germany and Canada,” director general of police Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) local leader Ravinder Gosain’s murdertold HT.

The DGP also wrote to the NIA on November 15, giving details of fresh findings, including the alleged role of Pakistan’s ISI and Khalistan Liberation Force (KLF), and requested to continue with the case. It was the reason why the NIA on Thursday issued a notification about formally taking over Gosain’s killing.

On a campaign run by some activists in the UK against the arrest of one of the accused, Jagtar Singh Johal alias Jaggi, in which claims are being made that Jaggi is “innocent” and being “tortured”, Arora again said the police have “all the evidence to establish his involvement”.

“Moreover, now when the NIA will probe the case, investigation done by Punjab Police will also remain under check,” he added.

Punjab last week have claimed to busted a terror module behind these killings and arrested four persons, including Jammu resident Jimmy Singh when he landed at Indira Gandhi International Airport, Delhi, upon returning from the UK. Jaggi, who is also a UK resident, was nabbed from Rama Mandi in Jalandhar district. He had landed in India on October 4 for his marriage.

Two alleged shooters, Hardeep Singh Shera and Ramandeep Singh alias Canadian, were arrested from Fatehgarh Sahib and Jalandhar, respectively. A gangster Dharmender Guggni lodged in Nabha jail has also been made accused.

http://www.hindustantimes.com/punjab/despite-solving-targeted-killings-punjab-wants-nia-to-continue-probe/story-J0H4qf8laeA1MG20UQoALO.html

Sikh24.com – Kanwar Sandhu Raises Suspicion Over Punjab Police’s Story about Jagtar Singh

Sikh24 Editors

Chandigarh-Panjab-India, 17 November 2017. Kanwar Sandhu, renowned journalist and Aam Aadmi Party legislator from Kharar, has raised suspicion over the story being narrated by the Punjab police about the arrest of Scottish Sikh youth Jagtar Singh.

In relation to the arrest, Sandhu said that his 35 years journalism experience in Punjab doesn’t allow him to trust the story cooked by Punjab police about Jaggi’s involvement in murders of Rashtriya Sikh Sangat leaders in Punjab.

“I don’t know Jaggi Johal or his family personally but on the face of it and having covered Punjab as a journalist for the past 35 years, I don’t find it convincing that a person from UK who comes here to get married would involved in the such matters here,” Kanwar Sandhu posted on his Facebook wall on November 14.

Citing a similar incident occurred during 1980s Punjab, Kanwar Sandhu wrote, “I am reminded of the infamous case of the arrest of Amarjit Singh from Canada in 1980s in Bihar. Let us also not forget, Punjab Police still has certain elements who are specialised in extra-judicial arrests and tortures. Amarjit Singh was of course innocent, was released and is now a powerful federal minister in Canada.”

Seeking intervention of Union government of India in this matter, Kanwar Sandhu said that the Indian government should conduct a joint enquiry in collaboration with UK government in this concern. “In case, there is evidence of his involvement in the crime, the information should be shared with UK Police and the Government,” he added.

Kanwar Sandhu further said that killings of RSS leaders in Punjab were carried out in an attempt to disturb peace and communal harmony in Punjab. He added that the Punjab Police were under tremendous pressure to resolve the cases and it is satisfying that they have made some headway but no innocent should be harassed especially not a foreign national.

http://www.sikh24.com/2017/11/17/kanwar-sandhu-raises-suspicion-over-punjab-polices-story-about-jagtar-singh-jaggi/#.Wg_HZTdrzIU

BBC News – Scot back in police custody in India over fresh claims

Glasgow, 17 November 2017.  A Scottish Sikh is back in police custody in India, following new allegations against him.

Jagtar Singh Johal, 30, has been in custody for a fortnight. He appeared in court early on Friday and was sent to prison until 30 November.

However, he was returned to court to face new allegations over the death of a Christian priest in 2015.

He has not been charged with any crime and his lawyer claims his client has been tortured by police.

Indian police have accused Mr Johal of financing the purchase of weapons used to kill Hindu leaders, but his lawyer said he is now accused of involvement in the death of a priest in Ludhiana in July 2015.

Mr Johal was taken from a street in the Indian state on 4 November.

His family say he was there on holiday having married in the region in October.

Appearing earlier on Friday, Mr Johal was presented at a lower court in Bagha Purana, Moga.

He entered the court room flanked by half a dozen Punjabi officers.

Prosecutors did not ask for Mr Johal’s police custody to be extended.

During the brief hearing, he was transferred from police to judicial custody after the judge questioned the prosecution about claims the accused was tortured.

A British High Commission official was also in court and met with the accused.

The court also allowed Mr Johal’s mother-in-law and father-in-law to meet him briefly.

‘Concerns of torture’

Campaigners have called for the immediate intervention of the British Foreign Office in the case.

On Thursday about 400 British Sikhs demonstrated outside the Foreign Office in London demanding more be done to help him.

The Sikh Federation said it feared Mr Johal was being targeted over his work highlighting the Sikh genocide in 1984.

A Foreign Office spokesman said: “Our consular staff in New Delhi have visited a British man who has been detained in Punjab. We have met his family to update them, and have confirmed that he now has access to his lawyer.”

On allegations of torture, the spokesman added: “We take all allegations or concerns of torture and mistreatment very seriously and will follow up with action as appropriate.

“When considering how to act, we will avoid any action that might put the individual in question or any other person that may be affected at risk.”

http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-scotland-glasgow-west-42023302

The Tribune – Terror module: Cops to verify 800 contacts in accused’s phone

Nikhil Bhardwaj, Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, 15 November 2017. The police have started probing the links of Ramanadeep Singh alias Raman who was among the five alleged operatives of the terror module busted recently.

To trace the accomplices of Raman, a resident of Chuharwal village in Ludhiana, the police have scanned his call details and contacts saved in his mobile phone. Raman allegedly used to accompany sharp shooter Hardeep Singh alias Shera while carrying out the killings.

A source said: “We have recovered around 800 phone numbers of persons with whom Raman had interacted several times in the past over one month. All these numbers are being verified.

The Ludhiana police have got the custody of Jimmy Singh on production warrant. The police are interrogating him over the murders of Hindu leaders Amit Sharma and Ravinder Gosain and pastor Sultan Masih.

Mintoo, Ramandeep’s police remand extended

Moga: The police on Wednesday produced sharpshooter Ramandeep Singh alias Canadian and KLF chief Harminder Singh Mintoo before a local court. The police pleaded that they needed to trace the links of Ramandeep Singh in Meerut from where he had procured weapons to kill religious leaders.

The court extended the police remand of Ramandeep Singh for another three days and of Mintoo for two days.

Sajjan, Tytler were their next target?

Sources said the radical activists had planned to assassinate senior Congress leaders Sajjan Kumar and Jagdish Tytler for their alleged involvement in the 1984 riots. Both Ramandeep and Hardeep Shera had revealed this to the police, they claimed.

http://www.tribuneindia.com/news/punjab/terror-module-cops-to-verify-800-contacts-in-accused-s-phone/498259.html

Dawn – Guru Nanak, Wali Qandhari and other stories about how Hasan Abdal got water

Haroon Khalid

Hasan Abdal-Panjab-Pakistan, 16 November 2017. Overshadowing the vast complex of gurdwara of Panja Sahib, one of the most popular Sikh shrines, associated with Guru Nanak and located in the city of Hasan Abdal in Pakistan, is the tallest mound in the region, rising high above its other shorter cousins.

The entire city of Hasan Abdal is this interaction between mounds and planes, the narrow alleys with their wooden jharokas, abandoned Hindu temples, tall minarets of mosques and some recently constructed plazas, rising and falling as the earth beneath them breathes in and out.

However, there is something spectacular about this mountain. The scatter of the city, its ancientness, pales in comparison with the permanence of this mound.

The focal point of this historical city is the shrine of Guru Nanak, a vast complex protected by tall walls. Every year, hundreds of pilgrims descend upon this gurdwara from all over the world to celebrate different religious festivals including Baisakhi and Guru Nanak Gurpurab, the birth anniversary of the founder of Sikhism.

This year as well, when Sikh and other devotees of Nanak come to Pakistan to participate in his birthday celebrations, Gurdwara Panja Sahib will be one of the places pilgrims will be allowed to visit by the Pakistani state.

No Muslim, besides representatives of the state, will be allowed within the premise of the gurdwara.

The legend

Right next to the main entrance of the gurdwara manned by police officials, a tiny stream flows into the shrine.

The legend goes that the stream once flowed from a spring on top of the hill, near which lived a local religious figure named Wali Qandhari.

This spring was the only source of water for the inhabitants of Hasan Abdal.

But once Nanak arrived and started gathering a congregation around him, Qandhari felt jealous and angry as his popularity declined. It is believed that Qandhari stopped the flow of water downstream.

Needing water, the people appealed to Qandhari to let the water flow as before. “Go to your Guru, the one you visit everyday now and ask him for water,” he is supposed to have responded angrily.

The inhabitants of Hasan Abdal went to Nanak, who sent Bhai Mardana, his disciple and companion, to plead with Qandhari, who in turn is said to have refused angrily and turned him away with the same response.

Nanak sent him again, and then again, but to each time come back with the same response. Eventually, Guru Nanak is said to have removed a stone from the ground under his feet, making a stream of water gush out of the earth.

Qandhari’s spring, as per the legend, is said to have dried up because all of its water had come gushing out from under Nanak’s feet. In his wrath, Qandhari is supposed to have hurled a boulder towards Nanak, which he is said to have stopped with his right hand, leaving a permanent mark on the rock, thus lending this gurdwara its name – Panja Sahib.

It now rests in the sacred pond created from this stream of water, facing the main shrine, as pilgrims form a long queue to place their hand where once Nanak is said to have rested his fingers.

Many festivals

The climb up the mountain, which Bhai Mardana is believed to have undertaken thrice to plead with Qandhari, is arduous.

On a barren mountain interspersed with a few trees, the authorities have in the past few years constructed a pathway. Many Sikh and Hindu devotees who come to visit the shrine of Nanak also sometimes travel up this mountain.

At the time of Baisakhi when the courtyard of Nanak’s gurdwara is swarming with pilgrims, there is a festival arranged here as well. There is a separate date for another festival at the shrine which is unique to it.

Graffiti on some of the rocks on this mound present another form of religiosity. “Allah O Akbar”, it says. On a cool morning a few years ago when I undertook this trek, there were several people whom I saw on their way to the lone shrine at the top of the mound.

These were young students in school and college uniforms, families with picnic baskets, a few devotional pilgrims carrying their slippers in their hands, intentionally attempting to make this spiritual journey more difficult for themselves.

Midway, there was a small bazaar, while there was another one right outside the shrine, selling not only religious paraphernalia but also refreshments.

In an empty ground behind the shrine, there were a few dervish preparing a hashish cigarette, with the panorama of the world with its people engaged in their daily grind at their feet.

Standing at the edge of the cliff, the gurdwara seemed far away, beautiful with its white dome and a green pool.

Many stories

In the Sikh tradition, Wali Qandhari is an arrogant saint who refused Mardana water and then hurled a rock towards Nanak, for his Muslim devotees he is Baba Hasan Abdal, who lends this city its name.

There are several stories associated with the saint. Some suggest that he prayed on the top of this mountain and then mysteriously disappeared, which is why he is also referred to as the Zinda Pir.

There is no grave inside the shrine, but a green box has been put up by the authorities to collect donations made by the pilgrims.

Another narrative suggests that the saint was responsible for extracting two streams from these mountains that now flow through the city.

In this version, he was not the jealous or arrogant saint who refused Mardana water, but rather the benefactor who gave the city the gift of water.

There is yet another story associated with the pond at Hasan Abdal which recalls its reverence in the Buddhist tradition.

Hasan Abdal happens to be approximately 20 km from Taxila and the Chinese Buddhist traveller Hiuen Tsang, who travelled to India in the 7th century CE provides a detailed description of his trip to a place about the same distance from Taxila, with an ancient tank covered with lotus flowers, where devotees would come to pray for fine weather and rain.

The pond, according to Hiuen Tsang, had become sacred because of a boon bestowed on a Buddhist king, Elapatra, by the gods.

With relics of ancient Buddhist cities and stupas in all directions around the town, Hassan Abdal in ancient India fell within the geographical location of the famed Gandharan civilisation.

While there are three stories that describe the origin of this pond, there is only one thing common in all of them – its sacredness.

This article was originally published on Scroll and has been reproduced with permission.

Haroon Khalid has an academic background in anthropology from LUMS. He has been traveling extensively around Pakistan, documenting historical and cultural heritage. He is the author of Walking with Nanak, In Search of Shiva: A study of folk religious practices in Pakistan, and A White Trail: A journey into the heart of Pakistan’s religious minorities.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1370894/guru-nanak-wali-qandhari-and-other-stories-about-how-hasan-abdal-got-water