The Telegraph – Sunny finds Navjot Singh Sidhu on this border

Deol is contesting from the BJP against Congress incumbent Sunil Jakhar in Gurdaspur on the northern edge of Punjab

Pheroze L Vincent

Dera Baba Nanak – Panjab – India, 19 May 2019. Imran Khan ne pyaar diya, khulkar diya, itna diya ki hamein lena hee pada (Imran Khan gave love, openly, and so much that we had to accept it),” said farmer Satnam Singh of Molowali village near the under-construction corridor between India’s Dera Baba Nanak and Gurdwara Darbar Sahib, at the place where Guru Nanak passed away in 1539, in Pakistan’s Kartarpur.

The corridor, on the table since 1998, took shape after Punjab minister and former cricketer Navjot Sidhu attended fellow cricketer Imran’s inauguration as Prime Minister in Pakistan and spoke about the pilgrimage with Pakistan army chief General Qamar Bajwa, whom Sidhu also hugged.

The Shiromani Akali Dal called Sidhu “the biggest traitor” and the BJP accused him of “speaking as an agent of Pakistan”. Until now, pilgrims needed to travel to Lahore on a visa and then go to Kartarpur. The alternative is to view the Darbar Sahib with binoculars at a BSF post on the Radcliffe Line, 4.7km away.

The Union cabinet approved the corridor plan in November and foundation stones were laid in both countries. Currently the binocular facility has been discontinued after construction of a land port, and a commercial and tourist complex has begun.

Satnam and others from the villages around Dera Baba Nanak often visit the Gurdwara Shaheed Baba Sidh Saun Randhawa, adjacent to the BSF post and on a barbed-wire flanked ridge from where devotees catch a glimpse of the white domes of Darbar Sahib. The villagers organise day-long langars (free community meals) here.

“If you give us love, you will get love,” Satnam said. “Sidhu did nothing wrong. He showed love, Imran reciprocated. Politicians would have ruined this opportunity by making false statements about Sidhu and Imran. Imran released our pilot in two days, shouldn’t we also enlarge our hearts?”

Villagers gathered at Gurdwara Shaheed Randhawa were unanimous about the issues that matter to them: First, jobs and education; second, peace with Pakistan.

“Shouldn’t our border be normal like other countries? No one is willing to invest in any industry here because of constant tension. We keep the bare minimum in our homes, and don’t spend on construction in anticipation that we may have to evacuate some day when the tensions on TV become real on the border,” Satnam said.

The elders said there are at least 10 youths from every village nearby who have gone to work as labourers abroad, mainly in West Asia, many of whom are duped by recruitment agents.

“Richer villagers can afford Rs 12 lakh to send their sons to Canada. We can spend only Rs 2 to 2.5 lakh to pay agents for jobs in the Gulf. The corridor will bring jobs, and hopefully peace also,” said farmer Gurmeet Singh of Thetharke village, 1.5km from the border.

“It is wrong to think that attacking Pakistan is something good. The war is against terrorism. We won’t simply give our votes to Narendra Modi because our air force bombed Balakot.”

Actor Sunny Deol, known for his action hero roles, including in Border, the 1997 film based on the 1971 Battle of Longewala, is contesting for the BJP against Congress incumbent Sunil Jakhar in Gurdaspur on the northern edge of Punjab. The pilgrims here said they like Deol but will vote for the Congress as the party helps in processing claims of compensation for crop loss in floods.

“Sidhu’s crime was that he tried to unite the love of two nations. Sunny is a star. We had a star here before (Vinod Khanna). They live in Mumbai and come here to vote. Parties field them because they feel that the candidate is popular enough to manage his own expenses,” said Sukhdev Singh, a sewadar of the gurdwara who had to evacuate his home in 1965 and 1971.

Vinod Khanna is, however, praised by many for getting bridges constructed. “We know Sunny because he is a star. He will get votes because of his party,” said farmer Salakhan Singh of Ruliana panchayat which changed hands from the Akalis to the Congress last December.

Salakhan is happy with Modi after he received Rs 2,000 under the Prime Minister’s scheme, and his Ujjwala subsidy also arrived before the polls. “Nobody has enhanced the respect for India like Modi has. But we want peace here. We are ready to defend our land, but every time there was a war we were pushed back 20 years.”

The lotus blooms bright among Bihari labourers, who make up at least 10 voters in every other village.

Ravinder, a daily wage labourer, said: “Us Mallahs (a backward caste) now get our entitlements in Bihar because of Modi. Here the wind is for Sunny, star hai, aur Modi ka power hai (he is a star and there is Modi’s power).”

https://www.telegraphindia.com/india/sunny-deol-finds-navjot-singh-sidhu-on-this-border/cid/1690783?ref=india_home-template

Sikh24.com – Pakistan forms ETPB’s task force to protect religious properties of minorities


Panja Sahib Gudwara – Hasan Abdal – Panjab

Islamabad Capital Teritory – Pakistan, 18 May 2019. Following the directions of Prime Minister Imran Khan, the Pakistani Ministry of Religious Affairs has formed a task force of the Evacuee Trust Property Board on May 16. The move is aimed at protecting the religious properties belonging to the shrines of minorities residing in Pakistan.

Issuing a notification in this regard, the section officer Mohammad Riaz informed that PM Imran Khan’s advisor Dr. Ishrat Hussain has been appointed as chairman of this task force while the former PSGPC member Bishan Singh, Parliamentary Secretary Mohinderpal Singh, Dr Munavvar Chand, Diwan Chand Chawla, Advocate M Parkash Kumar, Ramesh Singh Khalsa, Santokh Singh, MPA Ravi Kumar, Bhagat Singh, Jawahar Lal, Abdul Wazid Rana, Bibi Mahin Rehman and Bibi Yasmeen Larry have been appointed as a member of this task force.

Beside it, the Law and Justice Division, Secretary of the Ministry of Religious Affairs and the chairman of the Evacuee Trust Property Board will also be its members.

Sharing the development with media, Bishan Singh and Mohinderpal Singh said that the task force will take care of properties belonging to religious shrines of minorities inhabitant in Pakistan besides eliminating the illegal possession of these properties.

In addition, this task force will also put control over the corruption prevalent in ETPB and other related departments.

Pakistan Forms ETPB’s Task Force to Protect Religious Properties of Minorities

 

 

Tolo News – Security officials under fire over Kabul attack

An MP said there is a lack of coordination between different departments of the Ministry of Interior Affairs.

Kabul – Kabul Province, 18 May 2019. Some lawmakers and critics on Saturday criticized security officials for their “inability” to prevent a complex attack on a security outpost on the outskirts of Kabul city on Friday which left four security force members dead.

The MPs and military analysts said those behind the attack should be recognized and should be brought to justice.

So far, no group has claimed responsibly for the attack.

Taliban has claimed that they have captured a security outpost in Mahipar area in Sarobi district in Kabul and have killed four soldiers. These two incidents look similar, but the Public Protection Forces outpost was located on the outskirt of Kabul city.

The Kabul Police was also criticized for not sending reinforcements on time to respond to the attack. Eyewitnesses said the clashes continued for almost two hours.

“Head of the security department who did not act on time and did not anticipate such an attack should be held responsible,” said Mohammadagul Mujahid, a military analyst.

“There is no coordination between different departments of the Interior Affairs Ministry. The ministry does not have accurate communication with its outposts and police districts and cannot address their challenges,” said Fatima Nazari, an MP.

Kabul Police, meanwhile, said the incident is under “thorough” investigation.

“These soldiers were operating under the Public Protection Unit and they asked for help when the attack was ended. It means they did not ask for help in the first minutes,” said Firdaws Faramarz, a spokesman for Kabul Police.

The Acting Minister of Interior Affairs has ordered an investigation into the incident and has said that those who were found negligent in sending reinforcements to the area “should be punished”, the Interior Ministry said in a statement on Saturday.

This comes as General Salem Almas was removed from his post as head of the Crime Investigation Department in Kabul to pay more attention to Kabul security. Lieutenant Colonel Moeenuddin was appointed as acting head of the Crime Investigation Department.

“Recently, pressure has increased on criminal networks in Kabul,” said Nusrat Rahimi, a spokesman for Ministry of Interior Affairs. “At least 120 suspects have been arrested on charges of murder and robbery in Kabul over the past two weeks.”

Kabul residents said they are deeply concerned about an increase in crime in the city.

“Murder, kidnapping and any types of crime are happening in Kabul,” said Mohammad Sharif, a Kabul resident.

“We cannot walk freely in the city. The government should do something,” said Hashmatullah, a Kabul resident.

https://www.tolonews.com/afghanistan/security-officials-under-fire-over-kabul-attack

The Tribune – Bargari activists hold protest

Fazilka – Panjab – India, 18 May 2019. Activists of the Bargari Insaf Morcha and other hardliners took out a protest in Fazilka town on Friday. They appealed to people not to vote in favour of Sukhbir Singh Badal, whom they accused of being responsible for sacrilege of Guru Granth Sahib.

The activists, holding the black flags, were led by parallel acting Akal Takht Jathedar and former MP Dhian Singh Mand. OC

Army man held for spying

Amritsar – Panjab – India, 18 May 2019. The Amritsar rural police arrested another Army man on charges of spying. Princedeep Singh of Master Avenue falling under the Chheharta police station was an accomplice of Malkeet Singh of Mahawa village, an Army man held by the rural police for spying for Pakistani intelligence agencies a week ago.

https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/punjab/bargari-activists-hold-protest/774582.html

DNA – 1984 anti-Sikh riots: Justice has not been served to us, says victim

As Gurjal Kaur, 75, stares blankly at the dirty, moldering wall of her house, her nightmarish memories of the 1984 anti-Sikh riots turn into fresh bleeding wounds.

With Punjab going to polls on Sunday, Congress leader Sam Pitroda’s flippant remark that “1984 hua to hua” and the BJP’s relentless offensive over it has brought the anti-Sikh riots back into the political discourse.

The survivors of the riots in the CRPF colony of Ludhiana claim that successive Congress governments delayed justice to the affected families.

Kaur, who lost two of her sons, Harbhajan Singh and Amarjit Singh, in the 1984 communal flare-up, claims the Akalis have helped the survivors of the riots the most and that the previous Congress governments at the Centre and in the state “ruined our lives”.

Charanjeet Kaur, 59, who lost her two sons and husband in the riots, says, “We saw what people would not have seen during Partition. Mobs burnt thousands of Sikh men alive and raped the women.”

Gurdeep Kaur of the women’s wing of 1984 Sikh Katle-Aam Peerat Welfare Society alleges former Punjab chief minister Rajinder Kaur Bhattal did not let the grant given by the Centre reach the victim families in the state.

“The Akali government took some steps, but those were not enough. There are around 35,000 riot-affected families in Punjab, and the Badal government gave flats only to 3,000,” she rues.

“Four commissions, nine committees, and two SITs were set up to probe the killings. Why? It is clear that the Congress governments wanted to hide someone’s role in the riots,” she says.

Former AAP leader and senior lawyer H S Phoolka, who has been representing victims of the riots in court cases, says that instead of punishing leaders involved in the anti-Sikh riots, the Congress had elevated and promoted them.

A state Congress leader on condition of anonymity says no one can question Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on his commitment toward ensuring justice to the victims of the riots.

“He had himself resigned from Parliament to protest against what had happened…,” the leader says.

https://www.dnaindia.com/india/report-1984-anti-sikh-riots-justice-has-not-been-served-to-us-says-victim-2750437

The Hindu – Punjab’s voters say real issues are missing from discourse

Vikas Vasudeva

Patiala – Panjab – India, 17 May 2019. Focus on ‘religious issues’ by political parties distracts from pressing concerns on unemployment, agrarian distress, and the drug trade.

As the election draws closer, the political discourse in Punjab continues to be dominated by ‘religious issues’. But many voters, especially youth and farmers, feel it is an attempt by political parties to divert attention from the real issues of unemployment, drug abuse and trade, and agrarian distress.

As the campaign gained pace across Punjab, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and its alliance partner, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) could be seen repeatedly raising the 1984 anti-Sikh riots issue.

The ruling Congress, on the other hand, is attacking the Akalis on the “Bargari sacrilege” of 2015, and the Kotkapura-Behbal Kalan police firing incident that followed it.

In Patiala, home town of Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, a Punjabi University student Navdeep Singh strongly feels that if a country needs to progress, it cannot afford to get stuck in its past, be it on religion or any other issue.

“Political parties in their manifestos promise to give jobs but later, when it comes to implementation, there’s no accountability. In 2014, the BJP government promised to gives jobs but what happened? The same is the case with the State’s Congress government here, promises were made but there is nothing on the ground.

I feel the time has come to evolve a mechanism where the manifesto of political parties should be made a legal document, which, if not implemented, could be challenged under the law,” said Mr. Singh, who is pursuing doctorate in Economics.

“As I complete my doctorate, I would want to venture something on my own. I am not averse to a job but the problem I have been witnessing, especially in the private sector, is the non-availability of a job in keeping with the qualification.

If I get a job that is below my qualification, then what’s the whole point of getting an education? It’s one of the reasons that India is facing the problem of a ‘brain drain’,” he said.

Lost turf

In Patiala, the Congress candidate, former Union Minister Preneet Kaur, is embroiled in a battle to reclaim the party’s lost turf as the seat is set for a triangular electoral contest. Ms Kaur, wife of Captain Amarinder, tasted bitter defeat at the hands of Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP) Dharamvira Gandhi in 2014 Lok Sabha poll.

Another student on the campus, Jaswant Singh, shared similar sentiments: “Unemployment is a big issue here, but the main political parties have been raising ‘religious issues’ to divert attention from real issues. Youth from Punjab are going to foreign countries in search of jobs.

There is no guarantee of a job even after completing my studies. These days, there are hardly any jobs in the government sector. The private sector offers jobs but then, there’s no job security there.”

Patiala, which has traditionally seen a fight between the Congress and the SAD, is witnessing a triangular contest this time with AAP rebel Dr Gandhi fighting as a joint candidate of the Punjab Democratic Alliance.

The SAD has fielded former minister Surjit Singh Rakhra as its candidate. The AAP’s Neena Mittal is also in the fray.

Patiala-based farmer leader Avtar Singh Korjiwala of the Bhartiya Kisan Union Ekta (Dhakonda), points out that political parties continue to adopt an indifferent attitude towards the farmers’ plight.

Also, in this election, there is hardly anyone talking about the drugs menace in the State, he added.

“Be it the ruling Congress or the SAD-BJP, no one cares for us. Now they are raising ‘religious issues’ to deflect attention from their failures. Our Union is urging farmers across the district to boycott the elections. If they don’t want to boycott, then farmers should opt for NOTA (None of the Above),” Mr. Korjiwala said.

https://www.thehindu.com/elections/lok-sabha-2019/punjabs-voters-say-real-issues-are-missing-from-discourse/article27165927.ece

BBC News – India’s next government will have a growth problem

Soutik Biswas, India correspondent

New Delhi – India, 17 May 2019. As India lumbers towards the final phase of an exhausting general election and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s BJP seeks a second term in power, there’s some worrying news. The world’s fastest growing major economy appears to be headed for a slowdown.

The signs are everywhere. Economic growth slowed to 6.6% in the three months to December, the slowest in six quarters. Sales of cars and SUVs have slumped to a seven-year-low. Tractors and two-wheelers sales are down. Net profits for 334 companies (excluding banks and financials) are down 18% year-on-year, according to the Financial Express newspaper.

That’s not all. In March, passenger growth in the world’s fastest growing aviation market expanded at the slowest pace in nearly six years. Demand for bank credit has spluttered.

Hindustan Unilever, India’s leading maker of fast moving consumer goods, has reported March quarter revenue growth of just 7%, its weakest in 18 months.

One newspaper wondered whether India was “losing the consumption plot”. Taken together, all this points to a fall in both urban and rural incomes, leading to demand contraction. A crop glut has seen farm incomes drop.

And credit stagnation, partly triggered by the collapse of a major non-banking financial institution, or a shadow bank, has led to a fall in lending and worsened matters.

Kaushik Basu, former chief economist of the World Bank and professor of economics at Cornell University, believes the slowdown is “much more serious” than he initially believed. “The evidence is now mounting to the point where it can no longer be ignored,” he told me.

One reason, he believes, is the controversial currency ban in 2016, also called demonetisation, which adversely hit farmers. More than 80% of the currency circulating in India’s sprawling cash-driven economy was taken out of circulation in what, in the words of one of Prime Minister Modi’s own advisers, was a “massive, draconian, monetary shock”.

“This was evident to all by early 2017. What many observers did not realise then, I did not, is that the shock made the farmers take on debts which ended up causing sustained hardship to them that is continuing and slowing down the agriculture sector.”

The other major disappointment, according to Professor Basu, has been exports. “Export growth has been close to zero for the last five years. For a low-wage economy like India, a little policy professionalism, a combination of monetary policy and micro incentives, is all that is needed to grow this sector.

It is regrettable that the rhetoric was not backed up with policy design.”

Others like economist Rathin Roy, a member of the Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council, believe that India’s consumption story could actually be levelling out.

Dr Roy believes India’s rapid growth has been essentially powered by its top 100 million citizens. The leading indicators of economic prosperity, he says, are things that these Indians consume, cars, two-wheelers, air conditioners and so on. Having had their fill of home-made goods, they have now moved to imported luxuries, foreign holidays and Italian kitchens, for example.

A majority of Indians want nutritious food, affordable clothing and housing, health and education, which really should be the leading indicators of economic growth. “Subsidies and income support cannot pay for such consumption on a massive scale.

At least half the population should earn incomes that enable them to buy these at affordable prices so that a maximum of 500 million people can be subsidised to improve their welfare,” Dr Roy says.

Unless India is able to do this in the next decade or so, Dr Roy believes, it is headed for what economists call a “middle income trap”, when a country stops being able to achieve rapid growth easily and compete with advanced economies.

Economist Ardo Hannson defines it as a situation when countries “seem to get stuck in a trap where your costs are escalating and you lose competitiveness”.

One problem is that once you are stuck in a middle income trap, it is difficult to get out. A World Bank study found that out of the 101 middle-income countries in 1960, some 13 had become high-income by 2008 based on per capita income relative to the US.

Only three of the 13 countries have a population of more than 25 million. India is a lower-middle income economy and to get caught in a trap at this stage will be tragic.

Dr Roy says the classic middle income trap means that the rich are taxed to provide minimum services to the poor, who will kept from extreme poverty and vulnerability by using such taxes to subsidise their existence, including an universal basic income in perpetuity.

“We will be Brazil. On the other hand If India produces what all Indians want to consume efficiently, and at affordable prices, then inclusive growth will stave off the middle income trap. We will be Japan,” says Dr Roy.

The next government has its work cut out.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-48268801

Sikh24.com – Congress and BJP are fighting over 1984 Sikh genocide just for votes, says Dal Khalsa

Chandigarh – Panjab – India, 14 May 2019. Hitting out at Congress and BJP for playing dirty politics over 1984 Sikh genocide, the Dal Khalsa has said that the duo mainstream parties of India have stains of innocent blood on their sleeves.

Appealing the masses not to get carried away by deceitful talks of Modi, Gandhi and Badals as they all are chips of the same block, the Dal Khalsa has taken a clear stand to boycott parliamentary elections.

Dal Khalsa’s spokesperson Kanwar Pal Singh has criticized Prime Minister Narendra Modi for raking up the November 1984 carnage to gain electoral benefits out of it.

“We are concerned because Modi is harping on November 1984 issue not out of sympathy or for the sake of justice but to use it for electoral purposes,” he added while recalling the Muslim carnage of Muslim carried out in Gujarat during Modi’s rule in 2002.

The party leader slammed Congress president Rahul Gandhi for committing to punish guilty of 1984 genocide. “It’s almost 35 years that the Congress has been shielding and patronizing the masterminds and conspirators of 1984 killings and Rahul’s talks were nothing but poll gimmick,” he said while terming Sam Pitroda’s utterance “hua to hua” as highly derogatory.

Kanwar Pal Singh further said that while the Congress government led by Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was on the fore-front to engineer the killings in Delhi and elsewhere, the “lumpen and frenzied” elements from the RSS and BJP also took part in the carnage.

Questioning the ulterior motives of the saffron leaders, he said it was the BJP that demanded military solution to Punjab’s political problem. “BJP vociferously asked the Indian government led by Indira Gandhi to storm Darbar Sahib to eliminate Sant Jarnail Singh and other Sikh fighters,” he added.

Riding piggyback on Modi’s name and fame, he blamed Badals for shrugging off the sacrilege issue. He said while Congress carries the guilt of 1984 tragic events, SAD carries the burden of 2015 sacrilege and deaths of two protesters at Behbal Kalan.

Congress and BJP are fighting over 1984 Sikh genocide just for votes, says Dal Khalsa

The News – Workable visa policy for Sikh yatrees soon: Punjab Governor Chaudhry Muhammad Sarwar

Islamabad Capital Territory – Pakistan, 18 May 2019, Interior Minister Brigadier (retired) Ijaz Ahmad Shah called on Punjab Governor Chaudhry Muhammad Sarwar and discussed various matters, including security situation and implementation of the National Action Plan (NAP) in the province during a meeting at the Governor’s House here Friday.

The visa policy for religious tourism besides pilgrimages by the Sikhs from across the world also came under discussion during the meeting.

The governor, speaking on the occasion, said terrorism was not a problem for a political party or a government only rather it was a collective problem of the nation, adding the whole nation was on one page to curb the menace of terrorism under the leadership of Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Sarwar said the government was implementing the NAP in its true letter and spirit and the country would be purged of evil elements through collective efforts of the law enforcement agencies.

He said that the government would ensure foolproof security arrangements on the 550th birth celebrations of Baba Guru Nanak, adding development work under Kartarpur Corridor Plan would get completed before the 550th birth anniversary of Baba Guru Nanak.

He said the confidence of investors in the economic policies of the PTI government signified the success of the government. The governor said the enemies of peace were, in fact, against prosperity and progress of Pakistan. Sarwar said the incumbent government had taken concrete steps to ensure security of every citizen in the country, adding steps taken by the present government to curb terrorism were unprecedented.

He said the government was taking steps to ensure workable visa policy for the Sikh pilgrims. Later, a delegation of the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) led by Regional Chairman Abdul Rauf called on governor.

Sarwar said it was for the first time that the government was protecting each and every penny of the public exchequer and ensuring accountability of those who had plundered the national wealth.

Ch Sarwar said not only Pakistani businessmen but foreign investors were also attracted to invest in Pakistan due to the business-friendly policies of the government while it was facilitating them to invest in Pakistan by eradicating red tapism and enhancing ease of doing business.

Our correspondent adds: Punjab Governor Chaudhry Muhammad Sarwar has said the government is aware of the problems being faced by the traders and industrialists, and is taking every possible measure to provide a level-playing field to the business community.

Talking to a delegation of Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) Lahore regional office led by Abdul Rauf Mukhtar, the regional chairman, at Governor’s House Lahore, the governor appreciated the role being played by the private sector particularly the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry in the country’s economic development.

He said at present tough economic conditions called for taking difficult decisions but the government was committed to improving the economy.

He said reducing the trade deficit was an important component of the government’s strategy by curbing import of unessential and luxury items. The government was also striving to reduce the cost of doing business by ensuring supply of gas at concessional tariff for export-oriented industry, he added.

Abdul Rauf Mukhtar said there was a need to encourage the local industry and reduce imports to give a new direction to the national economy for stability.

https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/472722-workable-visa-policy-for-sikh-yatrees-soon-governor

Dawn – Who was Brigadier General John Nicholson? And what should we do about his monument on GT Road?

It is important to preserve monuments, but also to contest the narrative built around them.

Osman Ehtisham Anwar

Taxila – Panjab – Pakistan, 17 May 2019. My heart would sink at the sight of Nicholson’s Obelisk, towering high atop Margalla Pass near Taxila on the left flank of the Grand Trunk Road as I travelled from Rawalpindi towards Peshawar.

It indicated that my boarding school, Cadet College Hasan Abdal, was only 30 minutes away and I would have to part with my parents, who would accompany me and my brother on the drive back to our college after vacations.

I remember asking my father once if he knew what that monument was. He had remarked that it was named after a British brigadier general. My father, being an alumnus of the same college, had frequented that road many times.

I knew very little at the time of who Brigadier General John Nicholson was, but assumed he must have been a very distinguished and remarkable man to have a towering structure in his remembrance.

It wasn’t until recently that I read about the moveable column (a tactical military formation) that he led during the uprising of 1857, the atrocities he committed and his extremely prejudiced, racist hatred towards the people of the Indian subcontinent and Afghans that I realised how important it is for us to recognise this British-era relic as an embodiment of our colonial subjugation.

William Dalrymple in his book The Last Mughal recounts that by the time the uprising started against the British in Meerut in 1857, Nicholson had already developed a very strong hatred for the people here:

“Nicholson loathed India with a passion (‘I dislike India and its inhabitants more every day’) and regarded only the Afghans as worse (‘the most vicious and bloodthirsty race in existence’). These views he had already formed before he was captured during the disaster of the 1842 Afghan War.

By the time he was released, only to discover his younger brothers dead body, with his genitalia cut off and stuffed in his mouth, his feeling about Afghans, and indeed Indians and Muslims of any nationality, were confirmed: he felt, he said, merely ‘an intense feeling of hatred. Only his wish to spread the Christian Empire of the British in this heathen wilderness kept him in the East”.

Dalrymple goes on to add that when Sir John Lawrence, the Chief Commissioner of the Punjab at the time, gave Nicholson a mixed-race Anglo-Indian subordinate, Nicholson felt insulted and humiliated:

“Nicholson’s response was to threaten to murder Lawrence, or, as he put it, ‘commit justifiable homicide. Individuals have their rights as well as nations’”.

Perhaps the brigadier general did attract some unsuspecting admirers amongst the population during his time and was called “Nikul Seyn”, possibly as a mark of respect. But Charles Griffiths, writing in 1910, suggests in his account of the Siege of Delhi that the word ‘Seyn’ (saeen) in Nicholson’s case implied more than that:

“Many stories are told of his prowess and skill, and he ingratiated himself so strongly amongst a certain race that he received his apotheosis at their hands, and years afterwards was, and perhaps to this day is, worshipped by these rude mountaineers under the title of “Nikul Seyn”.”

However, others contest this. The young Lieutenant Edward Ommaney who accompanied Bahadur Shah Zafar to exile in Rangoon was “one of the few who remained immune to the hero worship of this great imperial psychopath”, according to Dalrymple, and was shocked by Nicholson’s absurd viciousness directed not only towards the ‘mutineers’ (from his perspective) but also towards the unfortunate cook boys.

Dalrymple recounts in his book:

“‘He shows himself off to be a great brute,’ Ommaney wrote in his diary on 21 July. ‘For instance he thrashed a cook boy, for getting in his way in the line of the march (he has a regular man, very muscular, to perform this duty). The boy complained, he was brought up again, and died from the effects of the 2nd thrashing’”.

In another incident, he hung all the regimental cooks. As the officers in the mess waited for their dinner, Nicholson walked into the mess tent and announced:

“‘I’m sorry gentlemen to have kept you waiting for your dinner, but I have been hanging your cooks’. According to Nicholson he had discovered through his spies that the regimental cooks had just laced the officers’ soup with aconite. He first invited the cooks to taste the soup, then, when they refused, force-fed the hot liquid to an unfortunate monkey.

It writhed for a few seconds, then expired. Within minutes, as one of the officers present put it, ‘our regimental cooks were ornamenting a neighbouring tree’”.

The history of the subcontinent has other, more infamous generals who were of course celebrated by the British as saviours of the Raj.

With the recent centenary of the massacre at Amritsar, everyone in India is already familiar with General Reginald Dyer, who on April 13, 1919 led and ordered his soldiers to open fire on some 20,000 people, including women and children, who had gathered at the Jallianwala Bagh, mostly to celebrate the Sikh festival of Baisakhi.

In 2015/16, there was an unsuccessful campaign in Oxford to remove the statue of Cecil Rhodes; the protesting students did not want his imperialist legacy to be celebrated. The Rhodes Scholarship is administered through his will. Although I support the preservation of Nicholson’s Obelisk as a part of our history, what I contest is the narrative that is built around it.

For example, a news report from 2016 about the first ever archeological survey conducted in the federal capital concludes with a remark about Nicholson: “His life and career became a source of inspiration for a generation of British youth seeking adventure in emerging colonies, especially the Indian subcontinent”.

A lot more needs to be added as to who he was and how prejudiced and despicable his views and actions were. The British wanted to pay homage to Nicholson’s imperial achievements. To us, it should serve as a reckoning of our past. It is imperative for us to know the man for who he was as opposed to what the colonial empire wanted to remember him as.

Today, the road leading up to my alma mater brings back fonder memories; my heart still sinks at the sight of this obelisk though, but for different reasons now. Globally in academia, there is a strong student-led movement to decolonise curriculums. It is all the more important for us in Pakistan to do the same.

When students at a premiere boarding school aren’t taught anything about a monument that is in such close proximity to their campus, it points to a systemic issue. We ought to engage more openly and critically with our history, so that we know our past better than I did when I was in school.

Osman Ehtisham Anwar is retracing the footsteps of one of the greatest travellers of all time, Ibn Battuta. You can read more about his journey at A Wandering Within.
He tweets @OEAnwar.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1482872/who-was-brigadier-general-john-nicholson-and-what-should-we-do-about-his-monument-on-gt-road