Anaahat Naad

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Posts Tagged ‘Punjab

Book Review: Roll of Honour

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Amandeep Sandhu’s novel “Roll of Honour” gives an account of the state of Punjab during the turbulent period of early 1980s. It narrates the life and times in Punjab when the state was gripped with the Khalistan movement (i.e. the secessionist movement for creation of separate Sikh country). The novel addresses a tumultuous chapter in the history of Punjab. The author blends his personal experiences with the political situation in Punjab during 1980s and rolls out “Roll of Honour”.

Roll Of Honour

The novel, a semi-autobiographical one, is set against the backdrop of militancy in Punjab. The protagonist of the novel is a Sikh boy, Appu who is studying in 12th standard in a military school in fictional town of Jassabad, Punjab. He wants to get his name listed in the school’s hall of fame, the ‘Roll of Honour’. Appu aspires of getting into National Defence Academy so that he can serve the nation by joining Indian Army.

In the meantime, the situation in the state of Punjab turns vicious. Indian Army at the behest of the Indian Government carries out ‘Operation Blue Star’ for eliminating the Khalistani militants who are holed up in Golden Temple. In the operation, Jarnail Singh Bhindrawale, the chief advocate of Khalistan, is killed along with his associates. These happenings affect the environment in the military school as well. The Khalistan movement splits the students of the military school along the sectarian lines i.e. Hindus and Sikhs. The supporters of Khalistan movement in the school deify Bhindrawale and want to tread the same path while the others want to be part of nation India. Appu, who wanted to join the Indian Army, doesn’t seem to be interested anymore after seeing the wrong doings by the forces in Punjab.

The people especially the Sikhs viewed Indian Army with distrust after having entered the sanctum-sanctorum of the Golden Temple. The innocent Sikhs who didn’t favour the idea of Khalistan were also seen as militants by the security personnel. The turban defined who was militant and who was not.

Appu is confronted with the questions of authority, identity, dignity, sexuality, and friendship. In the military hostel, the seniors indulge in sodomy and bullying so as to dominate the juniors. In between, Appu tells about his current life. The past-present transition in the novel is smooth.

The observations made by the author are striking. “Of all that transpires in the heart, hope is the meanest because it tints one’s understanding of reality.” Another one, “I realized with time that we are all potential chameleons changing our colours according to where we belong, who pays us, what keeps us safe.” This observation is superb, “Words are not only combinations of letters of the alphabet and symbols; they are vehicles of intent that come from deep convictions, from intuition. Sense does not come from reading letters but by listening to one’s intuition.”

Amandeep Sandhu’s novel “Roll of Honour” questions the authoritative power. It is about different identities an individual takes in different phases of life on the basis of colour, religion, community, language, and nation. The author is blunt in describing the events and the experiences (and even the abuses). The characters of the novel are bit confusing some times. The cover page is fine, so is the paper quality and font size. One should read this novel to get an insight about what the youth went through during troubled times in Punjab. I hope the author has found peace with himself and his past after writing the novel.

(Originally published in Niti Central)

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Written by Varad Sharma

April 27, 2013 at 8:00 pm

The Clemency Politics

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The passing of resolution by Tamil Nadu Assembly seeking clemency for killers of Rajiv Gandhi has set a wrong precedent in our country. The resolution was moved by none other than state Chief Minister Jayalalithaa and was passed unanimously on August 30, 2011. While on the same day the Madras High Court deferred by eight weeks the execution of Rajiv Gandhi’s killers – Murugan alias Sriharan, T. Suthendraraja alias Santhan and A.G. Perarivalan alias Arivu. The three convicts were to be put to death on September 9, 2011. The Bench admitted the petition observing that since 11 years delay had been caused in the disposal of mercy petition, it is now a question of law. Rajiv Gandhi, the former Prime Minister of India, was assassinated on May 21, 1991 at Sriperumbudur near Chennai, Tamil Nadu. The assassination was carried out by Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

Pro-Tamil organisations like MDMK, DMK, and PMK have been demanding the commutation of their death sentence to life imprisonment. MDMK leader Vaiko has been in the forefront on this issue. But families of victims who were killed along with Rajiv Gandhi want killers to be hanged. It seems so as to appease some sections; Tamil Nadu Assembly has passed a resolution which in a way expresses solidarity with the three killers who assassinated our former Prime Minister.

Taking a cue from Tamil Nadu Assembly resolution, Sheikh Abdul Rashid, who is MLA from Langate constituency of Kupwara district, has submitted a resolution to the J&K Assembly Speaker seeking mercy for Afzal Guru, Indian Parliament attack convict. The resolution will be tabled before State Assembly in the last week of the month. In his resolution, MLA Rashid said, “Let the house resolve that Afzal Guru be granted amnesty, on humanitarian grounds, against the death sentence granted to him by the Honb’le Supreme court of India, for his alleged involvement in the 13th December 2001 attack on Indian parliament.”

Isn’t it astounding that some of our politicians want clemency for the terrorists/killers? Think of those people who get killed in attacks. In Parliament attack, seven people were killed including five policemen and more than 20 got injured. Weren’t their lives important? The attack on Parliament of India was an attack on our democracy. Also, some sections in J&K State are apprehensive that if Afzal Guru is hanged, it will create law and order problem. Well, many people in Kashmir valley are not in favour of execution of Afzal Guru due to ‘obvious’ reasons.

Meanwhile, Punjab Chief Minister Prakash Badal has written to the Prime Minister of India Dr. Manmohan Singh seeking pardon for Devinder Singh Bhullar, a Khalistan Liberation Force leader, who is sentenced to death. Bhullar was sentenced to death for masterminding a 1993 car bomb attack in New Delhi that killed 12 people. Former Indian Youth Congress President M.S. Bitta was seriously injured. Various Sikh organizations − Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC), Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) and even former Punjab Chief Minister and Congress leader Amarinder Singh have supported the demand. It should be noted that Punjab Assembly elections are due in February 2012. In order to keep their vote bank intact, several parties/groups in Punjab want mercy for Bhullar.

Our judiciary provides enough scope for the convict to challenge the verdict of the trial court to the High Court and that of High Court to the Supreme Court. Even if Supreme Court holds the decision of death sentence, one can appeal to the President of India for mercy. After all this, there should be no two views on final verdict. Although the state assembly resolution is not binding on any institution as stated by Union Law Minister Salman Khurshid, yet a wrong example has been set. Seeking review of judicial verdict impelled by vote bank politics is deplorable.

Whether it is clemency for Rajiv Gandhi killer’s or Afzal guru or Bhullar; the motive behind this ‘clemency’ is same – the vote bank. The punishment whether life term, death sentence etc. need to be carried out. Let the sentiments remain as sentiments and not be set up as precedents.

(Originally published in Rediff & The Broad Mind)

Written by Varad Sharma

September 13, 2011 at 10:00 pm