From the first words, ‘Je ho ji tu samjhe mahiya, Oho ji
main hain nahin’ ‘What you know of me, my dear, I am not that’, as the epigram to
the last words 553 pages later, ‘However, like all communities painted into a
corner, Panjab is a lot about not accepting how anyone understands it,’
Amandeep Sandhu’s ‘PANJAB – Journeys Through Fault Lines’ is an attempt, not
the first, nor hopefully the last, but a sincere, detailed, timely and a
significant one, at understanding the enigma that is Panjab.
Born and brought up outside the state, Sandhu’s journeys to
fill a Panjab shaped hole in his heart, provide the reader with an
understanding of much that is hidden of the stories of this land of rivers,
green revolution, bhangra beats, langars, and perceived prosperity in general, and
gives us a peak into what ails it - the agrarian distress, fast disappearing
watertable, pesticide-insecticide made toxic lands, cancer trains, mounting
farm debts, and farmer suicides, and walks us through its many fault lines - a
society deeply divided on caste lines, people hurt at state apathy towards the
grain bowl of the nation, a generation still not healed from the injuries from
the dark decades, from blue star and 84, a generation caught in the trappings
of drugs, and a generation leaving the shores to dollar-lands.
In the epilogue Sandhu writes, ‘Throughout its long history,
Panjab has always been more than its geography and its people. It has
symbolized an idea of resistance and rebellion. In the past, in spite of
grievous wounds, Panjab has always risen and proved its critics wrong. I
believe that someday this Panjab too will rise to its challenges – in its own
Should Sandhu have undertaken his journeys and made this
call of his Panjab much earlier? Because it appears that Panjab has heard him.
It has risen.
The fault lines are being challenged.
As one ‘journeys’ through the tractor-trolley townships of
resistance at Singhu and Tikri, one sees and hears a call of ‘Udhta Panjab nahi
As the tractors, overloaded with youngsters and their
enthusiasm, march past, one doesn’t hear ‘guns’ or ‘ganglands’ or loud sound
with meaningless words. The sound systems on these tractors now sing of
glorious past, of heroes, of revolution.
Kisan is here in large numbers. Majdoor has arrived. Dalit
is supporting Jutt. Kirti Kisan, Kisan Majdoor, show up on union flags together
at every few steps. Kisan Majdoor ekta is the resounding slogan.
Bebe is here. Mutiyar is here. Out of the boundaries of home
and communities, they are at frontline, their support, strength and voice are
Faith is here. Its rigidity a little fluid.
In the first edition of Trolley Times, battleground
publication of Farmer’s movement, Tanveer tells a short story of two farmers –
‘My neighboring village is Bappiana, District Mansa. Two farmers from there
have gone to Delhi. To the sit in. Their fields share a boundary. One of them
has a chicken farm. They had a quarrel and are not on speaking terms. One of
them has sued the other. This morning, the one who has filed the case says to
the other - “here, brother, drink tea”. He sits near him. After a while of
silence, he says - “Brother, first thing when I get back, I’m going to take
back my lawsuit against you.” Delhi has lost. Both have won the battle.’
The fault lines in Panjab are real, with deep roots. But
this awakening gives it hope. A hope that can be built upon to find a way out
of the ‘depression that gnaws at it and erodes it.’
At the beginning of his journeys, a friend advised Sandhu to
look beyond the windows and doors of Panjab and try to see which pillars still
stand. Another friend said, ‘If you want to understand Panjab, be ready to
count its corpses.’
Sandhu concludes, ‘Having walked through the fields filled
with corpses to which Danish had pointed, having looked at its windows and
doors, I had found that the only pillars that stood in the ruin of Panjab were
its resistance to power and hegemony. That was, that is and that will always be
In this festival of resistance, the bodies are piling up. The
list of the ‘martyrs’ of the movement continues to grow. And from their ashes
new pillars are rising.
It is too early to say which direction this movement will
take and where this movement will take Panjab and its people. But there is a
new hope. Panjab rises – ‘in its own eclectic way.’
2020 – LOCKDOWN BOOKS REVOLUTION SERIES#3 - PANJAB - Journeys Through Fault Lines