Once the hectic day is over, we probably have enough time to engage in cultural activities or watching them fold in front of our eyes. The Punjab Folk Arts Centre (Gurdaspur unit) organised a four-day long cultural event in which youngsters of 10 states took part. The event concluded on December 25. The Centre’s director Harmanpreet Singh was the spirit behind the show. Girls from Orissa mesmerised the audience with their state’s oldest folk dance-‘Sambalpuri.’ Telengana youth performed ‘Madhuri’ and Haryana impressed the cultural connoisseurs with their performance of Ghumar dance, Ras Leela and Phag (or Phalgun) dance. Punjab girls were there with Giddha. Gujarat’s ‘Siddi Dhamal’ folk dance drew the maximum applause. One of its exponents, Altaf, told the gathering that cultural heritage of Siddis, a major tribal community of the state, dates back to almost 300 years. The dance reflects the community’s passion for hunting. “Siddis, known for their physical strength and loyalty, are so proud of their cultural heritage that children are taught nuances of the dance at a very young age,” he said. The event is an annual affair and this year, despite the Covid restrictions, it was held with vigour. Earlier, participants used to be lodged at the Circuit House, but this year, keeping in view its dilapidated condition, girls and boys stayed in various parts of the city. Iraf Ayoob Khan, a Kashmiri dancer, said, “For four days, we forgot what Covid was all about. We got so engrossed in the festivities. To me, and many others of my ilk, culture is the bedrock, the final wall, against which one leans one’s back on in a godforsaken chaos like Covid,” she said. Once the curtain came down on the festivities, a horde of politicians made their way up on the stage ostensibly for a photo-op. Cabinet Minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa, who was the chief guest, delivered a passionate speech on culture and how one’s heritage should be taken care of. “People who have no knowledge of their history, culture and origin can be compared to trees without roots,” he said.
Encroachments? Running out of burial space
Only place where one can find equality is at the cemetery. On Christmas, when the entire community was celebrating birth of Jesus Christ, its leaders were convinced that a time will soon come when the community will have no place to bury its dead because a majority of the existing burial grounds have been encroached upon. And to complicate the matters, the concept of having common cremation grounds has yet to catch up. At many places, farmers are actually cultivating land of burial grounds. The problem is all the more acute in Gurdaspur district, which houses more than four lakh Christians. Senior leader Kanwal Bakshi said even the pathways leading to a majority of these places had been encroached upon. In 2017, just ahead of the Assembly polls, the then Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal had announced a grant of Rs 100 crore for “maintenance of graveyards.” He had claimed that “The Christians will not have a problem in burying their loved ones. It is only the Congress, which is needlessly raking up the issue for political gains.” Minutes after the CM’s proclamation, Dera Baba Nanak MLA Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa had produced a photograph of a Christian man carrying a body to Ransike Mira burial ground in the legislator’s Assembly segment after making his way through a tract of agricultural land. “One solution is to have common cremation grounds. The time has come for villagers to break the shackles of primitive thought. So much so, the Rural Development and Panchayat Department has already issued orders to the Deputy Commissioners asking them to ensure there are no additional cremation grounds and only a common ground should exist in villages. Actually, separate entities create a communal divide and result in wastage of useful common land which otherwise can be put to productive societal use,” said Randhawa. Other leaders, too, have vouched that common grounds actually should be the order of the day rather than being an exception. It is high time since villages and villagers changed the rules of the game. He who rejects change is the architect of decay. Rural Punjab has proved that it does not want any change in its rigid social structure, but the time has come to effect radical ones and that includes changing the rules for cremating near and dear ones. Are panches and sarpanches listening?
Police personnel on the tenterhooks
A triple suicide followed by a murder the very next day in Dhariwal township, once famous for housing the 150- year-old Egerton Woolen Mills, had the police personnel on tenterhooks. Senior Superintendent of Police Rajinder Singh Sohal, who was leading a team of officials trying to find what the Pakistani drone had dropped in the fields of the border police station of Dorangla, assigned the responsibility to a senior officer and camped in Dhariwal, the site of the crimes, for two days. While the suicide of three of a family was a shut and open case, the tracking down of the accused in the murder turned out to be a tough task. Out of the eleven people named in the suicide note, cops managed to arrest six. The hideouts of the accused in the murder case too have been identified. Officers say it’s just a matter of time when the accused will be arrested. Without an iota of doubt a lot is happening in this border district.