'He Is Of This Soil' The Indian PM was born here. Gah has now even breached borders.

Discussion in 'Pakistan' started by ajtr, Jun 24, 2012.

  1. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

    Oct 2, 2009
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    'He Is Of This Soil'The Indian PM was born here. Gah has now even breached borders.


    Gah's Fortune

    Declared a model village. Rs 11 crore invested in development.
    TERI allowed to start a solar energy system, now sends technicians regularly
    TERI has provided 16 solar street lights
    Provided basic lighting systems in 51 homes
    A solar hot water system in the village mosque
    Will now build four community chulhas

    There's an unusual classroom in a village in Chakwal district in the heart of Pakistan's Punjab. On the walls hang pictures of three icons of the Pakistani state—the poet Allama Mohammad Iqbal, who composed Sare jahan se achcha Hindustan hamara and then migrated to Pakistan; Mohammad Ali Jinnah, who advocated the creation of Pakistan (the Land of the Pure); and Abdul Qadir Khan, the father of Pakistan's nuclear bomb. Three men who symbolise what Pakistan believes it should be. What it could be.

    But there's another icon in this room—in the moth-eaten register of students enrolled in the primary school housed here about a decade before 1947. Student No. 187: Manmohan Singh, India's prime minister.

    This is the village where Manmohan Singh was born, and where he lived till he was 10 years old. The village is called Gah; the school has been renamed Manmohan Singh Primary School. Today, this cluster of mud houses and brick structures stands testament to forces that can divide and small gestures that unite two neighbouring countries.

    When Manmohan Singh, surprisingly, became prime minister of India, Gah celebrated. His good fortune was to also change the village's fate. The Punjab government there declared Gah a model village, and has invested Rs 11 crore for development.

    But there's another project here inestimably more invaluable. The Pakistan government allowed an Indian agency to undertake a solar energy project here. This wasn't a CBM (confidence-building measure) that went through the usual diplomatic channels. Initiated by the Delhi-based TERI (Tata Energy Research Institute), it was cleared by Pakistan's foreign minister Khurshid Mehmud Kasuri during a visit to India and given the nod by Manmohan Singh himself. Outlook was given exclusive rights to the story.

    Since then, TERI has installed 16 solar street lights, provided basic lighting facilities in 51 homes and placed a solar hot water system in the village mosque, where water is required for wazu. Villagers have been trained to maintain these systems with the understanding that TERI technicians would travel to Gah when necessary. TERI's Hafeez-ur-Rahman travels from India and when the villagers meet him, they demand more street lamps. He promises to do his best. The Indians now have permission to build four community chulhas in the village.

    The electrification project has done more than just improve a power system. It has reopened channels between a PM and the village of his birth. Gah sent him gifts and revived memories. For instance, TERI director-general R.K. Pachauri carried from here revadi (a delicacy in this belt) and slippers for the PM. Dr Singh was delighted and began a correspondence in Urdu with old residents. He asked about Pakhtbano, then the only girl in his school. On hearing she had passed away, he sent a condolence letter to her son. He wrote letters to two other old residents. All this sparked expectations that Manmohan would visit the village on a trip to Pakistan. Says Dr Pachauri, "People have so much stake in the process. Hawkish positions must be overcome. There's so much we can do for each other."

    But Manmohan's trip to Pakistan hasn't materialised. The village is disappointed that the peace process has been somewhat derailed. More than anybody else, Mohammad Ali, a farmer and grain trader and a playmate of the child Manmohan. He had located six other schoolmates, and was dreaming of a grand home-coming for the Indian. Says the old man between puffs of Capstan cigarettes: "I would not have been so happy if he had become prime minister of Pakistan. I am happy that a Sikh is prime minister of India, such a large country."

    The old residents dolefully talk about the Sikhs and Hindus who migrated to India. (Manmohan's family left some years before the 1947 bloodbath). Raja Ashiq Hussain is the village nazim (sarpanch). He says the Sikhs and Hindus constituted half of Gah's population. They were more prosperous than the Muslims who lived in mud houses. Everybody celebrated Diwali together; a common well existed for all communities. Then the hatemongers poured into the village, mobs of outsiders who issued threats and deadlines to Sikhs and Hindus to leave. Frightened families began a journey across the border, that invisible line which suddenly divided a people into two countries. Those who left early survived; others who began their journey during the madness of the Partition riots were slaughtered.


    Still, not all relics testifying to the togetherness have been erased. There's a pucca house in the village centre, it's now a community centre. It has arches and carved wooden doors. On top of the entrance, there are words carved in Gurmukhi: 'Sat Sri Akal'. The house once belonged to a relative of Manmohan's. The villagers have proudly preserved this symbol of the departed.

    Sadly, the Indian prime minister's childhood home has been torn down. Mohammad Ali takes us to a courtyard where it once stood. The view of the Punjab fields and hillocks is spectacular. There is an old wooden cart, now in disuse, at the centre of the yard, a forlorn moment. But memories of Manmohan Singh have endured—the Indian was a quiet child, good at studies; he played marbles. "Mitti idhar ki thi," says Haji Mehmood Ahmad, who has made several trips to India.

    There have been strange visitors to Gah since Manmohan became PM. One Joginder Singh suddenly arrived on a day in 2004. He said he was from Ludhiana and distantly related to Manmohan. He wept and said he had dreamt of this for 50 years. He told the villagers not to point out his old home. He found the way himself. He stayed for some weeks before returning to India. Here every year, Joginder last came in April and now plans to bring his family.

    Four Gah residents, including Mohammad Ali, also applied for visas to India four months ago. They want to visit another old resident now settled in Amritsar and also call on Manmohan Singh. Mohammad Ali has kept a gift for the PM's wife. It is a resham (silk) sari woven on old looms that have been in his family's possession for over a 100 years. Those looms, he says, stopped functioning many decades ago. He says such fine resham cannot be woven today.
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  3. ejazr

    ejazr Stars and Ambassadors Stars and Ambassadors

    Oct 8, 2009
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    Hyderabad and Sydney
    Re: 'He Is Of This Soil' The Indian PM was born here. Gah has now even breached borde

    The poet Allama Mohammad Iqbal, who composed Sare jahan se achcha Hindustan hamara and then migrated to Pakistan

    Seriously Saba Naqvi can't even do some basic research on Allama Iqbal. He used to live in Lahore and died in 1937 under British India. There was no Pakistan created and he never migrated to it. Even during his last couple of years he kept repeating his opposition to the Pakistan plan that was being proposed by Chaudary Rahmat Ali and there are letters on his behalf saying this. But it is unfortunately that being an editor in Outlook she doesn't know such basic facts.

    Back to topic
    Yes its another nice feel good story and its true that its mostly the rural poor who are favorable towards India. But they don't make the state policy. Until the Pakistani state policy makers have a change of heart and realize that there is no point in having a hostile attitude towards India there will be no major room for improvement in ties.
  4. mayfair

    mayfair Elite Member Elite Member

    Feb 26, 2010
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    Re: 'He Is Of This Soil' The Indian PM was born here. Gah has now even breached borde

    If only the esteemed PM has displayed even a fraction of this alacrity in sanctioning Solar panels (and also tube wells, canals, roads and access to education and health services) in remote hamlets in the Naxal affected areas and in the under-developed regions of the North East, perhaps we would have had more goodwill for him and the nation amongst our own people.

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