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The Tribune on Sunday August 5, 2012


The region has seen a lot of strife and bloodshed but there are numerous traditions of peace and cultural pluralism that are thriving. Why not focus on these when we build memorials? We should be conscious of our responsibility towards the future generations
N THE past few years there has been a splurge in the construction of several significant memorials and museums on certain select facets of the history of Punjab. The most ambitious among these are the Khalsa Heritage Memorial, Wada Ghalughara at Kup Rahiran in Sangrur district, Chhota Ghalughara in Chak Abdalwari in Gurdaspur district and Chhaparchiri in S.A.S. Nagar (Mohali). The most recent addition in this list is the proposed memorial on Operation Bluestar within the Golden Temple Complex (Amritsar), which I thus see in a sense of continuity. Significantly, all these memorials have a peculiar character and tend to engage with particular kinds of histories of martyrdom, wars, violence and genocide that the region has suffered since the 16th century. The framework of time and space with which these memorial engage with relates to specific episodes within the realm of political conflict of the Sikhs against the Mughal state and later the Colonial government on the one hand, and contemporary post-Independence state on the other. A broad construction of regions history through these memorials bring to fore the idea that Punjab has always been engaged in wars, conflicts, invasions and violence which is dominantly religious in nature. These memorials are also premised on the creation of a binary of Sikhs against the Muslims, the British and more recently the Hindus. In a limited perspective, these museums and memorials intend to narrate and retell significant sacrifices made by Sikhs fighting against injustices and oppression of various hegemonising tendencies. However, as a historian one seeks to contest the limited frames of these narratives since they leave out more significant histories of peace, which has inspired centuries of co-existence between various communities. In this context, I raise a fundamental question of intent and seek to explore the choices which sectarian politics impinges upon the public domain for narrow political gains? After all. what is it that we want to leave for future generations to remember? I am sure none of us would like to


Instead of creating memorials that remind us about violence, we should be building memorials of peace and reconciliation like this memorial (R) of writer Robert Burns (L) in Edinburgh

promote re-emergence of bloodshed and violence for the youth of Punjab. How should we then remember yet forgive and forget those facets of terrible histories which left indelible scars on popular memory and reconcile them with contemporary realities? How would creating war and violence memorial make better humans out of our generations? I propose, as many others have, that if we keep larger objective of building the future Punjab in mind, we should be building memorials of peace and reconciliation. This objective cannot be achieved through selective tales of shared memories of violence. In the context of the Partition, documentary filmmaker Ajay Bharadwaj underlines that while
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narrating the tales of violence, We often prefer to shut out the whole episode with a wall of silence, and instead target Muslim communalism, which is dominant in the narratives of popular Partition histories and continue to be taught in the schools and colleges of the region. Similarly, the violence experienced during the terrible days of terrorism in Punjab is vetted out against each other by the Sikh and the Hindu communalists. Is there then any final solution of these vexed issues? Can we ever emerge out these binaries? Fortunately, there are numerous parallel narratives of peace, which continue to inspire the lived lives of Punjabis in contemporary times and have been nurtured threw centuries

of shared coexistence. Why should these narratives be missing from the historical discourse of the region? Let us briefly discuss some of these narratives. I begin with the second half of the 16th century. The popular tale of Dulla Bhatti (a Rajput Muslim zamindar), which is continually narrated during the Lohri festival of Punjab, retells the story of how in a dominantly Muslim province of Punjab, a local zamindar saved the honour of two (Hindu) Brahmin girls, from the gaze of a Mughal officer, who, on hearing about their beauty, wanted to acquire them, by secretly arranging their marriage. The tale continues to be popular among the Sikh-dominated province

of Punjab. I emphasise the religious (though non-descriptive) identities here to highlight how kinship relations and local ties in medieval Punjab where intertwined with caste and ethnic identities and played a significant role on shared existence amid the centralising tendencies of Mughal state. Two narratives associated with the tenth Sikh guru retell the stories of Bal (baby) Gobind and the sacrifice of his two young sons. Pir Bhikam of Patiala had this dream revelation that a new sun had risen in the east at Patna. He and two of his murids embarked upon a journey to the town to seek the blessings of the baby and dispel the doubts of the latter. They also carried along two pots of sweets, one from the house of a Hindu and another from the house

of a Muslim. At Patna, the saint placed two pots of sweets in front of the child, desiring to know what would be his attitude to the two major religious traditions of India. As the child covered both the pots simultaneously with his tiny hands, Bhikham Shah felt happy concluding that the new seer would treat both Hindus and Muslims alike and show equal respect to both. In the second narrative, when two young sons of Guru Gobind were captured by Wazir Khan, the Nawab of Malerkotla, Sher Muhammad Khan wrote a letter to Aurangzed protesting against the Emperors order to execute innocent boys. Guru Gobind apparently thanked the nawab and proclaimed that the Sikhs of the region will henceforth offer their oblation to the buried patron saint Haider Shaikh of Malerkotla. Guru Gobinds sons could not be saved, neither did Aurangzeb survive. But, until today the memory of this episode continues to draw both Sikhs and Hindus to the shrine of Haider Shaikh and over the centuries this narrative has transformed into a cultural idiom of shared sacred space. One is reminded of Gandhis famous critique of dominance of violence in the narratives of history where he says that the fact that there are so many men still alive in the world shows that it is based not on the force of arms but on the force of truth or love which has guided the course of history. I thus again seek to raise this fundamental question about envisioning the kind of society we want for our future generations. Amid the spirals of violence which continue to determine regions history, it is the hope of peace and reconciliation which should determine the imagination for the future. Cant we have a memorial where we collectively mourn the killings of innocent people during the last century; a memorial which condemns violence meted out against Hindus, innocent Sikh youth, human rights activists and also millions of those who were killed in violence of Partition? We need to ponder over these questions rather than glorify one form of violence over the other. Resistance to an oppressive order is justified only when it is itself committed to peace. At least, this is what centuries of historical encounters tell us with the hope that lest we forget. We also need to recover the narrative of shared existence from a generation which will soon be lost unrecorded in the annals of written histories.

Getting compensation for defective goods

While filing a complaint about a defective product like cement, get an expert to certify its defects. Also, keep a sample of the product and ask the consumer court to send it for testing

Secret credit cards M
ORE than one million people of Britain have a secret credit card they use to hide extravagant purchases from their partner, a new study has revealed. Women generally use it to buy clothes and shoes, while men often use theirs to buy expensive gadgets and alcohol. The study by Debenhams Personal Finance discovered that over half of adults 54 per cent lie to their loved ones about the number and price of items they buy. Six in 10 hide the truth from their partners and a third lie to their parents. Around 14 per cent hide the truth, as they get embarrassed to be seen splashing out during a recession, while 18 per cent are ashamed of their extravagance. However, just one in 10 men and women believe their partner lie to them about their spending, the poll of 2,000 people found. Surprisingly, eight per cent also keep a secret stash of cash and three per cent have a secret credit card thats 1.18 million adults. Beautician Ann Evans, from Portsmouth, Hants, said that she often hides purchases from her boyfriend. My boyfriend and I are supposed to be keeping a close eye on our spending as we save for a mortgage, the Daily Mail quoted the 27-year-old as saying. I cant resist buying a new pair of shoes-or two, which can be embarrassingly expensive. Thankfully, my boyfriend does not know a great deal about fashion so I can tell him they cost much less. I did have a secret credit card I used to put some purchases on but I was rumbled when I went to pay with it by mistake when I was with him, she said. Mike Hazell, from Debenhams, said that the study proved that during tough economic conditions people become less extravagant and are choosing to play down the true cost of some of their purchases and in some cases even hiding it. They admit to feeling guilty or even embarrassed about splashing out on luxuries at a time when many are experiencing financial strain, Hazell said. As long as you act sensibly, if you are going to treat yourself, a credit card can be a good way to make sure you dont go past your overdraft limit and incur fees and it can also help build up your credit rating. But if you really cannot afford something, you should resist temptation and save up for it instead, Hazell added. ANI

HENEVER you come at all but the absence of testing or across a defective prod- even a certificate from an expert became uct and want to file a the point of contention in this case.. complaint against the The District Consumer Disputes seller and the manufacturer before the Redressal Forum, which first heard the consumer court, make sure that you case, obviously did not feel the need for have a certificate from an expert to back any such evidence because it awarded a your claim. Alternatively, keep a sample compensation of Rs 10,000, besides Rs that can be sent for testing by the con- 2,500 towards the cost of cement and sumer court, if necessary. Or else, you Rs 1,000 as cost of litigation. And it may well lose your case. A recent order held both the dealer and the manufacof the apex consumer court turer liable. The State drives home this point really Consumer Disputes Redressal hard. The complainant in this Commission, however, set case, a farmer, bought 29 aside the order of the lower bags of cement to construct a consumer court, leading to the water-storage tank in his consumer filing a revision field. This was in 2001. petition before the National However, when the tank was Consumer Disputes Redressal filled with water, the walls of Commission. Since he pleaded the tank just collapsed, lead- CONSUMERS that he could not pursue the ing eventually to the concase before the apex consumer sumer filing a complaint court on account of financial before the consumer court, constraints, the National seeking compensation of Rs PUSHPA GIRIMAJI Commission also appointed an 1,70,000 from the dealer as amicus curiae. While the dealwell as the manufacturer of cement. er argued that he had supplied the If you see Section 13 (1) ( c) of the cement in its original packaging and Consumer Protection Act, it mandates there was no possibility of any defect, that where the allegation of defect in a the manufacturer contended that the product cannot be determined without product was made to quality standards proper analysis or testing of the goods, and had the quality seal of the Bureau of the District Forum should obtain a sam- Indian Standards (ISI mark). ple of the goods from the complainant However, the central point made by and refer it to an appropriate laboratory both was that the complainant had not for testing. The cost of testing is to be proved his allegation, as required under borne by the consumer and can be recov- Section 13 (1) ( c )of the Consumer ered if he or she wins the case. In this Protection Act. He had filed as evidence, case, the farmer may not have had a sam- affidavits of three people the mason ple of the cement, but he could have kept and two workers who had constructed a sample of the collapsed wall for testing the tank and that did not constitute expert in a laboratory, but was probably evidence. The amicus curiae, on the other unaware of the rules. It is not clear hand, argued that a farmer in a village whether the District Forum suggested it cannot be expected to engage a technical-


Photo: Parvesh Chauhan

ly qualified engineer and workmen for the construction of a simple water storage tank and therefore the court cannot disregard the testimony of the workmen engaged for the purpose. The commission, however, disagreed and pointed out that the provisions of Section 13 (1) (c) had not been followed the sample had not been tested nor the testimonial of an expert provided. The affidavits of the three workmen did not carry much weight as they were not technically competent to state anything definitive about the quality of the cement used and besides, they were interested parties. It, therefore, dismissed the appeal of the consumer. (Shri Ali Mohammed Vs Swastik Cement Supplies and another, RP NO

4454 of 2010, decided on July 20, 2012). So whenever you file a complaint about a defective product, it is always better to get an expert to certify to its defects (except in cases where the service centre itself is admitting to the defects and you do not need any further proof). Where necessary, as in this case, keep a sample of the defective product and ask the consumer court to send it for testing. Remember, many consumers have lost their case only because they did not follow this procedure or provide the crucial evidence required to prove their allegation. Having said that, I must point out that this case also highlights the need for creating better consumer awareness vis-vis the consumer protection law.