Thursday, January 27, 2011

Bridge on the River Ravi

This is the third of the ‘Trilogy’ on Kartarpur ….The haven of peace and harmony that Baba Nanak created.

      The Bridge on River Ravi

   All his life Baba Nanak’s teachings were simple…one of the most significant message he gave was that ’there is no Hindu, there is no Muslim’……all were equal in the eyes of God……Yet, the heart breaking truth of the real world is that the ‘Janam bhoomi’ and the ‘Karam bhoomi’ of Baba Nanak stands divided and estranged by man made borders carved out rather brutally.
This left Kartarpur, just 2 kilometers on Pakistan side and Dera Baba Nanak this side of the border. One, on the right side of the river Ravi and the other on the left .
   The erstwhile greater Punjab's population distribution was such that there was no line that could neatly divide Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs….it was just one mixed cauldron of humanity which had lived together for centuries.
On June 1947 the Crown appointed Sir Cyril Radcliffe to chair two Boundary Commissions -- one for Bengal and one for Punjab with mandate to draw a line and divide the land….repercussions be damned.

Radcliffe a lawyer by profession and the other commissioners lacked depth on demographic factors and as well as any specialised knowledge on topographic features. For that matter no one even stopped to understand the mind of the people, nor did they have any advisors to inform them of the deep-rooted sentiments and ground sense  needed to draw a boundary that could have minimized the trauma and  gaffes .Tragically , there were instances where the border was drawn leaving some parts of a village in India and some in Pakistan. ….I have been told in some cases the line ran through dividing a home with the kitchen in one country and the courtyard in the other.
Radcliffe had little time and thus did not stop to skirt his line around the villages ….. His border sadly cut through communities and families leaving deep and indelible scars. The Radcliffe report was ready on 12th of August but only on 16th August at 5:00pm, the Indian and Pakistani representatives were given two hours to study the copies, before the Radcliffe award was published on the 17 August.
It is said that to avoid disputes and delays, the division was done in secret, though
There is some circumstantial evidence that Nehru and Patel were secretly informed of the Punjab Award's contents on August 9th or maybe 10th. The truth of how these decisions were made may never be known since Radcliffe destroyed
The terms of reference given were that the demarcation should be on the basis of contiguous Muslim or non-Muslim majority areas. With a provision for other factors which could be interpreted in any manner….This single innocuous phrase ‘provision for other factors’ Gave immense open ended power to Radcliffe.

One such ‘other factor’ was Gurdaspur ….. And turn of events was nothing short of miraculous… least for the Sikhs.

Gurdaspur district sat astride a major river of the undivided Punjab, the river Ravi,
It was a Muslim-majority District. The contiguous communal argument should have taken it all to Pakistan and with it the Sikhs would have lost the ‘Nanak Bhoomi in totality. But intercession of one kind or the other occurred and Shakargarh, that is, only one of its four tehsils went to Pakistan, leaving the three tehsils namely Batala, Gurdaspur and Pathankot of Gurdaspur District on the eastern bank of the river Ravi with post-independent India.

This award, maybe, calmed the Sikh sentiments at least somewhat, as they presented by far the greatest immediate problem of the Partition in the Punjab.

The State of Jammu and Kashmir, according to another theory was another story and another compulsion. India would have found it impossible to have a road communication with the J&K state without these three Tehsils of Gurdaspur. It can be seen from the map that a direct railhead for the State of  J&K is through the very same three east of river Ravi Tehsils of Gurdaspur District.

The 'Radcliffe Line' became the border between India and Pakistan on 17th August 1947 after the partition of India.

In her book, ‘Borders and Conflict in South Asia. The Radcliffe Boundary Commission and the Partition of Punjab’, Lucy Chester offers an interesting insight into how Radcliffe felt when leaving India, ‘I station myself firmly on the Delhi airport until an aeroplane from England comes along. Nobody in India will love me for my award about the Punjab and Bengal and there will be roughly 80 million with a grievance who will begin looking for me. I do not want them to find me. I have worked and travelled and sweated – oh I have sweated the whole time’ This is a rare insight because the enigmatic Radcliffe ensured that his reputation survived by his obsession of destroying papers, leaving much to conjecture. There are traces here of the equally loyal General Reginald Dyer who also ensured that none of his personal papers would get into the public realm and therefore leaving the historian to speculate over his role and personal views over the Jallianwala Bagh massacre.

Guru Shri Kartarpur Sahib in Pakistan as seen from Indo_pak border in Dera baba Nanak, Punjab(India

Kartarpur sahib, the Gurudwara stands as an almost lonesome viewer on the right bank of river Ravi. The three-storeyed building of the Gurdwārā constructed in the late 1920s by the Maharaja of Patiala is visible from the border, though not accessible to the devotee.

Though there is a station named ‘Darbar Sahib Kartarpur’ on the Lahore- Chak Amru line and is about 60Km from Lahore.On the other hand Dera Baba Nanak is connected as well by a rail link and is about 50 km from Amritsar.

Between the two is the river and once there was a bridge on the river Ravi....A road cum Rail Bridge connecting Dera Baba Nanak with Kartarpur Sahib. With the Radcliffe line bridge became the territory of Pakistan. In 1971 Indo-Pak war when the Pakistan army was advancing towards India, the Indian army bombarded the Kartarpur Bridge.

It was known as “Drumman Wala” Bridge as well because in the beginning, the drums were installed on the bridge for demarcation of border between Pakistan and India and it was the only direct link between the two banks.

And the only link that could have bridged Kartarpur and Dera Baba Nanak.

Thus with the bridge in despair so are the pilgrims. They can see the pearly white domes of Kartarpur sahib glisten in sun just about two plus kilometers’ away, but will have to take a detour of over 200 kilometers to visit the shrine.
Is it fair?

Manvir_Singh_'s photostream

Links to Pakistan

India: Last station / Last major station
Pakistan: Last station / Last major station
Renovated in 2005, opened for commercial service Feb. 17, 2006.
Once a through MG line, Indian side is now BG, with Pakistani side partly BG and partly dual-gauge BG/MG.
Only active cross border link with weekly Samjhauta Express and occasional goods
Hindumalkote / Abohar
Qassamwala / Mandi Sadiqganj
On the 74km section from Amruka to Bahawalnagar, only one station, Mandi Sadiqganj (McLeod Ganj), is currently [5/05] operational. The spur from Mandi Sadiq Ganj is closed.
Fort Abbas - Yazman - Samasatta was partially dismantled during World War II.
Chananwala / Fazilka
Condition of alignment unknown. Spur to Chananwala from Fazilka is unused

Hussainiwala / Firozepur
Ganda Sindhwan / Kasur
Spur from Kasur Jn in Pak is closed
Bridge over River Sutlej reportedly destroyed in war, but it seems entirely feasible to rebuild it.
Khem Karan
Kasur Tabail / Kasur
Spur from Kasur Jn in Pak is closed

Dera Baba Nanak / Amritsar
Jassar / Narowal
Condition of Bridge over River Ravi is unknown

Suchetgarh / Jammu
Jammu & Kashmir
? / Sialkot
Jammu Tawi - Suchetgarh line in India has been dismantled completely, but the old alignment may be useable for the future.

Historic battle of Dera Baba Nanak

The Dera Baba Nanak bridge after its destruction in the 1971 war.

By capturing the Dera Baba Nanak bridge on December 6, 10 Dogra earned the honour of hoisting the first Indian Tricolour on Pakistani soil in the Western sector in the 1971 war.
10 Dogra Hoisting the Tricolour

Dera Baba Nanak town, which lies on the Indo-Pak border in Gurdaspur district, is connected to several important towns in Punjab by road. Across the border in the Dera Baba Nanak enclave was located the important rail-cum-road double-decker bridge connecting a number of Indian towns with Sialkot and Narowal in Pakistan.
For Pakistan, it was of paramount importance to hold this bridge at all costs. For this reason, Pakistan had turned the eastern end of this strategic bridge into an impregnable fortress with concrete bunkers and pilboxes covering all conceivable approaches that were heavily mined. For India, it was equally important to defend Dera Baba Nanak town, which was under constant threat from Pakistan.
In a determined attack, 10 Dogra captured the eastern end of the Dera Baba Nanak bridge. In this battle, the unit lost seven including Capt Devinder Singh Ahlawat. Among the 25 soldiers wounded was the Commanding Officer (CO) of the battalion, Lieut-Col N.S. Sandhu (now a retired Brigadier). The enemy had 30 soldiers killed and a large number of them were wounded. Besides, 14 Pakistani soldiers became prisoners of war (POWs).
Among the 17 awards won by the unit in this battle were two Maha Vir Chakras, which were won by Lieut-Col N.S. Sandhu and Capt Devinder Singh Ahlawat (posthumously). Capt J. Kumar, a gunner, won a Vir Chakra. The unit was awarded the Battle Honour of “Dera Baba Nanak” for its splendid victory in this battle.

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