Life In Lock Down

Coping with Corona

Chaman Lal

(A personal account of a 73-year-old man with social observations)

The beginning of March 2020 brought the widespread news of Covid-19 in Indian and world media. While news of the spread of Covid-19 was coming from other countries, in India there was not much talk of it. In fact, people were travelling and living a routine life, though with some apprehensions. Some restrictions were imposed on educational institutions from mid-March, but there was no panic or Goverment awareness campaign. Suddenly first came the Prime Minister call for voluntary public curfew on 21st March night, which was not voluntary, concluding with sounds of thali banging's etc, followed by, out of the blue announcement of 21 days national lockdown with analogy of 18 days Mahabharata war to win a war against Covid-19, which was announced at 8 pm broadcast/telecast by Prime Minister, giving just four hours to be prepared for this earthshaking change in lives of 130 crore people of India. This continued to be extended with the sound of clapping, burning candles etc for the 'Corona Warriors'-Doctors and staff, who incidentally were not even being paid salary or decent remuneration like Asha workers.

It just happened that this writer's last outstation visit before lockdown was to Kolkata, where history department of the Calcutta University had held a one day seminar on Jallianwala Bagh commemoration on 13th March, where a paper was presented, they added the talk on Bhagat Singh too, a day earlier. I visited Kolkata Shaheen Baghs in Park circus and Raja Bazar during this visit.

After returning to Delhi, I was trying to have a programme on 23rd March on Bhagat Singh martyrdom day from Bhagat Singh Archives and Resource Centre set up in Delhi Archives on 23rd March 2018. We had the first anniversary of the archives on 23rd March 2019 and since we had planned to observe two days in a year---23rd March and 28th September-birth anniversary of Bhagat Singh by holding some lecture or seminar/talk. Due to general panic, Delhi Goverment officials had cancelled all programmes in these days. So, I returned to my Punjab residence, just a few days before the whole nation was locked up in the most cruel manner by the Prime Minister. Many groups in Punjab, as well as in other parts of India, had planned functions/talks/seminars to mark 23rd March, which is now observed all over India and even abroad to mark the martyrdom day of Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev. In fact, this year I was supposed to deliver Bhagat Singh memorial lectures in some towns of Canada at the invitation of Indo-Canadian workers association during the course of a month. That lecture series was also cancelled around 15th March.

So, the very first challenge during the pandemic was to commemorate Bhagat Singh martyrdom anniversary in befitting manner and it started with Facebook live online talks. Anhad group from Delhi, organised whole day live talks on their Facebook page from 12 onwards till 8 pm on 23rd March itself. Those who delivered talks were S Irfan Habib, Gauhar Raza, Mridula Mukherjee and myself among others. This was my first experience of shifting from real world to virtual world. As this series proved very good, many groups on Facebook invite me to deliver talks on Bhagat Singh and it continued till April end or so, linking it with Lenin anniversary on 22nd April as well. The impact of Lenin on Bhagat Singh became the topic of many such talks. This included commemorative talk on 13th April Jallianwala Bagh massacre too. Online talks became an alternative medium of public communication and it expanded into using different technical tools like stream yard, zoom, Google Meet, webinars, webex etc, all linking further to Facebook and YouTube. From 23rd March onwards till 2nd October, I delivered/participated in 34 such online talks/discussions, which included subjects from literature to history of revolutionary movements. Apart from that, performed official duties as Dean of faculty of Languages at Panjab University, Chandigarh by holding online meetings of Research councils or participating in official meetings from home.

This trend brings to attention the alternate mode of communication during pandemic. While it is a good way of remaining connected at socio-political level, it raises the question also, whether online communication can be as effective as ground level physical communication? Irony is that, in some online exchanges; one gets larger audiences on occasions and its audience remains increasing as the record of talks remains preserved on youtube or Facebook and viewers/listeners watch or listen at one's own preferred time.

Another question also comes to mind. The pandemic in 1918 has made people really disconnected and they might have to face much sufferings and deprivations due to the much less technical and scientific advancement in those days. A recent study has told that during 1918 pandemic the number of deaths, even in India was too high, perhaps 17 million, yet it did not remain registered in the minds of people, while one thousand plus people dying in Jallianwala Bagh massacre in 1919 remains etched in people's memory! More than 1918 pandemic, the hunger or famine deaths in Bengal of three million people or so, remains more in Indian memory than 1918 pandemic. Reason seems to be political oppression linked to these tragedies, as during the Bengal famine of 1943, British colonial Prime Minister Churchill had made mockery of dyeing Indian people.

In 2020, technical advancement has reached at its peak and the social media with gadgets like smartphone, laptops, tablets have made people so much engaged in their own selves, that it was a big socio-psychological problem even before pandemic. The documentaries like The Social Dilemma have focused on its socio-politico-economic-cultural aspects. Financially stable middle class has not suffered much during the pandemic, living in a virtual world to which they were used to earlier, became a source of alternative entertainment, earlier they used to yearn for travelling, going to Malls/cinemas/hotels etc. In pandemic times, Netflix, Amazon Prime like alternative outlets for cinemas/serials etc provided them enough engagement and entertainment. Speaking on video chats with anyone and everywhere in the world through inexpensive WhatsApp calls kept their life as full as they could wish to.

The real sufferers of Covid-19 were and are the working class, peasantry, financially unstable or unemployed or job lost middle class, who could not afford these luxuries and they had to worry for the basic necessities of the life like food, medical help and shelter and their number is huge, more than perhaps 70% population of India, nearly a billion people!

The class character of the Indian state was never revealed so starkly as during this pandemic and yet it did not lead to class consciousness among the poor workers. They surrendered their dignity to the worst exploitative and oppressive state without any protest. All countries had given three to four days before enforcing lockdown in order to help people who are in migrating condition, are able to move to their places of job or residence, but not the cruel Modi Govt., which boasts of people caring, but in reality, is only Corporate caring. When crores of people lost their jobs, then Corporate Ambani house profits soured and he became the fourth richest person of the world. When the country was crying for the need of hospitals and free medical care for the pandemic affected lakhs of Indian people, Modi govt was buying aero planes for his personal comforts to travel abroad, spending more than eight thousand crores of public money. Rather than spending money on hospitals and hiring more and more doctors for service, Modi Govt is busy spending 20 thousand crore on Central Vista, creating a palace like Parliamentary complex. When people need trains to go back to their villages, Modi Goverment. is spending hundreds of crores on a single bullet train between just Ahmedabad and Mumbai.

In fact, even British colonial government was not as reckless as the Modi Goverment is, in spending public money on itself. The creation of the PM Cares fund without any public audit is another fraud committed on Indian people. In the name of voluntary contributions, all the Govt. sector employees, including Universities employees were forced to contribute to this fraudulent fund collected in the name of Prime Minister Cares fund. Many unions opposed such forced collections from their salaries, including Delhi University Teachers Association (DUTA), but of no avail. How cruelly Modi Govermen has treated and still treating these poor jobless middle class, workers and peasants/land labourer's, may find very few examples among many countries of the world, who are facing this huge humanitarian crisis of pandemic Covid-19. The kind of treatment British colonial Prime Minister Churchill did with the famished and dying people of Bengal in the 1943 famine, is reminded by Modi Goverment in 2020. Food grain stores of the Government were full, yet hungry people of Bengal were not given food in 1943 and estimated three million people died due to hunger. Modi Goverment. too claimed food grain availability in excess, which was and is true, yet, hungry people due to job loss and other reasons were not provided food with dignity, what was given to them or still being given is given as given to beggars. No country in the world has treated its populace during the pandemic as cruelly and insensitively with such indignity, as Modi Govermentt. has. The very fact that only four hours were given to people before the national lockdown has caused such misery and suffering to the migrant workers, who lost their job and shelter in no time and they were left with no option to return to their villages mostly in Bihar. All trains and public transport were stopped, so they had to walk, cycle and hire vehicles at much inflated rates by pooling their meagre resources. They were cheated by the private vehicle providers of their much harder earned money and left without any source to have some food. Such inhuman and heart ranching tragedies occurred in those first three or four weeks of lockdown, which were captured by world electronic media on their video cameras and are now in public records. In stark contrast, special Vande Bharat planes were flown for rich and upper middle-class people stuck up in different countries without charging any ticket amount from them, whereas the poor people were made to pay for ticket amounts even after Supreme Court had ordered for their free transportation to their home places

The condition of all these categories of the people was already precarious and the jolt of Covid-19 made their life miserable. RSS Modi Goverment in the last six years by its pro-corporate policies has already made their lives quite difficult. Vacancies in the public sector and government were not being filled up and educated unemployed youth were crying for jobs, but the Covid-19 outbreak took away jobs from already employed sections also. The worst sufferers were unorganised migrant labour from Bihar and few more states, who were working in Mumbai, Delhi, Ahmedabad like metropolitan cities and in Punjab like places as farm labour. Lakhs of them were left to fend for themselves without any support from either their employers or the government and hundreds of them lost their lives on roads, walking, cycling, or transporting themselves in most pitiable conditions in trains and buses. No unemployment allowance or food security were provided to them, numbering almost sixty percent of Indian population. Worse was their health conditions. A study has shown recently that 50% of Indian population is without any medical support from government and the budget of for health services is at lowest fourth among all countries of the world. The Goverment. has been privatising the health and education sector from its inception in 2014 to fatten its patron corporates like Ambani's and Adanis. No wonder that during this humanity killing pandemic, the corporate Ambani has risen to fourth most rich man in the world. To put salt on the wounds of suffering people, the banks are waiving lashes of crones rupees loans to these corporate houses, but not allowing the middle classes to even waive the interest on their EMI's, neither allowing the EMI's delayed payments. When people were dying in hundreds due to Covid-19 infection, private hospitals were behaving like blood sucker sharks, poor people had to die without any medical support worth the name, even the middle class, including doctors themselves suffered at the hands of private hospitals and the Modi just looked the other way. Doctors, despite being called fashionable title of 'corona warriors' are not being paid properly, when they are suffering casualties during corona. More than five hundred doctors have lost lives till now and majority of their families have not been paid by the government own declared compensation.

So, in the education sector, the poorer sections are affected at a worse level. A section of middle classes can afford smartphones or tablets/laptops, so their education goes by online mode, but the rural poor and even urban slum dweller poor children lose any scope of receiving education. Government schools in various states were already reduced to enroll only Dalit or minority children, as even lower middle classes were opting for so called public schools. Now middle classes have to revert to the government schools with their income loss, they can't afford the luxury of public schools. But teachers of the government schools are neither paid full salaries, nor any recruitment is being made of teachers. So, teachers here are receiving a pittance in the name of salary. Schools/colleges/Universities are still not functioning properly and it is the poorer sections, who are the worst sufferers in the education sector too, which will make them totally vulnerable in coming times in matters of securing jobs.

Even prior to Covid-19, the Modi government was bent upon completing its patron RSS agenda of communalising and dividing Indian society with the help and support from a pliable judiciary. First it got its Ram temple agenda in Ayodhya fulfilled with support from higher judiciary, whose many judges shamelessly got rewarded with power and privileged positions post retirement. While totally arbitrarily removing article 370 from Indian constitution and degrading the state of Jammu and Kashmir into two Union territories from 5th August 2019 with hundreds of arrests including of former chief ministers, union ministers and legislatures without any resistance due to presence of massive armed forces, gets no time for hearing in highest court of the land, the churlish journalists/godi media and actors get the ear of sleeping judges in midnight as well. Petitions against Constitutional Amendment Act (CAA) affecting the lives of millions of minorities and destroying the secular fibre of the constitution gets no attention from the judicial bosses at the top, but Delhi police mythical conspiracy theories against anti-CAA most peaceful Gandhian movement not only gets berated and sermonised by the high-minded judges, it loses even the right to protest at places. In the name of another mythical Bhima-Koregaon conspiracies generated by NIA, which is rightly called by Tushar Gandhi----the great grandson of Mahatma Gandhi as National Intimidating Agency, arrest 80 -year plus sick poet, 83-year-old sick pastor, 70 -year old grandson in law of hypocritically proclaimed 'father of Indian constitution' Dr. Ambedkar-Anand Teltumbade, 60-65- year- old respected women like Prof. Shona, Sudha Bhardwaj and many more respected activists are kept imprisoned to show the RSS built state's fascist fangs.

Prime Minister's hypocritical and rhetorical concept of 'Atam Nirbhar' or 'self-reliance' is used to serve the corporates by offering them all public money and crushing poor people's desires for dignified life. Another concept of 'Opportunity' is only to create a fascist state from an already oppressive state and turn it into the RSS dream state—'The Hindu Rashtra', by creating hatred against Muslim minorities, through godi media, trolls followed by Prime Minister and police repression of creating false cases such as against Dr. Kafeel Ahmad, who exposed the saffron robed chief minister's neglect of dyeing children in his home constituency Gorakhpur. The Govt. Doctor, who has been serving the children even from his own resources, rather than being awarded Padma title, is incarcerated for months in pitiable conditions. Such is the proposed Hindu Rashtra of saffron robed power holders, who are not even questioned for flaunting their religious robes in a supposedly secular country, while taking the oath of office with a pledge to protect the constitution! Governors and chief ministers are making mockery of the very constitutionally protected concept of Secularism. The minimal federal structure of the constitution is also being subjected to the most serious violation, Parliament itself is made a place of crushing all procedures and practices and rules under RSS controlled Modi Goverment, which has no respect even for the Constitution. The way farmers related and labour related anti-people laws have been passed, that has surpassed even British colonial anti-people laws such Trade Dispute bill and Public safety bill, against whose, Bhagat Singh and BK Dutt had thrown bombs in this same complex in 1929—'to make the deaf hear'! But RSS has created a system of internal colonialism of Corporates to crush people's democratic rights. The states ruled by opposition are being subjected to all sorts of harassment, denying them the share of GST, interfering in the matters of states shamelessly. In the name of Covid-19, the information ministry has completely controlled even the state languages news bulletins. Urdu service of All India Radio has been closed, purely communal act, not noticed by people.

The silver lining in this oppressive design of Modi Goverment is resistance by Punjab and Haryana peasantry against the anti-farmer laws. Punjab peasantry is well organised in many organisations, more than half of which are led by left leaning parties. Once the ordinance on new farm laws was promulgated, peasant organisations came on one platform and started resistance through rail roko, dharnas and other peaceful methods. In fact, in absence of mass resistance against CAA, which was crushed in the name of Covid-19, the massive resistance from Punjab peasants has given a new hope to anti-fascist forces of the country. The resistance of Punjab peasantry is also a reflection on real class struggle. As the Corporates of the country try to control more and more of resources of land and other natural forms, the resistance of Punjab's well-organised peasantry will give strength to Adivasis struggle for land, being snatched by Corporates with active help from the Goverment, also to minorities, Dalits and other oppressed sections. Apart from demands of peasantry, the Punjab peasantry has also demanded release of writers, activists arrested in relation to Bhima Koregaon and Delhi anti-CAA movement.

Despite the religion being used to stupefy people and the huge gatherings in religious places all over the world, Covid-19 forced all the religion oriented and based governments of the world to close all the religious places, temples, churches, mosques, gurdwaras etc for the public. It exposed the hypocritical omniscience of the religion or god with whatever name. But people of the world, rather than getting disillusioned with the groundless faith, remained glued to it, rather than turning to science and scientific temper. Knowing well that only medical science and its trials of vaccines can and will save the lives of people, as and when it comes out, still people did not get disillusioned from the religion, which has kept their mind stupefied since ages to continue the class rule. Governments all over the world, especially like that of Trump and Modi continued to befool the people of their countries by using religious verbosity in their public speeches. This is the tragedy bigger than Covid-19 of people who want to remain enslaved through the weapon of religion. In the religious festival season of India now, all states are throwing caution and medical scientists' advice to the wind and making people gather in large numbers, as in Bengal, which may cause further casualties from Covid-19.

Out of all the countries facing the menace of Covid-19, different countries as per their socio-political systems have faced the pandemic troubles in different ways. The countries, which have people friendly and oriented systems like socialist or semi socialist systems—Cuba, Vietnam, China, North Korea have contained the pandemic in much better manner and with much less loss of life. Even Singapore—the city state is ahead of India in combating Covid-19. They have given preference to human lives rather than the business interests of corporates. They have a better health care system and created emergency Health Care centeres in days and hours to save the lives of the people. Some social welfare capitalist states like New Zealand, Scandina-vian countries—Norway, Finland, Denmark etc. also remained concentrated on health care of their citizens and saved many lives, rather than focusing more on the profits of corporations. It is only countries like the US, Brazil, India, UK etc. which have been totally insensitive towards saving human lives and had let the people die like insects due to neglect and lack of health care. US counts for highest deaths by Covid-19, likely to cross two and half lakh mark by the time elections are held there. Brazil has surpassed one and half lakh already and India more than a lakh and ten thousand and counting. Covid-19 like pandemics underline the need of having such socio-political systems, which are people friendly and sensitive. Only socialist systems can help the people most in matters of health care and education, this has become clear during Covid-19, where Cuba has shown the best result. There is a difference in some countries dealing with the pandemic, while socially sensitive Venezuela has less casualties from Covid-19, at the same time Mexico, which has progressive President in power, the casualties are reaching close to one lakh deaths.

At the world level, countries having disputes are not keeping peace even during pandemic and inter-state tensions and conflicts are going as much, rather even more intensely. Oppressive regimes such as Erdogan of Turkey, Duterte of Philippines, apart from Trump, Modi and Bolsonaro of US, India and Brazil are fanning conflicts more than dousing the fire. World is closer to world war III, than any time before due to these fascist rulers who use nationalism as a tool to oppress their own people and fan international war at the time of pandemic.

Life and death are part of normal life, but during a pandemic like situation, it brings different social and psychological responses. All the rituals relating to death are subjected to pandemic situations and even the grief related emotion gets stunted or controlled by the situation. Outpouring of grief and sharing with close relations and friends leads to catharsis of emotions and especially in India leads to later readjustment in life. There are many such rituals related to death in India, which are also hypocritical and show the power position of families in society. All these things get new and unexpected shapes during pandemic social controls. While in normal life I never thought of keeping records of deaths, during the pandemic period, I have noted this unpleasant record, which is in a way to understand the impact of pandemic on socio-cultural life. After a few months of continuation of pandemic conditions, deaths stopped making a shock impact and it turned into just a fact and got it shared immediately on social media and then getting normal. While I will mention deaths of some personal but socially relevant persons, pandemic has also led to increased depression and other psychological disorders like domestic violence. Parallel to that is an increase in crime in society for many reasons—more murders, more rapes, more looting are happening during pandemic due to partly financial stress and partly frustration of insecure life conditions. The data of crime related murder deaths and depression related suicides shall be much more than during normal times. Irony is that the Modi Government has not shown any seriousness in collecting or sharing this data with the public. It shamelessly declared that it has no data of poor workers who died due to walking, cycling, getting crushed under trains or on roads, what can one expect from this govt. to share the data of suicides and murders and other crimes during pandemic.

One thing is certain—Covid-19 has once again nakedly shown and widely opened the eyes of humanity that a system based on corporate- led capitalist exploitation is a sure way to destruction of humanity. As Rosa Luxemburg had said, it is a choice between Barbarism or Socialism. Covid-19 is the result of Corporate-led system produced Barbarism and its resolve lies in Socialism or social control over resources.

At personal level, I have remained locked up in my house since 23rd March onwards, not even walking outside in the park. Only visit a doctor for medical attention. Even walk or exercise is limited to four walls of the house. Yes, I have for the first-time paid attention to physical health and resorted to regular exercise to shed weight and tone up the body and control diet to the simplest and health related food. While during January and February deaths occurred of many personally and socially known writers and scholars from Punjab, between the age of 85 to 100 years, including Dalip Kaur Tiwana and Jaswant Singh Kanwal. I am focusing more on the death occurring during Covid-19 times with or without being affected by Covid-19.

March 2020
1.   Hindi author/Professor and friend Susham Bedi died in New York on 20th March due to complicated diseases at 75, but not Corona. She was Professor of Hindi in Columbia and New York Universities and had many novels to her credit, some of which were translated in English and other languages. Last time I met her was at the IIT Kharagpur seminar in 2014 or 15. Her cremation took place under Covid-19 protocols and the family was not allowed to perform social rituals.
2.   Next door neighbour and Punjabi University, Patiala colleague Prof. RD Nirakari died on 25th March-the first day of national lockdown by age related diseases at 85. This was the first shocking experience. Prof. Nirakari was having age related diseases; he was Professor of Philosophy in Punjabi University Patiala and had translated Vedas and Mahabharata in Punjabi, apart from other books. Both his children live abroad. His wife aged nearly 80 years with health problems was alone and with difficulty she was able to take him to hospital on the very first day of lockdown. The condition in Govt hospital was too bad, where he was finally admitted, as she was fleeced by two private hospitals and denied bed. After he passed away after a day or two She all alone took the body from hospital straight to cremation ground and got him cremated from the person in charge of cremation ground without a single soul being present and she returned home all alone. For nearly two months my daughter took care of her. Dr. Nirakari remains like thousands of other people lie with the cremation ground office and wait for final rituals as per their custom. The death was not as shocking, as the conditions were, later on after many such deaths, it became normal to absorb such shocks.
3.   Historian Arjun Dev—a friend passed away on 29th March in Gurgaon on 29th March at 82 years age. Arjun Dev and his wife Indira both were on the faculty of National Council for Educational Research and Training, New Delhi (NCERT) and he had got the best books written for school children from Romila Thapar, Bipan Chandra and others. He himself wrote very important books. I had worked with them on the project on Indian Freedom struggle songs in all Indian languages during the 50th anniversary of independence in 1997, which is still to be published.

April 2020
4.   Daniel Gill, wife of Prof. Harjit Gill passed away in Paris on 23rd April. She taught French in Punjabi University Patiala for many years and translated few Punjabi texts in French. She was eighty plus and died of old age sickness, not of corona.
5.   Death of Actor Irfan on 29th April in Mumbai at a relatively young age due to cancer. He was my favourite actor, who read and liked Pash. Irfan was approached by Anurag Kashyap to play the role of Punjabi revolutionary poet Pash, who was assassinated by Khalistani terrorists, in a biopic planned on the poet, which did not come through, but Irrfan got the copy of my Hindi translation of Pash poetry and read it. He was a great and unassuming actor, died of a rare cancerous disease, not corona.
6.   Death of Actor Rishi Kapoor on 30th April, not of corona. He played a good role in a film Mulk, based on partition and anti-Muslim hatred spread by RSS.

May 2020
7.   Prof. Hari Vasudevan from Calcutta University died of Corona at the age of 68 years ----first death from Corona of a scholar. I had met him once or twice during my visits to Calcutta University, he was a great scholar and his family was not satisfied with the treatment and care by the hospital, where he was admitted.
8.   Prof. Emeritus Yoginder Singh of JNU died on 10th May in Delhi at 88 years. He was a great sociologist and one of earliest President of Jawahar Lal Nehru University Teachers Association (JNUTA). I had honoured him from JNUTA in year 2007.
9.   Prof. Shankar Ji Jha of Sanskrit dept. of Panjab University Chandigarh and DUI (like PVC) till a day before, died of sudden heart attack on 10th May in PU Chandigarh at 59—he was a thorough gentleman and colleague in Panjab University Senate.
10. Uma Gurbax Singh died at 93 years old in Preetnagar on 23rd May. She was daughter of classical Punjabi writer Gurbax Singh Preetlari and activist of IPTA in its earlier days. I have Known to her since her Rajkamal publisher Delhi editor days in the 1980's. Her younger sister living in Venezuela also died recently at the age of 87 plus.
11. Naunihal Singh trustee of Desh Bhagat Yadgar Hall-Ghadar memorial hall Jalandhar died on 24th May at Jalandhar at 84 years-he was with CPI and a good friend.

June 2020
12. Vijaya Ramaswami, a historian and colleague from JNU died of Corona on 1st June at the age of 65. She was second well-known historian after Hari Vasudevan to become victim of Corona, she was a well-known author of many books and a fellow at Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla after her retirement from JNU.

July 2020
13. Prof. APS Chauhan, a JNU Alumni and Registrar of Jivaji University Gwalior died on 1st July at 60+ in Gurgaon. We became connected recently.
14. Chinmay Banerjee passed away in Canada, I had been invited by him for a discussion on Bhagat Singh in a café in Vancouver in 2011. He was an activist of progressive group of Canada and was in his eighties.

August 2020
15. Prof. Ilina Sen died at 69 years age at Kolkata, she was suffering from cancer. I got her daughter's mobile number and shared condolences with her and Binayak Sen. She was a well-known scholar of gender studies at MG University Wardha and TISS Mumbai. She was also an activist with Chhatisgarh Mukti Morcha from Shankar Guha Niyogi times as was Sudha Bhardwaj, now in jail in Bhima Koregaon case.
16. Rahat Indori the popular Urdu poet and former Professor died at 70 years with Corona at Indore on 11th August. He was very popular with his poetic resistance to RSS agenda of communalism and his couplets still inspire like—Sabhi ka khoon mila hai is mitti mein/kisi ke baap ka Hindustan thode hi hai (Everyone's blood is part of this land, it is not the property of someone's father).
17. Bhura Singh Kaler died of cancer on 14-15th August at Bathinda at the age of 76 years. My translation of his story in Indian literature is found on JSTOR. He was a friend from Poohla village in Bathinda district of Punjab in early days, but lost touch for many years. A well-known Dalit writer, few of his story collections are published in Punjabi.

September 2020
18. The very first week of September brought the sad news of the passing away of one of oldest friends from JNU student days—R P Raju-a Scientist in post JNU life. When I joined JNU in 1977 and got Periyar hostel to stay in room no 305. In few days I became acquainted with radical students-RP Raju was one of them, living in room no 124 or so, his next-door neighbour was Neshat Qaiser in 123 and Gummadi Rao in 119 or 118. Raju was gentle and polite, though committed to radical ideas. I don't remember, when he left JNU, but after I joined Punjabi University Patiala in 1985, he once came to attend Pash memorial function in Jalandhar without any invitation, probably with Telugu revolutionary poet Jwalamukhi. He had probably joined radical political activity at that time, leaving the job. Now after his passing away details have come out, that he had gone to Ethiopia for a job, married an Ethiopian woman and had children. He was admitted in Bangalore hospital and JNUites were collecting funds to help and before help could be extended, he suddenly passed away on 3rd September. We had very pleasant conversations during JNU student days. Few old JNUites organized an online international memorial meeting in his honour.
19. Swami Agnivesh, a good like minded person and known since many decades passed away on 11th September at 81 years. I had many joint meetings with him and gifted Bhagat Singh books also. He also gifted me many copies of Ramprasad Bismil autobiography, which he had published at just 5/- rupees per copy for school children.
20. Satinder Aulakh, a friend in seventies radical times, passed away at 70 years due to blood cancer on 13th September. She was a student in PU Patiala and later served GNDU Amritsar in Punjabi faculty.

October 2020
21. Dr. Joginder Singh Puar, former VC of Punjabi University Patiala passed away on 15th October early morning at the age of 87 years. He was Vice Chancellor of Punjabi University Patiala from 1993 to 1999 for six years in two terms. He was a linguist and worked for the development of Punjabi language in social sciences and sciences. He was close to former Punjab CM Beant Singh and CPM leader Harkishan Singh Surjeet. I have been in close association with him since 1974. He remained active till the last days and opposed the new education policy of the saffron Goverment and supported the peasant movement.

[Chaman Lal, Dean,
Faculty of Languages,
Panjab University Chandigarh, Honourary Advisor,
Bhagat Singh Archives and Resource Centre, Delhi Archives, New Delhi

Other mail Cell no. +919868774820]

Vol. 53, No. 22-25, Nov 29 - Dec 26, 2020