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Sunday Special » Perspective

Posted at: Sep 10, 2017, 12:47 AM; last updated: Sep 10, 2017, 12:47 AM (IST)

How Mand was deserted and made livable again

How Mand was deserted and made livable again
Hard working farmers of the Mand area want the government to support them.
Kapurthala: Surinder Singh (82) was about 12 years old when the Partition happened. The villager from Baupur was among the first inhabitants of the ‘island’ formed by the fickle Beas. He says though he had not seen Peer Baksh, the revenue clerk in pre-Partition days, he had heard a lot about him. “He was a tall man with a great sense of honesty and moral values. As these villages were not cut off at that time, the inhabitants living here were very happy,” said Singh. 

Then how did the island form and how were the villages disconnected from the land? “It happened during 1971 when heavy floods created a creek, separating many villages from the main land. The island, abandoned by its earlier inhabitants in 1947, remained deserted till 1980,” recalls Singh. His house is situated about 300 feet from the creek. 

Then onwards the island turned into a dense forest. Slowly people from nearby villages began to settle there with families. “We have seen the most difficult times. We even plucked bulrush (a water plant) with our own hands and drank water collected in small potholes. We could only survive on milk given by our animals,” says Surinder Singh. 

It was during terrorism days in 1980; the island came alive and became a hideout for terrorists. “The CRPF used to take us forcibly to the island and ask us to clear the area without any equipment,” says Gajjan Singh (85). He says since the forest was very dense, the CRPF did not allow them to light matchsticks lest it should ignite a fire in the forest area.

“While we were made to work from 7 am to 7 pm, we were not offered any food. We had to survive the whole day on a cup of tea offered by the CRPF,” says Singh. 

 “They used to keep a check on us in many ways. One day, a group of people covering themselves with shawls came on the island and asked us to prepare meals for them. We recognize them with their boots and offered them food. Next day many of us were taken to police stations and were harassed for helping terrorists,” says Karam Singh. “It was only after much persuasion that the police released us.”

— Rachna Khaira

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