Chandigarh, November 14: “I rejoice that I am being tried for a cause which the Sikhs have made their own,” Jawaharlal Nehru had, on September 25, 1923, said in his statement from Nabha Central Jail, daring British rulers to try him for “sedition”.
He was arrested in Jaito. From there, he was sent to the Nabha jail. In spite of the Congress in power in Punjab, the two places — which historians feel are of “immense historical importance” — are lying neglected.
Nehru was arrested along with K Santanam and AT Gidwani on September 22, 1923, for defying an order banning entry to the princely state of Nabha.
Delhi-based historian Mohinder Singh recounted those days in his book “Akali Movement”. “Having gained first-hand impression about Akalis, Nehru became their admirer and wished to prove ‘worthy of their high tradition and fine courage’,” he writes.
Nehru came to Jaito following a resolution passed in the Congress special session in 1923 supporting Akalis. The party sent Nehru, Gidwani and Santhanam to get first-hand information about political developments. But when they entered the state, they were arrested for want of permission from the British Administrator of Nabha.
In spite of being an undertrial, Nehru was ill-treated in jail and not allowed to change clothes for two days. Worried about his son, Motilal Nehru visited Nabha, but he was not allowed to meet them.
Cut to present. The two places have not received much attention. In 2008, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi had visited the cell in Jaito police station, where Nehru and his comrades were kept. He had given Rs 65 lakh for the conservation of the cell. But not much has changed as the facilities created for visitors are being used by the police.
Chaman Lal, former professor, JNU, recently visited the two places. “A public park has come up at the place where Central Jail cell was located earlier. The park is lying in neglect. And Jaito police station is an unwelcoming place,” he says.
“Understandably, Akalis were not interested in anything related to Nehru. But it seems not much has changed with the Congress coming to power,” Chaman Lal says. He persuaded Patiala MP Dr Dharamvira Gandhi to give Rs 3-lakh from MPLAD fund.
Prof Tejwant Gill, a scholar on first PM’s works, feels that Nehru loved Punjab and he always held Sikhs in high esteem. He says the reason behind the neglect of the two places even during the Congress government is that Nehru’s intervention in Jaito did not suit a section of then Congress leadership, which enjoyed British patronage.
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