Village of comrades remembers ‘big brother’ Surjeet

August 1st, 2008 - 8:27 pm ICT by IANS  

By Jaideep Sarin and Parminder Singh Bariana
Bundala Manjki (Punjab), Aug 1 (IANS) Branch out of National Highway (NH) No. 1 from the industrial town of Goraya in Punjab and come across a village that stands out tall in name and fame — all because of one man. This is where Comrade Harkishan Singh Surjeet was born 92 years ago and this is where he spent his childhood years. This village, 25 km from Jalandhar city, is also where there is no dearth of comrades - as Communist Party activists are commonly referred to here - but Surjeet emerged the most towering of them all.

Surjeet, 92, passed away in a hospital in Noida near New Delhi Friday, capping a successful political life that saw phrases like ‘kingmaker’ and ‘uncrowned prime minister of India’ being linked to his name.

“He may have died today but his memory and his ideology will live on in the minds of the people, particularly in his village,” former village headwoman Balbir Kaur told IANS.

The tales still do the rounds — of the diehard activist who once tore off the Union Jack during British rule in Hoshiarpur town, 65 km away, and hoisted the tricolour to mark the first anniversary of the martyrdom of Bhagat Singh and happily went to prison for that act.

There are enough comrades in the late Communist Party of India-Marxist’s (CPI-M) leader’s ancestral village who can still tell tales of their ‘big brother’s’ political acumen.

And they were being told all over again Friday as people assembled near his village home — Surjeet studied in a government school in the village till Class 4 before moving out and getting into the freedom struggle — to mourn his death.

There was one dating back to 1936 when the British administration had ensured that the Indian National Congress leader — and subsequently India’s first prime minister — Jawaharlal Nehru did not get any place to hold a public rally in the area. It was then that Surjeet’s father, Harnam Singh, got his standing crop harvested to provide the open ground for the rally to be held.

“We remained involved with agriculture here while Surjeet went out and carved a career in politics for himself,” pointed out comrade Gurmel Singh, a fellow Communist activist.

“His death is a great loss to this village, this area, Punjab and the whole country. He was actively involved in the freedom struggle and faced hardships,” pointed out Comrade Harjit Singh, 90.

While one of Surjeet’s son, Gurchetan Singh, still lives here, another is settled in Britain.

There are some lingering regrets.

Even though he went on to become a stalwart in Communist politics, Surjeet’s home state Punjab could never become a party stronghold despite Communist activism. With his passing away, that legacy could be further eroded.

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