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Saturday, April 13, 2019

Forgotten by govt, but not by people


Forgotten by govt, but not by people

Vishav Bharti
Tribune News Service
Amritsar, April 12

Dr Saifuddin Kitchlew and Dr Satyapal — a hundred years after Jallianwala, these are the two names with which each conversation about the massacre starts in Amritsar. But in the past 100 years, the governments have rarely mentioned their names.

The meeting that was “dispersed” by General Dyer’s bullets had been called to protest Dr Kitchlew and Dr Satyapal’s arrest. The two towering leaders had emerged as great symbols of Hindu-Muslim unity during the April 6 hartal and, on April 9, people had raised slogans of ‘Kitchlew ji ki jai’ and ‘Satyapal ji ki jai’ during Ramnavami jaloos. It was the collective charm of both the leaders that the Hindus and Muslims were publicly drinking water from the same glass.

Dr Kitchlew’s father Azizudin, a prominent Kashmiri businessman dealing in embroidered shawls, had moved to Amritsar in the 19th century. He sent his son to England and Germany from where he obtained his PhD degree and also developed close ties with Jawaharl- al Nehru. “Kitchlew was widely admired in Amritsar and his picture would be seen hanging in almost every shop as a tribute to the sacrifices he made during the freedom struggle. Tall, fair-complexioned and mostly attired in white khadi, he was known for his unfailing courtesy and winsome smile,” historian Prof VN Datta, hailing from Amritsar, recalled in the preface of a book. 

A few days before his death, Dr Kitchlew told Prof Datta that the trouble on April 10 in Amritsar could have been averted had he and Satyapal not been arrested. The government was absolutely despotic and never understood what the people felt and wanted, he said.

After Partition, Dr Kitchlew refused to move to Pakistan and decided to stay back in Amritsar. He, however, was forced to leave the city he loved the most and shift to Delhi after rioters burnt down his four-storey house and the family-owned Kitchlew Hosiery Factory in the heart of Amritsar.

During his last meeting with Dr Kitchlew in Delhi, Prof Datta saw a bare cot, old furniture and broken pieces of crockery eloquently speaking of the financial difficulties he was facing. Yet, there was no bitterness for anyone. “I manage to live because Jawahar sends me some briefs,” he would say. 

The last tragic memories of Dr Kitchlew’s family were related to his youngest son Toufique, who spent his last days in penury. Before he passed away, he had expressed a desire to shift to Amritsar and the Punjab Government even annou-nced rent-free accommodation, but the address was never shared with him.  

Dr Satyapal, on the other hand, became the Punjab Vidhan Sabha Speaker post-Partition. He had famously said: “I was never a rebel, but to revolt for righteousness is our religion and duty.” He completed his MBBS with a gold medal from Punjab University and became active in the freedom struggle. 

Dr Shailja Goyal, a lecturer at DAV College, Jagraon, who has done her PhD on Dr Satyapal, says he was a man of rare integrity and character. She says he was vocal even about the wrongs within the Congress. “He was instrumental in organising the AICC session in Amritsar.” He died in 1954 and his two daughters moved abroad.

Darbari Lal, former Deputy Speaker of Punjab Assembly, says Dr Kitchlew was a powerful orator and his words would sway the masses. “Dr Kitchlew and Dr Satyapal are household names in Amritsar and will surely remain so.”

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