Blood and Water: Haryana, Punjab and SYL
In recent decades, Haryanvis have faced the brunt of state violence on two major occasions. In the wake of the Jat reservation protests — ask those who were arrested — and, remember the discursive violence by the usual characters painting Jats as semi-barbarians, using all forms of propaganda and lies. Amritdhari Sikhs, and recently Jatt Sikhs, have faced this and worse. For decades. Then, during the Kisan protest, there were instances of state violence leading to death in some cases — those who are now saying that Haryanvis supported Punjabis in what was solely the latter’s struggle should not forget what we stood for together — but again, Punjab’s Sikhs have faced this and unimaginably more for longer.
I ask you to remember.
Now, if you are from Haryana, and you remember the recent past, if you have experienced any of this, or know anyone who has, and if you are angered by it — if your blood is not cold — please spare a moment for Punjabis across the ‘border’, who as I have said, faced this and worse for decades.
The blood that forgets that it was unjustly spilled, is that blood or water ?
Emotions. Anger. Memory. And longing for a better future. This is the context for Sidhu Moosewala’s lyric of angst. When he says, we will not share, that we are not ready to share, he adds, because you ask with arrogance. If you ask with love, we will give you all we have.
There are two you’s here. That is important to understand. And which you is the bearer of which emotion, is also easy to understand.
I can see why Moosewala’s song might seem to give a mixed, even confused message.
What does he mean when asks for the unity of Punjab and Haryana, one asks, but another knows — waapis dedo, is like a cry, just as the beloved cries mera bichdya yaar waapis dedo. It is a pyayer to unite, a cry for unity, not ownership.
A friend described Moosewala’s song as a stream of consciousness lyric. I think that describes it well — a lyric that evokes a train of thought, refracted through memory and emotion, and, most of all longing for something better. Not for him, he had it all — for his people. The people he called his own.
Most of all though, it is a song by a 28 year old that reflects anger, betrayal, longing and the desire and search for belonging, but is a call to the spirit of history, a yearning for the lost community to find a voice and a solution, and long forgotten, unity.
But what of — ‘sovereignty’ di raah.
I will not pontificate on what Sidhu meant by sovereignty. Any song is open to interpretation by the listener. But any lyric also has its internal logic. It would be absurd to call for unity in one breath and division in another.
However, as I have written before, one body which embodies a traditional and rooted sense of sovereignty, predating any modern system of control or governance, is the panchayat. Sidhu’s life was deeply rooted in that system as the basic unit of his life. His village, was his world, and more important to him than all of it, and anything it had or could offer. Everything paled. I have also written before about how the pancha can organise, represent and resist, if needed, at the grandest scale. For him, that was where the jigra of Sidhu Moosewala was born. And from there is where he roared.
As we all do when we know that we are strengthened by the spirit-voice of our village. The Jatt of the Land, and the Land of the Jatt, they say, it is one.
There will be tremendous loss to the legacy of this past struggle, to those who died in its cause, who gave their blood for their land, and to the prospects for the future, for the blood of our blood to be born — if now, we fail. If now our bonds are thinned not even by water, but its ghost.
It is the struggle for every Kisan family to build the foundation of a strong, independent and sovereign households in which generations will prosper — if we lose that logic of history which has allowed the blood to persist and resist through the play of many siyasta and the fall of many riyasata — it will make for a sorry chapter in our history. And the final one. The unity we have built and aspired to for generations, if we are so thin skinned that we take such strong, irresolvable offense to mere ‘harsh words’, that remains a dream indeed. Or a chimera. Harsh words are often said in families too. Anyone who lives in village community knows. Hell, even violence between family members is not uncommon. But when we face a challenge larger than ourselves, we lay aside last night’s quarrels, and stand together to face the course of history.
Blood is blood. And blood is thicker than water.
What of SYL? I suggest two things.
Hold a continuous Kisan Mahasabha in which all matters are openly and publicly debated. Convening it in the memory of Kisan Andolan shaheeds would be a good way to honour them. SKM needs to stand tall again.
There is no question in the fact that Haryana needs water in its drier regions and that Punjab has exported a huge amount of unreplenished ground water.
I believe a scientific solution can be found for both. For that, we will need massive investment — which is something both states are owed, primarily as compensation to transition back to our traditional, more sustainable cropping patterns.
And there is more I am happy with Chandigarh as a symbol of our unity — but who has made Haryanvis forget that a promise was made to give the state funds for a world class capital? Take it, and make a Kisanshahr. Chandigarh can remain a symbol, or a legacy — that can be deliberated in the Sabha as well. But what is owed should not be forgotten.
I do not want to get into the story of how much Punjab is owed and for what — that will be an endless list. But there too, there are promises made and forgotten. And that is the thorn which draws bloody memories.
Again, I want to reiterate, yes, there are valid problems and there can be real solutions. However, most importantly, the road between the two runs across the bridge of unity. If that bridge falls, we remain stranded on the wrong side of history, and will have no one to turn to when the worst which is to come arrives. The climate crisis is on our doorsteps, as this summers heat showed. One canal from one river is a mere drop compared to what we will need
We still have a common struggle. A great fight In which there is much to gain from unity. And everything to lose without it.
What of water though? Water, remember, falls every year from the skies — there must be more we can do with it for sure?
Few would know that the Saraswati which dried up around 1800 BC, was revived by a people whose blood flows intermingled in the veins of many a kisanputra today. We could make a dear river flow then, let us not fight to death over a dying one today.
Then there are innovative methods of irrigation, which once invested in can drastically reduce the need for water. They require one time investments.
There is much to be done, and much that can be done. If one thing is learned from the recent days, there is no breath to waste — as the death of our brothers who went too soon should always remind us.
He died leaving his pain behind. It is up to us, to cherish it.