Why is Justice Katju a fan of Punjabis?

Amalendu Upadhyaya
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Justice Markandey Katju

Why is Justice Katju a fan of Punjabis?

I am an admirer of Punjabis.

There are some persons who say that Punjabis are selfish (Matlabi) people. I do not agree with them, and for two reasons, one theoretical, and the other borne out of my own experience.

The theoretical reason is that I agree with the French thinker Rousseau, that most people are good by nature (though some may be temporarily corrupted by wicked persons). So one must not stereotype any group of people as bad. There are good and bad people in all communities, the majority being good.

Secondly, my own experience has led me to the conclusion that 99% Punjabis are good by nature. They are a hard-working people, and like to live well. I may give a few examples.

1. A Punjabi friend of mine from Allahabad told me about himself. His family had to migrate from Pakistani Punjab at the time of Partition in 1947, where many of his family members were killed. He told me that when his parents came from Pakistani Punjab they had lost everything, and came with barely their clothes on their back. My friend was one of 6 children of their parents, the eldest being a sister, and my friend being the eldest of the brothers. Their father set up a small motor machinery parts business in chowk in Allahabad and worked very hard to support the family. The children were growing up, and when my friend's trouser or half pant became too small for him, as he had grown up, it was passed on to the next brother, and when he too grew up, it was passed on to the next, and so on. This was the hardship under which the family lived. Today, all the family members are doing well. My friend got 95% in M.Sc. mathematics in Allahabad University and joined the I.A.S. and after retirement has set up a law firm in a specialized field which is doing extremely well. All his brothers (except one who passed away) have done extremely well in life. I am sure there are many such similar stories of Punjabis.

2. Another Punjabi friend of mine from Allahabad days had a similar life. His parents had to flee from Pakistani Pakistan without anything. His father and uncle set up a small footwear shop in Civil Lines in Allahabad to support their families, and worked hard all their lives.. Today all the family members are dong well. My friend joined the I.A.S. and later resigned and set up a business as a builder near Delhi, which has done extremely well. He is very good to me, and often invites me o his parties etc

3. My former private secretary in the Supreme Court is a Punjabi. He is so good and loyal that though I have retired fom the Supreme Court over 12 years ago, if I have any problem I have only to telephone him and he helps.

4. One of my best friends from my Allahabad days, who died a few years back, was a Punjabi. When in Allahabad University we used to play football and other games together. He later joined the Indian Revenue Service (Customs and Central Excise), rose to become a member of the Central Board, and was a man of outstanding integrity. He was always very good to me.

5. The Sikhs are Punjabis, and they are very hard workers (as farmers they have done very well not only in India, but even in USA, Canada, etc). Many of them are good entrepreneurs, and others have done well in other walks of life. My Sikh friends are all good persons, and are very kind to me.

So I cannot agree with people who call Punjabis matlabis.

However, I have a grievance against Punjabis, which I told to Madhu Trehan, the well known journalist and wife of Dr Naresh Trehan, the famous doctor, when she came to interview me (see below).

Madhu is herself a Punjabi, and I told her that Punjabis were earlier very proficient in Urdu, and had made a great contribution to its development, e.g. the works of Allama Iqbal, Faez, Manto, Sahir Ludhianvi, Rajinder Singh Bedi, Krishan Chand, Hafeez Jalandhari, etc.

However, I told her, the sad truth is that hardly any Punjabi today (except some old folks) know Urdu. Many pronounce Ghalib as Galib, for which I wish to hit them with a danda on their head (see the interview above, from 32 minutes after it starts).

(Justice Katju is a retired judge of the Supreme Court of India. These are his personal views.)

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