Amandeep Sandhu’s ‘Panjab: Journeys Through Fault Lines’ sets out to detail his experiences and observations of present day Panjab. Born in Rourkela, Odisha in North East India, Sandhus academic background is in the field of English Literature and carried his studies at the University of Hyderabad. He has previously published titles included ‘Sepia Leaves’ and ‘Roll of Honour’.
The core element of this work is that it initially began as a personal fulfilment journey for Amandeep Sandhu, where he felt somewhat disconnected from his ancestral homeland, Panjab. This is a view that may be felt by many of those living within the Sikh diaspora and Sikhs outside of Panjab, who have had little to no relationship with Panjab.
Sandhu covers a vast range of topics including the issues of caste, faith, water and land distribution, education and much more. Importantly, these topics are explored not only from an historical and academic perspective, but also from the perspective of Sandhu’s observations during his time in Panjab. This mainly comes in the form of discussions with local residents and subject experts. This sets about a unique tone to the book and balances historical fact with the personal experiences and views of Sandhu as well as those who live in Panjab.
“While earlier bore well water in Panjab was sweet, now even deep submersible pump water is tasteless” - Page 254
The most moving chapter concerns the matters of water distribution within present day Panjab. The five main rivers that flow through the Panjab region are the Ravi, Chenab, Jhelum, Beas and Sutlej. The latter of which is the longest river. Sandhu begins by highlighting the political background with regards to river waters and the influence of the Aam Aadami Party (AAP), Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and Indian National Congress (INC). He also briefly highlights historical aspects of river waters following the annexation of Panjab by the British.
Sandhu spends some time focussing particularly on the Satluj Yamuna Link (SYL) canal, which is still under construction. Since its conception, the SYL canal has been extremely controversial due to its purpose of diverting river water away from Panjab and to neighbouring states, all while Panjab does not have river water to spare. Sandhu discusses its origins as well as the political angles being played by all political parties within the region.
What strikes ones emotions is his account of a discussion with locals at the village of Thuha. Here, the SYL canal flows empty and false promises of returning the land back to owners are well known. Sandhu highlights that even if the land is returned to the owner, they do not have the sufficient funds to restore it to the required standard. Those who attempt this fall into the cycle of unmanageable loans and ever increasing debt. To make matters worse, locals emphasised that ground water levels are continuously depleting.
“The meeting of waste and water was eerie - one heavy from its garbage and toxic waste, another light and cheerful. The river surface now changed colour. For a few hundred metres the two bands appeared distinct but then they mixed, and far away, the Satluj looked black, contaminated by the Nalla.” - Page 251
Being one of the greatest dangers to mankind, pollution is no stranger to Panjab and Sandhu’s observations emphasise the extent of the problem. Factories located within the vicinity of the rivers use the rivers as waste disposal solution. Sandhu uses the example of the Budda Nalla and the Sutluj river, where garbage has filled the water and turned the water black and toxic. Sandhu also introduces the example of the Kali Bein, a rivulet which had become devastatingly polluted until a movement led by Balbir Singh Seechewal.
Amandeep Sandhu’s ‘Panjab: Journey Through Fault Lines’ truly is a journey on which one can understand the positive and negative elements of present day Panjab. This summary has provided just a small portion of what this book has to offer and we recommend this to those who wish to understand more about the current issues Panjab faces through the lens of those who live there.