Of unspoken words and feelings

Oct 28 2012, 20:50 IST
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SummaryRoll of Honour landed on my table at a time when the news of former Indian Army General KS Brar surviving a bid on his life in London flooded the newspapers.

Roll of Honour is the poignant tale of a Sikh boy, set against the backdrop of Operation Bluestar

Roll Of Honour

Amandeep Sandhu

Rupa Publications

Pg 252

Rs. 275

Roll of Honour landed on my table at a time when the news of former Indian Army General KS Brar surviving a bid on his life in London flooded the newspapers. Brar had sustained injuries but survived the assault. Many believe the attack was meant to avenge Operation Bluestar. A mere mention of Operation Bluestar demands the topic be handled with care. Such is the emotive appeal of the issue that even 28 years after the storming of the Golden Temple, it continues to haunt the memory of Punjab.

Roll of Honour begins with the end of Operation Bluestar. Sikh militancy, Khalistan Movement, assassination of former prime minister Indira Gandhi and the subsequent sectarian riots across the country are closely related and sensitive issues. Any attempt to deal with the subject is unlikely to satisfy one and all. Amandeep Sandhu, the author of the novel, however, has made a reasonably good attempt to do justice to the then socio-political and economic concerns of 1984 Punjab.

The main character of the story, Appu, is a Sikh by birth, although with shorn tresses. The plot centres around a military school in the fictional city of Jassabad, where the main ambition of the schoolchildren is to make it to the National Defence Academy.

Life in the military school is not easy. The regular classroom teachings play a secondary role here and discipline is the foremost priority of the school. And to become a disciplined soldier means undergoing a tough ragra (punishment) session.

The pivotal position in the ragra lies with the school prefect. However, life changes when the outgoing prefect, Balraj, seeks shelter on the school campus as he had turned a Khalistan militant and was wanted by the police. Balraj’s entry divides students on sectarian line. In a bid to maintain the aggression of the movement on the campus, there is rampant bullying. And sodomy emerges as the most preferred tool of domination.

And amid the chaotic situation is Appu, who seeks to know the truth. Therefore, he goes to Delhi to seek those Sikhs who were displaced from their shelters after the anti-Sikh riots. Many people would not find a reason in his quest for truth. “Wekhen? What is there to see?” a riot-affected Sikh staying at

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