A stopover that became permanent for Kumaonis | chandigarh | Hindustan Times
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A stopover that became permanent for Kumaonis

chandigarh Updated: Oct 20, 2013 00:14 IST
Hillary Victor
Hillary Victor
Hindustan Times
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Kumaonis in tricity
Forced to head outside their homes for dearth of job opportunities, the Kumaon community planned to strike gold in Punjab. But on way to the land of five rivers, they decided to try their luck in Chandigarh, a city that was in the making then. This hardened group of Kumaonis took to the jobs of cook, domestic help and security guard to earn their livelihood. Many out of them have climbed the ladder of success by entering into government jobs, playing a key role in the government machinery of UT administration.

Today, the community has a population of 75,000 and most of them are working as class-3 government employees. Despite their long stay in the city, the community complains that for the past 53 years, they are fighting a battle with the UT administration to allot then land but till date they haven't got any assurance.

Kumaonis are people from the Uttarakhand's Kumaon region comprising of important towns of Almora, Bageshwar, Champwat, Pithoragarh and Nainital.

The main festival of the community is Uttrayani (Ghugtiya), which is celebrated in January and celebrations goes on for three days. It is celebrated after the harvesting season when people mostly relax, rejoice, dance and sing.

In 1960, Kumaon Sabha was formed, but did not get place for a bhawan. So the members bought a bhawan on their own in Sector 45, where all important meeting and functions of the communities are held.

Roop Singh Mehta (75), who came to the city in 1969, says, "When the city was in the making, maximum people working here were from Kumaon, who came here in search of work. Even today also most of the people are in government jobs. We are grateful to the city for accepting us and giving us shelter."

Bachan Singh Nagarkoti came to the city in 1973 and works as senior assistant in Punjab town and country planning department in Chandigarh. Nagarkoti, who is also the president of Kumaon Sabha, said, "We are fighting a battle with the UT administration for land to construct bhawan since 1983. Though we have bought our own bhawan, it is small. We are constructing some rooms in the bhawan for the people of the community who come to the city for treatment. Since we do not have any officer on high post from our community, the administration does not pay attention to our major problem."

Rajinder Singh Rawat, government employee in Chandigarh and general secretary of Kumaon Sabha, who came to Chandigarh in 1980 said, "Our community has a major contribution in the development of city, but UT administration has not given us anything in return."

He adds, "Our children do not speak in Kumaoni, so two years ago we made it mandatory for all members of the sabha to teach mother tongue to their children."

Tomorrow: Garhwali community

Know the community
Total population: 75,000
Main festival: Uttrayani (festival of harvest)
Food: Rice and dal is their staple food. Bal Mithai from Almora, Aloo ke gutke (potato wedges shallow fried with whole coriander seed and other spices in mustard oil) and Jholi/Baant (Radish slices in gravy made from curd and chickpea flour, also called chains) are some of their traditional cuisines.

Prominent Kumaonis in tricity
Heera Negi, BJP councillor in MC, Chandigarh.
Dr MK Tewari, department of neurosurgery, PGIMER, Chandigarh.
Dr Hemant Bhagat, department of anaesthesia and intensive care, PGIMER, Chandigarh.
Bhuwan Chand Bamela, deputy general manager, SBI, Chandigarh.
MK Pandey, former general manager, Swaraj Mazda, SAS Nagar.
Lali Singh Rawat, leading caterer in Chandigarh.
Kailash Tripathi, assistant vice-president, Bhushan Power and Steel Limited, Chandigarh.
Bhopal Singh Manral, general manager (finance), Gero Steel Industry Limited, Chandigarh.

Bal Mithai
(This chocolate-coloured fudge is one of the most popular sweet of Uttarakhand)

Khoya: 1kg
Sugar: 1kg
Sugar balls: 250gm

In a dry heated kadai, roast khoya. Stir continuously to avoid burning, and cook till browned.
Add sugar and cook further till the mixture attains chocolate brown colour, keep stirring.
When done, spread on a plate greased with oil.
Allow to cool, then cut into rectangle-shaped pieces.
Roll the still warm blocks on a separate plate containing sugar balls till they are well coated.