It was 72 years ago that Anthony Leocadia Fletcher, ICS, worked as the district and sessions judge of Gujarat district in the present-day Pakistan. He also had the additional charge of Jhelum district.
Those were the days of Quit India Movement. The movement started on August 8, 1942 in Mumbai and spread quickly all over the country. In Jhelum town, the students of the government college enacted a play to motivate people to join the agitation. The play ‘Sachaa Pyaar’ (True Love) depicted the sacrifices made by Indian patriots and revolutionaries. One of the prominent actors in the play was Madan Kohli of Chakwal tehsil of Jhelum district.
PK Kaul was deputy superintendent of police in Jhelum. The district CID inspector reported to Kaul that the college boys would enact the play in other schools and colleges besides enacting it in public to motivate people to join the movement. Kaul arrested the participants, who were teenage students, while they were staging the play. Madan Kohli and chief guest Avtar Narayan Gujral, member, provincial legislative assembly, were among them. Gujral, father of IK Gujral, who later became the prime minister, was one of the financiers of the play.
After a day’s remand, they were produced before Fletcher. Such was the terror of the British rule and the fear psychosis generated that not a single lawyer from the district bar appeared for the youths. The prosecution – the DSP — pleaded with Fletcher and wanted the students to be punished severely.
Fletcher called the youths, one by one, in his chamber and asked them the reason for staging the play.
The youths’ reply was that they loved their motherland and wanted everyone to support the movement. Fletcher wrote his judgment and released the teenagers, most of whom were hardly 18. One of those released was Madan Kohli. Soon thereafter, the family shifted to Mumbai and Kohli joined the army. He left the army in 1947 to become a music director. He was later known as popular ghazal composer Madan Mohan.
In the early 60s, while a ghazal nite was being organised at Tagore theatre, Chandigarh, and Fletcher sahib was one of the prominent invitees, Madan Mohan saw him and touched his feet before telling him, “Sir, had you not released me in Jhelum in 1942, I would not have become a music director.” Fletcher sahib smiled, patted him on the back and wished him good luck. Such was Tony Fletcher of the ICS, later founding vice-chancellor of Haryana Agricultural University, Hisar, and five-time FCR of Punjab.
Fletcher died on December 14, 1974; Madan Mohan followed him soon on July 14, 1975.