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Eye-opener, says London group after visiting roots in Punjab

“There is malicious propaganda and fake news about Punjab abroad. It is important for the younger generation to see the reality for itself,” said India’s high commissioner YK Sinha.

punjab Updated: Sep 30, 2018 09:23 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
Prasun Sonwalkar
Hindustan Times, London
Culture exchange,London,United kingdome
The group, whose Punjab-origin members were aged between 16 and 22, were selected from four schools in London: Cranford Community College, Greenford High School, Featherstone High School and Heston Community School. (HT File Photo)

A 14-member group of London-based youngsters has returned after a unique ‘Connect with your roots’ visit to Punjab that enhanced perceptions of their culture and raised knowledge about everyday life there, describing it on Friday as an ‘eye-opener’.

The 10-day, all-expense-paid visit, was part of a programme that Punjab chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh had launched during his London visit in September 2017. The aim is to raise awareness among the new generation about the heritage of their diaspora and to counter propaganda about the state.

The group, whose Punjab-origin members were aged between 16 and 22, were selected from four schools in London: Cranford Community College, Greenford High School, Featherstone High School and Heston Community School.

“There is malicious propaganda and fake news about Punjab abroad. It is important for the younger generation to see the reality for itself. It is also important for the diaspora to retain links with the motherland,” said YK Sinha, India’s high commissioner, at the welcome event held in the India House. The youngsters, most of whom had never visited the land of their family origin, were presented certificates from the government of Punjab that nominated them as the state’s cultural ambassadors.

They narrated their experiences, while visiting Punjab’s tourist attractions; some had never heard of the Jallianwala Bagh (Britain’s colonial history is largely absent from syllabus in the UK schools); others realised that Punjab was a more multicultural and multi-religious place than they had believed.

Varinder Singh Khera, who coordinated the visit, said: “We left Heathrow on August 7 as members of different families, but returned on August 17 as one family. It was an emotional experience for all, as they discovered there is more to their heritage.”

Jalandhar village’s rousing reception

It was a particularly moving experience for Jason Dosanjh, who visited the village of Dosanjh Kalan in Jalandhar district for the first time. The village turned up to welcome him, while elders told him of his grand-father’s contribution to India’s freedom struggle.

“It was a once in a lifetime opportunity. The whole community greeted me. It was very emotional when I opened the door of the house where my grandfather grew up. I had heard stories from him about the village, it was a moment of pride to know of his role in the freedom struggle,” Dosanjh said. The group described experiences, including breaking into folk dances, enjoying food, and learning about entrepreneurship and the state’s economy during visits to the Golden Temple, the Wagah border, Hoshiarpur, Jalandhar, Patiala, Kartarpur, Ludhiana and Chandigarh.

It was the first visit to Punjab under the state government’s ‘Connect with your roots’ programme. Initially, it is open to youngsters from the UK, Germany, France, Italy, Canada and the US.

The UK has one of the largest diaspora-groups of Punjab origin; it has historically been a key centre for separatist elements to base and operate from. In recent years, India has enhanced its outreach to the community.

First Published: Sep 29, 2018 23:01 IST