Kids Corner


Fathers & Daughters:
Two Biographies





STOLEN YEARS, by Pavit Kaur, Random House, 2014.

In 1984, Simranjit Singh Mann resigned from the Indian Police Service in protest of the Indian Army attack on the Golden Temple ordered by Indira Gandhi, then prime minister.

Simranjit Singh was subsequently falsely charged with, among other things, conspiracy to assassinate Indira Gandhi.

A passionate Sikh whose courageous beliefs were honed by a family of patriots, Simranjit went underground and was apprehended while trying to flee the country.

He spent five years in prison, after which all charges were dropped.

Three decades after the cataclysmic and criminal actions of the government of India, his daughter Pavit Kaur looks back on the years her father spent in prison. In this disarmingly honest and emotionally charged account, she documents her father’s hellish journey through the India’s corrupt justice and prison system.

This is also a personal story and the story of a family during one of the most fraught times in India’s history.

*   *   *   *   *



‘Clearing my throat, I announce that I have an idea for my next book. My mother smiles encouragingly. My father shows no sign of having heard. He is immersed in an editorial, no doubt another scathing comment on the state of the nation. Bravely, I continue. I say I am thinking of writing a book about them.’

Strictly Personal: Manmohan and Gursharan is that book.

In 2004, Manmohan Singh became Prime Minister of India. Over the next ten years he led the country through opportunities and challenges, not without some controversy.

But this is not that story. This is the story of what went before, and it is told by his daughter Daman Singh.

It charts the journey of a young boy growing up in undivided India, battling family hardship to pursue his dream of higher education, determining his intellectual and moral compass and learning to live life on his own terms.

It is equally about Gursharan Kaur, the woman with whom he made that life. Vivacious and talented, Gursharan was the centre of the family and of the circle of friends they shared. And about their three daughters, Upinder, Daman and Amrit, growing up with a resilient mother and a workaholic father who stepped into the limelight.

Based on conversations with her parents and hours spent in libraries and archives, this honest and affectionate memoir provides new insights into the former prime minister and his wife.

Moving from Gah, Nowshera and Peshawar; through Amritsar, Patiala and Hoshiarpur; to Chandigarh, Cambridge and Oxford; then New York, Bombay and Geneva; and on to New Delhi, this intimate portrayal of two lives is also the history of India unfolding over half a century.

October 2, 2014

Conversation about this article

1: Gurpal Singh (United Kingdom), October 02, 2014, 4:01 PM.

Read 'Stolen Years' about a week ago, wondering why the diaspora hadn't picked up on it and thinking perhaps I should do a book review for Was only available in the UK on kindle which is slightly annoying as I don't think anything compares to the feel of fresh paper. Regarding the other book on Manmohan Singh - he regurgitated the Indian official line on Akali separatism and Sikh terrorism; very stale analysis indeed! [EDITOR: Gurpal ji: We would love to have you do a review of "Stolen Years" for us.]

2: Gobinder Singh (USA), October 02, 2014, 10:55 PM.

Several years ago (around 2000), I was returning from a trip to India and waiting at a security check line at New Delhi airport. I see ahead in line S. Simranjit Singh Mann with a couple of his associates waiting in line. A little surprised because I think he was still an MP at that time and in a country where even a little MLA thinks he is above law, I see him patiently waiting in line. I knew his popularity is waning and he has won many critics with his political stance (including my father) but I was clearly impressed. I watch quietly behind him. A little while later, a Sikh security personnel who obviously recognized him escorted him and his companions through the VIP line. Then I find out that we are in the same plane heading to California. We had a layover in Hong Kong for a few hours and at the gate, there are just a few seats available. Most are taken except one. I then notice something again. Simranjit Singh offers the seat to one of the guys who limped a little, while waiting for his flight. I knew then that he may not be a very shrewd or popular politician but inside he is a man of heart and integrity which few in the Indian political system possess.

3: T. Sher Singh (Mount Forest, Ontario, Canada), October 03, 2014, 6:26 AM.

A long time ago, in my teen years, I took Amrit during a lengthy trip to Hemkunt. I was fortunate in that each of the Punj Pyarey who administered the amrit were extraordinary and exemplary gursikhs. One of them was Sardar Joginder Singh Mann, the father of Simranjit Singh. Though I've never met Simranjit Singh or had any dealings with him, I heard a lot about him during that trek in the Himalayas which then used to take several weeks. And I've heard a lot about him ever since from people who have known him intimately. Everyone has spoken about his intellect and integrity. No wonder that the Indian government jailed him on trumped up charges and tortured him and, at least for a while, broke him physically and mentally: the Indian establishment felt direly threatened by him. They still hound him today and try to sabotage and subvert everything he does. Pavit Kaur's book is a must-read for all Sikhs today.

4: Gurteg Singh (New York, USA), October 03, 2014, 6:13 PM.

Manmohan Singh's biography by his daughter could be called truthful if she had described her father as a collaborator who served the butchers and mass murderers who killed tens of thousands of innocent Sikhs and, like Zail Singh, was used as a turbaned front for their heinous crimes. Daman discloses in her book that their house in Ashok Vihar was attacked and was going to be burnt by Congress leaders whom they knew. It was saved because Manmohan Singh was away in Mumbai and her husband who is a Hindu told the mob that it was not a Sikh home. Commenting on this shocking silence of Manmohan Singh who was then a Reserve Bank Governor, Sardar HS Phoolka said that it is most shocking that Manmohan Singh, when he was the Prime Minister of India for 10 years, kept silent on this incident. "Though Manmohan Singh's house was not burnt, but in the same area, the mob, most probably the same mob, killed seven Sikhs, burnt four gurdwaras, burnt five houses, burnt seven shops, burnt 42 vehicles and also burnt 31 factories". Similarly his other daughter Amrit who claims to be a human rights lawyer has never uttered a single word about the gross human rights violations in India and the massacre of tens of thousands of innocent Sikhs to which her own family was an eye witness.

5: G Singh (New Delhi, India), October 05, 2014, 4:19 AM.

I just ordered 'Stolen Years' but would never buy 'Strictly Personal'. To do so would be a tacit approval and support of a family that did nothing for the Sikhs but rather betrayed them.

6: TJ Singh (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada), October 05, 2014, 3:21 PM.

What amazes me about prominent Sikhs from India is their lack of acknowledgement of facts and the genocide against their own people. Can somebody explain to me why such a mentality exists? I being born and raised in Canada harbor much anger and hatred towards the cowards of Delhi that continue to mock the genocide that was committed in 1984. Here you have Amrit Singh, daughter of the former PM of India, that is a Human Rights Lawyer and who has done extensive work to uncover the CIA's torture facilities for the sake of human rights. Yet, she has turned a blind eye to the atrocities committed in her own backyard, literally and against her own people. Would her actions be different if the Hindu mobs didn't spare her father's house that dreadful week in 1984? My question is, does such a mentality equate to the "house-nigger" phenomenon that was termed for African-Americans who turned a blind eye to the mistreatment of black slaves who worked the cotton fields for wealthy landowners in the southern parts of the US? I feel we need to have a dialogue on this issue and bring attention to such acclaimed individuals and hold them accountable for their inability to recognize this genocide and act with dignity and courage to take a position against the Hindu regime that claims to be a democracy. I am simply at a loss for words ...

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