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In this special edition of Witness, Yogita Limaye introduces us to five extraordinary moments in Indian history, including India's first track-and-field gold medallist.


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Welcome to this special edition of Witness, from here in Mumbai.

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In the year that marks 70 years since Indian independence,

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I will bring you five witnesses who have experienced extraordinary

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moments in this country's history.

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This month on the programme, India's first track and field

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gold-medallist, the woman who brought this country's first

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case of sexual harassment to court and the curious case of Indian

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deities appearing to drink milk.

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First, we travel to Delhi.

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In 1947, when India and Pakistan split during partition,

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millions were forced to leave their homes

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because of the ensuing violence.

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Kuldip Nayar was one of many who began a desperate journey

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in search of safety.

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NEWSREEL: A subcontinent larger than the whole of Europe becomes two

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self-governing dominions within the British

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Commonwealth of Nations.

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But India's future welfare largely depends upon communal harmony.

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I'm a Hindu and I was living in Pakistan.

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I wanted to live in Pakistan, but I was not allowed to.

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Some extremists drove us out of our house.

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NEWSREEL: The novelty of independence has worn

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thin and all the time the bloodshed goes on.

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Throughout this vast land, Hindus and Muslims seek safety

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in new surroundings.

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We had to leave Pakistan, now a Muslim state.

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We decided, why don't we go to Delhi?

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When things settle down we will come back.

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But we never realised there was no coming back.

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NEWSREEL: Fleeing from their looted, bloodstained towns

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comes a new exodus.

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Already 1.5 million have been exchanged between the two dominions.

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Another 2 million are preparing for their trek.

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I was very unhappy, but I had to leave my home.

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One cardinal, Indian cardinal, who had been transferred

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to India, who met my father.

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My father was a medical practitioner.

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He said, now that he was going to India, could he do something for me?

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He said, take my three children to India.

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He said, I can't accommodate three, but I can accommodate one.

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So I was the one who had to go there.

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I was crying, because I did not know whether I would see them again.

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As soon as we reached that main road, I found

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thousands of people there, as if the whole of humanity had come

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on the street, the road.

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Women, with trailing children, littered luggage,

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piled up bodies, stench.

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All these things I saw.

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But in this Jeep, when we went further, this was now

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surrounded by the people.

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They stopped us.

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They said, "You take us along".

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We said, "There's no space".

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An old, sick gentleman, with a flowing beard,

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he had this small child and said, "Take this, my grandson".

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I said, "But I am still a student".

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I couldn't do that.

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But I still remember his face - helplessness.

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As soon as we reached no-man's-land, which was the border

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on the Pakistan side, there was a convoy of Muslims

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going into Pakistan and we were entering India.

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We looked at each other.

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We didn't speak, but there was a strange kind of kinship,

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a kinship that both of us have left our homes, our friends

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and neighbourhoods and both had been broken on the rack of history.

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They moved on and we moved on, but we didn't exchange any words.

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We only looked at each other.

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That thing I can never forget.

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Kuldip Nayar went on to become one of India's most

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celebrated journalists.

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And now to another man whose life has been shaped

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by the violence of partition.

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Milkha Singh was a young boy when both his parents

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were killed in front of him.

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His father's last words spurred him to do great things,

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as he told Witness.

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NEWSREEL: Independence was proclaimed and celebrated,

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NEWSREEL: Independence was proclaimed and celebrated,

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but it had been obtained at a terrible price,

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and the price was division of India - partition.

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For a while the north of India ran with blood,

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as Hindus and Muslims and Sikhs grimly slaughtered one another.

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Men and women pass Prince Philip on the saluting base.

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COMMENTATOR: And for the very first time he's going

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hard round that bend.

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And in 2013, Milkha Singh's extraordinary story was turned

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into the Bollywood film Bhaag Milkha Bhaag,

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'Run Milkha Run'.

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Now to 1983 and the first case of sexual harassment brought

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to court in the country.

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Rupan Deol Bajaj took on Punjab's top policeman and changed Indian

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legal history in the process.

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She may be educated, uneducated, working class,

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she may be an officer, a high-ranking officer

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like me, all women.

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Nobody is immune.

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And it happens every day.

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In 1988, I was serving as special secretary of finance.

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I had about 20,000 people under me.

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90% were men.

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There was a dinner party, hosted by the home secretary, and Mr

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KPS Gill, who was the director general of police, was also there.

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He called out to me and he said, "Mrs Bajaj, I want to talk

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to you about something."

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He got up and he came and stood in front of me, towering above me.

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He put a finger in my face, like that, and he said,

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"Up, come on, up."

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"Come along with me."

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"Come on, you come along with me."

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So I said...

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I said, "Mr Gill, go away from here."

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"You're misbehaving."

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And I got out from the gap in between him and me

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and when I was going, that is the time when he...

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Well, he slapped me on the bottom.

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That's what he did.

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Always people have considered it to be a very trivial thing,

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but I could not get over the enormity of it.

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Letting it go meant living with a lowered self-esteem,

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gulping down my humiliation, facing that person every day,

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facing all the other people.

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The consequences of complaining I had not really

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estimated at that time.

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Nobody was willing to take up the case for me because they were

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so frightened of the DGP - he was the highest ranking

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police officer, with all the powers of life and death.

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No one wanted to do anything against him.

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And I found that no one had ever filed in section 509 and 354,

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which were the lesser offences against the modesty of women.

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17 years, long years, of my life, all of it was taken

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up by this one case.

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The lower courts had quashed the case, they had thrown it out.

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The case reached the Supreme Court and they called for all the records,

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reinstated the matter and also gave their definition of modesty.

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They reprimanded the High Court judge and said, this can't be

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treated as something trivial.

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All the people in every household, this was the talk

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between husband and wife.

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The limelight was not on KPS Gill.

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The entire focus was on me.

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Why have I registered a case?

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There must be something wrong with me!

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I attended the proceedings of the trial throughout,

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along with my husband, but on the day the verdict came,

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I specially requested - I said, "I didn't want to go there".

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KPS Gill was expecting to win, so they had the police band there.

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Then my husband's driver rang up and said, "Madam,

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he had been convicted on both counts".

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It's the mindset I fought against.

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I never fought against KPS Gill, I fought against

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the mindset of society.

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People started saying now offences against women are increasing.

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They are increasing.

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No, now more women are speaking up.

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Mrs Bajaj, at her home in Chandigarh.

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Remember, you can watch Witness every Wednesday

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on the BBC News channel, or you can catch up on all our films

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and more than 100 radio programs on our online archive.

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Next, after the trauma of partition,

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Just go to: bbc.co.uk/witness.

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Next, after the trauma of partition,

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Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru persuaded modernist architect

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Le Corbusier to reinvent India, by building a new capital city

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for the province of Punjab.

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Our next witness, Sumit Kaur, is the former chief

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architect of Chandigarh.

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Le Corbusier got his first opportunity to design

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a whole new city in India, where Nehru commissioned him

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to lay out the capital city of the Punjab -

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Chandigarh.

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He wanted the citizens of the state of Punjab and India as a whole

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to regain their confidence, which could have been shattered

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due to this traumatic partition of the country

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into India and Pakistan.

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And to bring back the faith in the future.

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He wanted revolutionary ideas.

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Buildings have to become santuaries from the climate.

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The sunbreakers break the summer sun when it is high in the sky,

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and admit the winter sun when it is low.

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Corbusier was very concerned about the harsh climate of this

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particular city and the region and he wanted to provide comfortable

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conditions, living conditions for all the residents.

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The city is cut up into 30 residential sectors

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by the road system.

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Each residential sector has its own shops, post

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office, school, health centre, playground, gardens.

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The road system is designed in such a way that no door of any

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house or building opens onto a thoroughfare of fast traffic.

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My grandparents were migrants from Pakistan and I do remember them

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very clearly telling us that we were lucky to have taken

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this house in Chandigarh where we had because of this a huge

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lot, which we had, which had an abundance of green,

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both on the front and the rear.

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We used to cycle and I remember feeling like

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a lord because the roads

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were so wide and we used to have just fun going up and down.

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The Indians are also proud of the city centre,

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the business area with its banks and administrative buildings,

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which to a Westerner look monotonous, grey and empty.

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The Indians regard it as dignified and clean.

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A mark of maturity.

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Le Corbusier was given a mandate, that you have this limited

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budget and the city cannot afford beyond that.

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Because of his creative genius, he was able to use local material,

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locally available materials.

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They were very good bricks, the soil was very good, you know.

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What is architecturally one of the most modern cities

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in the world is being built by men and women who have to cut

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each brick, each measure of earth and concrete

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as they would 4,000 years ago.

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The Open Hand monument signifies the very concept of the city.

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The open palm signifies open to give and open to receive and a lot

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of people from Pakistan had to migrate to India and they had

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to be suitably housed and it stands majestically,

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beautifully positioned against the backdrop

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of the Shivalik hill.

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As so often, Le Corbusier has put his work on a grandiose scale,

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using the mountains as a background.

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Today we are fighting to preserve the backdrop of the Shivalik hills.

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It is marred by urbanization and the intent of keeping it green

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as Corbusier envisioned is lost, I think the city would

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lose quite a bit.

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It is our duty as citizens that we must save Chandigarh.

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Now our final film this month.

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In the mid-1990s, millions of Indians were gripped by reports

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of sacred statues drinking milk.

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We we look at a tale of what some believe was a miracle.

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We look at a tale of what some believe was a miracle.

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The elephant god credited for bringing prosperity

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is seen drinking milk.

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Some declared it a miracle others cashed in, charging five times

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the normal price for milk.

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So widespread were the reports of a miracle that India's Federal

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Department of Science and Energy was asked to investigate.

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They were sceptical and said the molecules of milk

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were being drawn by the texture of the statue.

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He still worships at the same temple.

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We will be back at the British library later this month to give

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you another round-up of Witness, but for now thank you for watching.

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In this special edition of Witness, Yogita Limaye introduces us to five extraordinary moments in Indian history. We hear from India's first track-and-field gold medallist and the woman who brought India's first case of sexual harassment to court.