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.
In the year that marks 70 years since Indian independence,
I will bring you five witnesses who have experienced extraordinary
moments in this country's history.
This month on the programme, India's first track and field
gold-medallist, the woman who brought this country's first
case of sexual harassment to court and the curious case of Indian
deities appearing to drink milk.
First, we travel to Delhi.
In 1947, when India and Pakistan split during partition,
millions were forced to leave their homes
because of the ensuing violence.
Kuldip Nayar was one of many who began a desperate journey
in search of safety.
NEWSREEL: A subcontinent larger than the whole of Europe becomes two
self-governing dominions within the British
Commonwealth of Nations.
But India's future welfare largely depends upon communal harmony.
I'm a Hindu and I was living in Pakistan.
I wanted to live in Pakistan, but I was not allowed to.
Some extremists drove us out of our house.
NEWSREEL: The novelty of independence has worn
thin and all the time the bloodshed goes on.
Throughout this vast land, Hindus and Muslims seek safety
in new surroundings.
We had to leave Pakistan, now a Muslim state.
We decided, why don't we go to Delhi?
When things settle down we will come back.
But we never realised there was no coming back.
NEWSREEL: Fleeing from their looted, bloodstained towns
comes a new exodus.
Already 1.5 million have been exchanged between the two dominions.
Another 2 million are preparing for their trek.
I was very unhappy, but I had to leave my home.
One cardinal, Indian cardinal, who had been transferred
to India, who met my father.
My father was a medical practitioner.
He said, now that he was going to India, could he do something for me?
He said, take my three children to India.
He said, I can't accommodate three, but I can accommodate one.
So I was the one who had to go there.
I was crying, because I did not know whether I would see them again.
As soon as we reached that main road, I found
thousands of people there, as if the whole of humanity had come
on the street, the road.
Women, with trailing children, littered luggage,
piled up bodies, stench.
All these things I saw.
But in this Jeep, when we went further, this was now
surrounded by the people.
They stopped us.
They said, "You take us along".
We said, "There's no space".
An old, sick gentleman, with a flowing beard,
he had this small child and said, "Take this, my grandson".
I said, "But I am still a student".
I couldn't do that.
But I still remember his face - helplessness.
As soon as we reached no-man's-land, which was the border
on the Pakistan side, there was a convoy of Muslims
going into Pakistan and we were entering India.
We looked at each other.
We didn't speak, but there was a strange kind of kinship,
a kinship that both of us have left our homes, our friends
and neighbourhoods and both had been broken on the rack of history.
They moved on and we moved on, but we didn't exchange any words.
We only looked at each other.
That thing I can never forget.
Kuldip Nayar went on to become one of India's most
And now to another man whose life has been shaped
by the violence of partition.
Milkha Singh was a young boy when both his parents
were killed in front of him.
His father's last words spurred him to do great things,
as he told Witness.
NEWSREEL: Independence was proclaimed and celebrated,
NEWSREEL: Independence was proclaimed and celebrated,
but it had been obtained at a terrible price,
and the price was division of India - partition.
For a while the north of India ran with blood,
as Hindus and Muslims and Sikhs grimly slaughtered one another.
Men and women pass Prince Philip on the saluting base.
COMMENTATOR: And for the very first time he's going
hard round that bend.
And in 2013, Milkha Singh's extraordinary story was turned
into the Bollywood film Bhaag Milkha Bhaag,
'Run Milkha Run'.
Now to 1983 and the first case of sexual harassment brought
to court in the country.
Rupan Deol Bajaj took on Punjab's top policeman and changed Indian
legal history in the process.
She may be educated, uneducated, working class,
she may be an officer, a high-ranking officer
like me, all women.
Nobody is immune.
And it happens every day.
In 1988, I was serving as special secretary of finance.
I had about 20,000 people under me.
90% were men.
There was a dinner party, hosted by the home secretary, and Mr
KPS Gill, who was the director general of police, was also there.
He called out to me and he said, "Mrs Bajaj, I want to talk
to you about something."
He got up and he came and stood in front of me, towering above me.
He put a finger in my face, like that, and he said,
"Up, come on, up."
"Come along with me."
"Come on, you come along with me."
So I said...
I said, "Mr Gill, go away from here."
And I got out from the gap in between him and me
and when I was going, that is the time when he...
Well, he slapped me on the bottom.
That's what he did.
Always people have considered it to be a very trivial thing,
but I could not get over the enormity of it.
Letting it go meant living with a lowered self-esteem,
gulping down my humiliation, facing that person every day,
facing all the other people.
The consequences of complaining I had not really
estimated at that time.
Nobody was willing to take up the case for me because they were
so frightened of the DGP - he was the highest ranking
police officer, with all the powers of life and death.
No one wanted to do anything against him.
And I found that no one had ever filed in section 509 and 354,
which were the lesser offences against the modesty of women.
17 years, long years, of my life, all of it was taken
up by this one case.
The lower courts had quashed the case, they had thrown it out.
The case reached the Supreme Court and they called for all the records,
reinstated the matter and also gave their definition of modesty.
They reprimanded the High Court judge and said, this can't be
treated as something trivial.
All the people in every household, this was the talk
between husband and wife.
The limelight was not on KPS Gill.
The entire focus was on me.
Why have I registered a case?
There must be something wrong with me!
I attended the proceedings of the trial throughout,
along with my husband, but on the day the verdict came,
I specially requested - I said, "I didn't want to go there".
KPS Gill was expecting to win, so they had the police band there.
Then my husband's driver rang up and said, "Madam,
he had been convicted on both counts".
It's the mindset I fought against.
I never fought against KPS Gill, I fought against
the mindset of society.
People started saying now offences against women are increasing.
They are increasing.
No, now more women are speaking up.
Mrs Bajaj, at her home in Chandigarh.
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Next, after the trauma of partition,
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Next, after the trauma of partition,
Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru persuaded modernist architect
Le Corbusier to reinvent India, by building a new capital city
for the province of Punjab.
Our next witness, Sumit Kaur, is the former chief
architect of Chandigarh.
Le Corbusier got his first opportunity to design
a whole new city in India, where Nehru commissioned him
to lay out the capital city of the Punjab -
He wanted the citizens of the state of Punjab and India as a whole
to regain their confidence, which could have been shattered
due to this traumatic partition of the country
into India and Pakistan.
And to bring back the faith in the future.
He wanted revolutionary ideas.
Buildings have to become santuaries from the climate.
The sunbreakers break the summer sun when it is high in the sky,
and admit the winter sun when it is low.
Corbusier was very concerned about the harsh climate of this
particular city and the region and he wanted to provide comfortable
conditions, living conditions for all the residents.
The city is cut up into 30 residential sectors
by the road system.
Each residential sector has its own shops, post
office, school, health centre, playground, gardens.
The road system is designed in such a way that no door of any
house or building opens onto a thoroughfare of fast traffic.
My grandparents were migrants from Pakistan and I do remember them
very clearly telling us that we were lucky to have taken
this house in Chandigarh where we had because of this a huge
lot, which we had, which had an abundance of green,
both on the front and the rear.
We used to cycle and I remember feeling like
a lord because the roads
were so wide and we used to have just fun going up and down.
The Indians are also proud of the city centre,
the business area with its banks and administrative buildings,
which to a Westerner look monotonous, grey and empty.
The Indians regard it as dignified and clean.
A mark of maturity.
Le Corbusier was given a mandate, that you have this limited
budget and the city cannot afford beyond that.
Because of his creative genius, he was able to use local material,
locally available materials.
They were very good bricks, the soil was very good, you know.
What is architecturally one of the most modern cities
in the world is being built by men and women who have to cut
each brick, each measure of earth and concrete
as they would 4,000 years ago.
The Open Hand monument signifies the very concept of the city.
The open palm signifies open to give and open to receive and a lot
of people from Pakistan had to migrate to India and they had
to be suitably housed and it stands majestically,
beautifully positioned against the backdrop
of the Shivalik hill.
As so often, Le Corbusier has put his work on a grandiose scale,
using the mountains as a background.
Today we are fighting to preserve the backdrop of the Shivalik hills.
It is marred by urbanization and the intent of keeping it green
as Corbusier envisioned is lost, I think the city would
lose quite a bit.
It is our duty as citizens that we must save Chandigarh.
Now our final film this month.
In the mid-1990s, millions of Indians were gripped by reports
of sacred statues drinking milk.
We we look at a tale of what some believe was a miracle.
We look at a tale of what some believe was a miracle.
The elephant god credited for bringing prosperity
is seen drinking milk.
Some declared it a miracle others cashed in, charging five times
the normal price for milk.
So widespread were the reports of a miracle that India's Federal
Department of Science and Energy was asked to investigate.
They were sceptical and said the molecules of milk
were being drawn by the texture of the statue.
He still worships at the same temple.
We will be back at the British library later this month to give
you another round-up of Witness, but for now thank you for watching.
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.