The Bhawalpuris of Rajpura: A Community That Rose Like A Phoenix


The Bhawalpuris of Rajpura: A Community That Rose Like A Phoenix

January 10, 2020

And rise like a phoenix
Out of the ashes seeking rather than vengeance
Retribution you were warned
Once I'm transformed
Once I'm reborn
You know I will rise like a phoenix
(from the album: Rise Like A Phoenix).

The tragic partition of 1947 and creation of West Pakistan meant Hindus and Sikhs of that region had to move out to India leaving hearth and livelihood behind. Apparently, the movement of refugees had a community character meaning people from a village or region crossed the newly demarcated Radcliffe Line together in groups and re-settled wherever they went as a community as if they just changed the physical location and continued with their lives as the same social groups speaking the same language and sharing same culture and ethos.

One such community is Bhawalpuris of Rajpura which derive its name from Bhahawalpur of present Pakistan.

If you travel some 200 km from Delhi towards Amristsar by train or bus, you reach Rajpura soon after crossing the cantonment town of Ambala. With characteristic hustles and bustles of shops and bazaars, the township is remarkable for the way it came into being and the economic prosperity it has achieved in the last five decades.

Little conversation with the locals and the first thing you are likely to notice that majority population here is a Bhawalpuri. The elders and the middle-aged still connect through the language that they brought along when they migrated as refugees and settled down in what is known as Rajpura town today.

To strengthen the resettlement efforts of the Bhawalpuris and other displaced people , the then 'Patiala and East Punjab States Union (PEPSU)’ state (which was later on dissolved to form the state of Punjab) enacted Pepsu Townships Development Board Act of 1954 constituting PEPSU Townships Development Board thus paving the way for the development of the townships in a organised way. Dr Rajendra Prasad had infused much needed inspiration. The jurisdiction of the board extends to every township in Punjab developed for the settlement of ‘displaced persons’ on account of the partition of India. The responsibilities of the board involve preparation of the township scheme, land acquisition, construction of the residential buildings, etc. This Act provides for the dissolution of the board upon completion of the townships. The board has performed well in providing much needed supports to the displaced Bhawalpuris in terms Rajpura and Tripuri township development. But apparently some land development activities are still ‘works in progress’.

With the support of the board, the hardworking Bhawalpuris have come a long way and have established themselves as successful businessmen. Some like Dr VD Mehta, among the most renowned chemical engineers in India of his time known as ‘fibre man of India’ made an impact as scientific and engineering professional. It is heartening to see them settled and integrated in mainstream Indian society. They are a rich and prosperous community courtesy their hard-work and business acumen.

Jagdish Kumar Jagga, the current head of the board is probably the most well-known name in the town. A self-made man with a humble background, Jagdish started off as a small-time businessman. A committed community leader and a social worker, he is well known locally for his philanthropic works. He runs a charity Lok Bhalai Trust dedicated particularly for the welfare of elderly. With a strong grip over ground realities, he is the voice of local community. In view of his contributions and achievements, he was recently appointed senior vice-chairman of PEPSU Township Development Board by the Government of Punjab to lead the board and complete the unfinished tasks.


Author: Umesh Prasad
The author is an alumnus of the London School of Economics and a UK based former academic.
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