Amarjit Sohi

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Biographical details

The Times of India, Nov 06 2015

Amaninder Sharma

When Pond's cold cream helped beat TADA 

Twenty-six years ago, poems by revolutionary Punjabi poet Avtar Pash, a copy of Bhisham Sahni's novel `Tamas' and a cold cream had helped rescue Amarjit Sohi from the clutches of Bihar police. Sohi was on Wednesday sworn in as infrastructure and community minister in Justin Trudeauled Canadian government. His tale of solitary confinement in Bihar's Gaya jail in 1988 is already well known -both in Canada and Punjab. But had he not been lucky, Sohi might still be languishing in the jail as a `Canadian-Punjabi Khalistani terrorist who wanted to train Naxalites in Bihar'.

Amita Paul, a senior Bihar-cadre Punjabi IAS officer, revealed to TOI about what happened the day she confronted Sohi 26 years ago. Jagmohan Singh, a friend of Sohi who pursued the case in Bihar during his 22-month confinement under the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act, substantiated the story.

“Sohi was arrested by Bihar police in 1988 and taken to Jehanabad,“ said Jagmohan. “Bihar police were keen to establish that Sohi was a Khalistani terrorist who had returned from Canada on an invitation from Naxalites to train their cadres.“ Paul was Jehanabad district magistrate at the time. “The moment she got to know that police were holding a young man in confinement on ter ror charges, she went to question Sohi,“ Jagmohan said.

Sohi, who was 25 then, maintained that he was a Leftist but not a Khalistani.“Amita had a literary background. She asked him to narrate a poem by any Leftist poet. Sohi narrated a few poems of Pash. When she asked police what Sohi was carrying, she was told that he had a copy of `Tamas', the novel set around the time of Partition.After that, the DM was convinced that Sohi couldn't be a terrorist,“ Jagmohan said.

Paul, a 1980-batch officer who is now chief adviser to the Bihar planning board, said: “Not only `Tamas', police also showed that he was carrying Pond's cold cream. Terrorists hardly carry such stuff. Sohi also told me that he was a theatre activist. When I told him to recite something, he recited Pash's popular poem `Kranti diya gallaan karan waaleyo, kranti jad aayi tuhanu vi taare vikha devegi (O you who are talking about revolution; revolution, when it comes, will knock the daylights out of you).“ “I am happy that he has been sworn in as a Canadian minister,“ she said. Jagmohan said Amita prevailed over police to produce Sohi in a local court, where he was proven not guilty .

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