Colourful function in parliament to mark 1857 uprising


New Delhi : It was a journey down history as MPs and other dignitaries were held spellbound by virtuoso performances from Jagjit Singh and Shubha Mudgal Thursday at the Central Hall of parliament that evoked the spirit of the freedom fighters of 1857.

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After observing a minute's silence in the memory of the martyrs, Singh's rendition of a ghazal on Bahadur Shah Zafar portrayed soulfully the plight of the last Mughal emperor, exiled to what was then called Burma.

Mudgal rendered the poem of Subhadri Kumari Chauhan on Rani Jhansi, recalling memories of the brave fight against the British by the famous queen.

If that was not enough, poet Gulzar's account of India's first war of independence drew loud applause as many rushed towards the podium to get his autograph after the function.

The capacious Central Hall was packed to capacity with an audience that included President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, Vice President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee.

Others who savoured the nostalgic moments were former prime ministers Atal Bihari Vajpayee, H.D. Deve Gowda and I.K. Gujral as also Congress president Sonia Gandhi and leader of opposition L.K. Advani.

The 75-minute function went off almost without a hitch except for a brief protest by members of the Akali Dal who demanded that the Anglo-Sikh war of 1845 be recognised as the first war of independence.

Describing 1857 as a watershed in the country's history, Kalam said it was a resurgence of nationalism.

"It started as small streams of dissent against the tyranny of colonial rule. Foreign rulers did not understand these warning signals," he said

Being probably his last function in parliament as he demits office in July at the end of his five-year term, Kalam used his address to deliver a strong message to MPs saying that "many challenges need to be responded" to.

"The emergence of multi-party coalitions as a regular form of government, that needs to rapidly evolve as a stable, two-party system. There is also a need to strengthen internal security to cope with global terrorism and new forms of internal law and order problems," he said.