Like any youngster of today’s generation Atul too had dreams. He was dynamic, aspirational and was eager to make his mark. Atul had chosen his path and decided to undertake a venture which he believed in. On October 14, 1998, at the age of just twenty-three and with two years of service in Indian Army, Lieutenant Atul Katarya lay martyred.
In the line of duty, Lieutenant Katarya and his team of soldiers from 13 Punjab Regiment launched an offensive on a terrorist hideout in Pulwama district of South Kashmir. Amid the hail of bullets, Lieutenant Katarya did not back away and moved ahead aiming for the enemy. At the end of the mission, Indian Army won but it lost its bright young soldier.
Lieutenant Atul Katarya was posthumously awarded Sena Medal. India is indebted to the sacrifice of Lieutenant Katarya and so does his hometown Gurugram. In the year 2000, an educational institute was built in the memory of Lieutenant Katarya in the city.
Situated near renowned Sheetla Mata temple complex, the school now aims to shape the future of many young minds. Colonel (retired) Dhanraj Katarya and Sumitra Katarya the parents of Lieutenant Katarya, aim to keep the memories and core values of their son alive through this educational initiative.
Much has changed from 1998 to 2016 however, in Lieutenant Katarya’s hometown of Gurugram. In 1998, Gurgaon was still considered a satellite town which provided a viable alternative for many Delhiites to settle from the overcrowded and polluted capital city.
From 2000 onwards, with the development of various commercial buildings, the city began to attract various multinational companies. Soon a transition was made from plotted residential developments to construction fancy residential high-rises. Over the years along with prosperity, the population of the city spiralled. Gurgaon became the richest district of Haryana.
In the beginning of 2016, the Haryana Government changed the name of the city from Gurgaon to Gurugram, a name by which it was known during Mahabharata time.
Gurugram soon became metaphor of progress for Haryana and was chosen as a venue by the state government to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of Haryana on November 1.
The progress of Gurugram is reflected in its world class high rise buildings and its booming service culture. A significant point, however, was raised by Prime Minister Modi and Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar to felicitate the culture of Haryana - a point which might compel many villagers to think about their past and ponder on the future.
A state that makes only two percent of nation’s area contributes one out of every ten soldiers in the Indian Army. The villagers of cyber city area of Gurugram now feel that their proud tradition of joining the military is diminishing in their urbanised villages. Can the cyber city, under the onslaught of urbanisation, take forward its proud legacy?
Gurugram district and the regions nearby like Rewari, Mahendra Garh and Bahadur Garh and have had a rich military tradition for years.Based on SC Mittal’s book on History of Haryana, the region of Gurugram along with Hissar, Rohtak, Karnal and Ambala contributed many soldiers to British Arm from the period of 1915-1918.
Gurugram region led with the number of soldiers in 1918 with 4869 combatants. During this period Gurugram also had a maximum number of recruiting centres at 19 followed then by Rohtak at 13 and Hissar at 7. Soldiers like Rao Balbir Singh from the region were also awarded sword of honour by the British Army. Most of the urbanised villages of the cyber city recount that how its villages contributed a great deal to the Indian National Army.
Khazan Singh former sarpanch of Jharsa village says, “Jharsa today, may be known for its land sold to private builders like Unitech, HUDA commercial sector 32 and even the private hospital Medanta but the rich tradition of fighting for the honour of our country, has lost significance amid prosperity and materialism. Not only did Jharsa contribute to Indian Army but it also has a rich tradition of freedom fighters who were martyred by the British and also the soldiers who joined the Indian National Army.”
A village dominated by Jat caste, Singh mentions that Galam Singh Kilodh was Jharsa’s first freedom fighter who was hanged by the British. He was later followed by Bakhtawar Singh Thakran. Captain Uday Singh Kilodh, Bharat Singh Thakran was part of Indian National Army.
Soldiers like Bhagwan Singh, Subedar Amar Kilodh and Jai Singh Nahlawat were part of 1965 and 1971 war. Singh added that the village continues to honour its soldiers yet the priorities and horizons of the villagers have changed with times.
At Chakkarpur, an Ahir caste dominated village which saw the first land transaction of what is now the 3000 acres DLF city and which further continues to expand, the name of first generation member late Subedar Ranjit Singh is still remembered fondly.
27-year-old Prashant Yadav who has done his graduation in engineering proudly shows off the photographs of his great grandfather Subedar Ranjit Singh, and the awards received by him during his army days. Prashant mentions that his great grandfather’s stint in the army not only provided their family respect in the village during the 50’s and the 60’s but also broadened the outlook of their family and made them more open-minded.
When asked if the sudden rise in monetary assets was the main reason for villagers not choosing defence forces, Prashant mentioned that the lifestyle of the villagers too, has changed drastically and they have moved far away from simplicity.
Providing an example, Prashant said, “There was a time when my grandfather, who was a farmer, used to wake up at 3 AM, go to Mehrauli mandi on his cycle to sell his produce, come home and get back to farming. Three decades later the scenario has changed completely. On the positive side we may have become more enterprising, business minded and wealthy but on the flip side simplicity somewhere, has vanished.”
Rao Ulfat Singh from Sikander Pur Ghosi village who retired as Subedar highlighted, “It’s not that the villagers joined the army only for the sake of earning money. Even before we started selling our lands, we had a substantial amount of money to take care of ourselves. I believe the main reason for the change in attitude is the realisation among villagers to get quality education and aspire for something better. No one now will like to join the army as Junior Commissioned Officers (JCO’s)”.
The British realised this and provided incentives to the village communities to get more recruitment. The Army legacy in Gurugram and Haryana villages can be seen from the names of certain villagers which is synonymous with the ranks of the Army. Jarnail will match with General, Kaphtaan with Captain and Sube with Subedar.”
Kumar further added, “The respect for the Army and the defence forces has not waned among the villagers of Cyber city of Gurugram. However, with real estate development in the city, the villagers do not find the venture of joining defence forces as lucrative.”
The rate of construction activities in most of these villages carries on at a brisk pace. Old buildings and homes have given way to new residential structures. With high demands people coming into the city , most of the villagers today are adding more floors to their structures so that more tenants can come in and rental income can be earned.
Gurugram has moved ahead to become Haryana’s richest district but so have the villagers and their lives. For a society which still holds relevant community values and respect for their forefathers, will the new generation that has witnessed the growth of Gurgaon to Cyber city, be interested to take a road which their forefathers had once taken or has the change been too drastic for them to even look back?
In Bob Dylan’s words:The order is rapidly fadin’ And the first one now will later be last For the times they are a changin'.