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All this and you are not even worried! Will it help?

Power Station of the Past

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Situated on the bank of river Ravi on Okara Faisalabad Road Gogera was once an important and dignified town in the plans of Central Punjab. It is reduced to a shabby and sleepy suburb of Okara today. Town still boasts its importance when it was important British power centre and district headquarters from 1852 to 1865 and the part played by the resilient people of the area during War of Independence in 1857. The stories of the war that was fought around Gogera echo in the pages of history books.

The only historic building -- a British court -- that reminds of the colonial period has been converted into a school. The verandas of the old building with round arches have been clogged to create additional rooms and red thin bricks are covered with coats of whitewash. It was much better if the building could have been conserved in its original shape. That does not seem possible now.

Just in front of the school is dilapidated and crumbling Bakhshi Khana with its round corners towers. It was built in Mughal era. The barracks where prisoners used to be kept before and after appearing in the court have vanished. The treasury room inside the huge complex is still in tact and being used as a living room these days. The huge bargad tree in the compound is an abode of squirrels and common birds. There is also water well in the courtyard that serves as a source of drinking water for the residents. Sitting in the shade of old tree, the resident of the evacuee property told, "We want to build a new house in place of this khandar but presently the property is under litigation. We will do it after the decision by the court." Another sign of old time we are poised to loose forever.

In the middle of the lush green fields, the circumferential walls of a Christian colonial cemetery -- the last resting-place of Lord Berkley -- can also be seen. Neglected ever since! The British Government had allotted agricultural land to the local trustees for upkeep of the cemetery but they have not been able to preserve this important historic sign. "The parameter has been used to keep the animals in the past," told my host Agha Najm ul Hassan, a school teacher and social activist who accompanied me during exploration of the town. I asked many locals but no body could indicate the place where used to be Gogera Central Jail.

Lord Berkley's Last Resting Place

History not only chronicles the events, it also influences the readers as to how the historians had experienced the events. It often describes just what authors want you to know. Most of the sources for the history of the Subcontinent for the colonial period are gazetteers written by British army and civil bureaucrats. And, sadly, they have written our history from their point of view.

British have narrated the history of 'War of Independence 1857' as a 'mutiny' and the heroes of the war have been portrayed as 'insurgents'. One of the first real precursors of the storm that was brewing against British occupants in the Subcontinent occurred in Gogera on the night of July 26, 1857 in the shape of an outbreak in central jail. News of British military actions at Mian Mir (Lahore) reached Gogera on May 13, 1857 that triggered the chain of events. Deputy Commissioner Gogera Elphinstone and Extra Assistant Commissioner Berkley fought the people of the area. The villages (including Jhamra -- village of Ahmed Khan Kharral) were burnt and innocent people killed in search of Ahmed Khan Kharral and other activists. Troops and artillery gun from Lahore and Multan Garrisons also reinforced the Gogera based British forces. British suffered heavy losses including killing of Extra Assistant Commissioner Berkley. The courageous struggle by the people of Gogera will always be remembered in the annals of history. Though there is nothing much left on ground that could be associated with the War of Independence or bring back the memories of the days gone by.

Gogera Town Committee was established in 1995 but the committee has not been able to make any difference in the condition prevailing in this market town. Only 13 sweepers and two donkey carts are not enough for keeping the town clean and remove exponentially growing municipal waste. "People keep their cows, buffaloes and goats in the streets," told an official of town committee. It is one of the rich town committees. The only project that has been under taken by the committee is brick lining of the streets in both parts of the town where water keeps standing even in dry seasons. Sewerage system and Degree College have been approved for the town. People think that the work will start soon. The committee is oblivious of the conditions of what remains of the heritage in the area.

Many of the old buildings lining Gogera's sinuous streets have seen no care or maintenance in near past. Population migration from interior has turned it into a sprawling town without civic amenities of the modern time, in a short time. Town is more rural than urban. It is a mixed cluster of houses widely varying in size and quality. Agha Najm ul Hassan says, "The residents are not familiar with civic amenities that should be available in the modern towns. There is no body to see the growth of the town and co-ordinate the effects of different agencies."

Gogera has every thing nature could bestow; hard working and spirited people, fertile land, water, communication infrastructure and clean healthy environment. This important power base during British period can be converted into important farm town though scientific development and adoption of modern techniques in the field of agriculture. This has not started happening yet.


posted by S A J Shirazi @ Tuesday, February 27, 2018,


At 13:04, Anonymous Raza Rumi said...

What a nice post. Loved reading it.
Keep on writing..

At 16:15, Blogger Deb S. said...

I think it's important to know our history so that we can understand the present. Excellent post.

At 03:16, Blogger Sidhusaaheb said...

It does feel painful to see that our heritage is not being preserved the way it should be.

Even though a lack of funds is often cited as the reason, I am sure that more often than not it is possible to come up with a solution that is workable within the means that are available.

Also, it becomes so much easier when local residents themselves take up the initiative, rather than leaving it solely to the government.

At 19:21, Blogger EXSENO said...

That's a shame, sounds like this place could become a productive town if someone only cared.

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At 18:19, Blogger Amjad Ali said...

What a wonderful post about a forgotten and ignored corner of Punjab. Just writing about these issues is also a great national service.
There is no chance that some concerned officials will take any steps to change this grim situation. Only the enlightened people of that area can save these old monuments and change the fate of their surroundings.

At 22:54, Blogger Yadain said...

Very interesting artical. I want to know place grave of lord burkly and others and Rai ahmad khan kharal. If you know pls sen me information . thanks.


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