The village of freedom fighters
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Village Bilga in Jalandhar district of Punjab has a population of 10,000 but has produced more than 80 freedom fighters—the highest for a village in the country after Bardoli in Gujarat. Most of them have died but the village keeps their memories alive in various ways—a library and reading room with more than 2,000 books on the freedom struggle and related subjects, a multispeciality hospital and a senior secondary school.
A book written by Baba Bhagat Singh Bilga, a prominent leader of the Ghadar movement who died in May 2009, mentions the names of 87 local freedom fighters called Ghadari Babas. The Ghadar movement against the British rule in India was launched by Indians in the US, Canada and many other countries which later spread to India.
The villagers organise a fair every year in the memory of freedom fighters. The sixth fair was organised in the first week of October for which the Desh Bhagat Yaadgari Committee collected more than Rs 1 lakh from the village in donation. Master Purshottam Lal, a local retired teacher, says, "We organised patriotic competitions for school students and staged plays on the freedom movement. Every house contributed for the fair, even if it was Rs 1."
The family of Baba Bilga has turned his ancestral house into a library and reading room. "After Babaji's death, his sons, Kulbir Sanghera and Gurpreet Singh Sanghera, who are now living in the UK, built a library in the ancestral house a year ago and a trust was formed to manage it. We add new books regularly," says Ajmel Singh, who volunteers as librarian. "I regularly come here to read books on Marxism, Bhagat Singh, etc. Now the trust is also planning to add books on general knowledge and competitive exams which will be really helpful for the youth," says 25-year-old Ruby Singh.
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