Makar Sankranti in Allahabad – Justice Katju

Yesterday, 14th January, was Makar Sankranti, one of the main bathing days at the sangam ( confluence of the rivers Ganga, Jamuna, and the mythological Saraswati ) in Allahabad ( Prayagraj ), my native town.

I spent most of my life in Allahabad, first as a student in school and the Allahabad University, then as a lawyer in the Allahabad High Court from 1971 to 1991, and finally as a Judge in the High Court from 1991 to 2004. In 2004 I left Allahabad permanently to take over as Chief Justice of the Madras High Court, after which I became Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court in 2005, and finally a Judge of the Supreme Court of India in 2006..

However, my heart always remained in Allahabad, just as the hearts of the mohajirs from here to Pakistan remained in Allahabad.

Sometimes I cry when I read these lines of the great Urdu poet Munawwar Rana ( in his book Mohajirnama, which expresses the anguish of the mohajirs who had migrated from Allahabad to Pakistan in 1947 ) :

”’Kal ek amrood waale se kehna pad gaya mujhko

Jahaan se aaye hain is phal ki bagiya chhod aaye hain

Kuch der tak to woh takta raha mujhko, phir bola

Woh sangam ka ilaaqa chhoota ? Ya chhod aaye hain ? ”.

( Allahabad is famous for its amrood or guavas, and in my ancestral home in the city we too had an amrood ki bagiya )

They describe my anguish too, since I left Allahabad ( where I had spent most of my life ) permanently in 2004 on being appointed Chief Justice of Madras High Court.

The great poet Tulsidas has written in his epic poem Ramcharitmanas :

” Ko kahi sakai Prayag prabhau

Kalush punj kunjar mrigrau ”


” Who can tell the greatness of Prayag ?

It destroys all sins, like a lion which kills an elephant ”

The great Emperor Harsh Vardhan ( 590-647 ) is said to have held the first Kumbh Mela in Prayag ( later named Allahabad by Emperor Akbar who built

a fort here next to the sangam. Thereafter Kumbh Melas have been held eery 12 years, in which Hindus from all over the world come to have a dip in the

sangam ( Although an atheist, I have had a dip there in every Kunmbh Mela since 1954 ). Ove 30 million people came in the last Kumbh Mela.

And to end, I may relate something which readers in Pakistan may find interesting.

When I was a Judge of Allahabad High Court ( 1991-2004 ) a large number of writ petitions were filed before me from time to time by old Pakistani citizens who had come to India on a visa of one month or so and did not want to go back. So deportation orders were issued by the Indian government to deport them to Pakistan, which they challenged before me.

In every such case I would pass a stay order staying their deportation ‘ till further orders’. Since there are about a million ( ten lac ) cases in the Allahabad High Court, a case which had been heard once would usually be listed again after several years. So the result of my stay orders was that in effect by a judicial order I converted a one month visa into a 5 year one or so ( because the case would come up again after 5 years or so, and till then the stay order would continue ).


Why did I do this ?


I did it ( althiough I did not say this in my orders ) because I regard India and Pakistan as one country, only temporarily separated, but which are bound to reunite one day, like West and East Germany. So I regarded these petitioners before me as Indians. When they had been young men at the time of Partition they had been carried away by passions or fear, and in that fit of passion they migrated to Pakistan.


But now they had become old people, and were nostalgic and wanted to return to their native homes where they had spent their young days, and where many of their relatives still lived. Unfortunately, on migrating to Pakistan they lost their Indian nationality, and became Pakistanis. The Indian Government has always been very reluctant to grant visas to Pakistanis, and even where it is granted after great difficulty, it is usually only for a short period of one month or so. Several conditions are also put on it, e.g. that the visa is only granted for living within one city, and there also one has to report to the nearest police station every week or so.


These old men ( and women ) had come on this short visa, and were reunited with their relatives and old friends, and wanted to spend the last days of their lives here. They realized the folly of their youth, but it was too late now, what could they do ?


As I said above, I regard India and Pakistan as one country, and I regard ‘Pakistanis’ as Indians ( whatever ‘Pakistanis’ may think of themselves ). So I regarded these petitioners as Indians. And how can an Indian be deported from India ?


I did not say so in my orders, but that was the real reason for passing them.




  1. Splitting nation into was unfortunate. Still unfortunate Pak treat India as their enemy. So they do their best to harm India whatever way they can. Terrorism too is encouraged there in Pak to damage us sending their terrorists into India. Who will stop it? Unification of both or three nations into one India is different thing of dream or utopia.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here