Tag Archives: Punjab

Dalit Uprising and After …

Why Hindutva Would Not Be The Same Again ?

Image result for una struggle

(Photo Courtesy : newsclick.in)

When I was born I was not a child
I was a dream, a dream of revolt
that my mother, oppressed for thousands of years ,
Still it is untouched in my eyes
Covered with wrinkles of thousand years, her face
her eyes, two lakes overflowing with tears
have watered my body…..

– Sahil Parmar*

Well known Gujarati poet Sahil Parmar’s poem ‘When I Was Born’ perhaps reverberates these days in Gujarat when we are witnessing a Dalit Upsurge- a first of its kind at least in that regions history. It will be a talk of folklore for times to come how flogging of dalits in a village in Saurashtra by Hindutva fanatics suddenly erupted into a mass movement of dalits which could catch imagination of the people cutting across different sections of society. An attempt is being made here to understand the dynamics of the movement and its likely impact on the future trajectory of Hindutva.

Continue reading Dalit Uprising and After …

June 1984 – 31 Years Later, Sikhs Are Mapping Their Stories: Ravleen Kaur

Guest post by RAVLEEN KAUR

When June 1984 comes up in conversation, the same talking points invariably arise – “it was the state’s burden to attack; they had no choice”, “Bhindranwale had to be taken down”, or “Punjab was already bleeding”.

What these oft-repeated phrases – a product of the tight PR messaging campaign on the part of the government – glide over is the scope of human suffering that occurred in June 1984 – and most glaringly, suffering that was perpetrated by those in power, by those who had been elected in a democracy to uphold the rights and dignity of the people who they killed in 1984.

Anthropologist Talal Asad has noted the “notorious tactic of political power to deny a distinct unity to populations it seeks to govern, to treat them as contingent and indeterminate.”

With the belief that every Sikhs who was alive in 1984 has a story to tell, the 1984 Living History Project is depicting the unity in trauma of a people, who, in 1984, felt attacked as a people. The 1984 Living History Project is working to give a platform to ordinary people who lived through the massacres of both June and November. The project was initiated in 2012 by Sikh millennials.  Realizing that the generation who experienced 1984 firsthand was getting older and that time was running out to capture their stories, they began a grassroots effort to capture as many stories and testimonies from Sikhs worldwide, one video narrative at a time. The first videos were their own parents and grandparents, recorded on smart phones and edited and shared rather seamlessly. The Project’s web platform allows easy Steps to make and share videos; something other Sikhs around the world have been doing through the 30th and 31st anniversary years of 1984.  Continue reading June 1984 – 31 Years Later, Sikhs Are Mapping Their Stories: Ravleen Kaur

How The AAP Won Punjab: Harjeshwar Pal Singh

 This is a guest post by HARJESHWAR PAL SINGH

Amidst the unprecedented Tsunami of Modi which swept away opposition in most of the country, one result stood out as truly exceptional. AAM AADMI PARTY’s (AAP) stunning debut in Punjab. The virtually unheard of party in Punjab even 5 months before won 4 Parliamentary seats out of 13 and secured 25% of the popular vote announcing itself to be an equal of the ruling SAD/BJP combine and the opposition Congress. Two of its candidates Bhagwant Maan (Sangrur) and Prof Sadhu Singh (Faidkot ) won with a stunning margin of over 2 lakhs and 1.7 lakhs respectively. This popular groundswell of support which was ignored by most political analysts, conventional media and political parties had begun to take visible form through buzz on the street, social media and in common discourse by the election day.

What explains this massive upsurge by a fledgling political outfit lacking money, muscle, men and a local organization to humble two of the most well equipped political machines -SAD/BJP and Congress? Continue reading How The AAP Won Punjab: Harjeshwar Pal Singh

There’s a G on my Neck (again): Simran Kaur

Guest post by SIMRAN KAUR

Shekhar Gupta is at it again: lacing an insidious agenda with just enough actual facts that even the targets of his vitriol become eager to swallow. Aspiring Indian Journos, this is how a good Sardar Joke—and while you are at it, jibe at the poor, the rural, the unemployed, the mourning—is done, while earning your paycheck yet again as an esteemed Editor-in-Chief, at best with head-in-clouds, at worst, a stake-in-oppression.

Shekhar G’s latest thesis: The rest of the country has moved on but Punjab has become a prisoner of its boisterous old stereotype. It has forgotten its entrepreneurial energy, its competitive spirit and slipped into a complacent, decadent trance of perpetual balle-balle.

His first argument for the thesis of Punjab’s decline: “the Punjabification”…of Punjab. He bemoans that signs and posts are in Punjabi, in Punjab.

The 50s and 60s saw Punjabi Hindus becoming the unique community to denounce their own mother-tongue. Upping the ante, G. ridicules Punjabis who use Gurmukhi, the script developed in the time of the Sikh Gurus. He finds tell-tale signs over Punjab (he notes his fieldwork of actually travelling on the Grand Trunk Road and flying over Punjab by helicopter recently) of the people being un-couth:  signage on Punjabi establishments, in poor English.

You will take a minute figuring out what the “burgars” and “nudles” painted on so many fast-food shops mean, or why Lily is always spelt “Lilly”, whether it be the name of a restaurant in Phagwara or a beauty parlour in Bathinda…If you haven’t figured out already that this, indeed, is Singh’s English.

Brilliant two-birds strike, Shekhar G. Continue reading There’s a G on my Neck (again): Simran Kaur

An undivided history of Punjab’s Partition: Ajay Bharadwaj

This is a book review by AJAY BHARADWAJ of an authoritative new book on the Punjab’s Partition by Prof Ishtiaq Ahmed. If you have any questions about the book or about the Partition in general, please leave them in the comments section and we will soon put them to Prof Ahmed.

The Punjab Bloodied, Partitioned and Cleansed
By Ishtiaq Ahmed
Rupa Publishers, Delhi; 2011, 754 pp., Rs 995

Ishtiaq Ahmed claims that his work is “the first holistic and comprehensive case study of the partition of Punjab” (p.xlv); he has lived up to it admirably.  A study of rigorous scholarship, with painstaking fieldwork on both sides of the divide, The Punjab Bloodied, Partitioned and Cleansed’ offers unbiased insights into a minefield called the Partition of Punjab. As the title itself suggests, the book delves deep into the most difficult aspect of Partition history which has come to define it — the scale and magnitude of the killings at that juncture.

The primary sources that Ahmed has accessed in his endeavour are equally interesting for a number of reasons. While the historian draws extensively from the classified fortnightly reports (FRs) of the Punjab governors and chief secretaries to the viceroys, he simultaneously pays heed to oral history or the personal narratives of individuals — “witness to or victim of traumatic events” — that he has recorded over a decade and a half. The coming together of the two strands creates an intricate web of high politics and everyday life, which contributes to a layered, richly detailed and immensely moving account of the partition of Punjab — leaving a permanent imprint on the mind of the reader. Continue reading An undivided history of Punjab’s Partition: Ajay Bharadwaj

A visit to the abode of Guru Nanak: Shiraz Hassan

Guest post by SHIRAZ HASSAN

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Photographs by Shiraz Hassan

You can divide a piece of land but you cannot divide a belief. This was my first impression when I reached Kartarpur, a historic and sacred place, located just three kilometres away from the Indian border in the north-eastern city of Narowal, in Pakistani Punjab.

My journey started from Lahore and it was one of the most exciting journeys of my life. As I travelled, I saw  lush green rice fields on either side,and wondered why I had undertaken this journey. It was only when I reached Kartarpur that I got the answer. Continue reading A visit to the abode of Guru Nanak: Shiraz Hassan

A Day in the Life of a Sikh Prejudice: Pukhraj Singh

Guest post by PUKHRAJ SINGH

Part I

“The very ink with which history is written,” allegorised Mark Twain, “is merely fluid prejudice.” By that rationale, religion can often be the quill which defaces the truth with its broad strokes, perverting history than promulgating it. And like the bastard child of these perversions, a few counter-narratives manage to wade through the tides of public opinion, carrying the dim outline of the ossified ideas that led to its tragic pursuit. But one has to have the right kind of eyes, says Hunter S. Thompson, to “see the high-water mark—that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.”

A similar, horrid apparition of truth opened the floodgates of memories and angst very recently as a headline screamed through the Twitterverse—40 Sikhs Convert to Christianity in a Tarn Taran District Village: Gurdwara Management’s Treatment of “Low Caste” Sikhs Calls for Strict Action—in the particularly sultry month of August. Continue reading A Day in the Life of a Sikh Prejudice: Pukhraj Singh

A statement against the arrest of Punjabi publishers and editors for publishing the poetry of Babu Rajab Ali

Names of signatories given at the end; for more details on the campaign, see Whitewashing History

The arrest of two Punjabi publishers and two editors for reprinting old books of poet Babu Rajab Ali which allegedly contained some then used caste names, under the Prevention of Atrocities Against Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Act, is a totally thoughtless, callous and ruthless action taken by the Punjab government.

We understand that Mr. Amit Mittar of Tarak Bharti Prakashan and Mr. Ashok Garg of Sangam and editors Mr. Jagjeet Singh Sahoke from Moga and Mr. Swatantar from Samana, were arrested by the police on September 15 at the behest of the Punjab government. This is absolutely against academic freedom. Continue reading A statement against the arrest of Punjabi publishers and editors for publishing the poetry of Babu Rajab Ali

Punjabi Qissas and the Story of Urdu

Heer-Ranjha in a Pakistani film poster, circa 1970s

The Social Space of Language: Vernacular Literature in British Colonial Punjab
by Farina Mir
Permanent Black, Ranikhet, 2010.
pp-277, price Rs 695

This book straddles several anomalies that are rather obvious once stated but are rarely formulated as such. How is it that the world of Urdu literature becomes so dominated by people from the Punjab in a span of fifty years, beginning circa 1900s, and in a sense, continues to remain so? Iqbal, Faiz, Meeraji, Rashid, Bedi, Manto, Krishan Chander and down to our times Mushtaq Ahmed and Zafar Iqbal, a top twenty or top fifty list of modern Urdu litterateurs would likely contain eighty percent Pubjabis. And how is it that Punjabi, which produced such a brilliant and varied repertoire of stories, epics and poems until the late medieval era by such extraordinary luminaries as Baba Farid, Bulle Shah, Waris Shah, Haridas Haria seems to drop out of our horizon in the modern era, where all we know of is an Amrita Pritam or, less likely, a Surjit Patar. Where such poverty after such riches, where such preponderance from such invisibility? And yet, how is it that Punjabi still continues to enjoy immediate and even aural connotations that transcend nationality, religion and, even as it defines a community, a specific ethnicity. What then is a Punjabi community and where and how has it existed specifically in the colonial era but, in many resilient ways, down to our times? Continue reading Punjabi Qissas and the Story of Urdu

Who Killed Jugni? Shiraz Hassan

Guest post by SHIRAZ HASSAN

It was many summers ago. I was visiting my village on the banks of the Jhelum. I saw the people of my village go towards the Eidgah, across the chappaD, or the pond. When I asked my grandfather about them, he said. “Ajj mela ay putter!” [Son, today is a fair!] The mela ground was bustling with makeshift shops and people thronging them. At one end of the mela a circus had come up. The mithai stalls were packed with customers and curious on-lookers, some of them were buying and eating. And that’s when I heard the sound of their music. There they were, surrounded by a circle of spectators. A couple of local artists sang a song I had not heard before. I couldn’t understand a word, other than ‘O mereya Jugni, O mereya Jugni’ – which they chorused, over and over again.

That was my introduction to Jugni. I had no idea who Jugni was, and for I long time I didn’t care. Continue reading Who Killed Jugni? Shiraz Hassan

Madan Gopal Singh on the Jugni debate


Arif Lohar sining a Jugni with multiple beat instruments – dholak, dhol and bongo and chimta. Even the alghoza – two short and narrow reed flute like instruments – used to keep fast rhythm between three to four notes.

With extreme reluctance, I am trying my hand at English even though my command of this language remains highly suspect. After a recent discussion on Kafila, I felt encouraged to contribute my two-penny bit to the lively debate about Jugni… Continue reading Madan Gopal Singh on the Jugni debate

Who is Jugni?: Indu Vashist

Guest post by INDU VASHIST

The character of Jugni has been featuring in Punjabi popular and folk music for well over a century. The most recent references of this rebellious, fiery female character have appeared in diverse productions like Pakistan’s Coke Studio (above), Punjab’s sensicore rocker Rabbi Shergill, and of course Bollywood in films like Tanu Weds Manu and Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye! Continue reading Who is Jugni?: Indu Vashist

The Desertification of Punjab and the Liability of Opinion Makers

In August last year, we had drawn attention to a piece by Indian Express editor Shekhar Gupta on the remarkable edit page piece he had penned on what he claimed was the ‘absence of drought’, in the Green Revolution region and provided his ‘explanation’ of why it had been possible. It had been possible, Gupta had opined, because all the great things had been accomplished in decades when the most retrograde environmental and jholawala movements in the history of mankind had not yet arrived on the scene. And with no evidence whatsoever and with nothing but his blind ideological faith, Gupta had even misled his readers that ‘underground aquifers were being constantly recharged’. This when just a few days ago, NASA satellite pictures had shown the extent of groundwater depletion in this region. Continue reading The Desertification of Punjab and the Liability of Opinion Makers