This year marks the 30th anniversary since the Punjab Research Group was founded. The idea of PRG was first floated at a conference in March/April 1984 on “Communal Harmony in Punjab” following discussions among a small group of like-minded people. The PRG was established on the basis that it would be inclusive and all-embracing in issues pertaining to the three Punjabs (East, West and the Diaspora). During the past 30 years the PRG has provided space for academics to interact with each other regardless of territorial or disciplinary boundaries. This is especially important given the often strained relationship between India and Pakistan which has prevented academic discourse to take place between scholars in East and West Punjab. When the group started in 1984 its activities were radical and pioneering in furthering regional studies, an area only beginning to emerge. The PRG has continued to meet two to three times a year at various universities across the UK to allow for broad participation.
Ten years later the PRG launched the International Journal of Punjab Studies at a major conference on Punjab Studies in Coventry, 1994. Now know as the Journal of Punjab Studies, the journal provides important space for the Punjabi Diaspora and Punjab Studies and has been successfully running for the past 20 years.
To mark this milestone in the Group’s history we have teamed up with Dr Churnjeet Mahn, University of Surrey, and are planning a two-day conference. The public event will be funded by the AHRC project, ‘A Punjabi Palimpsest: Cultural Memory and Amnesia at the Aam Khas Bagh’. This project has looked at the conservation of Mughal-era buildings in Sikh-dominated Punjab, especially in terms of contested heritage and memory. A website connected to the project can be found here: http://thegtroad.com/
The theme for the conference will therefore focus on Memory; we invite people to present papers which are either reflective in their approach regarding Punjab Studies and/or draw on the themes and role of collective or social memory in Punjab. This can be broadly interpreted and we particularly welcome papers from young emerging scholars. A selection of the papers presented during this conference will be published in a special edition of the Journal of Punjab Studies and edited by Pippa Virdee and Churnjeet Mahn.
Date: 27-28 June 2014
Venue: Coventry University
Please send proposals and abstracts by 15 April to email@example.com.
Michael Nijhawan has alerted us of a new edition of the above journal that contains three papers on the Sikh diapora. One of which is as per this link:
The author can be reached on:
Department of Sociology, York University
4700 Keele St, Toronto, ON, M3J 1P3
Phone: 416-736-2100 xt.77994
Please see a link below to new publications with regards to the April 2013 enactment of the Statutory Prohibition of Caste Discrimination into British Equality Law.
The report has kindly been sent to us by Meena Dhanda who has worked on the report and can be contacted on M.Dhanda@wlv.ac.uk.
For information on postings you can contact:
The Future of South Asian Collections Conference: UK and South Asia perspectives, will take place from Wednesday 30th April to Friday 2nd May 2014 at the University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK.
Call for Papers
We welcome proposals for a range of possible contributions. These may be 30 minute plenary papers or an idea for running a 50 minute discussion group. These discussion groups may be organised around a particular theme, include shorter presentations by organisers, or address a particular issue or question that fits with the theme of the conference. Furthermore, if you have ideas for shorter contributions but do not wish to run a discussion session, we will try to fit these into groups based loosely around the above questions and run by members of the host institutions. Please send any proposals to firstname.lastname@example.org by Sunday 9th March 2014
To book your place at The Future of South Asian Collections Conference: UK and South Asia perspectives, please download and complete a registration form.
Barbara Bertolani, an Italian Sociologist has recently authored two publications that include the Sikh Community in Italy. The first is available FREE via the following link:
The second publication is a US book:
Barbara Bertolani, “The Sikhs in Italy: A Growing Heterogeneous and Plural Presence”, in Giordan G. e Swatos W. (eds), Testing Pluralism. Globalizing Belief, Localizing Gods, Leiden-Boston, Brill, 2013 (pp. 75-93). (ISBN 978-90-04-25447-3 hardback; ISBN 978-90-04-25475-6 e-book).
For further info: email@example.com
Pritam Singh∗ Faculty of Business, Oxford Brookes University, Oxford OX3 0SB, UK
Commonwealth & Comparative Politics, 2014 Vol. 52, No. 1, 55–77
The Akali Dal is the best organised political party in Punjab and has ruled over Punjab for a longer period than any other political party since the creation of the Punjabi-speaking state in 1966. It articulates aspirations of Punjabi regional nationalism along with trying to protect the interests of the Sikhs as a religious minority in India and abroad. As a part of shaping Punjab’s economic future, it deals with the pressures of Indian and global capitalism. This paper is an attempt to track the multi-faceted pressures of class, religion and nationalism in the way Akali Dal negotiates its politics in Indian federalism.
To read the full article: Class, nation and religion- Changing nature of Akali Dal politics
A TALE OF EXEMPLARY LOYALTY TO FAITH
(Based on Travels of Swarn Singh Kahlon, December, 2011)
(Article appeared in The Sikh Review, Kolkata, February, 2014 issue).
THE ROMANCE OF BURMA
There are two romantic poems about Burma;
ONE by Rudyard Kipling (1889-90),
where he tries to relive on return to London his travels in Burma:
“By the old Moulmein Pagoda, lookin’ lazy at the sea,
There’s a Burma girl a-settin’, and I know she thinks o’ me;
For the wind is in the palm-trees, and the Temple-bells they say:
“Come you back, you British soldier; come you back to Mandalay!”
AND THE SECOND
By the exiled Mughal King, Bahadur Shah Zafar who immortalised his death in Burma (1862) through the epitaph he wrote on the wall with a burnt stick:
“Kitna hai badnaseeb Zafar, dafan ke liye
do gaz zamin na mili ku e yaar mein”
This was also the period when Sikhs started to migrate to Burma; a country now renamed ‘Myanmar’. The Sikh migration to Burma was an important component of global Sikh migration and remained a popular destination for about six decades.
Many Sikhs have their relatives and friends who still talk about the Burma days even if they have returned permanently since long back. A visit was very tempting especially as my wife’s mother was born and grew up in that country. Whenever my mother-in-law and her sisters had some confidences to share they would shift to speaking Burmese even after their return three decades ago.
Read full article: Road to Mandalay
International Conference on History of Nonviolent Civil Resistance in Pakistan
Organised by Institute of Peace and Diplomacy (IPD) and Hanns-Seidel-Foundation in collaboration with History Department, University of Warwick and The Leverhulme Trust, UK
27-28 February 2014
Venue : Hotel Margalla Islamabad
Please see attachments for further information about the conference:
The latest offering by Rajmohan Gandhi is a history of Punjab.
A preview of the book is available via Amazon: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Punjab-A-History-Aurangzeb-Mountbatten/dp/9382277587
The following interview on YouTube might be of interest too:
The Indian Memory Project is a wonderful resource which features the Visual & Oral history of the Indian Subcontinent via family archives. Please follow the links to read the full text and see the pictures. These are just a selection of material relating to Punjab.
An avid sportswoman who managed several teams during the Asian Games 1982 – http://www.indianmemoryproject.com/95/
Parveen Kaur (Arora) was born in the small hill town of Mussoorie, India in 1952. The ‘Arora’ family originally belonged to Rawalpindi, (now Pakistan), and moved to Mussourie during the Indo-Pak partition.
She served as an ad-hoc at Lady Irwin College and also had a brief stint at Miranda House. She finally got a permanent job at S.G.T.B. Khalsa College, University of Delhi in 1981. A year later, she became the manager of several teams at the Asian Games in 1982 which she believed was a great honour at her age. She also got married in 1984, a turbulent year marked with Anti-Sikh riots. The story of how they survived the riots is another long one indeed.
She passed away, on February 4, 2011 and is fondly remembered by all the faculty, friends and family as one of the most zealous, interesting women and sports personalities of her time. The college has now instituted two yearly awards for ‘Outstanding Sports Person’ in her name.
The cockerel-fighter from Punjab who became one of Africa’s greatest cameramen – http://www.indianmemoryproject.com/109/
Looking back over the 80 years, I wonder how, as a simple village boy from Punjab who never even finished school, did I end up in Africa, dodging bullets to make a living from shooting hundreds of kilometres of film in some of the world’s most dangerous regions.
I come from the proud martial family of the Sikhs. I do not know the exact date of my birth, although my passport says 25 October 1931, Baburpur, Punjab. At the time, births were not registered, and parents habitually exaggerated the ages of their children in order to get them into school early and so have their own hands free during the day. Baburpur, formerly called Retla (the place of sand), was renamed after Mughal Emperor Babur who had reportedly camped near our village for a few weeks.
The only non-white students of the batch – http://www.indianmemoryproject.com/118/
This is an old article but worth sharing here:
Tossing the empty bottle he shouts,
‘Oh world! Your beauty is your ugliness.’
The world stares back at him
Their bloodshot eyes rattle with the question
‘Who nabs the pillar of time
By the noose of his drunken breath?
Who dares to break into dim corridors
Of twisted conscience?
Who intrudes upon poisonous dens
Of demonised souls?
Through icy glasses his rude glance
Chases us like a footfall
Bang! Bang! -Majeed Amjad, Poem for Manto
Saadat Hasan Manto, a red rag to both conservative and progressive writers, was feared by the reactionary press, the state and the literary mafias of his times. All his life he fought the bigoted social reformers, ideologues and religious fanatics, facing various court trials with a heroic smile. His characters were not the mouthpieces of ready-made truths who would sermonise from a pulpit as saviours; neither Noori na Naari, neither angelic nor satanic, Manto’s Adam was born out of mud.
Manto spent the prime of his youth in Bombay and Delhi where he celebrated his poverty and prosperity, his successes and failures with the same zest for life. In 1948, betrayed by his friends, Manto decided to leave Bombay and move to Pakistanin the hope of a better life in the new country. He was disturbed by the communal riots and the gruesome scenes he had witnessed during the migration. With his failing health and two dependent daughters, he couldn’t figure out his whereabouts: “all day long I would sit on the chair lost in my thoughts not knowing what to do.”Lahore was far from welcoming. The doors of Radio Pakistan were closed to him and the reactionary press was hounding him for his bold writings. After a few months he wrote Thanda Gosht for which another trial was ready for him.
Manto could have survived all those slams and slurs but what threw him into total despair was the attitude of his own friends who expelled him from the Progressive Writers Association (PWA) in 1949. What had created panic among the progressives was first, a book Siyah Haashiye, and then Urdu Adab, a literary journal, through which Manto included writers from all schools of thought without bias. Siyah Haashiye was a book of black jokes about the callous killings during the riots. It showed a terrifying despair where one could not tell laughter from a scream. Ahmad Nadeem Qasmi, the secretary-general of the Punjab branch of PWA, said after reading the book, “What I can see is a field littered with dead bodies where the writer is stealing cigarette butts and money from their pockets.” Qasmi’s critique was as callous as the callousness of the characters in the book.
On the publication of Urdu Adab, edited jointly by Muhammad Hasan Askari and Manto, Qasmi as the spokesman of the PWA, wrote an open letter to the latter: “Get rid of the opium of art for art’s sake; bring Askari into your fold by converting him to the art for life. Our movement is based on owning, understanding and respecting the suffering of the masses.” Qasmi guided Manto like a protective father, fearing that Manto could be spoilt by Askari’s “influence of decadent French writers like Baudelaire, André Gide and Flaubert.”
In November 1949, at the all-Pakistan conference of PWA, a resolution was passed against certain writers including Hasan Askari, Manto and, according to Abdul Salam Khurshid, Qurratulain Hyder, whose name was later withdrawn. While Manto didn’t react directly at the time, he later (1951) wrote in Jaib-e-Kafan, “I was angry that Alif (Qasmi) had misunderstood me, doubted my intentions … I am depressed. I earn through my writings by working day and night. I have my wife and children, if they fall sick and if I were to beg for money going door to door I will be really disturbed. Art is autonomous and is an end in itself. It’s no one’s monopoly and it cannot be hegemonised by ideology. The government takes me as a communist and the communists take me as a reactionary.” Probably during the same period he wrote his epitaph which was inspired by Ghalib’s couplet, “ya rab zamana mujh ko mitata hey kis liay/loh-e-jahaan pe harf-e-mukkarrar nahin hoon mein [Oh God, why is Time rubbing me off? I am not a letter twice written on the slate of the world].”
Urdu Adab was closed down after the publication of only two issues. In the first two issues both the progressive and non-progressive writers were published but soon after an ‘office order’ by the PWA forced the progressive writers to boycott the journal. Many of them requested Manto to return their work to them. A desperate and visibly intimidated Arif Abdul Matin wrote to Manto, “for God’s sake return the manuscript of my play; it is no longer possible for me to get it published in Urdu Adab as our union has decided not to cooperate with certain writers.” Qasmi also withdrew his request for Manto’s story which earlier he had wanted to publish in Nuqoosh: “I had asked for your story before the decision by the union to avoid publishing those authors who don’t agree with the progressive movement.”
Why was Manto considered a threat to the progressives? Could it be ‘obscenity’ that had offended them in the context of the newly-founded Islamic Republic of Pakistan? But Faiz Ahmed Faiz had appeared in his defence at the trial of Thanda Gosht, and had not found the story obscene. According to Intizar Hussain, writing in Saadat Hussan Manto — After 50 Years published by GC University,Lahorein 2005, the reason for Manto’s exclusion “was all about the reaction of progressives to the Partition of India.” Quoting Askari, he says, “the progressives in their opposition to Partition were implying that had there been no demand for a Muslim country there would have been no communal riots.” Even this doesn’t appear plausible. If the progressives were not in favour of a Muslim state, why would Faiz, a staunch progressive, be the first and one of the very few commissioned officers who opted for the newly established state of Pakistan, and continued his job with the Pakistan Army and the Inter-Services Public Relations? And why would he write an editorial in The Pakistan Times on “the glorious role” of Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah in “the birth of a major state and the liberation of a major nation.”
In Siyah Haashiye or Urdu Adab, Manto did not appear to advocate a separate country but simply brought out the barbaric humour out of the killing of people in the name of religion. Manto in his writings had never defended one religion against another. Mozel, a Jewish woman, dies while saving a young Sikh, Tirlochan. While she is dying, Tirlochan tries to cover her naked body with his turban, but she sneers back: “Take away your religion.” In Thanda Gosht, it is the “wretched blood” of the wounded Ishar Singh that topples religion, caste and race. As to the demand forPakistan, Manto who had property in Amritsar didn’t claim anything after Partition except for an ice store inLahoreand that too was denied to him.
“Those who were talking of freedom of expression were resented by the progressives,” says Syed in Noori na Naari. But why should the progressives resent Manto when in their manifesto they had committed “to promote the freedom of expression”? They were struggling for the freedom of expression and so was he; they were “respecting the suffering of the masses” and he was going through suffering; they were talking about poverty and he was living it; they were romanticising the fallen man and Manto himself was the fallen man. So what caused such a reaction to the most gifted short story writer of his times? Muzaffar Ali Syed further elaborates, “immediately after the Second World War, the leaders of bourgeoisie socialism were ready to collaborate with the bourgeoisie — they were willing to sacrifice Mira ji, Manto and [Noon Meem] Rashid.”
Perhaps all that has been said are mere polemics of their times but there could be more than meets the eye…
Sometime in the mid-1930s, on a foggy “Night in London,” young Sajjad Zaheer saw “The Light.” In Nanking restaurant, amongst a coterie of like-minded male writers, Zaheer, lovingly called Banne Miaan, announced the manifesto of the PWA. Zaheer’s novel A Night in London established him as an icon of social commitment. The novel featured Hiren Pal, a committed freedom fighter who leaves his beloved Sheila Green to pursue the ideals beyond the love of a woman. This motif became a template for the progressive writers, “Aur bhi gham hein zamanay mein mohabat kay siwa [There are other woes in the world, apart from the woes of love]”.
The ‘othering’ of the female to assert the progressive mission created a binaric schizophrenia between the love of woman and social reality. The deferral of anima, the feminine side of male, is to repress the mother, the womb, the unconscious and to assert the father. As [French psychoanalyst] Lacan states, “When ideologues preach, they assert the patriarchy and it’s phallic.” Manto renames Qasmi as Alif, the vertical alphabet of Urdu language. The unbending thrust of ‘Alif’ is suggestive of phallic oppression. In his playful irreverence, Manto calls Zaheer an armchair communist, Faiz an afimi (lotus eater), and his own guru Bari Aleeg, a coward and a runchhor (unreliable). He prays to God to turn Chiragh Hasan Hasrat into Stalin who could dictate from behind the iron curtain. For Manto, they were the oppressive fathers who in Freudian terms would tell the child not to play with his genitals.
Mumtaz Shirin says, “Manto has presented the mother in the image of the prostitute.” In her book Noori na Naari, she discovers Manto in myth and religious archetypes. For her, Manto juxtaposes the holy mother Mary and Mary Magdalene, the sinful whore; the sacred and the profane. Manto’s heroines don’t queue up with the hearth-bound bibis or the drawing-room ladies of the elite; they stand out mostly as sex workers fighting for bare existence in a male’s world of exploitation and human degradation. With detached limbs and body parts as utility props they are the disfigured image of Madonna; damaged Eros. The loss of mother is the loss of womb, the loss of compassion, love and humanity in a society which is admonitory, tabooed and restrictive like the punishing father.
Manto resurrects the ghost of the feminine side, otherwise banished by the progressive patriarch, and by giving her a voice topples the despotic father figure of reform, pity and sympathy. Manto brings out the mother from the womb of a prostitute and confronts the oppressive father. He shatters the romantic ideal of the progressives by bringing out Sheila from their closets. He strips off her romantic trappings and places her next to Janki and Saugandhi. Perhaps this act of Manto made the progressives run for lights; he had nabbed “the pillar with the noose of his drunken breath.” His rude glance will keep chasing us like a footfall for many ages to come.
Sarmad Sehbai is a poet, playwright and drama director.
Link to article: http://herald.dawn.com/2012/05/14/the-politics-of-exclusion.html
The latest issue of the Journal of Punjab Studies is now available.
Table of Contents
Indu Banga: Editorial
Chetan Singh: Geography, Religion and Hegemony: Constructing the State in the Western Himalaya
J.S. Grewal: The Char Bagh-i Panjab: Socio-Cultural Configuration
Karamjit K. Malhotra: Issues of Gender among the Sikhs: Eighteenth-Century Literature
Mini Sandhu: A Comparative Analysis of the Panchal Pandita and the Punjabi Bhain from a Gender Perspective
Prem Chowdhry: Emerging Patterns: Property Rights of Women in Colonial and Post-Colonial South-East Punjab (Haryana)
Raj Kumar Hans: Sant Poet Wazir Singh: A Window for Reimagining Nineteenth Century Punjab
Anshu Malhotra: Living and Defining Caste: The Life and Writing of Giani Ditt Singh/Sant Ditta Ram
Sheena Pall: The Issues of Sikh Identity: Sanatanist-Sikh Debate
Sasha Tandon: Epidemics in Colonial Punjab
Sukhdev Singh Sohal: Food Crisis, Inflation and Political Control in the Punjab (1940-47)
Reeta Grewal: Urban Patterns in the Punjab Region since Protohistoric Times
Indu Banga: J.S. Grewal on Sikh History, Historiography and Recent Debates
For access please visit: http://www.global.ucsb.edu/punjab/journal/v20_1_2/index.html