Punjab Research Group

Brush Strokes of History – Monday 7th September, BMAG

Posted in Events by Pippa on September 5, 2009
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WH McLeod obituary by Tony Ballantyne

Posted in Articles by Pippa on September 5, 2009

New Zealand scholar and an authority on the history of Sikhism in The Guardian, Thursday 3 September 2009  

William Hewat McLeod, who has died aged 76, was a scholar whose life’s work helped transform the understanding of Sikhism. He produced a remarkable series of publications and was central in establishing Sikh studies as a distinctive field. Although his own work was careful, measured and judicious, it frequently provoked controversy.

Hew, as he was known, was born and raised in a farming family near Fielding, in New Zealand‘s North Island. He completed his schooling at Nelson college before attending the University of Otago, Dunedin, where he undertook a BA and then an MA in history. He also met Margaret Wylie there, and in May 1955 they got married.

Hew then began theological studies and in 1958, with his wife and son, Rory, joined the New Zealand Presbyterian church’s mission to Punjab. At Kharar, in Punjab, he learned Hindi and Punjabi as well as teaching English at the Christian Boys secondary school. He found that his lack of training as a language teacher and his New Zealand accent made this task difficult.

Read in full: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/sep/03/w-h-mcleod-obituary

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The revolutionary combatants from Canada

Posted in Book reviews by Pippa on September 5, 2009

Gurpreet Singh writes from Vancouver 

A new book on Gadarites by Sohan Singh Pooni suggests that the movement had its roots in Canada. Authored in Punjabi, Canada De Gadri Yodhay (The Gadar combatants of Canada) is the biographies of 41 freedom fighters of India, who were mostly associated with the Gadar Party, a revolutionary group that believed in armed struggle against the British occupation of India.

Though the group was formally established in America in 1913, the Gadar movement had its roots in Canada where the Indian immigrants had to endure racism. It was the discriminatory attitude of the Canadian establishment that partially made these men politically aware of the need to fight against the foreign rule back home.


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Rafi, the prolific singer and that nondescript village

Posted in Articles, Film, Music by Pippa on September 5, 2009

Harjap Singh Aujla

PUNJAB must be truly proud of its great son Mohammad Rafi, who was born in a non-descript hamlet in a remote rural area of Amritsar district. Starting from a humble and modest beginning, he rose to become the most prolific film playback singer of the movie industry, not only in India, but in the whole world.

K.L. Saigal
The Punjabis should be doubly proud that two of their sons have ruled over film singing for more than half a century. K.L. Saigal was the first Punjabi singing star, who dominated the Indian film industry for a decade and a half from 1933 to 1947. The Indian film industry switched over from silent movies to talkies in 1931, when film “Alam Ara” was made. But ever since actor singer Kundan Lal Saigal started his film career in the eastern metropolis of Calcutta in 1933, he did not look back and went from strength to strength, until death put a sudden end to his brilliant career as a singing leading actor in the dark year of 1947.

Read full article: http://www.southasiapost.org/2009/20090831/literature.htm#2

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Links between uranium and birth defects

Posted in Articles by Pippa on September 5, 2009

Published in The Asian Age, June 11, 2009

URANIUM IN CHILDREN’S HAIR Scientists trace source to pre-historic Granites


June 10: Geophysicists have traced the source of the high concentrations of radioactive uranium amongst mentally disabled Punjabi children to the massive outcrop of granite rocks exposed on the Haryana-Rajasthan Border.

Earlier this April, tests conducted on hair samples of 149 special children (all under 13 years) at a charitable home in Punjab’s Faridkot city had revealed “toxic concentrations of uranium.” Trace Minerals – the German lab that carried out the assays – reported nearly 90 per cent of the young patients at the Baba Farid Center for Special Children had “pathological levels of uranium in their bodies.”

The shocking revelations prompted investigations by the Department of Atomic Energy and scientific experts from Amritsar’s Guru Nanak Dev University who have been studying unexpected uranium presence in Punjab and contiguous areas since the early 1990’s

“We are now certain the uranium has been leaching out from the extensive granite rocks exposed in the Tosham Hills (Bhiwani District),” the GNDU geophysicist and seismologist, Prof. Surinder Singh told this newspaper.

The professor and his team of scientists have methodically sampled the soil, water and plant life across southwestern Punjab and Haryana to actually demonstrate how the radioactive metal has traveled to deposit on the plains of Punjab. Literally thousands of samples were collected and assayed over the past decade, he said.

More recently, prompted by reports of Faridkot’s ‘uranium kids,’ Dr. Singh also tested milk, wheat, mustard and commonly eaten pulses to explore how uranium in Punjab’s soil was making its way to play havoc with human health.

The results, he says, are even “more startling.” The milk contains up to 3.33 micrograms per liter; pulses 47 micrograms and wheat up to 115 micrograms of uranium. “The total average daily intake of uranium, including from water, is nearly 140 micrograms per person which is completely unacceptable given that the global dietary intake standard is around just five micrograms,” said Dr. Singh.

Health experts believe there could be far greater human health risks from chemical toxicity rather than possible radiation hazard. Apart from the nerve defects already witnessed amongst the children in the Faridkot center, uranium is a widely known carcinogen also capable of causing a range of birth defects.

They say, the abnormally high incidence of cancers in two Bathinda Villages – Jajjal and Giana – earlier believed to be linked to prolonged, heavy pesticide usage, could actually be a consequence of the uranium hazard.

Dr. Singh said, “I have conveyed my findings to the Punjab Government and believe these are being taken up alongside other evidence by the state health authorities.”

The professor has also suggested detailed human health surveys around the source of the uranium at Tosham “where the exposure could be much higher given that most of the homes are built using granite quarried locally.”

Also see the following articles on the same topic:





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Did Sikh militancy ever die?

Posted in Articles by Pippa on September 5, 2009

Manmeet Singh, TNN 29 August 2009, 09:32pm IST
LUDHIANA: Scrolling web pages never gives the impression that the Khalistani movement had ended in late 90s, when cops ostensibly controlled it claiming Punjab to be out of danger. Looking at videos and other web articles uploaded and hit by surfers regularly, it appears that militancy had just shifted its base from the physical world to web world.

All through these years, a section of the Sikh youth had been passionately flaunting pictures and quotations of the militant leaders, especially Jarnail Singh Bhindrawala, on their T-shirts and motorbikes.

Read further: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/news/city/ludhiana/Did-Sikh-militancy-ever-die/articleshow/4949169.cms

Irmgard Coninx Research Grant

Posted in Funding opportunities by Pippa on September 5, 2009

Berlin April 2010
Cultural Pluralism Revised: Religious and Linguistic Freedoms Essay Competition – Conference – Workshops – Research Grant

Workshop participation in Berlin
Up to 40 successful applicants to the essay competition will be invited to discuss their research with prominent scholars at two of Europe’s leading research institutions. The workshops will take place at the Social Science Research Center Berlin, 7 – 11 April 2010. Workshops will be chaired by José Casanova (Georgetown University) and Fernand de Varennes (Murdoch University).

Deadline for essay submission: January 15th, 2010

Full details: http://www.irmgard-coninx-stiftung.de/

Starved of literary gatherings

Posted in Articles by Pippa on September 5, 2009

August 27, 2009  http://www.thenews.com.pk/

Lahore has always been a hub of cultural and literary activities and has produced a lot many men of letter. Most of these activities have traditionally been revolved around cafes and restaurants that served intellectuals, writers and artistes with endless cups of tea and coffee and provided them with an opportunity to discuss subjects and matters close to their hearts and minds.

The colonial Lahore was full of restaurants and cafes with most of them locating along The Mall. One such place was the India Coffee House established by two Sikh brothers. Immediately after the Partition, the name India was dropped from the title and it was renamed as Pak Tea House. The Pak Tea House was located opposite to the Coffee House and Cheney’s lunch home on The Mall near Anarkali Bazaar. These two places used to have intellectual gatherings. Cheney’s lunch home was popular with people from different walks of life. University teachers and students were also frequent visitors.

The Pak Tea House had had a different status altogether. It was a hub of literary gatherings. Non-residents of Lahore used to call it their information centre that served them round the clock. Giants like Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Sa’adat Hassan Manto, Muneer Niazi, Ahmad Faraz, Mira Ji and Kamal Rizvi frequented the .Pak Tea House which became unofficial headquarters of an eclectic bunch of writers, artistes, musicians and the Halqa e Arbab e Zauq.

The celebrated fiction writer, Intizar Hussain, who had been a regular visitor to the tea house since 1949 till its closure, believed it was a cultural institution known all over the sub-continent.

No other literary institution of the country, including the Academy of Letters had credibility equal to the Pak Tea House,” he said. He said people freely expressed their political views in the Pak Tea House even in the repressive days of the military regimes of Generals Ayub Khan and Zia ul Haq. Literary interaction as well as literary programmes was the core of Pak Tea House.

It was recognized as a National Level Centre as people from all fields and schools of thought visited it.

This centre had played an important role in the promotion of literary people in Pakistan but during Sarajuddin’s era the Pak Tea House had faced a couple of disputes as it was a part of the YMCA so the authorities demanded its evacuation and took this case to a court of law. All literary figures and people had protested and the court very fairly announced that poets and writers were the soul of a society and were spiritual guardians and the Pak Tea House was known as a centre of knowledge and depicted the culture of Lahore so this place could not be used for any other purpose. After Sarajuddin’s death, his son Zahid Hasan owned the place. Because of financial constraints and his heart surgery, he wanted to open a garments or tire shop. However, the YMCA authorities again demanded evacuation of the tea house and the court didn’t give any decision at that time and the matter was still pending.

The Pak Tea House, having served against all odds for well over 50 years to countless poets and writers of all shades and political stripes, finally yielded to the irreversible forces of commodity culture raging. After the tea house places like Aadbi Baithak in Alhamra and Chaupaal in Nasser Bagh failed to serve the purpose. Many senior writers and poets had died, some have gone abroad. Sarfaraz Syed, a senior journalist and writer who was once a member of the committee of the Pak Tea House said that cities were recognized and respected because of their culture and literature.

For him, thePak Tea House and places like it were a source of intimation, information, education, knowledge and wisdom. —SAKEENA IBAD

(The writer is an intern from the Lahore College for Women University)

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