Punjab Research Group


Posted in News/Information by Pippa on October 29, 2013

For many students and teachers of religious education the name of Dr Owen Cole, who died on Saturday 26 October, immediately signals the study of Sikhism.  Owen Cole, a historian by training, from a non-conformist Christian family, was a distinguished, pioneering religious educationist.  From his friendships with people of different faiths grew a staunch commitment to the transformation of religious education from instruction primarily in the Christian faith to a subject that would develop an understanding and appreciation of world faiths.  Sikhs became part of Owen Cole’s life when he moved to Leeds for a lectureship in 1968. In 1969 Owen and other educationists founded the influential Shap Working Party on World Religions in Education. His commitment to multi-faith religious education and his close friendship with Piara Singh Sambhi led to many single-authored and joint publications for schools on the Sikh tradition, as well as substantial works including The Sikhs: Their Religious Beliefs and Practices and Sikhism and Christianity A Comparative Study. Owen Cole firmly described himself as a ‘populariser rather than a scholar’, yet his role in furthering an informed understanding of Sikh tradition is incalculable.  For many years he co-edited the annual Sikh Bulletin. Archbishop Runcie appointed Owen Cole as his interfaith consultant. Owen also ensured that a rendering (by Nikky-Guninder Kaur Singh) of passages of the Guru Granth Sahib was included in the Sacred Literature Trust Series. The teaching of the Sikh Gurus provided an inspiration for Owen Cole’s lifelong commitment to truth and justice.

By Professor Eleanor Nesbitt, University of Warwick

PRG meeting University of Cambridge, 26 October

Posted in PRG Meetings by Pippa on October 29, 2013

The meeting was very kindly hosted by Centre of South Asian Studies, University of Cambridge and Tahir Kamran.

Chris Moffat

Chris Moffat

Chris Moffat, Placing Bhagat Singh

This paper raises some questions around the political life of monuments and the spectral potentiality of the past in contemporary India and Pakistan. It is an attempt to square the resonant and often ideologically-promiscuous meaning of the revolutionary martyr Bhagat Singh (1907-1931) with the seemingly insatiable compulsion among individuals and groups to ‘ground’ his ghost in space and place, to offer tribute to this iconic figure through memorial site and toponym, statue and museum. Interrogating this desire, I will consider the breathless calls for bigger museums, more statues, newly-named buildings and worthy events, caught, however they may be, in the uncertain space between genuine sentiment and populist politicking. Such calls are matched in volume by critiques of those memorials that already exist, lamenting their shortcomings or corruption. It is the elusiveness of consensus and the impossibility of ‘full’ recognition that interests me here: Bhagat Singh appears to exceed these place-making efforts in the same way he exceeds the language of nationalism. There is a challenge, perhaps, in monumentalizing a political death that was not in any clear sense foundational, that submits to no easy lineage, that was embraced by the revolutionary himself as a means to incite, to propel action: the infinite demand of rebellion standing against the comfortable finitude of statues. This tension becomes clear in the scene of a crowd shouting Bhagat Singh Zindabad, ‘Long Live Bhagat Singh’, before a memorial– as if to conjure his return, to offer him life, denying his entombment in bronze. This is not mourning nor genuflection but a call that affirms ongoing responsibility. Moving from New Delhi to Chandigarh, Jalandhar to Khatkar Kalan, Hussainiwala to Lahore, I will also consider those who resist monumentalization; who seek to fight alongside the ghost in a battle they see as ongoing, not yet ‘past’. Monuments, here, make way for street theatre groups and new pedagogical initiatives, activating different relationships to space and place. Through these preliminary reflections I hope to open a discussion on the work of the spectre, the problem of memory, and the public life of history in contemporary Punjab.


Priya Atwal with Virinder Kalra

Priya Atwal with Virinder Kalra

Priya Atwal, Politics Behind the Purdah: Maharani Jind Kaur and Anglo-Sikh Relations

The Anglo-Sikh Wars of the 1840s were a huge turning point for British imperial power in Asia, as victory over the Sikh kingdom finally allowed the East India Company to control India’s perilous north-western frontier, threatened as it was by Russian and Afghan advances at the time. My paper will introduce the research ideas that I am about to start work on as a DPhil student. The focus of my research is to study Sikh and British colonial narratives on the wars and their origins. The aim of my paper is to demonstrate some of the tensions and conflicts that exist within these narratives, which I intend to highlight by re-examining in particular their portrayal of Maharani Jind Kaur and her political activities during the 1840s and beyond. Central to this analysis will therefore be an attempt to deconstruct the historical split in the Maharani’s image as “saint” or “sinner”, further asking how and why such representations became important political weapons in Anglo-Sikh colonial relations. In addition to this, the paper will make the case for a deeper exploration of how gender politics had a significant impact on shaping events during the 1840s. It will be argued that the manner in which Jindan flouted gender conventions within a male-dominated and militarised society had a strong part to play in destabilising both internal and external political relations for the Lahore kingdom. Such an analysis will attempt to provide fresh insights into the socio-political conditions that characterised and brought on the expansion of British imperial power into the Punjab and up to the northern frontiers of India.


Minoti Chakravarty-Kaul with Pippa Virdee

Minoti Chakravarty-Kaul with Pippa Virdee

Minoti Chakravarty-Kaul, The Making of New Delhi & Unmaking the Punjab’s Village Community and its Village Commons 1911-2011

Delhi became the southern-most district of the Punjab after the upheaval of 1857 and remained a very important link of the Punjab to the rest of British India till 1911 when it was catapulted on to the national stage by the pronouncement of the King George V and Queen Mary at their  Coronation Durbar of 12th December 1911 to shift the captital from Calcutta. Thus the city of Shahjahanabad became Old Delhi. The new  Imperial City of New Delhi was centred on Raisina hill enclosing, to begin with the common property resources of more than one hundred and thirty six village communities of the surrounding  countryside. Therefore a narrative of what we have almost lost in these last 100 years of New Delhi may be valuable in the context of ecological lessons from the past. In the debris of a century we can still resurrect narratives of survival strategies characteristic of an abiding culture of indigenous ecology – that of sedentary communities who cohered with nomadic cultures of distant deserts to the north west stretching as far back as Afghansitan and with shepherdic transhumance from the foothills of the Siwaliks and upper Himalayas.


Virinder Kalra and Waqas Butt, with Tahir Kamran

Virinder Kalra and Waqas Butt, with Tahir Kamran

Virinder Kalra and Waqas Butt ‘In one hand a pen in the other a gun’: Punjabi language radicalism in Punjab, Pakistan

The relationship between language and politics in South Asia has provided a rich vein for academic analysis as it is tied up with issues related to nationalism and political mobilization. However, much of this analysis has been based on the Indian reorganization of states along linguistic lines or the role of language in the Bangladeshi liberation movement. This article discusses the role of language in the mobilization of the Left in Pakistan, specifically the way in which Punjabi was utilized by the Mazdoor Kisan Party at the theoretical and practical levels, in its mobilizing in the early 1970s. The role that language played in the site of student politics is illustrated through a case study of Sahiwal College. Overall, the role that Punjabi played as a mobilizing tool for the Left in Pakistan demonstrates a practice where culture and politics are inseparable and in this sense the article contributes to the wider debates on language and politics in South Asia.


Kamalroop Singh and Harminder Singh Ragi

Kamalroop Singh and Harminder Singh Ragi

Kamalroop Singh and Harminder Singh Ragi, ‘Preserving the Northern Indian Musical Heritage Performed in 1970s Britain.’
In the 1970s great musicians from the Panjab visited the UK where they performed and shared their art over three years. The musicians were masters in their art, and they performed the khyal and dhrupad styles of music. Dhrupad literally means ‘fixed words’, and was developed for singing verses that were written in specific rhythms. The newer khyal genre has gained popularity at dhrupad’sexpense, as it places fewer constraints on the singers and allows displays of virtuosity. As a result the dhrupad art form is now becoming rare, especially since many maestros have now passed away. Luckily, some of their live performances were recorded on spool machines, which private collectors have donated to the Panjab Cultural Association.  We are currently cataloguing and digitising fifty of the recordings for posterity and we will be presenting the project to date. In our paper we explore how the Sikh music tradition has evolved from dhrupad, to khyal, along with the modern influence of ghazals and Hindi popular music.  Finally, we will examine and demonstrate how the introduction of new instruments has led to the original style of Kirtan to become endangered.


Professor Chris Bayly

Professor Chris Bayly











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PRG Meeting Coventry University – 29 June 2013

Posted in PRG Meetings by Pippa on October 29, 2013

The meeting was very kindly hosted by Shinder Thandi and Coventry University.

Malik Hammad Ahmad Lang

Malik Hammad Ahmad Lang

Malik Hammad Ahmad Lang, Civil Resistance Movements of Pakistan: Movement for the Restoration of Democracy (MRD) 1981-84

The research project focuses on political civil resistance in Pakistan covering the period of 1977-88, the martial law regime of General Zia-ul-Haq. The worst martial law in the history of Pakistan changed the political, social, economical and cultural outlook of the country. To resist the dictatorship, democratic forces launched a movement to restore the democracy in the country in 1981 called MRD, which continued periodically until 1988. However, my presentation looks at its first phase covering 1981-84. Political scholarship, largely, blamed Punjab of not taking part effectively in the movement along with Sindh, and made it a reason of its failure. Countering the argument, this study tries to highlight some facts to overruled the blame.



Pippa Virdee

Pippa Virdee

Pippa Virdee, Emergence and Resistance: the dichotomy of women’s space in Pakistan.

This paper is based on work in progress that will explore the transformation of women in Pakistan. In colonial Punjab reformers often took up the cause of women and advocated change that encouraged girl’s education and bringing women out of ‘purdah’ (veil/seclusion). This had limited results until Jinnah embraced the need to encourage women within the Pakistan Movement, which led many elite women to come out in support of it. This period is therefore crucial in understanding the transformation of women in public spaces. Yet by the 1980s (some thirty years later), women form resistance movements against oppressive legislation introduced by Zia. The Women’s Action Forum led the way in opposing this and resisting the curtailment of freedoms. Through visual and oral accounts this paper will attempt to understand the transformation of women in public spaces and the dichotomies of this within their private lives.






Kavita Bhanot

Kavita Bhanot

Kavita Bhanot, Depicting a dera community in Birmingham: extract from novel in progress

I will be presenting a chapter from my novel-in-progress, a fictional depiction of a dera community that gathers around a guru in Birmingham in the 1980’s. The novel spans ten years and charts, through the lives of first and second generation Punjabi immigrants , the growth of this dera community and the opposition that it faces in its local, national and international context. I recently edited an anthology titled ‘Too Asian, Not Asian Enough,’ which brought together short stories by British Asian writers – stories which go beyond marketable formulaic narratives about inter-generation/culture clash.  While one approach is to avoid the predictable subjects or writing about ‘Asians’ at all, my personal intention in my writing is to bring particularity, knowledge, a sense of history and context, into my depiction of Punjabis in Britain. To interrogate the Orientalist gaze that tends to dominate English language South Asian literature, a gaze that “strip(s) specific traditions, rituals, religions and other forms of lived faith…of their context and detail – of history, politics, class and caste.”


Umber Abad with Virinder Kalra

Umber Abad with Virinder Kalra

Umber Abad, Singular Muslim Identity and trail towards Auqaf; a becoming post-Colonial modern

The politics of Colonial Urban Punjab engendered a unique singular conception of Islam in the first half of twentieth century. The singular Islam, initially strived to open itself for all streams of Muslims within one religious idea, compelled to exclude deviant forms in order to clear the path for the prevalence of its politics. The singular Islam considered deviant any form of Muslim community and the mystical insight that threatened the idea of finality of prophet-hood and the idea of unity of God. The singular Islam, as became the basis of singular Muslim identity and a central point in the politics of Muslim League, in its exclusionary form prevailed further within the political elite of postcolonial state. In order to land in the modern world, the political elite strived to develop a society where the idea of singular Islam attached with high-moral practices could be implemented. However, the political situation eased to control the excluded forms of Islam. The efforts for Islamization soon found ways to control Waqf Properties, largely attached with shrines through an institution, as during 1952-53 to make Auqaf Board in order to curb un-Islamic practices. However till 1958, largely due to the incapacity of the state institution the control could not produce any significant effect. Re-surfacing the appropriating position of singular Islam through interpreting the thoughts of Allama Iqbal, however, military rule found it justified and co-related with its urge of reforming archaic society to take over the excluded religious practices at shrines through Auqaf Administration.


Daniel Haines with Ali Usman Qasmi and Chris Moffat

Daniel Haines with Ali Usman Qasmi and Chris Moffat

Daniel Haines, Making places national: Local agency in the Punjab borderland, 1952-1955

The India-Pakistan border in Punjab today features highly visible fences and guards. Shortly after Partition, however, many parts of the border were not demarcated, and the authorities on each side had different ideas about where the boundary line lay. Examining two incidents of minor border conflict between 1952 and 1955, the paper sets out a view of a historical moment in which the lack of a clear boundary gave space to the localised agency of minor officials, lower-ranking military and police officers, and even civilian agriculturalists. Rather than being hemmed in by territorial limits that the state’s higher echelons imposed, everyday actors explored the ill-defined borderland between the two countries. On both sides of the border, these actors themselves made de facto boundaries. Drawing on the wealth of political geography literature that informs border studies, as well as historical studies of border politics in post-Partition South Asia, the paper’s case studies examine the relationship between local agency and ideas of national territory in partitioned Punjab. Both case studies illustrate how civilian and petty-official mobility in the borderland forced the provincial authorities on both sides to continually negotiate the spatial dimensions of their authority, based as much on practical coercive power as on the disputed meaning of the Radcliffe Boundary Award. The paper argues that such local actions politicised the parts of the borderland in which they took place. Through the symbolism of land in the mythology of territorial nation-states, and through the hydro-geographical connections between canal headworks on the border and Punjab’s vast irrigation network, these incidents were integral to the definition of borderland spaces as national places. The paper is based on archival work in the Punjab Archives, Lahore, and the National Archives, New Delhi.


Round table discussion chaired by Ian Talbot

Round table discussion chaired by Ian Talbot

Tahir Kamran, Ali Usman Qasmi, Ifitkhar Malik and Yunas Samad, Round table discussion on the 2013 Elections in Pakistan: A Punjab perspective.









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PRG Meeting at University of Wolverhampton 3 Nov 2012

Posted in PRG Meetings by Pippa on October 29, 2013

The meeting was very kindly hosted and arranged by Meena Dhanda, University of Wolverhampton

Doris Jakobsh

Doris Jakobsh

 Doris Jakobsh, Negotiating Sikh Female Identities Online: Image, Narrative and Text

The ‘marked body’ of the Sikh male has long been the focal point of coming to an understanding of Sikhism at large.  When speaking of Sikhism, it is the highly visible Khalsa Sikh male, complete with external signifiers known as the 5Ks (kirpan – dagger, kanga – comb, kes – uncut hair, kacchera – breeches, kara – steel bracelet) and the turban traditionally worn by Sikh males, that have come to characterize the Sikh community, both in the Indian homeland of Punjab and within Sikh diasporic contexts.  This paper examines the negotiation of Sikh female identity, in essence the religious particularization of Sikh women, taking place through varied means on the WWW.  Through increasing and repeated imaging and iconization on the internet, novel attempts are being made to mobilize, legitimize and historicize Sikh female identity to more closely resemble the Khalsa Sikh male.  The paper will address historical antecedents of these online gender constructions.  It will also examine notions of authority in terms of Sikh female identity-making and whether these virtual constructs in fact reflect the ‘offline’ realities of Sikh females.


Shazia Ahmad

Shazia Ahmad

Shazia Ahmad, Categorizing Muslims: Colonial Definitions of ‘Sect’ and ‘Community’

The political economy of the Punjab in the late 19th century shaped how the colonial administration defined religious categories in Islam. Categories of ‘sect’ and ‘minority community’ were interlocking but distinct categories. While ‘sect’ was politically defined by a group’s relationship to traditional forms of religious authority, and thus their relationship to non-Muslim rule, ‘minority community’ was a legal construction defined in the Punjab by the application of personal law. This paper argues that the influence of Henry Maine on agrarian policies, especially in the application of Muslim personal law in urban areas and customary law over agricultural lands, complicated how ‘orthodoxy’ and ‘heterodoxy’ were constructed, leading to the sometimes contradictory identifications based upon locality and belief. This was demonstrated by the complex identity of the Ahmadiyya community, which was defined both by its dissent from ‘Church fathers’ within ethnographic descriptions and by the location of its religious authority within the agrarian Punjab in the law.


Meena Dhanda, Certain Allegiances, Uncertain Identities: the fraught struggles for recognition of Dalits in Britain

This paper foregrounds what dalits in Britain say about their affiliations to the members of their own caste groups as well as about their relations to the so-called ‘upper-castes’. An ambiguity of self-identification as dalits is noted, accompanied by an inner tension often expressed in decisions about whether or not to support the exit options taken by the second and third generation of Punjabi migrants in choosing to marry out of caste. Of significance is the complex positioning of dalits apropos the so called ‘upper-castes’ in the socio-economic sphere in Britain, where some dalits have acquired significant wealth and accompanying status. Considerable energies are spent in checking the spread of fissures caused by intra-organisational politics that regularly threaten the otherwise congealed allegiance of groups to their respective places of worship and congregation. For Ravidassias, Buddhists and the Valmikis, the Jat Sikhs emerge as a common ‘enemy’, highlighting the fact that the upturning of the everyday relations of domination are the key to understanding the position of the dalits in Britain. It is argued that the driving force for reform in the UK is not an intellectually inspired criticism of casteism so much as a repugnance of the way in which Jat Sikhs are seen to assert their superiority.


Parmbir Gill with Pritam Singh

Parmbir Gill with Pritam Singh

Parmbir Gill, Pious Rebels: The Religiosity of Ghadar Prose and Practice

My paper aims to investigate the relationship between religion and politics in the writings and activities of the Ghadar Party, a North America-based immigrant organization which sought to overthrow colonial rule in India in the early twentieth century. Though a diverse array of writings on this movement has emerged over the decades following its defeat, extant English-language scholarship has invariably characterized its politics as secular in form and content. Celebrating Ghadar’s secularism as an alternative to the more divisive faith-based mobilizations against British rule operating at the time, this historiography has, I argue, mistakenly assumed an identification of the religious with the communal, and has sacrificed an engagement with the former at the altar of principled opposition to the latter. As a result, the indispensability of religious language to Ghadar’s political project, as well as the rebels’ own transformation of pre-existing notions of religious identity, have both been precluded from serious analysis. I seek to redress this omission by tracing the currents of religiosity which pervade not only the Party’s newspaper and poetry but also the concrete activities of its non-writing mass base. In so doing I hope to open up possibilities for rethinking the historical existence of the Ghadar Party as well as our own attitudes toward the place of religion in political struggle.


Gurinder Singh Mann

Gurinder Singh Mann

Gurinder Singh Mann, British and the Sikhs: The Impact and Legacy of Colonial Dominance in the Punjab

The British came into India under the premise of trade and commerce. Over time their motivations and political ambitions became a dominant factor in establishing themselves as rulers of the country. This paper looks specifically at the institutions of the Panjab and the how the religion of the Sikhs was changed. As a direct consequence the Panjab became subservient to the new colonial powers. The paper looks at the various acts of UK parliament that influenced the lives of those living in Panjab. This includes the relatively unknown Charter Act of 1813 which produced tensions between The East India Company and the Christian missionary movement. Maharaja Ranjit Singh (1780-1839) consolidated his base as the ruler of the Panjab and became a champion of European innovations. The interactions between Ranjit Singh and the British were a compelling narrative of the Nineteenth Century. With the advent of the Anglo-Sikh wars and the annexation of the Panjab, the British ushered in a new era of expansionism as a result a significant legacy was left on the Panjab. This legacy still influences the Panjab to this day.


Sukhwinder Singh

Sukhwinder Singh

Sukhwinder Singh (Prof Sukhpal Singh, Professor, IIM, Ahmedabad, India and Prof Julian Park, School of Agriculture, University of Reading, UK), Sustainability of Agriculture in the Indian Punjab: Indicators and determinants

Punjab has been at the centre stage in India since the green revolution days because of its exceptional performance in agriculture sector. However, the recent developments in agriculture in Punjab are quite concerning. The current cropping pattern using the modern green revolution technologies has started impacting the sustainability of agriculture in Punjab in terms of declining net farm incomes and mining of natural resources, especially soil and water. Subsidy and MSPAP (Minimum Support Price and Assured Purchase) driven policy regime has been encouraging mono-cropping (i.e. wheat and rice cultivation on more than two-third of Punjab’s gross cropped area) for the last four decades resulting into low crop diversity leading to a number of bio-diversity implications for farmers in Punjab. On the other hand, agricultural policy and research have been unsuccessful up to large extent in providing economically viable alternative cropping pattern to farmers in Punjab. Centre and State agricultural research institutions have been continuously facing major human and financial crunch due to squeezing of public expenditure on agriculture. Agricultural sustainability in Punjab is a complex phenomenon. Therefore, it becomes imperative to outline its main indicators and determinants to help understand the current and future implications of agricultural development in Punjab. Based on currently available literature on agricultural development in Punjab and a field survey conducted in 2010, this paper examines the current state of agriculture in Punjab, outlines the main indicators and determinants of agricultural sustainability in Punjab and infers policy suggestions for restoring the lost splendour of agriculture sector in Punjab.


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PRG Meeting at Coventry University, 30 June 2012

Posted in PRG Meetings by Pippa on October 29, 2013

The meeting was kindly hosted by Shinder Thandi, Coventry University.

Prof Eleanor Nesbitt

Prof Eleanor Nesbitt

Eleanor Nesbitt, Ethnography, Religious Education and The Fifth Cup

My paper comments on issues, of concern to religious educators, which emerged from ethnographic studies conducted at the University of Warwick.  The research in question focused on UK communities of north Indian background, whose members identified themselves – in some contexts at least – as Sikh or as Hindu. The comments are made in the light of a play, The Fifth Cup, and pertain to how ‘world religions’ are defined and how they are represented in religious education.  In particular, with regard to the sensitivity of the issue of caste for pupils of South Asian origin, the article suggests that the training of religious education teachers needs to be informed by both ethnography and historical context and also raises question about curriculum content. I suggest that the ‘interpretive approach’ entails a necessary attentiveness to pupils’ experiences and perceptions, and that some issues may additionally call for expertise in pastoral care and conflict resolution.


Gurbachan Jandu

Gurbachan Jandu

Gurbachan Jandu London’s Sikh Youth as British Citizens: Identity Formation through Diversity and Discomfort

In London today, Sikh youth are challenged by the concept of “super-diversity” in the formation of British Sikh identity. To analyse this, ethnographical research was conducted in West London in the summer of 2011. This analysis is contextualised within British citizenship and national identity debates, especially with regards to the history of Sikhs in Britain. The conclusion offered is as follows; London’s Sikh youth, due to increased personal welfare efficacy and acculturation, have developed a heterogeneous identity achieved through an uncomfortable negotiation process with diversity in an urban setting. The product of this process is an increased awareness of British citizenship and national identity compared to previous Sikh generations. This development causes a disjuncture including a possible inter-generational conflict that is set to further increase the lack of coalescence in the British Sikh community. Sikhism in London could now be seen as “Sikhisms” as Sikh youth uncomfortably equilibrate Sikhism and Panjabi culture in England’s pluralised Capital. This work also utilises my own experiences as a Sikh in London.


Navtej Purewal

Navtej Purewal

Manpreet K. Gill and Navtej K. Purewal Girls’ Elementary Education in Transition in Punjab (India): Discrimination, Privatisation and Systemic Decline

Female education is a key indicator of gender equity and disparity. Statistically, progressional educational enrollment patterns and literacy of girls in India at primary level significantly lag behind that of boys. The 2004 World Bank Report Resuming Punjab’s Prosperity: Opportunities and Challenges Ahead criticised access through state education and called for a heightened role for the private sector in education provision in a state known for its paradoxial development patterns of agricultural economic prosperity alongside gender imbalance through masculine sex ratios. This article will chart available data on gender and education in the state of Punjab since the release of this report in tracing some of the immediate effects that this privatisation policy shift has had upon girls access to education. The gendered context of the household unit which informs family decision-making around girls educational opportunities, in this sense, articulates the ways in which private household space interacts with the public space in framing the economic, cultural and structural meanings of girls education, calling for a materialist analysis of gendered outcomes evident within paths towards educational attainment (Delphy 1984; Leonard 1980, 1992). Utilising secondary DISE and Census of India 1991 and 2001 data sources from 2005-6 and 2008-9; the article will highlight a qualitative change in enrolment patterns for girls. While the share of girls has improved considerably at primary stage of education (grades 1-5), it begins to decline as children move to upper primary schools (grades 6-8). The article attempts to assess the possible meanings for this trend and will analyse the data within the backdrop of privatisation policies. In order to do so the article will measure the gender disparities in different types of educational institutions (private and government) within the state of Punjab and across its districts. Enrolment is expressed in percentage or ratio, and there are several indicators representing enrolment, including Gross Enrolment Ratio, Gender Parity Index, and Percentage share of boys/girls.

Muhammad Aurang Zeb Mughal

Muhammad Aurang Zeb Mughal

Muhammad Aurang Zeb Mughal, Cultural Perspectives on Women’s Education in Rural South Punjab, Pakistan

The role of women in the rural agrarian economy of Pakistan is well established. Rural women are involved in farm activities as well as household responsibilities. There have been more sociocultural concerns over women’s education in villages than in the big cities. Recently, there has been an increase in the number of rural women getting formal education due to population growth leading to the lack of cultivable land, and the recognized role of education in socioeconomic spheres of life. Urbanization and electronic media are working as catalysts in the increased literacy rate of women. Although the unemployment rate is also higher for men, rural women have fewer opportunities for educational and professional development due to social constraints on their mobility. This paper tries to explain these constraints within a cultural context ranging from religion to the norms and values. The paper also provides an analysis of changing attitude towards women’s mobility by their families in particular and the community in general, by putting into question the empowerment of women in the new economy, and projecting some possibilities. The primary data for this study is derived from an ethnographic study of Jhokwala Village, Lodhran District, Pakistan as part of the doctoral project in anthropology while some secondary sources have also been used to inform the educational trends.


Professor Tariq Rahman

Professor Tariq Rahman

Tariq Rahman, Urdu as the Language of Education in British India

This article describes how Urdu became a language of schooling and, to a lesser extent, vocational training during British rule in India. The areas focused upon are the present-day Uttar Pradesh and the Punjab. The teaching of Urdu as well as Hindi facilitated the mobilization of the antagonistic Muslim and Hindu communal identities which led eventually to the partition of India. One part of education was the creation of pedagogical literature in Urdu which attempted to supplant the existing textual material which came to be regarded as decadent, erotic or frivolous. The new reformist canonical Urdu prose was reformist and its aim was to create a sober, puritanical, responsible and religious Muslim character imbued with Victorian values.










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Public Lecture by Omar Kasmani entitled “The earth is made transparent to me”: Space and Embodiment among Fakirs of Sehwan Sharīf

Posted in Events by Pippa on October 28, 2013

The AKU-ISMC will be hosting a Public Lecture by Omar Kasmani entitled “The earth is made transparent to me”: Space and Embodiment among Fakirs of Sehwan Sharīf on Monday 4th November 2013. The lecture will be starting at 5:00pm at the Aga Khan University Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations. This promises to be a fascinating session and we hope that you will be able to attend. To register for this event please go to: https://akuismclecture04112013.eventbrite.co.uk.


In Sehwan Sharīf – a pilgrimage town in Sindh, Pakistan and home to the renowned antinomian mystic, Lāl Shahbāz Qalandar (d.1274 CE) – fakirs rely on particular notions of embodiment as well as dreams and visitations to authorize their roles as spiritual guides and charismatic healers. The doing of fakīrī, as research suggests, references at once its material, spatial and imaginative dimensions. In other words, the honing of inward as well as outward dispositions across female, male and khadrā (or hijra) fakirs puts within reach new configurations of gender; enables a network of fakir spaces and communities; and reveals significant historical and imaginative continuities. Straddling fakir self-representations and historical imagination of the place, the talk aims to highlight the ways in which fakir bodies and capacities are contingent to fakir-spaces, and how dialogical realms of dreams and visions flow seamlessly into lived fakīrī space.


Omar Kasmani is an anthropologist, writer and artist. His work, both artistic and academic, lies at the intersection of gender, queer subjectivities and practices of devotion. His research focuses on female, male and khadrā fakirs  at the shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar. He is currently based in Berlin where he is a doctoral candidate at the Freie Universität, Berlin Graduate School Muslim Cultures and Societies.  He holds a MA in Muslim Cultures from Aga Khan University Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations.

British Sikh Report 2013 – A Review

Posted in Book reviews, Journal of Punjab Studies, News/Information by gsjandu on October 27, 2013


In the summer of 2013, the first ever British Sikh Report was published using both the 2011 national census in England and Wales and an organic survey that attracted over 600 respondents – one of the most significant of its kind. Here a PRG website contributor offers their review as the annualised exercise begins for the next version in 2014. Please click on the link below for the review article.

bsr2013 reviewarticle

This post’s author can be contacted on: gorby.jandu@gmail.com

Women and Partition by Pippa Virdee

Posted in Articles, New Publications, Partition by Pippa on October 9, 2013

A couple of new articles on women and partition:

Pippa Virdee, ‘Remembering partition: women, oral histories and the Partition of 1947.’ Oral History, Autumn 2013, Volume 41, No 3, pp. 49-62.

Abstract: This article explores key developments in the way Partition has been represented in the history of India and Pakistan. It more specifically examines how alternative silent voices have been become more visible in the past fifteen years in the historiography of Partition. This shift has been made possible with the use of oral testimonies to document accounts of ordinary people’s experiences of this event in the history of India and Pakistan. The article then goes on to reflect on the author’s experiences of working in South Asia and the use of oral history as a radical and empowering tool in understanding women’s history in Pakistan.

Follow link for details: http://www.oralhistory.org.uk/journal-search.php?parameter=issue&searchkey=86


Pippa Virdee, ‘The Heart Divided: Writing the Human Drama of Partition in India/Pakistan’


How our entire history was dumped in a horse stable by Majid Sheikh

Posted in Articles by Pippa on October 9, 2013

Published in Dawn, 6 October 2013. http://dawn.com/news/1047719

Away it went in ignominy, on hundreds of wheelbarrows to be dumped in a dirty, humid and putrid discarded horse stable. I am talking about one of the world’s finest, and surely the second largest collection of rare books, manuscripts and document dealing with the history of Punjab, from Kabul to Delhi and from Kashmir to Sindh over the last 500 years.

In the old horse stable of the Lahore Civil Secretariat, in dark, moldy, dingy conditions, lies this amazing collection, all official record let me clarify, of over 70,000 rare books and under one million rare manuscripts and documents, piles upon piles, on the floor, on old broken desks, in cupboards without glass panes. The stink and humidity overwhelms the senses. Only in the British Museum Library of London is there a better collection, all kept in mint condition. They respect our rich history. In terms of our own history, we are the wretched of the earth.

I do not know the daft former chief secretary who ordered this evil move. All I have learnt from officials inside the Secretariat, and I have no reason to doubt their opinion, that after retiring he sits on judgment on the fate of other bureaucrats. His antics, they claim, still reads like a mad hatter’s tea party. But then that is what our present rulers probably want. I leave his bizarre ways for younger journalists unearth.

My attention today is focused on the old official horse stable in Lahore’s Civil Secretariat and the damage done to our heritage. In any other sane society he would be arrested and tried. In his reign he got vacated the old world-famous library and record-room in General Allard’s old home, where once Lawrence, Kipling and Garrett studied and researched and produced books that will live forever. Small men need a lot of space; such is their ‘imagined greatness’. A spacious second conference hall and a new rest room emerged. The brown ‘sahib’ acted his part with a vengeance.

In wheel-barrows by the thousands went the world’s finest record, rare manuscripts, rare documents and books, even the first litho prints the world had ever seen from the year 1600 onwards. In heaps he got them stacked in the horse stable, throwing them on the floor to decay. Mind you I am talking about over 70,000 rare books and under a million documents and manuscripts, the world’s second largest collection after the British Museum Library. If you are shocked, I am not surprised, for you have no idea what the Punjab bureaucracy has morphed into. The brilliance of Hallard is a distant dream.

You might well ask just why I am stung. Well let me share just a few, only a few examples of what lie in these heaps, in the putrid humid environment with the smell of dampness and decay heavy in the air. Initially I did not believe what an honest official had told me, so I went to the place myself. Let me begin by telling you that the original letter written by the great poet Mirza Asadullah Khan ‘Ghalib’ in his own hand seeking a restoration of his pension lies among this heap. What would the poet have said? But then who really cares, save a few sorrowful ‘letters to the editor’ that might, maybe, follow this piece.

Forget the fact that by any measure this is a national crime. Bureaucrats are never punished, especially of the ilk I am talking about. When the rulers are ignorant and insolent, bureaucrats fear for their jobs. Heritage has no place in the scheme of traders, who only know how to sell what everyone collectively owns.

Next let me tell you of a rare document that once lay in the record of the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb. It is the 1616 original litho print, among the first of two left in the world, of Sir Thomas Roe. It is an original, and in Lahore original rarities lie on the floor. The only other version in the world is in the British Museum Library in a nitrogen-filled glass casing, a rare manuscript that the British are proud of. In Lahore such rarities lie in heaps, only to be picked up and put on a table by an enlightened public servant. Beyond that he dare not. Honesty brings no laurels.

The original record of the Bhagat Singh incident, known as the Lahore Conspiracy Case, also is in this collection. Among the books are the original prints of all the great masters of Punjab, which once included Delhi and Kabul. Just run your mind from the year 1600 to 2000, a full 400 years of rich heritage, a collection of the Mughals, the Afghan rulers, the Sikhs, the British and the finest record of the early Pakistan years, and all you can see of this glorious period lies on the floors of the dark main halls and verandahs. Our retired bureaucrat ordered a huge bathroom to be built in the middle of the horse stable, one last stab at immortality which adds to the stench.

The roof of the main hall collapsed just six months ago, and given the way bureaucracy runs in Punjab, funds for the roof’s repair were denied. The rain did the rest. A deft educated bureaucrat of another department spared funds from another project to erect a makeshift roof. But then it is a matter of time before it gives way and we will have a massive deluge, which will, all things going the way they are, produce a massive killing field of the finest collection of rare books, documents and manuscript the world has ever seen.

Yes Sir, it is a matter of time only. The fun is no one is bothered, least of all the ruling family. The funds allocated for the library repair, in a stroke of ‘genius’ were diverted to construct a huge new ‘canteen’ serving burgers and sandwiches. Life goes on and the heap continues to grow where once horses treaded.

Tucked away in the heaps are the rare manuscripts of letters from royalty and rulers of the world over 400 years to the various rulers of Lahore. There is an array of secret documents about the hundreds and thousands of happenings in Punjab and its neighbourhood over the centuries. This is a researcher’s goldmine. The original record of the entire 1857 Uprising (War of Independence) is there. Mind you Lahore was the epicenter from where was controlled the fight for Delhi. This is a world original that not even the British have. Our khaki rulers demolished the historic ‘1851 Barrack’ which was the operations headquarters to make way for housing plots. Who dare challenge their intellect?

Mind you among the record are even older manuscripts, one almost 1,000 years ago which, in Sanskrit, records the invasion feared from the ‘looting Afghans who know no morals’. Excuse me, morals. That concept died a thousand years ago. In any other country all this would need 20 massive libraries the size of the Quaid-e-Azam Library, built by the British, to hold. Mind you these foreigners – the British – left behind almost 900 libraries in Punjab, of which only 179 remain. Who needs libraries now?

The head of libraries sits in the Lahore Civil Secretariat with just one typist. That is his department and mind you he is a secretary level bureaucrat. Full stop. That is his status in the present scheme of things in Punjab. A very hurt friend signed and commented: “There is a difference between the strokes of an ironmonger and a goldsmith”. Aptly put.

The table on which the chief of Punjab libraries sits is the original teak table built by the former principal of Government College, Lahore, and once Punjab’s first Record-Keeper, the great Lt. Col. Garrett. Even that was retrieved from the rubble that our daft former chief secretary created in the horse stable. I am not surprised at just where we are headed.

Infinite Inquilab Celebrating a revolutionary past in Pakistan’s present By Chris Moffat

Posted in Articles, News/Information by Pippa on October 9, 2013

Published in The Caravan A Journal of Politics and Culture, 1 August 2013

JUST SOUTH OF BAGH-I-JINNAH, in the heart of Lahore’s Shadman Colony, a fountain stands at the centre of an otherwise unremarkable chowk. No water flows from this dusty structure, though markings on its base betray signs of life. A name is inscribed in black spray paint—not the colloquial ‘Shadman Chowk’, nor the official ‘Choudhry Rehmat Ali Chowk’, but a dissident’s epithet: ‘Bhagat Singh Chowk’, scrawled in both English and Urdu.

The unsanctioned nature of this inscription seems appropriate for a man effectively barred from official history in Pakistan. ‘Bhagat Singh’ is not a name found on commemorative plaques; it does not appear in school textbooks or amidst the national stories promulgated by Pakistan Studies curricula. It evokes a figure allocated to India and Indian history: an atheist to some, a Sikh to others, but a figure necessarily outside the narrative of Muslim struggle curated by the Pakistani state.

The spray paint defies this partition of memory, suggesting this name still means something in Lahore. In spite of several attempted exorcisms, a stubborn spectre remains, bound to the city where Bhagat Singh lived his political life and faced his death on 23 March 1931.

In this alternative history, the chowk is central. Built on the former grounds of Lahore Central Jail, it is widely believed to mark the spot where colonial authorities executed Bhagat Singh for conspiracy. Since 1995, a small group of Left and secular activists have been honouring this connection, meeting annually at the chowk on the martyr’s death anniversary. Banners are raised, candles lit and the revolutionary’s life celebrated in story and song. In recent years, the activists have demanded the site be officially renamed.

“How can we forget our heroes?” said campaigner Saeeda Diep in the south Lahore office of her Institute for Peace and Secular Studies (IPSS). For Diep, who initiated the chowk campaign, militarised borders with India cannot negate a history of shared struggle. “Bhagat Singh shaheed is a son of the soil,” she said. “You should be proud of that.”

For Shahid Nadeem of Lahore’s Ajoka Theatre, “the struggle of Bhagat Singh is an ongoing struggle.” The writer’s 2011 play Mera Rang de Basanti Chola places the chowk at the centre of a history of state violence, opening at the Baba Shah Jamal shrine a short walk from the fountain. Here, an old man recalls his life in the area: first, as a jail official meeting the condemned Bhagat Singh, and later as witness to a political assassination before Zia-ul-Haq’s coup. For Nadeem, the revolutionary remains a symbol of a fight “between exploitation and the forces of freedom.”

Conjuring Bhagat Singh is no anodyne gesture in Pakistan. In March this year, the provocatively named “Bhagat Singh Chowk Naamanzoor [Disapproval] Action Committee” was formed to oppose the chowk’s renaming. Echoing earlier condemnations from the Islamic group Jamaat-ud-Dawa, the committee declared in the Daily Express that, because Bhagat Singh was an “atheist” and a “terrorist”, he should never be recognised as a hero in Pakistan; this, they asserted, would be an affront to the nation and to Islam.

On 23 March, this group announced plans to establish an “Istihkaam [Strengthening] Pakistan Camp” at the chowk. As Diep and other activists assembled to mark the death anniversary, the ‘camp’ materialised as a counter-demonstration. Participants shouted slogans and hurled insults at the activists, sparking a confrontation; police soon arrived to disperse both groups.

The malice behind this attempted exorcism appears, perhaps counter-intuitively, to demonstrate the political promise of Bhagat Singh’s name in contemporary Pakistan. This is, after all, a spirit that thrives on confrontation. The IPSS condemned the counter-demonstration as “yet another example” of how spaces for peaceful protest are being hijacked by those who “believe in imposing their version of Islam and nationalism on everyone.” Drawing “namanzoor” becomes productive for the cause: it makes explicit the intolerance and intimidation Bhagat Singh is conjured to fight.

From this vantage, the revolutionary’s potential lies not in his absorption to official history, but in the way he restlessly challenges foundations. Renaming the chowk would certainly be an accomplishment, but when activists gather in Shadman every year, they realise the spirit of struggle itself. The famous slogan “Inquilab Zindabad” (Long Live Revolution) evokes this call for unrelenting critical movement: the promise of provocation. Official recognition, in contrast, can never satisfy the infinite scope of Bhagat Singh’s demand, communicated from prison in 1929: “Old order should change, always and ever, yielding place to new, so that one ‘good’ order may not corrupt the world.”

– See more at: http://caravanmagazine.in/lede/infinite-inquilab#sthash.afN168K5.Rdh8GnWh.dpuf

Recording Punjab’s darkest hours for posterity

Posted in Articles, News/Information, Partition by Pippa on October 9, 2013
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