Punjab Research Group

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

Participants

Participants

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_5707 IMG_5710

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: