Punjab Research Group

British Sikh Report 2013 – A Review

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

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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

The Memoirs and Poems of Lal Singh Dil

Posted in Book reviews by Pippa on February 25, 2013

lal singhA man forever on the margins Reviewed by Aruti Nayar

Poet of the Revolution: The Memoirs and Poems of Lal Singh Dil, Translated by Nirupama Dutt Penguin/Viking. Pages 167. Rs 399

Looking at the slight, self-effacing man, no one could guess that he was bursting with revolutionary fervour or was willing to stake all for a cause. If anything that defined him was the shrinking self-consciousness and a deep sadness lurking in his eyes that told its own multiple tales of oppression. One remembers a warm May evening in Punjab Kala Bhavan, a few months before his death in 2007, when Lal Singh Dil had read out his poetry and Parnab, a Bengali photographer, poet and activist enacted vignettes from writer-activist Mahashweta Devi’s works. Dil may not have displayed any revolutionary fervour, fire and brimstone but his poetry did. After all, he had articulated the double burden of caste and class when he wrote: “For us, trees do not bear fruits, for us, flowers do not bloom, for us, there is no spring, for us, there is no revolution.”

Dil was born on April 11, 1943, at Ghungraali Sikhaan, in Samrala. His was a life of immense struggle and his poetry made him a legend well within his lifetime. His tragic life epitomised the fact that the plight of a Dalit never changed.

Whether as a Muslim or a Naxalite — he remained an outcast (or more aptly, an outcaste) always. Buffeted around by life and people who discriminated against him. Be it as a child who could never be centre stage, or a teacher whose glass (in which he drank water) was ‘purified’ by throwing it into the fire and then into water with tongs. The resulting crackling sound had haunted him forever. He embraced Islam, first becoming Muhammad Bushra, then Wali Muhammad to find peace and justice.

His works include three collections of poetry, Satluj di Hava (The Satluj Breeze), Bahut Saare Suraj (A Million Suns) and Naaglok (City of Snakes); an autobiography called Dastaan; and a narrative long poem called Billa Aj Phir Aaya (Billa Visited Again Today). Be it as a labourer, farm hand or a wandering mad man wreaked by delusions, Dil lived only for the sake of his emotions and convictions. Here’s a man who touched the abyss, rose like a phoenix time and again, who did not know where his next meal was to come from and yet carried on writing verse, the only way he could liberate himself. Others of his ilk capitulated but he never hankered after rewards or recognition. Once the Naxalite movement petered out, he had nowhere to go but “The comrades of his revolutionary days were now editors, executives, professors, businessmen or expatriates. The spring thunder was over and everyone had returned to the comfort zone of their class structures.”

The demons in his mind drove the trajectory of his life and whether he lived in the fantasy world or walked miles on end aimlessly, Dil gave many, including the translator of this book, hope and the grit to carry on with life. He embodied the resilience and tenacity of the human spirit. The translation by Nirupama Dutt is reader friendly and bereft of jargon. The Foreward by Prem Parkash (in which he sounds patronising towards ‘Lallu’at times) and an Appendix by Amarjit Chandan, the London-based poet/activist. The Introduction reveals the layers of Dil’s personality and many shared moments with the writer. It is the memoirs and the poems that haunt you long after you finish reading them. Nirupama does bring to life Dil’s poems and writes with a felt intensity about the poet who was also a confidante. There is a simplicity of style and narration, much like Dil himself. When Dil died on August 14, 2007, at the Dayanand Medical College and Hospital, Ludhiana, close to Independence Day, his friends could not find any garland because they had been sold out. Flowers were taken from people’s houses to make garlands and it was an apt tribute to a man whose tea shop had become a hub of literary activity. As Dil said, one day people would come and sing qawwalis under the banyan tree outside his hovel. Perhaps, “It will happen one day, for in ‘Manto-town’ (Samrala is also the birthplace of Manto) Dil was the true faqir and Manto and Dil were forever buried in many a heart.”

published in The Sunday Tribune: http://www.tribuneindia.com/2013/20130224/spectrum/book2.htm

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Book review by Gurbachan Jandu

Posted in Book reviews by Pippa on March 5, 2012
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Book review: “Lahore -Topohilia of Space and Place” by Anna Suvorova

Posted in Book reviews by Pippa on March 1, 2012

25 February 2012

It is a mystery as to how a layered city such as Lahore has attracted little scholarship in the past few decades. This is why Anna Suvorova’s book “Lahore -Topohilia of Space and Place” is a major book of our times. Suvorova is a distinguished scholar and currently heads the Department of Asian Literatures at the Institute of Oriental Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences. Her earlier works on Urdu, Sufism and numerous translations of Urdu prose works are well known. This book, while a work of formidable scholarship is distinctive for its personal dimension. Like countless others, Suvorova is an ardent admirer of Lahore and tells us why Lahore has survived historical vicissitudes and also why its memory is so lovingly remembered, invoked and reproduced.

Suvorova begins the book following the style of an oracle and explains why she chose to explore the topophilia, literally ‘love for a place’. This apparently simple term, as we finish the first very chapter, becomes a kaleidoscope to view the boundless affection that many across the globe experience vis a vis Lahore. Suvorova is one of such Lahore-philes, if one can be excused for inventing such a term. Her fascination for Lahore, as it emerges in her book, is evident throughout the narrative as she takes the reader into the labyrinth of history, cultural memory, urban geography, and sociology of the city.

Read full review: http://razarumi.com/2012/02/25/book-review-lahore-topohilia-of-space-and-place/

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Horrors of Partition, by A.G. Noorani

Posted in Book reviews, New Publications, Partition by Pippa on March 1, 2012

Frontline Vol 29 – Issue 4

Book review of The Punjab Bloodied, Partitioned and Cleansed by Ishtiaq Ahmed; Partition Observed edited by Lionel Carter and Partition and Locality by Illyas Chattha.

In addition to the loss of human lives and property, the near-fatal blows on cultures mark Partition’s distinctively hideous features.

THE partition of the subcontinent of India deserves to rank as one of the 10 great tragedies in recorded human history. That is saying a lot. It is not only the loss of human lives and property but the near-fatal blows on cultures that mark its distinctively hideous features. Urdu and the composite Ganga-Jamuna tehzeeb (culture) suffered grievously. People were uprooted, leaving an impoverished culture behind them. Of all the provinces, Punjab suffered the most. The massacre that preceded and followed its partition, along with that of India, was predictable and was predicted.

“Pakistan would mean a massacre,” the Premier of Punjab Sir Sikandar Hyat Khan predicted to the distinguished civilian Penderel Moon as early as in October 1938 ( Divide and Quit, page 20). That was well before the Muslim League adopted the Pakistan resolution on March 23, 1940, in Lahore, radically altering Sir Sikandar’s draft just 24 hours before it was passed. He repudiated it because it dropped the organic link between the two parts of India, which he had provided. He told the Punjab Legislative Assembly, on March 11, 1941, “We do not ask for freedom that there may be Muslim Raj here and Hindu Raj elsewhere. If that is what Pakistan means I will have nothing to do with it.”

Read full review:

http://www.frontline.in/stories/20120309290407300.htm

Book Review: The Politics of Religion in South and Southeast Asia edited by Ishtiaq Ahmed

Posted in Book reviews by Pippa on March 1, 2012

Dr Ishtiaq Ahmed, a renowned scholar of Pakistani origin, is presently a professor emeritus of political science at the University of Stockholm in Sweden. However, this book The Politics of Religion in South and Southeast Asia was conceived after a symposium in March 2009, when he was a visiting research professor at the Institute of South Asian Studies at the National University of Singapore. The purpose of the seminar was to investigate the role of religion in the countries of South and South East Asia. Dr Ahmed, as editor, has given an overview of the politics of religion in this region, followed by articles on the two areas separately: on South Asia by Ali Riaz and South East Asia by Bilveer Singh. These are followed by research studies in the form of chapters on Pakistan (Ishtiaq Ahmed and Tahmina Rashid), India (Tridivesh Singh Maini, Ishtiaq Ahmed and Rajesh Rai), Bangladesh (Taj Hashmi), Malaysia (Maznah Mohamad), Indonesia (Noorhaidi Hasan), the Philippines (Raymond Jose G. Quilop) and Singapore (Eugene K. B. Tan).

Read the full review by Tariq Rahman in Newsline: http://www.newslinemagazine.com/2012/02/book-review-the-politics-of-religion-in-south-and-southeast-asia/

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Poetry as Resistance: Islam and Ethnicity in Postcolonial Pakistan by Nukhbah Langah

Posted in Book reviews, New Publications by Pippa on February 10, 2012

Poetry as Resistance: Islam and Ethnicity in Postcolonial Pakistan by Nukhbah Langah (Routledge, 2011)

Focusing on the culturally and historically rich Siraiki-speaking region, often tagged as ‘South Punjab’, this book discusses the ways in which Siraiki creative writers have transformed into political activists, resisting the self-imposed domination of the Punjabi–Mohajir ruling elite. Influenced by Sufi poets, their poetry takes the shape of both protest and dialogue. This book reflects upon the politics of identity and the political complications which are a result of colonisation and later, neo-colonisation of Pakistan. It challenges the philosophy of Pakistan — a state created for Muslims — which is now taking the shape of religious fanaticism, while disregarding ethnic and linguistic issues such as that of Siraiki.

Read review by Ayesha Siddiqa in The Friday Times: http://www.thefridaytimes.com/beta2/tft/article.php?issue=20120210&page=19

The Punjab: Bloodied, Partitioned and Cleansed by Ishtiaq Ahmed

Posted in Book reviews, New Publications, Partition by Pippa on February 10, 2012

Extract from The Punjab Bloodied Partitioned and Cleansed by Ishtiaq Ahmed, (Rupa & Co, 2011)

INTRODUCTION
(Pages xxxviii-xxxix)

A Sikh Plan to eradicate all Muslims from East Punjab They alleged that the Sikhs had a definite plan to eliminate Muslims from East Punjab and that the Hindu group, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), was behind many heinous bomb blasts and other assaults on Muslims. Notes on The Sikh Plan says:

‘The ultimate goal which the Sikhs had set before them seems to have been the establishment of Sikh rule in the Punjab. Their preparations to this end were aimed directly and exclusively against the Muslims. Whether the Hindus who formed the bigger minority in the Punjab, would ultimately have acquiesced in the fulfillment of Sikh ambitions at their expense, is doubtful; but for the time being they made common cause with the Sikhs. The activities and preparations of the two, therefore, run parallel to each other and even where active conspiracy between them is not evident, the fact that they regarded the Muslims as their common enemy created mutual disposition towards collaboration which virtually amounted to a conspiracy and let [sic] to concerted effort’ (1948: 1-2).

Chaudhri Muhammad Ali, who represented Pakistan in the Steering Committee of the Partition Council set up by the colonial government, and was later prime minister of Pakistan (1955-56), alleged in his book, The Emergence of Pakistan, that the Sikh leadership at the highest level, especially the Maharajas of Patiala and Kapurthala, were involved in a macabre conspiracy to wipe out all Muslims from East Punjab.

The former Chief Justice of the Pakistan Supreme Court, Muhammad Munir, one of the two members nominated by the Muslim League to the Punjab Boundary Commission, admitted in his book, From Jinnah to Zia, that the first large-scale communal attack in Punjab occurred in the Rawalpindi region in March 1947 against Sikhs and Hindus, and its perpetrators were Muslims (1980: 17). He reiterated the charge that the Sikhs had a plan to eradicate all traces of Muslim presence in the eastern parts of Punjab.

Extract: http://books.hindustantimes.com/2011/09/extract-the-punjab-bloodied-partitioned-and-cleansed/

Review in The Asian Age: http://www.asianage.com/books/conspiracies-partition-635

Review in the Deccan Chronicle: http://www.deccanchronicle.com/channels/lifestyle/books/conspiracies-partition-459

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Raziuddin Aquil, ed. Sufism and Society in Medieval India. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2010

Posted in Book reviews by Pippa on November 14, 2011

Reviewed by Usha Sanyal (Queens University of Charlotte)

This is an interesting collection of essays on aspects of Sufism during the twelfth through eighteenth centuries by well-known scholars in the field, such as K. A. Nizami, J. M. S. Baljon, and Simon Digby, among others. All nine essays have been published previously. They are brought together here, along with an introductory essay by Raziuddin Aquil, the editor, as part of Oxford University Press’s Debates in Indian History and Society series. Thematically, many of the essays are concerned with the role of Sufis in the subcontinent in Islamization and conversion of Hindus to Islam, with the authors taking different stands on the issue. Subsidiary sets of issues relate to Sufis and their relation to the state and to possession of wealth and property, as well as relations between different Sufi orders and between Sufis and scholars of Islamic law (the ulama), language, and social class. One essay, by Richard M. Eaton, deals with the role of women’s songs in transmitting Sufi ideas to illiterate villagers in the seventeenth-century Deccan.

Aquil frames the primary concern of the book, namely, the roles that medieval Sufis played in the conversion of Hindus to Islam, in historiographic terms by focusing on the perspectives of the essay writers themselves. Broadly, Aquil sees three distinct scholarly positions: those whose “writings … emphasize the pluralistic character of Indian society and the commendable role of Sufis in providing a practical framework for communal harmony” (essays by Nizami, S. A. A. Rizvi, and Carl W. Ernst, in Aquil’s view, belong in this group); those who adopt “a more empirically sustainable approach even while remaining committed to the idea of secularism and such other virtues expected from historians in Indian academia” (in this group, he places the contributions by Eaton, Digby, and Muzaffar Alam); and those who take “a Muslim separatist position” (the only example in the volume is the piece by Aziz Ahmad) (p. x). On the one hand, Aquil expresses strong disagreement with Ahmad, writing that he “offers a somewhat cynical interpretation marred by his separatist outlook, which, in turn, was influenced by the post-Partition Muslim predicament in the Indian subcontinent” (p. xv). On the other hand, Aquil feels that Nizami, for example, is prone to making broad generalizations, characterizing the ulama as “conservative and reactionary theologians,… [leaving] the Sufis to rise to the occasion, releasing ‘syncretic forces which liquidated social, ideological, and linguistic barriers’ between Hindus and Muslims for building a ‘common cultural outlook.’” In contrast, Aquil clearly esteems the work of those he terms “empiricist,” describing the essay by Alam, for example, as a “balanced and empirically dense argument on the question of community relations” (p. xvi). Seen in this light, the essays not only offer different perspectives on the roles of Sufis in medieval India, but also illustrate different academic approaches, over the past fifty years, to that history.

Read full review: https://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=32240

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Pilgrimage of a writer by Jasmine Singh

Posted in Book reviews by Pippa on November 7, 2009

pilgrimage paradiseEvery journey has a purpose, which gives a perspective to life. Also, the journey that we embark never ends, even after we are gone from the face of earth. The soul remains, and takes on a yet another journey. Writer Kamla Kapur (born Kamaljit Kaur Kapur) is also on a pilgrimage to discover the deeper meaning of life. She tries to get there with Pilgrimage To Paradise, Sufi Tales from Rumi, released at a function organised by Chandigarh Sahitya Akademi on Saturday.

On a spiritual journey of submission, surrendering herself, falling in love with ‘Rumi’ was natural for Kamla. “I heard Rumi’s name while I was growing up,” says the winner of two national awards in 1977. “The moment came, when I moved into my husband, Payson Steven’s house shortly before our marriage. There, I saw three volumes of the Mathnawi in his library.

Read further: http://www.tribuneindia.com/2009/20090927/ttlife1.htm

http://www.kamlakkapur.com/blog/

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Pseudo-Scholarship

Posted in Book reviews by Pippa on September 14, 2009

Jaswant Singh’s controversial book on Jinnah has nothing new to offer, except some rare photographs. It is significant only because it rudely and perhaps unexpectedly exposed the tussles within the top ranks of the BJP leadership.

C.M. Naim

With due apology to every Pathan in the world, I must start with a “Pathan” joke. A Pathan came down into the plains to visit with a friend. The friend treated him to qalaqand. The Pathan loved the chunky, grey-white sweet so much that the next day he went looking for it in the market. Unfortunately he couldn’t remember the name, and so when he saw a man selling what looked like qalaqand, he pointed to it and bought some. As he started eating he found himself in terrible agony, for what he had bought was home-made soap. Seeing his anguished look and the foam trickling out of his mouth, a man asked, “What’s the matter, Khan? What are you eating?” Gasping for breath, the Pathan retorted, “What do you think? Khan is eating his money.” 

Read the full article: http://www.outlookindia.com/article.aspx?261816

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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.

http://www.southasiapost.org/2009/20090831/literature.htm

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