Punjab Research Group

The Unsung Indian Hero of Kenya

Posted in Articles, Diaspora, Migration by Pippa on January 2, 2014

Makhan SinghPublished in The Tribune 25 December 2013

Following link for full article http://epaper.tribuneindia.com/203331/The-Tribune/TT_25_December_2013#page/19/2

Makhan Singh not only organised the labour movement in Kenya, but also raised the slogan of total independence of the country. He remained in prison for 16 years. But the contribution of this valiant son of Punjab remains unknown in Kenya as well as in India.

WHEN I visited Kenya for the first time in 2005 as an educationist, it was inconceivable then that I would soon be writing a play on an unsung Indian hero Makhan Singh, who had migrated from Punjab in 1927, organised the labour movement of the country, became the first person to call for total freedom from the colonial rule, remained under detention for 16 years and was the first leader to be arrested and the last to be released after independence. If about 20 readings of the play Mungu Comrade in India, England and Canada attracted hundreds of people, who were riveted to the spoken action, it was not the magic of writing; they were actually enchanted by the mesmerizing protagonist who has rightly been termed as a “totally unadulterated idealist”. Dr. Fitz De Souza, Deputy Speaker of Kenya’s first National Assembly said about him, “he wouldn’t compromise his principles on anything.”

He was born on December 27, 1913 in Gharjakh, a town near Gujranwala (Pakistan) in the family of Sudh Singh who went to Kenya in 1920, about two decades after the British took Indian labour to Kenya to lay the railway track from Mombasa to Kisumu to feed their commercial needs. In the 16th century the Portuguese had also imported workers from the then colony of theirs, Goa, to help build the coastal Fort Jesus. But it was in the last years of the 19th century when 37,000 workers and petty tradesmen were introduced from Punjab and Gujarat for the line that is termed by the African tribes and subsequently by Robert Hardy as The Iron Snake. The slithering of this ‘snake’, passing through the dense forests took life of about 2,500 workmen; roughly four persons per mile of the track. Another 6,500 were injured seriously. We have seen this terrain in the film made on the first-hand accounts written by John Henry Patterson in Man Eaters of Tsavo.

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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

Partition and Locality. Violence, Migration, and Development in Gujranwala and Sialkot, 1947–1961 by Ilyas Chattha

Posted in Migration, New Publications, Partition by Pippa on November 27, 2011

This book provides original and challenging insights into the processes of violence, demographic transformation, and physical reconstruction arising from partition of the subcontinent in 1947. The study focuses on the cities of Gujranwala and Sialkot that experienced violence, demographic shift, and economic transformation in different ways. The work is not only a significant contribution to the understanding of the Partition process of British India and its aftermath in Punjab that became Pakistani territory, but it also provides an authoritative and thought-provoking approach to the themes of broader twentieth-century processes of collective violence, mass displacements, and economic recovery.

About the Author: Educated at the Universities of Warwick and Southampton, Dr Ilyas Chattha obtained a PhD in 2009. He is presently based at the Centre for Imperial and Post-Colonial Studies, University of Southampton, and is carrying out research on the impact of Partition on the Punjabi Christians in Pakistan.

To Purchase: http://www.oup.com.pk/shopexd.asp?id=2104

EXCERPT: Stories of an unacknowledged massacre: http://www.dawn.com/2011/10/23/excerpt-stories-of-an-unacknowledged-massacre.html

Book review in Pakistan Today: http://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2011/10/the-review-30th-october-2011/

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