Punjab Research Group

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 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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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’


Beyond Belief ‘Women in Sikhism’

Posted in sikhs by Pippa on February 14, 2013

You can still listen to this discussion on the BBC Radio 4 was aired on Monday 14 January at 16.30 (GMT).

The fundamental message of Sikhism appears to be simple; God is one and all people are equal. But are some more equal than others? If the Sikh scriptures are consistent with a feminist agenda, why do some Sikh women feel that they are second class citizens?
Joining Ernie to discuss the position of women within the Sikh tradition are Navtej Purewal, Lecturer in the School of Social Sciences at Manchester University; Eleanor Nesbitt, Professor Emeritus at the Institute of Education in the University of Warwick; and Nicky Guninder Kaur Singh, Professor in the Department of Religious Studies at Colby College Waterville Maine in the USA

Here’s a link: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01ptgfy

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Punjabi University, Patiala hosts Punjab Research Group Meeting

Posted in PRG Meetings by Pippa on December 28, 2009


A collection of distinguished scholars from the UK, USA and India were present in Patiala on December 19th, courtesy of the Sociology Department of the Punjabi University. The UK based Punjab Research Group held its bi-annual meeting for the first time in Punjab, India. As part of the Group’s twenty-fifth anniversary celebrations, the group of organised a number of special seminars. The first was held in Lahore in February of this year. The meeting in Patiala was attended by many of the leading international scholars of Punjab studies. Professor Gurinder Singh Mann, from the University of Santa Barbara, California, Virinder Kalra from the University of Manchester, Harjant Gill from the University of Washington and Pritpal Virdee, De Montfort University, UK were present. The main themes of the workshop spanned the historic time period from pre-colonial to present times. The aim of the seminar was to look at the Punjab as an area from an inter-disciplinary perspective. A wide range of issues were explored in depth referring to the social and cultural landscape of Punjab. A lively and informed discussion took place that was well appreciated by all the participants.

The programme had the following presentations:

‘Revisiting the Janam Sakhis’ by Gurinder Singh Mann, University of Santa Barbara, Chaired by HS Gill

‘Jangnama and Precolonial Punjabi Consciousness’ by HS Bhatti and Rabinder Powar, Punjabi University, Patiala, Chaired by Gurinder Singh Mann

‘Understanding Popular Sufi Centres in Punjab’ by Yogesh Snehi, Department of History, DAV College, Chaired by Surinder Jodhka

‘From Putt Jattan De to Munde UK De: The Transformation of Masculinities in Punjabi Cinema’ by  Harjant Gill, University of Washington, Chaired by Dr Malkiat Kaur

‘Silent Narratives: Women and Partition in West Punjab’ by Pippa Virdee, De Montfort University, Chaired by Dr Birinderpal Singh

‘Mela of Daud Bandegi, Shergarh, West Punjab’ by Virinder Kalra, University of Manchester, Chaired by Dr Harvinder Bhatti

Striking Women. Voices of South Asian Workers

Posted in Events by Pippa on October 7, 2009

flyer_Striking WomenAfter finalising the exhibition we learned that the UCU are ‘greylisting’ London Metropolitan University in protest against the irresponsible way in which University management have dealt with financial shortfalls and redundancies. We fully support the actions of our colleagues at LMU and withdraw any further cooperation until this issue is resolved. We are aware of the irony of presenting an exhibition on “Striking women…..” at a time when the livelihood of our fellow university workers is being threatened and will seek every opportunity to use the exhibition to highlight the dispute at LMU. Further details are available at http://www.ucu.org.uk/index.cfm?articleid=3680

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Pakistan: women’s quest for entitlement by Pippa Virdee

Posted in Articles by Pippa on April 12, 2009

Open Democracy 9 – 04 – 2009


The emancipation of women is often linked to the progress of a society in transformation from a feudal society to a modern state. The story of women in the country that became Pakistan can indeed be told in such terms: as part of a struggle for advancement with education at its centre, and linked at critical moments to wider goals of national emancipation and social reform.

During the past thirty years, however, the quest for women’s rights in the context of such reform has been under increasing pressure from a trend toward state-sponsored Islamisation. This trend, which began under the authoritarian rule of Zia ul-Haq (who seized power in a military coup in 1977), is symbolised by the punitive flogging of a young woman in the newly Talibanised region of Swat. The fighting ground, it appears, is always women’s space.


To read full article: http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/pakistan-history-in-women-s-voices

History of the Punjab: Powerful matriarchs in the land of the five rivers

Posted in Articles, News/Information by Pippa on February 3, 2009

By Dr. Manzur Ejaz

Every historical change affects women in more profound ways than other segments of society. However, it is amazing that little has been recorded by historians in this regard. The Muslim invasion of the Punjab led by Sultan Mahmud Ghaznavi in the 10th century, also resulted in fundamental changes in the status of women, but one does not find much material about this shift in women’s status in historical chronicles of that period. Probably, most of the history books of that time were written by those Northern and Central Asian men who were attached to the Slave Dynasty and had little regard for women. The only exception is Abu Rehan Al Beruni (973-1048) who wrote about the status of women and other social aspects of the Punjab.


Al Beruni’s account of India is largely based upon his observations about the Punjabi society to which he came with Mahmud Ghaznavi, and later on lived in for a long time. Therefore, for all practical purposes Al Beruni viewed India through his knowledge of the Punjab . One can trace back Al Beruni’s characterization of Punjabi women as being part of the decision-making process in all important matters, from the customs of the ancient Vedic period. We can see a similar depiction of Punjabi women in the work of the intellectuals who came after him. For example, one can find metaphorical descriptions of the status of women in the poetry of Hazrat Fariduddin Masud Ganj-e-Shakar aka Baba Farid (1173-1265) and through the memoirs of his intellectual heir Nizam-ud-Din Aulia (1238-1325). In addition, folk tales can be utilized as an indirect source of our information, though their authenticity will remain suspect.


To read full article: http://www.wichaar.com/news/315/ARTICLE/11674/2009-01-24.html

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