Bringing Punjabiyat Back

BY: SCHONA JOLLY

“PUNJABI IS MY MOTHER TONGUE, my blood, my soul, my language. I think, dream and feel in it. I will also die in it,” proclaims Amarjit Chandan, an acclaimed poet born in Kenya. “In pardes (abroad),” he explains of his adult life spent in London, “I invented the Punjabiland.”

For a land that has been home to some of the world’s richest civilisations, modern Punjabi culture remains remarkably little known outside the noisy clichés of Bollywood and music videos. As the Indian state of Punjab grapples with complex social and economic issues, the Pakistani province of Punjab collapses due to political woes, and a large diaspora stays settled all over the globe, Punjabi poets and storytellers of old seem to be disappearing along with the water levels in the land of the five rivers. But Punjabis are nothing if not adept at handling change—it is the legacy of their own turbulent history, after all—and there are small but significant signs, that this vibrant melting-pot culture is on the verge of reemergence.

History has not been kind to the people of Punjab. The brutal division of the state during Partition led to both carnage and to one of the biggest mass population movements during the 20th century. Amidst the riots, butchery, rape and devastation, Punjabis of all religious persuasions suddenly found that they had to create new identities. In Pakistan, those identities had to be established through a new, Urdu-speaking nationalist ethos that sought to reimagine the country’s history and culture by severing ties with its neighbour. In India, those identities had to be reshaped by millions of refugees whose culture, possessions, love and longing belonged to another place. In the decades after Partition, hundreds of thousands of Punjabis from both East Punjab, in India, and West Punjab, in Pakistan, left their homelands to seek sanctuary and a new life abroad. For all of these people, the historical and cultural ties to their motherland had to be reforged. The multi-hued complexion of both states had become altered radically overnight.

Lahore, the united Punjab’s former capital, had long been considered the jewel in the crown of North India and had been developed as a cultural capital under both the Mughals and Maharaja Ranjit singh. “Jisne Lahore nahi dekhya, woh janmia nahi (Those who have not seen Lahore, have not lived),” proclaimed popular lore at the time. …

Read more : Wichaar

Nuclear CAN means catastrophe, especially in corruption prone countries like India and Pakistan

Nuclear power as the “shark attacks” of energy

I was at a coffee shop recently and a SWPL couple (woman had dreads to boot!) a number of tables away were reading a newspaper, and the husband expressed worry about the Fukushima disaster. The wife responded that “now other people will understand how dangerous nuclear power is,” with a sage nod. They then launched into twenty minutes of loud righteous gibberish about chemicals (I had a hard time making sense of it, despite the fact that I learned a lot about chemicals in the past due to my biochemistry background). Because they’d irritated me I was curious and I tailed them as they left. Naturally they had driven to get coffee in a S.U.V. of some sort (albeit, a modestly sized one which looked like it was more outfitted for the outdoors’ activities common in the Pacific Northwest; they’d probably done their cost vs. benefit about those chemicals!).

In terms of radiation fears, I suspect that if more people just automatically knew …

Read more : Discorver Magazine

Letter from a Syrian Socialist

by Syrian Socialist

Events are beginning to move in the direction of revolution in Syria. Prior to today’s day of action we received this letter from a Syrian socialist that gives some interesting insights into the difficulties the regime is facing.

The situation in Syria is reaching a boiling point. The regime has used brutal repression in the city of Darr’a. The so called “Saraya Al-Difa’ (Defense Brigades) which are paratroops under the command of Maher Al-Asad, the brother of the president, were the ones who stormed the Omary Mosque and are the ones besieging the city, terrorizing, arresting, and shooting. It is believed that more than 100 martyrs have fallen so far and hundreds more have been arrested. On top of that, locals have reported that Farsi is being spoken among some members of the security forces and there is widespread belief that these are Iranian “Revolutionary Guards”.

Today, Boutheyna Sha’aban, was on TV. She is a prominent face of the Syrian regime who has occupied a number of ministerial posts in the past and who is currently, some sort of a counselor for the president. She seemed shaky and was mumbling during parts of her speech, although she was trying to look strong. She repeated all kinds of rubbish that the regime has been saying along the lines that the President respected the legitimate demand of the protesters and is going to respond to them and that the violence that took place was caused by “agent provocateurs” who took advantage of the peaceful protests to advance their own agenda which has nothing to do with the demand of the Syrian people, but only aimed at striking at the stability and harmony the country enjoys. She finished her speech with the most ridiculous concessions, nonetheless very reflective of the fears of the regime, which included the immediate establishment of all sort of “committees” to “study” the different economic and political demands of the Syrian people (!) and also raising the wages of public sector workers (and improving benefits) to meet their needs. But how to meet “their needs” and by how much the wages are going to be increased she did not say! When she was asked who was behind this “conspiracy” in Darr’a she could not figure that one out either!

Tomorrow [Friday] is supposed to be the Syrian day of a rage and is going to be a decisive day that could very well mark the beginning of a full scale revolution. There have been many calls on people to take to the streets and protest but the response has been very meek so far. What happens tomorrow is significant because after the atrocities …

Read more : Wichaar

Syrian Troops Open Fire on Protesters in Several Cities

MICHAEL SLACKMAN

CAIRO — Military troops opened fire on protesters in the southern part of Syria on Friday, according to news reports quoting witnesses, hurtling the strategically important nation along the same trajectory that has altered the landscape of power across the Arab world.

Tens of thousands of demonstrators in the southern city of Dara’a, on the border with Jordan, and in some other cities and towns around the nation took to the streets in protest, defying a state that has once again demonstrated its willingness to use lethal force. It was the most serious challenge to 40 years of repressive rule by the Assad family since 1982, when the president at the time, Hafez al-Assad, massacred at least 10,000 protesters in the northern Syrian city of Hama. …

Read more : Wichaar

Incidentally, even today, like “Sindh regiment”, “Baloch regiment” is also predominantly staffed with Punjabi soldiers!

Love in the Time of 1971: The Furore over Meherjaan

The film Meherjaan, which was released in Dhaka in January 2011, was quickly pulled out of theatres after it created a furore among audiences. The hostile responses to the film from across generations highlight the discomfort about the portrayal of a raped woman, and its depiction of female and multiple sexualities during the Bangladesh liberation war of 1971. The furore also underscores the nationalist repoliticisation of the younger generation in Bangladesh and its support for the ongoing war crimes tribunal of the 1971 war.

To read full article : http://epw.in/epw/uploads/articles/15845.pdf

Failure of Leadership in Pakistan

Review by Azhar Ali Shah

In oder to understand the root causes of the failure of leadership and parliamentary democracy in Pakistan, I will be sharing some important articles, for your comments and interaction. The idea is to detect the main causes of the faults and propose the remedy based on consensus of all of us. At the end we would try to synthesize these discussions in the form of a publishable document which could provide the bases for starting a public campaign for the implementation of political reforms in Pakistan.

To begin with, I am presenting my review of the Khalid bin Sayed’s article (Click here to read, COLLAPSE OF PARLIAMENTARY DEMOCRACY IN PAKISTAN ). This article provides some of the description of political setup during the very 1st decade of Pakistan and observes that it was Punjabi Machiavellianism (the political doctrine of Machiavelli: any means (however unscrupulous) can be used by a ruler in order to create and maintain his autocratic government) that caused the collapse of parliamentary democracy. The author then comments on the performance of the military regime and how it was dealing with politicians, civil servants and common people. The whole article is worth reading and is available online a: http://www.jstor.org/pss/4323166 .

Collapse of Parliamentary Democracy in Pakistan

Kahild bin Syed, Middle East Journal,Vol. 13, No. 4, Autumn, 1959

Review by Azhar Ali Shah
This article begins with the description of parliamentary democracy and its success in homogeneous communities. The article questions whether democracy could be a way of life in a country like Pakistan (consisting of heterogeneous communities)? It cites examples of Pakistani leaders (both at center and provinces) who flouted democracy and took arbitrary actions but there was no rally by any party/leader to defend the sovereignty of parliament!

Continue reading Failure of Leadership in Pakistan

Lessons from Japan

Some things that set the Japanese apart from others dealing with natural disasters

1. THE CALM

Not a single visual of chest-beating or wild grief. Sorrow itself has been elevated.

2. THE DIGNITY

Disciplined queues for water and groceries. Not a rough word or a crude gesture.

3. THE ABILITY

Responsible earthquake engineering. For instance, buildings swayed but didn’t fall.

4. THE GRACE

People bought only what they needed for the present, so everybody could get something.

5. THE ORDER

No looting in shops. No honking and no overtaking on the roads. Just understanding.

6. THE SACRIFICE

Fifty workers stayed back to pump sea water in the N-reactors. How will they ever be repaid?

7. THE TENDERNESS

Restaurants cut prices. An unguarded ATM is left alone. The strong cared for the weak.

8. THE TRAINING

The old and the children, everyone knew exactly what to do. And they did just that.

9. THE MEDIA

The Japanese showed magnificent restraint in the bulletins. No silly reporters. Only calm reportage.

10. THE CONSCIENCE

When the power went off in a store, people put things back on the shelves and left quietly.

Courtesy: Daily Ravi + Internet