Seraiki Poet Rifat Abbas refuses the Pride of Punjab Award for Punjabi Poetry

rifat-abbas

All admiration and support to poet/educator Rifat Abbas for taking this action in favour of his mother language at this year’s International Mother Language Day.

“I’ve no moral ground to accept the award; I refuse it due to three main reasons: being a poet, being a Seraiki nationalist and being a neighbor of small nations struggling against the suppression of Punjab,” said Mr Abbas. Explaining the reasons, he said that being a poet he had not rendered any service for the promotion of Punjabi language but his all services were for the promotion of Seraiki language.
dawn.com/news/1316216/seraiki-poet-turns-down-punjab-award

As a Punjabi writer, i much appreciate his insistence on the three points he has mentioned: that he is a Seraiki language poet who doesn’t like to be packaged as a Punjabi poet; that he is also a Seraiki nationalist demanding independent rights and resources for Seraiki speaking people; and, that the harsh oppression of Balochis and Sindhis being carried out by the Punjabi power-holders can not be ignored.

It is my experience that Pakistan’s Punjabi writers, mainly based in Lahore, hold the few resources available for mother languages in the Punjab, and there bigoted attitude does not allow them to listen to people like Rifat Abbas who for many years are saying that Seraiki is not Punjabi and that it is a distinct language with it’s own culture and geographic location. It’s understandable that Pakistan’s federal and provincial state structures would have a negative view of this position but why is it that Punjabi writers feel offended by it? Perhaps some vested interests and literary hegemonies are preventing us from supporting another writer’s stand for his mother language.

As Punjabis, who are we to judge if a language is a dialect of Punjabi when the representatives and speakers of that language are saying that it’s not? Because not only that Seraiki is not Punjabi but it also does have it’s own culture (a Punjabi, for example, will greet another Punjabi in a different way than a Seraiki will greet another Seraiki) and land. If we don’t acknowledge it, we are putting forward the same colonial concepts and aspirations that make us complicit on the suppressions being carried out by Pakistan’s Punjabi-led state structures against Balochis, Sindhis and Pathans- like we were complicit against Bengalis in the 60s and the 70s.

Uddari fully supports Rifat Abbas and other friends in Seraiki wasaib for their ongoing struggle to get recognition and rights for their language and culture.

Fauzia Rafique
gandholi.wordpress.com

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‘Tellers of Short Tales’ – Fauzia Rafique with Nasreen Pejvack – Feb 16 New Westminster

tellersofshorttales

RCLAS presents
Tellers of Short Tales
Featured Author Fauzia Rafique
Open Mic.
Host Nasreen Pejvack

Thursday, February 16
18:00–20:00
Anvil Centre
777 Columbia Street
New Westminster

Fauzia Zohra Rafique writes poetry, fiction and nonfiction. She has published two novels: ‘The Adventures of SahebaN: Biography of a Relentless Warrior’ (Libros Libertad, Nov 2016) and ‘Skeena’ (Libros Libertad 2011); an ebook of poems ‘Holier Than Life’ (Purple Poppy Press 2013), a chapbook of English and Punjabi poems ‘Passion Fruit/Tahnget Phal’ (Uddari Books 2011), and an anthology of writings of women of South Asian origin, ‘Aurat Durbar: The Court of Women’ (Toronto 1995). In Pakistan, Fauzia worked as a journalist and screenwriter. She is the coordinator of Surrey Muse, an art and literature presentation group. At Tellers of Short Tales, Fauzia will present short fiction from her published work. More is here:
gandholi.wordpress.com

Royal City Literary Arts Society (RCLAS)
A New Westminster arts organization offers Tellers of Short Tales, a program of monthly readings designed to engage fans of the short story genre with emerging and published short story writers. Also, an open microphone will be available for writers who would like to share their stories. The program is free for fans.

Facebook Event Page
facebook.com/events/1404442066242062

Organized by
Royal City Literary Arts Society (RCLAS)

Contact Nasreen Pejvack:
nasreenpejvack@rclas.com
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Memory Wall on the Strip: a Mirror for the Officials of the City of Surrey

memorywall-daveFriends We Remember, Lives We Celebrate

There is a place in Surrey where a ‘Celebration Of Life’ event begins and ends with memorializing the ongoing presence of death.

In the icy evening of Saturday 17 December, a few people were gathered on 135A, Surrey’s homeless Strip, to honor and remember those who had died here. The Strip is one of the few streets in Surrey that has no trees. Sparse one-level structures of a couple of auto parts shops, Front Room (drop in center, shelter and a food outlet serving the homeless), a couple more commercial units, and a small church across the street. In front of the closed auto shops, a group of 8-10 wonderful people, who said they were individuals ‘unalligned with any church or other group’, had laid out food on two long tables with boxes of pizza, cookies, juice and pop. On the sidewalk across the street, between a tent and a food table, a white board with some color markers and candles was propped up against the fence of the church.

Already, it had a few names.

I came to know of the Celebration of Life event in early December from a Surrey activist of Alliance Against Displacement (AAD), an organization helping the Residents of the Strip against homelessness. Scheduled for December 10, the event was moved to December 17th to avoid the snow storm; and, during that storm nine homeless people died on the streets of Vancouver, 13 in BC, in one single night.

The almost empty white board began to fill with names as people walked by, stopped to read, some came up and added names of their friends and relatives, some asked for other names to be added. A woman wanted ‘Jessy’ to be written as ‘Jessie’ because she said Jessie would turn in his grave if he saw it written like that; and, more than one person wanted to make sure that ‘Old Man Dave’ was indeed there along with ‘Dave’. A young woman touched a name on the board, cried and said, ‘My one best friend’.

The above photo and the two below were taken the next day, December 18, when a woman named CeeCee, who had the previous night added the name of her late partner to the Memory Wall, herself died in her tent.

memorywall-dave1Native / CeeCee / Dec 18, 2016

Tears are irrelevant in this place. The question is how many more people have to die before the prosperous City of Surrey yields a solution to the increased poverty and homelessness on its streets?

It is obvious to everyone except perhaps the high officials of the City of Surrey and its mouthpiece publications and organizations that these deaths are not ‘fentanyl’ ‘ODed’ deaths but deaths caused by homelessness and poverty. I say it because the ‘famed’ plan that the City was working on without consulting the Residents of the Strip, came out to be a plan totally off the mark- it’s as if people were dying because of hunger, and the City assigned more ambulances for a solution. The irony is, it’s not ‘as if’, this is exactly what has happened and is happening. The City’s new ‘plan’ for the Strip is to scare away it’s residents with increased surveillance and intimidation, but the problem is that there’s no place else to go from here.

There is a letter that a group of academics put together with regards to homelessness in Victoria, I find, it’s relevant here too. And so, Surrey! THIS WINTER – HOUSING FIRST!

The City of Surrey must provide the following to the residents of the Strip:
– Comfortable housing to the homeless people living on the Strip.
– Full assurance that until their housing needs are met, the people living on the Strip will not be required to unpitch their tents and leave each morning.
– A Memorial where the Memory Wall now stands.

memorywall-dave2Behind the Memory Wall

Uddari is grateful to Alliance Against Displacement (AAD) for supporting the Residents of the Strip in their demand for safety and housing, for organizing the Celebration of Life event, and for providing the photos for this post.

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Dhahan Prize 2016 Awards Gala – Vancouver – October 29/16

uddari-dhahan-2016

Join us in celebrating excellence in Punjabi literature.

DATE AND TIME
Sat, October 29, 2016
6:30 PM – 10:00 PM PDT
LOCATION
Museum of Anthropology
6393 Northwest Marine Drive
Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z2

In 2014, the Dhahan Prize took flight, and in 2016 we return to recognize the achievements of Punjabi writers at our 3rd annual event with keynote speaker, Giller Prize winner, M G Vassanji.
For work in the Punjabi scripts of Gurmukhi and Shahmukhi, this prize recognizes one outstanding writer with a $25,000 award, as well as two finalists with awards of $5,000. Forging meaningful relationships with writers, community organizations and educational institutions in Pakistan, India and the diaspora, the Dhahan Prize is the world’s signature prize for Punjabi literary works.

This year’s winning book, Kaale Varke (Dark Pages), is a collection of short stories about the lived experience of immigrant Punjabis in North America by Jarnail Singh. The title story of the book probes the links between the colonization of India, and the suffering of abuse and violence of the Canadian indigenous communities via the residential school system. Through a dialogue between an Indo Canadian counsellor and an indigenous man, who is a residential school survivor, the deep impacts of their experiences are explored.

Co-finalist, Tassi Dharti (Thirsty Land) by Zahid Hassan, is a gripping representation of existential concerns of the valiant people of the undivided Punjab, known as Bar, and their hardy struggles in the context of evolving social and political environment during the colonial period and beyond.

Our other finalist, Us Pal (That Moment) by Simran Dhaliwal, is a collection of short stories that deal with the rapidly fraying social and cultural fabric of contemporary Punjab. These short narratives provide fresh insight into the complexity of moral struggles and emotional relations of the common people.

Please join us for an evening of celebration in a glorious venue; enjoy the pre & post ceremony reception and also a stroll through the Museum’s multitude of exhibits.

We hope you can make and look forward to seeing you.

dhahanprize.com
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Surrey Steals from the Homeless! RALLY AND MARCH – Oct 3/16

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When: 3:00 pm, Monday Oct 3
Where: 135A Street (near 106th Ave), Surrey

Every day the RCMP, Surrey bylaw officers and city workers come to “The Strip” (135A Street) in order to force homeless residents to take down their tents, pack up their belongings and make everything moveable. And every day they confiscate somebody’s possessions because they consider them unattended or just garbage.

But homeless residents of “The Strip” are fighting back. We will be marching to Surrey City Hall to protest the city’s orchestrated and relentless theft of our belongings. We demand that the City of Surrey stop stealing our stuff.

FOOD
Food will be provided at the end of the event, around 5pm on the 135A strip

TRANSPORTATION
We will be organizing transportation to this march so other displaced and evicted communities can support the Surrey homeless in their struggle. To get a ride from Maple Ridge, Abbotsford, or elsewhere, and to travel together by transit from Vancouver, contact AAD: organize@stopdisplacement.ca or (778) 708-5006

Organized by
Residents of The Strip
&
Alliance Against Displacement

From: https://www.facebook.com/events/1937640533130081/
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Back to the Moment of Promise – ‘Azadi’ (freedom) Series of Art Work by Shahid Mirza

Artist Shahid Mirza’s Azadi Series is a set of seven mix media paintings illustrating different aspects of our ‘freedom’ from British rule in the 1947 partition of India. From the direct, explicit and in-your-face bloody history of our colonization to the fading shades of secularism in Pakistan, these paintings invite us to contemplate on ourselves post-partition.

Choice of mix media creates the eerie feeling of contemporality within the historicity of the past. With each of these paintings, the Artist tries to bring us back to that moment of promise when freedom from colonization and sectarian bigotry seemed possible; when millions of lives were lost to achieve it.

By bringing us back to that moment of promise, the Artist encourages us to confront our own concepts and constructs of ‘freedom’ before we go on and congratulate ourselves on the continuation of the hollow and shallow facade of celebrating August 14.

azadi-1a-shahidmirzaAzadi 1
Blood-letting of the powerless.

azadi-2a-shahidmirzaAzadi 2
Destruction of life by agents of the state.

azadi-3-shahidmirzaAzadi 3
Changing positions of (Muslim and Hindu) power-brokers.

azadi-4-shahidmirzaAzadi 4
The deadly religio-spiritual antagonist.

azadi-5-shahidmirzaAzadi 5
Sectarian violence.

azadi-6-shahidmirzaAzadi 6
Early faces of hope.

azadi-7-shahidmirzaAzadi 7
Freedom for who?

Created after the formation of Bangladesh, Bhutto’s assassination, Zia’s Islamicization, and Pakistan’s Talibanization, Azadi Series displays the history of partition in the context of today, and, in bringing the past into the present where we continue to suffer from the same but intensified problems of inequality, these paintings insist that the moment of promise is now.

View Shahid Mirza’s profile
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Azadi Series by Shahid Mirza first Published at Uddari Art, Punjab 1947 & After
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Quetta August 8/16

quetta-august8

PCSF on Balochistan Tragedy
Press Release
Lahore: Monday, August 8, 2016.

The Pakistan Civil Society Forum (PCSF) strongly condemns the target killing of President Balochistan Bar Association coupled with a suicidal attack at a hospital that has taken dozens of human lives. The PCSF consider this incident as a serious security failure of the government and all of its agencies.

The PCSF which is representative body of more 50 national level human rights and development organizations from across Pakistan, in a statement issued here on Monday stated that the innocent people are soft targets of the terrorists, and the security apparatus has failed to protect their lives, and these incidents are a serious security lapse from the side of all concerned.

The statement said that the entire civil society of Pakistan including the human rights and development organizations are angered and shocked at this brutal incident, and they console with the aggrieved families. The statement added that this particular incident that took place in a city where the security agencies are said to be always vigilant is a sad surprise for the entire nation and that has raised many questions on the performance of our agencies and implementation of so called National Action Plan, and about the short term and long term measures to eliminate terrorism, radicalization, militancy and target killings in the country.

Perhaps it is the right time to demand a clear and strong action against all sanctuaries of terrorists and their breeding ground. The statement said that now once again is the time to reformulate a clear stance to counter extremism in the country by expediting the role of law enforcement and security agencies. This is again the time for the government and security establishment to wake up and crush extremism and all those who harbor, support and promote such elements. The statement further said that the responsible should be brought to justice and those have lost their lives in this incident should be compensated in terms of ensuring security of the people of Pakistan. The PCSF also demanded:

• The government and security establishment must inform the nation about the real gains of it’s Counter-terrorism policies and hurdles

• Make public the details of enquiry report over this incident and all actions taken against those involved. Beef up security in all public places so that such incidents can be prevented in future.

Mohammad Tahseen
Convener PCSF

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