Destination South Asia

Here’s a taste of some of the talks at Destination South Asia which took place at the University of British Columbia on March 23, 2013.

“Why is Poverty Declining so slowly in India,” Dr. Ashok Kotwal

  1. India continues to be so poor because most of its population continues to be employed in agriculture which pays so little if anything.
  2. Indians need to shift into non-farm jobs, like manufacturing but India does not have enough skilled labour partly because.
  3. Indians are so poorly educated or not educated at all

Some other points from Dr. Kotwal’s paper on the subject ( )

  1. Most Indians (93%) have no job security nor access to credit, infrastructure or skills training as they work under the table (the ‘informal sector’), and;
  2. Unskilled and poor workers have benefited little from the “high growth” because they lack the skills to take part in such skill-intensive sectors as business services (which employ only a small part of the labour force anyway).

How will India reap its “demographic dividend” when its people are unskilled, undereducated, malnourished… ?


“Beyond Political Frames: Literary Voices on Partition,” Nabila Pirani

Short-stories on Partition are written by writers alive at the time of the event, offering the benefit of immediacy to the reader, but can bring out the human and social aspects of Partition more effectively than purely historical or political narratives.

Summarizing the stories “Siqqa Badal Gaya,” “Lajwanti” and “Khol Do” by Krishna Sobti, Rajinder Singh Bedi and Saadat Hassan Manto respectively, Pirani, and the following discussion, revealed the many textures and tones of the Partition era.

In “Siqqa,” Pirani underlines how for many Punjabis, the violence of partition was mostly in the background and how the experience of partition changes through the perspective of a woman writer and protagonist. In “Khol Do,” Manto upsets the apple cart by suggesting that men from a particular community may have raped their own women. Lastly, in “Lajwanti,” Pirani looked at the invisible walls that develop between a husband and a wife who had recently been returned to her husband after being classed as “missing.”

“Pakistan’s Fading Cultural Heritage,” Umair Jaffar

Pakistani singer

The Institute for Preservation of Art and Culture (IPAC) is a Pakistani non-profit organization which seeks to support struggling artists and ustads and to preserve and propagate the classical and folk musical and artistic heritages of Pakistan.

The soul of Pakistan can be heard in the ballads of Marwari women in the Southern Punjab anticipating the return of their husbands from war as it is in the Nur Sur tradition of Baluchistan, a folk story-telling tradition stretching back to the Greek period. There are the instruments, like the Sindhi “borindo,” have been found in excavations in the Indus Valley from over 4000 years ago. And, we see how ancient instruments like the Baluchistani “banjo” can produce the sounds of the modern electric guitar.

Jaffar points out that public media presentations of folk and classical music performances were banned during Zia’s time resulting in a growing number of Pakistani youth over the years who have become disconnected from those traditions. At the same time, some traditions have also enjoyed an upsurge, such as in Baluchistan where folk music traditions have revived as part of a general cultural revival in recent years. I argued that folk and classical music traditions are bound to decline in a country where the languages held in greatest esteem (Arabic, English and Urdu) are not connected to nor supportive of its folk traditions. On the other hand, the traditions of poetry and music connected to the mother tongue helped produce the likes of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan.


“History of Intercultural Dialogue and Engagement in Vancouver,” Naveen Girn


Girn’s presentation including rare photographs, news excerpts and audio clips and now part of the public archive, serves as a reminder of the history of South Asians in Vancouver.

The story of South Asians in Vancouver can be said to begin with the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria in 1887. To attend the Jubillee in London, England, the army regiments of the subcontinent had to first pass through Vancouver. By 1907, a sizeable number of South Asians had settled in the city and that year saw the opening of the 2nd Avenue Gurdwara in Kitsilano, the first gurdwara in North America.

More than a sacred space, the gurdwara was a meeting ground for Indians of different communities, including socialists, revolutionaries and members of the Ghadr party. The early community lived through the 1907 race riots in Vancouver and the Komagata Maru, published their own news magazine (associated with the Ghadr movement), forged associations with members of Anglo-Canadian and Chinese-Canadian communities and sent delegates to Ottawa to petition the government to grant South Asians the right to vote. The gurdwara also hosted Rabindranath Tagore, who Girn points out slept in the basement there after being turned away from the Hotel Vancouver and Nehru, who visited in 1949.

‘SahebaN’s Name’ (Part 2) by Fauzia Rafique

The name `SahebaN’ comes from ‘Sahib’ meaning respectable, an Urdu word coined to address the representatives of a previous colonial power. As a woman’s uncommon name, SahebaN captures our attention through an undersold Punjabi folk story called ‘Mirza SahebaN’, Mirza being SahebaN’s un!Rightful lover.

I must stress here that it is not a popular name for women in Pakistan, and it is strange that our SahebaN’s mother named her after SahebaN and not after Heer, for example. I can understand that Sassi Punnu being more from the neighboring restless province of Sind, and Yousuf Zulekha from the far-away Middle East, the province of the Punjab is left with Sehti Murad, Sohni Mahinwal, Mirza SahebaN and Heer Ranjha. The pattern of this list is shattered by Dulla Bhatti, the brave freedom fighter who fought the Mughals, and appears in some history books as the local Robin Hood without of course, the female object Maid Marian. It is clear that neither Dulla nor Bhatti is a woman’s name, and despite being a Muslim Dulla sided with Hindus and Sikhs against the aforementioned Mughals. In the interest of overall sanity, we will have to recall him so don’t forget the name Dulla, it’s okay if you can’t remember Bhatti because that will already be there for you.

About Mirza and Yousuf though: I can not help notice that other than Mirza and Yousuf, who like Romeo are guys, all the other four titles of this folk lore of love begin with the names of their Juliets. Give me a moment; Sassi, Zulekha, Sehti, Sohni, SahebaN, and Heer are Juliets who died for and with the following Romeos, from left to !Right, Punnu, Yousuf, Murad, Mahinwal, Mirza, and Ranjha. Mirza and Romeo were brave heirs to regional thrones, Yousuf was a prophet, Murad was a Baloch, and the rest were just men. Among the four women, Heer of Sial is the most admired of all. The rest can file cases of numerous Human !Rights violations against proponents of Heer for being sidelined, over-looked and pushed-aside. Even International Conglomerate of History (ICH) provided space to Heer and her !Rightful lover Ranjha in the Halls of Fame across the Globe as soon as they died of familial deceptions and poisons.

Mirza and SahebaN also gave their lives for love but do you see them in the ICH halls of fame? Their songs were sung too but what do you get when you type ‘mirza saheban’ in the search box at Sazaa? Nothing! Search finishes without any result! I suggest that it’s not just because of the systemic racism inherent in the structure of WWW, type `heer ranjha’ in the same slot: Results! Download five different Heers sung by five different artists. Alam Lohar, Noor Jehan, Reshman even Mehdi Hassan if you prefer Urdu over Punjabi though I will have to wonder why.

The reasons for this negligence are not hidden from us; and, we know why most Punjabis do not consider SahebaN the !Right role model for Punjabi women. Indeed, it is due to the deep shadow cast by SahebaN on some important aspects of Muslim culture, for example and in particular, on a Muslim woman’s loyalty factor.

Being a South Asian Pakistani Canadian Muslim Woman of Color, I can tell you that Loyalty-to-the-Man factor is almost as, and sometimes more, important than the Virginity-of-the-Woman factor (Read The Unnecessary). As a result, we are not allowed to forget that Mirza and SahebaN indulged in pre-marital sex though I can’t see what the problem was because in Peenutstan at the time, pre-marital sex was almost the same as the post-marital, extra-marital and non-marital sex. Still, a proverb was added to the rich library of Punjabi, the dual-scripted regional language of the divided province of the Punjab: ‘Unee aashiq guzre te Mirze veeh pujai: 19 lovers passed before Mirza brought on the 20′.

Bringing-on-the-20 means doing something outrageous and unacceptable to a social set. Example: 19 centuries passed before Bobett brought on the 20. Wait, this may have made some readers uncomfortable including myself, so allow me to change the line of my argument. Mirza brought-on-the-20 by indulging in whatever marital sex, but did he do it alone? Was SahebaN not a party to the sinful crime? But here you will notice that contrary to the widespread cultural norm of placing the responsibility of all negative occurrences on the most visible woman in the vicinity, this proverb places the responsibility of that whatever marital sex on Mirza alone.

I am still reluctant to define the nature of sex that may have taken place between Mirza and SahebaN because what marital sex they could have had in the short span of time in the village Mosque where they fell in love; at the house of Masi before they eloped; and, on the run before they died. I am also reluctant to call the activity by its Muslim name Zina, meaning adultery. Because if I do, we will have to bring in the Sharia Laws as practiced at times in Peenutstan, Honoristan and Hairan; and that, to quote hopeful writers who have said it before me, ‘is a subject for another book’.

Back to the now way above proverb, by placing the total responsibility of that-marital sex on Mirza alone, the Social Set is telling us what? Not that SahebaN was absolved! Her role was overlooked because it was undesirable for that Social Set to award her recognition at the proverbial level of their mother language.

The reason: SahebaN lost her virginity to Mirza (or did she?) without the required intervention of any priest; eloped with Mirza when all her kin were at her house to marry her off to WhatWasHisHame; and then when her brothers caught up, she threw Mirza’s quiver up the looming tree (what was she smoking?). Both got killed. SahebaN’s death occurs somewhere in the footnotes while Mirza’s death at least is mourned by Peelu, author of the first version of `Mirza SahebaN’.

Punjabi word `Peelu’ means ‘one wild berry or more’ constituting another uncommon name. This one gives us no clue about the gender, occupation or quantity of its bearer but everyone knows that Peelu was a guy, why? For one, Peelu was astounded by Mirza’s mare Bakki, and to him, SahebaN was just a lust-inducing, strong and stupid woman who like so many others was bound to, and did, bring an honorable and brave man to his defeat and death. If Peelu had the time to wonder why one of his characters was acting the way she was, he would have found them. May be not, it’s hard for most mortal men to withdraw attention from fast means of transportation.

Poet Peelu, that single sour berry or more, is being discussed here at the expense of Hafiz Burkhuddar the other Mirza SahebaN author because it was Peelu who wrote the base line that was later used with many other active ideological solutions to fertilize the crop of various prejudicisms sowed earlier in the land. This is how Peelu advises Mirza, the young Punjabi gun, as to the nature of women:
`Bhit ranna.n di dosti, khuri jinhan de mutt: Cursed is the friendship of women, whose wisdom has been melted away.’

The line forged another over-used proverb in the same rich library of the same dual-scripted language of that same divided province.

Yet again, it was Peelu who perpetuated outrageous myths about the women and people of Sial, a location in the Punjab that has given us not only our two SahebaNs and a Sehti but also our one revered Heer. But Peelu, in the language of Mirza’s mother who of course is a Kharl, says:
`burre Sialaan de moamale, burrie Sialaan dee raah
`buriyaan Sialaan diyan aurtaan, laindiyan jadoo pa
‘kudh kaleja khandian, mere jhate tel na pa’
If you haven’t already guessed it then here it is:
`Bad are affairs of the Sialis, bad the path leading to them; Bad are women of Sial, casting magic spells; They take out the lungs (of lovers) and eat, don’t fool me by putting oil in my disheveled head.’

From this poetic depiction, it appears that the opposites were assumed to be true about the Kharls by the Kharl Matriarch.

SahebaN may have had another story to tell and it may have been different from what we got from poet Peelu, and the Matriarch above.

Imagine a scene outside a non-descript village in the vast countryside of the Punjab. SahebaN and Mirza, after striking an unforgivable blow to the ‘honor’ of the peoples of both Sial and Chadhar, have eloped on Mirza’s much-praised-by-now mare Bakki. On the way, in self defence, Mirza has fearlessly killed one of SahebaN’s brothers in front of her. Now, after covering some distance, they stop to rest under the shade of Jund trees. Mirza reclines, SahebaN implores him to take her to Dhanabad, his Kharl capital. Mirza responds by telling SahebaN how he is going to kill the rest of her brothers and kin, and how after killing them, his mare Bakki will take them to Dhanabad and safety. Despite SahebaN’s repeated protests, Mirza decides to fall asleep in an insecure Siali territory not to mention the miserable shade provided by the skimpy Jund trees. SahebaN hears her brothers approach and without explaining anything to poet Peelu, throws Mirza’s quiver up on the Jund, and out of his immediate reach.

It did not cross Mirza’s mind, or Peelu’s, that SahebaN may have loved her brothers and other members of her family, and she may have hoped that if Mirza did not kill another of them first, reconciliation was still possible; Or that if Mirza was unarmed, the two had a chance of being taken alive.

Instead, she was pushed up and down the loyalty cliff, and from that point, Mirza was alone on one side while the other was crowded by SahebaN’s brotherhood. The brotherhood as usual stood supported by fatherhood, motherhood, aunthood, unclehood, neighborhood, and, at least a portion of the sisterhood. I think, SahebaN was a dead woman right there, and so was Mirza.

In this case of split loyalties, SahebaN confronted similar choices as the ones later Sophie had to face: whose life would you spare? Sons or Daughters? Lovers or Brothers? Result? One died fast, the other had to live with it. As well, even in death SahebaN gained the unparalleled notoriety of being a woman who wavered in her loyalty both to her family and her lover. I will not question Mirza’s loyalty because I am trained to not question the loyalty of Muslim men.

Another overlooked aspect of this story is that through her actions SahebaN affirms non-violence when she asks Mirza to leave a violent situation; and, again as she throws away the quiver. It is unfortunate that this important aspect of this folk story has been muddled with feudal-macho Adam-Eve blame-guilt loyal-disloyal streaks.

I notice that somewhere during this discussion, our SahebaNs have gotten confused. It is hard now to differentiate between SahebaN Folk and SahebaN Relentless or Peenutstan and Pakistan. For the rest of this Note, we will use SahebaN F (Folk Hero) and SahebaN R (Relentless Warrior) to keep us on the !Right track.

Not only that they both have the exact same name but their country of origin, place of birth and gender also is the same. In addition, they use the same script for their mother language; share allegations of what-marital sex; and, sport lovers who were passionate about their respective means of transportation.

Our conceptual boundaries may continue to obliterate as we read about the Lord of the Trap, SahebaN R’s !Rightful lover. As you now know, Mirza had no !Rights; he also did not have a flat screen 48’ color Plasma TV or a Toyota Celica; but most of all, due to destiny, he did not get the chance to bring SahebaN F to the gaping teeth of the Formidable Institution (Read The Lord of the Trap).

Time to recall Dulla: SahebaN R being a warrior can be compared to Dulla though it would be unnatural for a Muslim woman to do so, so let me put both aside for a moment and go to female heathen Zena.

In the Muslim world, warrior-princess Zena will never cut it and may actually cast a harmful shadow on both if compared with either of the SahebaNs. But if Xena was to modify her image she may see large profits emanating from that mysterious, and now somewhat dangerous, world. First of all, a change of name will help (Binte Laden? Noori?). In addition, her top should have no highlights on boobs, the shape of the bottom should be similar to baggy pants, and she should learn to reveal everything through a plain uninviting robe.

I would advise the scriptwriters of Zena to immerse themselves in the 130 novels written in Urdu by author Nasim Hijazi to improve the Warrior Princess’s mannerism by bringing her close to a respectable, purdah-clad, horse-riding, man-awaiting, brave Muslim woman. This also may help her to eventually learn how to get the men to do the fighting while she enjoys her time waiting for them in their matrimonial home.

Another worrisome aspect of Zena is the undercurrent sexual dynamics of her relations with the white woman. Replacing the woman with a bearded white man will guarantee Zena’s success as this is what we do to all our gay Sufi poets: replace, make the gayness invisible, shwank, its not there. An example: you have heard about the love lore of the Punjab from me, and you have seen these four names: Heer Ranjha, Mirza SahebaN, Sassi Punnu, Sehti Murad. I have, like all my predecessors, made invisible the names of all the glorious lovers who failed to fall in love with women, and that include our great classic poets Madhulal Hussain and Bulleh Shah.

You may not believe it but I must insist that I am not responsible for initiating this trend where we can collectively punish men who, rejecting all the man-positive women of the world, go on to love other men. I cite the case of Shah Hussain because it is the story of love of an insightful artist who knew what we were going to do to him so he tried to preserve his gay and secular identity by adding his lover’s name to his own as he proclaimed himself ‘Madhulal Hussain’.

On the other hand, I, like most Punjabis have put his true and complete identity in the locked drawer of my desk, and just make-do with parts of him when reading or singing his poetry.

Anyway, apart from the popularity factor, comparing Zena to SahebaN R is like comparing Bin Laden with Green Party leader Ralph Nader. Too much! None of these comparisons will improve SahebaN R’s image, they may actually make it worse. Don’t take me wrong, its not just Zena. Comparing SahebaN Relentless with Zena, Phoolan Devi, Mohammed Bin Qasim or Dulla Bhatti is not easy. The difficulty with SahebaN is this: who wants a hero who uses no weapons, drives nothing for transportation, and has no license to allow hero worship?

Aside from these credibility holes, working as a weaponless warrior I doubt if SahebaN made any money at all but it did prove one thing that SahebaN, much like Mahatma Gandhi, did not have a mortgage to pay. So, let me just say that the stories of both Folk and Relentless SahebaNs have remained undersold because of discrimination against them of high intellectuals, partial historians and global institutions. This project endeavors to correct some erroneous assumptions about at least SahebaN R if not SahebaN F.

– Excerpts from the ‘Introduction: SahebaN’s Name’ from The Adventures of SahebaN: Biography of a Relentless Warrior, an unpublished novel by Fauzia Rafique

View SahebaN’s Name:

Fauzia Rafique

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Uddari gets (a piece of) the ‘Brilliante Weblog Award’!

Surfing the Net last week, i came upon this:
Uddari –  Fauzia Rafiq and other prolific writers collaborate to blog about contemporary Punjabi Literature, art, events and  movements .’
That led me up to this:
Now its my turn to follow the rules of Brilliante Awards by passing it on to the 5 bloggers i admire:’
And down to this:
Folk Punjabi– Deepinder puts nice effort to blog about folk Punjabi boliaan. Punjabi Haiku–  Amarjit Sathi has started a new wave in Punjabi haiku writing, works  of new writers and translation of Haiku from around the world is posted here.  RoopScoop – for doing wonderful job by starting a blog like unchahi on female foeticide. Lafjan da Pul – Deep Jagdeep wants to bridge the divide by making it easy for people who write in Gurmukhi and provide a platform for everything that is Punjabi.’

View it all at Jasdeep’s ‘Parchanve’ blog

By recognizing the contributions of others, Jasdeep is showing us the how-tos of community building. I am delighted to be a part of it also because its Passing The Love, and because Brilliante is grassroots community-based non-monetary initiative that is flexible and versatile, and can not be hogged by anyone.
So, here, Uddari gets a Fifth of The Brilliante Weblog Award
Passes it on to:
A Writer of Punjabi poetry and prose who has inspired many posts at Uddari and Uddari Art, and has initiated the Archives Section at Punjabi Books.
(An easy guess for most of us at Uddari)
An Editor of Punjabi books and magazines who delivers literary excellence in each book or magazine he edits and publishes.
(A bit tough, perhaps)
A Compulsive Reader of Punjabi poetry who bought online the first Punjabi book at Punjabi Books, and so unknowingly, has become the FIRST READER FOREVER (FRF) or PEHLA PUNJABI PARHIYAR.

The three lucky names are hidden in the 10 pages of Uddari Weblog, and whoever finds them by April 11, 2009 the day of Uddari’s first birthday, will be awarded… a BRILLIANTE, of course.

Fauzia Rafique

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‘No Heer please, we’re Sikhs!’

Singing Heer not allowed in Khalsa College!

idu-sharif-muktsar-240309-pic-subhash-pariharIdu Sharif at Khalsa College, Muktasar
Photo by Subhash Parihar

Singer Idu Sharif of Malerkotla gave a performance at Khalsa College Muktsar in India yesterday evening where someone from the audience requested him to sing Heer but the organisers said that singing Heer can not be allowed in Khalsa College.

Both audience and singers were ‘disappointed’, shares Photographer Subhash Parihar (who was present at the occasion) with Author Amarjit Chandan in an email message.

Heer Ranjha is the ever-living folk story of the Punjab presented over ages by various writers including Damodar Daas, Mukbaz and Ahmed Gujjar but when a Punjabi just says ‘heer’ it means Heer by Poet Waris Shah.  Written in 1766, Heer Waris Shah is perhaps one of the most endearing and enduring literary feats of Punjabi language and culture. It also has its own ‘gaiki’, a specific mode of singing, and Punjabi folk singers ‘test’ each other on singing Heer.

Not just that. The legendary devotion of Heer and Ranjha to each other that cut across class and tradition, is one of the strongest symbols of spiritual transcendental love in the sufi poetry of the Punjab. The Sufi poets, especially Malamti Sufis such as Madhulal Hussain and Bulhe Shah who made extensive use of the story and characters of Heer and Ranjha, were also avid critics of religion/s.

Heer herself challenged the laws of tradition in the local court, and ‘mullahs’ (Muslim priests) were held in contempt by both Heer and Ranjha.

As well, its a love story, the religious frameworks are too harsh for it to unfold.

This incident reminds us again to be mindful of allowing any religion be it Sikh, Muslim, Hindu or Christian to take charge of language development efforts. If Khalsa College is intolerant of Heer-singing in a music concert, we will find even worse examples of what may or may not be allowed in a Muslim college. To begin with, singing itself is not allowed in Islam unless the songs are ‘hamd’, ‘naat’ or ‘qawwali’ the three accepted forms of singing to praise Allah and Prophet Muhammad.

Weary of ‘Sikh’ chairs in North America, i am dreading the ‘Sufi’ chairs that are being formed in the universities in Pakistani Punjab because Sufism’s stronger and influential streaks do not adhere to Malamti sufis but sufis of demagogic religious beliefs.

Our religions, whenever possible, will ‘develop’ a stern Punjabi language bound by a culture of righteous suffocation to promote a form of Punjabi literature and art that may not be much to look forward to.

Fauzia Rafique
Subhash Parihar
Amarjit Chandan

(Title inspired by stage play No sex please, we’re British‘)

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Bhagat Singh Shaheed: ‘Nee mayaiN mera rung dae basanti chola’




Bhagat Singh Shaheed Day

March 23/09


Two Punjabi poems




Bhagat Singh de NaaN 1
By Mudasar Punnu


Rat. laal nee

Paalan rut mhaal nee

Jind haaloN behaal nee

Kufr dae ghhaeray

Haq dae gaeRay

Keh parwah jo

Sangi saaDae naal nee


Bhagat Singh de NaaN 2
By Mudasar Punnu


KidhroN aye

Kidhar langh gaye

Yaar peyareyaN sangdi

Rut karni

Rab honi toN

Khair ishq de mangdi

Soohae saaway naal gulabi

Vich bzareiN bhatti chaaRhay

Basanti malmal cha’ naal

Ghar ja ke rangdi

Mudasar Punnu

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Painter Manjit Bawa Moves ON


Punjabi Painter Manjit Bawa passed away today (29th December) in New Delhi. He was in a coma for the last three years following a heart stroke.

Bawa was known for his miniature-style paintings using lucid colors and folk motifs.

View Bawa’s profile and some of his paintings at Uddari Art:
Manjit Bawa

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MukhtaraN Bibi: A (the) Great Punjabi Woman!


Yes, its hard for me to just say ‘A Great…’ for the likes of MukhtaraN Bibi aka MukhtaraN Mai, and its not just because she makes me unashamedly proud of being a woman, a Punjabi, a Pakistani, a South Asian, a human.

Her story is known to us but it is not certain if it has been told. We know that a woman was punished by a jirga for the actions of her younger brother, June 2002 in Meerwala. On the orders of the jirga, MukhtaraN Bibi was gang-raped by the men of the aggrieved (influential) family to avenge the sexual liasons of her (lower status) brother with one of ‘their’ women.

MukhtaraN Bibi would have taken the rap of justice however hard but not that forced play on the ugly set of a live porn show. As is usual in such cases, the set that was erected to mount that gang-rape was conceived, staged and protected by local male elders, politicians, and law enforcers. It was an ‘honour’ kill without the dead body.

In the pit of physical pain, shame and humiliation, MukhtaraN Bibi may have come to  know the meaning of many words but we are certain of one: ‘Ignorance’. (‘My slogan is to end oppression through education‘).

It is not unusual for women to receive punishment for the actions of their male family members in a country where ‘honour’ means ‘male revenge’ tied to property, and killing for it is an acceptable social practice. Even in that environment, the punishment given to MukhtaraN Bibi by that local court of ‘justice’ was unacceptable for the larger society. Yet this was not the most unusual thing about this case. The most unusual thing was what MukhtaraN Bibi did after the porn show was over. Instead of going insane with shame, despairing to the point of committing suicide or accepting the status of a whore in the area, MukhtaraN Bibi stood up, gathered support, fought the system-backed aggressors, and won!

Oh victimized she was and survive she did as she changed the meaning of both ‘Victim’ and ‘Survivor’!

Even when the real criminals have still not been punished, MukhtaraN Bibi is victorious at many different levels. She has reclaimed her honour in her area and beyond, opened schools in her community to fight ignorance with the money she had received for her strengths and leadership, has become a continual source of inspiration and strength for women, and is one of the major reasons for creating an atmosphere for the jirgas to be declared illegal in Pakistan.

Though jirgas still thrive and continue to generate an ‘official’ form of community violence against women and men of lower social groups, a strong blow to this entrenched system of religio-feudal oppression has been dealt by MukharaN Mai; and, here comes a Punjabi poem for her in roman:

Sohn MukhtaraN!
By Fauzia Rafiq

Terae pairaN haiThhaN jutti
jutti thallae nissaldi mitti
soohae rang vich ghol
mathae tae lawaN
Ek mitti Punjabi
utae tera parchhawaN
Inj laggae Bibo
ajjo dil.dlairee pawaN

Sources and Links to more information:
Chronology of Events
Mai’s Profile on Wikipedia
‘Whose Justice? MUKHTARAN MAI: Punishment of the innocent’: Amnesty International
Mai’s Blog: Poland Travelogue
Interview with Mukhtaran Mai
A film ‘Mukhtiar Mai: The Struggle for Justice’ by Journalist Beena Sarwar

Though women were being killed each day by jirgas to avenge male ‘honour’ and protect their properties prior to 2002, the demand to declare jirgas illegal had never gained centrality in the movements for protection of rights in Pakistan. Most women who get killed for male ‘honour’ belong to lower classes while the leadership of women’s and rights movements comes from middle and upper classes. MukhtaraN Bibi by taking a stand against the ‘ignorance’ of jirga-led perpetrators allowed rights activists around the world to support her case to the point where rights movements in Pakistan were enabled to put forward the demand to illegalize jirgas.

All through the years when MukhtaraN Bibi was fighting for her court case and against the value systems that have perpetuated such woman-abusing traditions, she never looked into the camera. It must have been hard to look at all that the world had come to represent to her.

Not here…

Or here…

mukhtar_mai_press1Or for the Press…

For Glamour Magazine Woman of the Year? Almost!


Leading protests… somewhat.

Now she may find that because of what she did and made other people do, the world has become better, and so, behold a glorious folk hero as she raises her eye at the world.

mukhtaranmai-smA folk hero raises her eye!

Fauzia Rafique

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