Asma Jahangir: A Great (Punjabi) Woman

I had to face imprisonment and house arrests, but it made me tougher. As a lawyer, many a time I took up difficult and sensitive cases dealing with minorities’ and women’s rights. Yes, I constantly receive threats, and to be very honest, at times it is very scary. But I have to continue my work.’

Asma Jahangir is a lawyer (to say the least) defending the rights of women, children and men in Pakistan’s harsh climate of religious extremism, misogyny and child abuse. She does it in the courtroom, on the street, in the media, and on the international scene.

Since 1972, when she launched a case against the Government of the Punjab for the release of her father Malik Ghulam Jilani who was arrested for resigning from the National Assembly to protest the Pakistan Government’s military action in Bangladesh, Asma has been an honorable and courageous leader of Pakistan’s political, legal and social movements. She was one of the leaders of the long and often dangerous campaign waged by women activists against the Hadood Ordinances and the draft law on evidence; She forced the parliament to pass a legislation in favor of bonded child laborers of brick kilns. She is a founding/serving member of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), Women Action Forum (WAF), Punjab Women Lawyers Association (PWLA), and of the AGHS Legal Aid Cell that offers free legal services to vulnerable population groups.

In 2010, Asma was elected as the first woman President of the Supreme Court Bar Association of Pakistan. She is a former chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, and a UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Arbitrary or Summary Executions from 1998 to 2004, and UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion and Belief from 2004 to 2010.

She is the author of Divine Sanction? The Hadood Ordinance (1988) and Children of a Lesser God: Child Prisoners of Pakistan (1992). She has received numerous international and national awards including honorary Doctor of Law degrees from universities in Switzerland, Canada, and the USA; the Right Livelihood Award or the ‘alternative Nobel prize’ in 2014; American Bar Association’s International Human Rights Award in 1992; the Martin Ennals Award, the Ramon Magsaysay Award, and Sitara-I-Imtiaz in 1995.

Asma was placed under house arrest and later imprisoned for participating in the movement for the restoration of democracy against the military regime of General Zia-ul-Haq in 1983. She, and her family, has often been a target of vandalism, violent attacks, hate campaigns and character assassinations carried out by militant groups, political interests and their media representatives. Un-deterred, she continues to be a force to reckon with for each successive government, and for the interest groups who violate the rights of people.

More on Asma is here

Contact Asma Jahangir

View the above on its page
Great Women of Punjabi Origin

Years of unceasing democratic work against armed and unarmed adversaries, and in over four decades of active politics, Asma has refused to serve the interests of any colonial, hegemonic or familial power. At all times, she has taken a firm stand on the side of the people, often being victimized, and she has gone onto extend protection to them wherever and whenever possible. The local and international power brokers have introduced their own heroes who come backed with enormous resources and a wide international network of organizations, forums and media outlets. As is the nature of colonizing mind, they make it appear as if Pakistani women had no history of resistance prior to their presentation of it.

May be all this money, resources and influence will for some time sideline our real heroes such as Asma Jahangir, Hina Jillani, Hussain Naqi, Abdur Sattar Edhi and others. But sooner or later we will see through these schemes, and we will be able to acknowledge the ceaseless contributions to the betterment of our lives of our heroes like Asma Jahangir, and we will find deserving ways to nurture and honor them.

Fauzia Rafique

Contact Uddari

Amrita Sher-Gil National Art Week – Chandigarh 18 – 24 Feb/13

Dedicated to Amrita Sher-Gil on her birth centenary year


Chandigarh Lalit Kala Akademi
Cordially invites you to

Amrita Sher-Gil National Art week
A week-long celebration of art
By Artists/critics/writers/historians/curators

Exhibition of
Photographs of Umrao Singh Sher-Gil

Re-take of Amrita by Vivan Sundaram

18 to 24 February, 2013

At the Government Museum & Art Gallery, Sector 10 C, Chandigarh

Kindly take your seats 15 minutes before the start of the events
Photography and Phone calls prohibited

Diwan Manna, Chairman

Slide lectures, exhibition, film screening and dialogues
Between artists/critics/historians/writers and curators

18 February 5.30 to 7.30 pm

Making of a Mural and other works: Slide Lecture by Anjolie Ela Menon – Artist
J. Swaminathan: Decades of Transit: Slide Lecture by S Kalidas – Art Commentator/ writer
Dialogue between Anjolie Ela Menon and S Kalidas
Opening of the Photography Exhibition:
Photographs of Umrao Singh Sher-Gil
and Re-take of Amrita by Vivan Sundaram
Exhibition of photographs will be opened on 18th February after the slide presentations
and remain open from 19 to 24 Feb 2013 between 11.30 am and 7.30 pm

19 February 5.30 to 7.30 pm

The Pseudo – Archive: Slide Lecture by Pushpamala N. – Artist
Loving the Arts : Lecture by Ashok Vajpeyi – poet/art critic/writer
Dialogue between Ashok Vajpeyi and Pushpamala N.

20 February 5.30 to 7.30 pm

The Politics of Contemplation: Slide Lecture by Sheba Chhachhi – Artist
At Home With My Maharaja: Entering the Palace-Museum in India: Slide Lecture by Kavita Singh – Art Historian/ curator/editor
Dialogue between Sheba Chhachhi and Kavita Singh

21 February 5.30 to 7.30 pm

Stay politically incorrect forever: Slide Lecture by Mithu Sen – Artist
Skoda Prize : Slide Lecture by Girish Shahane – writer on art, cultural politics and curator/ Director – Art of the Skoda Prize for Indian Contemporary Art
Dialogue Between Mithu Sen and Girish Shahane

22 February 5.30 to 7.30 pm

A Sensualist of the Eye: Slide Lecture by Navina Sundaram- filmmaker and tele-journalist
§ Screening of short film: Amrita Sher-Gil – A Family Album – Directed and written by Navina Sundaram
Go Away Closer: Slide Lecture by Dayanita Singh – Artist

23 February 5.30 to 7.30 pm

The Colour of Doubt: Slide Lecture by Anju Dodiya – Artist
Art and Problems of Representation in Media: Lecture by Sadanand Menon – cultural commentator
Dialogue between Anju Dodiya and Sadanand Menon

24 February seminar in three sessions:
presentations and discussions 10.00 am to 6.00 pm

Session One 10.00 am to 12.30 pm (including 30 minutes for tea)
Altering Perceptions: Contemporary Art in Historic Museums: Slide Lecture by Tasneem Mehta – Director & Managing Trustee, Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Mumbai City Museum
§ Center Periphery Constellations: Slide Lecture by Alka Pande – Consultant Arts Advisor and Curator
From Timbuktu to Cincinnati- Works 2012: Slide Lecture by Atul Dodiya – Artist
Discussion: Locating the Self – Other: Moderator – Alka Pande, participants: Tasneem Mehta, Atul Dodiya and Alka Pande

12.30 to 1.30 pm lunch

Session Two 1.30 pm to 3.30 pm

Introduction of the art magazine Take on Art by Bhavna Kakar – Curator and Editor of Take on art magazine
The Body in Indian Art: Slide Lecture by Kishore Singh – Art Commentator
Kiran Nadar Museum of Art: Slide Lecture by Roobina Karode – Director Kiran Nader Museum of Art. New Delhi
Discussion: In search of the body – Moderator – Anju Dodiya, participants: Kishore Singh, Roobina Karode, Anju Dodiya

(3.30 pm to 4.00 pm Tea)

Session Three 4.00 to 6.00 pm
Recent Works: Slide Lecture by Vivan Sundaram – Artist
The Indian Modernists: Slide Lecture by Nanak Ganguly – curator and critic
Discussion: Museum, Biennale, Art Fair – Moderator – Sadanand Menon, participants: Vivan Sundaram, Nanak Ganguly, Sadanand Menon

dedicated to Amrita Sher-Gil on her birth centenary year

Protect Mirza-Sahiban’s Mausoleum in Punjab

Photo by Sohail Abid, 2010

This is the burying place of Mirza Sahiban in Danabad. It is facing the worst neglect because of the stigma attached to the two lovers. There is also danger that there graves may be erased by, the now stronger, conservative section of the local community. It must be declared a National Heritage site. The following information is shared by Sohail Abid on Facebook. Uddari

‘The mausoleum of Miraza-Sahiban, in depilated condition, is located in Danabad union council in Jaranwala. Local men do not let their women visit the mausoleum fearing they might follow the footsteps of Sahiban. People were convinced that visits by women to the mausoleum increased their chances of eloping and thus they banned women from visiting the place.

‘Hayat Kharal, from 384 GB Jhandwali village said Akram alias Akri’s daughter eloped with her lover five years ago when she returned from Mirza-Sahibain’s shrine. Sahadat Ali Kharal, a resident, told Daily Times that their forefathers believed that the “dirt cemetery of Mirza-Sahiban” should be demolished because many women would become immoral. Qasoo Kharal, another resident, said the memory of Mirza and Sahiban must be erased.’

‘That’s from a 2006 Daily Times story. When I visited the place in Dec 2010, it was there. Erasing the graves is not a matter as simple in the muslim tradition of the sub-continent. But yes, the people don’t really want to visit the mausoleum. This photo was taken during my visit in 2010.’

Sohail Abid

Related content at Uddari
‘SahebaN’s Name’ by Fauzia Rafique
‘SahebaN’s Name’, Part 2

Sign This Petition to Protect Asma Jahangir‏ – Pakistan’s Prime Jurist and Rights Activist

Uddari fully supports this international online petition (signature campaign) launched by Global Human Rights Defence (GHRD) to lobby for the protection of Asma Jahangir, Pakistan’s former UN Special Rapporteur for Religious Freedom and President of the Supreme Court Bar Association. Please Sign and Forward.

Sign The Petition

The petition will be sent to President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, Government of Pakistan as well as international Human Rights organisations, forums, think tanks, peace activists, journalist bodies, lawyers, and members of the European parliaments and their relevant committees. Please sign the petition and send out to your networks and through social media channels.

Asma Jahangir has been an outspoken human rights activist for over 30 years. These threats come at a time when multiple forces are trying to create instability in Pakistan prior to the upcoming elections.

Sign The Petition

Every single signature is important
As said in the press release issued by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), ‘it is not the conspiracy against a single individual rather it is an effort to suppress the freedom of conscience, democracy and cultural diversity in Pakistan. Needless to say, we will fight back and, needless to say, we shall win’.

The URL address for the Petition to Protect Asma Jahangir

Global Human Rights Defence
Laan van Meerdervoort 70
The Hague
Shiraz Raj,
Human Rights Commission of Pakistan

Public rallies to condemn threats to Asma Jahanghir‏ – June 14-15

Two mass public protest rallies will be held in Okara and Lahore on 14 and 15 of this month to protest the recent threats to Asma Jahangir’s life. View details here:

14 June – Okara
Thousands of peasants will join a rally in Okara to condemn threats to Asma Jahanghir. Mehr Abdul Sartar General secretary Anjman Mozareen Punjab (AMP) said in a statement that ‘Asma has always helped our struggle for land rights. We will protest in thousands to tell the government that peasants are with Asma.’ In Okara, contact the local AMP office for more information.

15 June – Lahore
In Lahore, Joint Action Committee (JAC) For Peoples Rights will hold a mass rally at Aiwan Iqbal on 15th June at 3pm. For more information, contact JAC in Lahore.

Earlier, a JAC meeting was held in Lahore. Below find some highlights from the report by Mumtaz Mughal of Aurat Foundation.

JAC meeting at AGHS Office on Threat to Ms. Asma Jehangir’s life
Key decisions
1. JAC will organize a Seminar concerning threat to Asma Jahangir on Friday, June 15, 2012 at 3:00pm at Awan Iqbal or Alhamra Hall 1, Lahore

2. Participation of more than 2000 people will be ensured in the event

3. Participation of Significant persons will be ensured from provinces

4. JAC meeting will be held on Tuesday, June 12, 2012 at 4:00 pm to share the update and finalization of programme

More information
Farooq Tariq
Member federal committee Labour Party Pakistan
Tel: 03008411945
25 A Davis Road Lahore, Pakistan

From SPN Newsletter

A Great Punjabi Woman – Sushila Chayn 1923-2011

Sushila Chayn née Sharda, who passed away in October 2011 at age 88, was a Punjabi communist activist and leader of the [East] Punjab Istri Sabha. She devoted her entire life to the cause of national freedom, workers movement and the emancipation of women.

Born to Hindu reformist Arya Samaji parents of Pathankot she came into contact with Bibi Raghbir Kaur who was a Kirti-Ghadar Party member of Punjab State Legislative assembly, and became a political activist moving to the communist party headquarter in Lahore in 1941. At the time, she also worked amongst women in the district of Montgomery.

She displayed her organising skills in the kisãn peasants conference held in Fatehgarh Korotana in Ferozepur (now in Pakistan). Then she was deputed to work in Kangra district. This was the time when she got married to a party activist Chayn Singh Chayn. Along with Tahira Mazhar Ali, Vimla Dang and other Punjabi socialist women she worked day night collecting funds and other support for the victims of Bengal Famine.

A few yeas later in 1947 when the united Punjab was dismembered, Punjabi communists began to organise peace committees thus saving hundreds of Muslim, Hindu Sikh men, women and children from sectarian violence. Sushila was an important part of it, and later worked tirelessly in rehabilitating women victims of partition.

After 1947, the Chayn couple moved to Jalandhar and they both participated in the 1959 peasants’ anti-betterment levy agitation – Khush-hasiyati tax morcha.

She was the first ever woman panch of her village panchayat council in Daduwal. Till the end Sushila tackled the social problems at the grassroots level – dowry, domestic violence, casteism and inter-caste marriage.

Sushila is survived by her husband and their daughter Savita.

Sushila Chayn’s picture taken by Amarjit Chandan in Jalandhar, 1986.

On the sale of Amrita Pritam’s House امرتا پریتم دے گھر ویچے جان تے اک نظم

A Punjabi poem by Hasan Mujtaba

وارث شاھ ایتھے کیہہ کیہہ وکدا
وکدا وچ بزار۔

قبراں وکدیاں
قبراں وچوں بول وی وکدے
یار وی وکدا
اوہدے گل دا ہار وی وکدا
عشق دا ورقہ ورقہ وکدا
وکدے قول قرار۔
وارث شاہ ۔۔۔۔۔

ہٹیاں وکدیاں
جٹیاں وکدیاں
رنگ وی وکدا
جھنگ وی وکدا
ہیراں وکدیاں
رانجھے وکدے
وکدا تخت ہزار
وارث شاہ ایتھے۔۔۔۔

کھیڑے وکدے
گیڑے وکدے
ساہواں وکدیاں
رکھ رکھ تے
چھاواں وکدیاں
مجھاں وکدیاں
گاواں وکدیاں
وکدے سارے کھوہ
وارث شاہ ایتھے۔۔۔۔

توں لبھدی پھریں بازار کڑے
ایتھے کیہڑی شے جو وکدی نہیں؟
تیرے دل دا جانی وکدا
راوی دا سبھ پانی وکدا
اکھاں دے سبھ اتھرو وکدے
وارث شاہ ایتھے۔۔۔۔۔

ایتھے شکر دوپہری وکدی
شاماں وکدیاں نیں
دن وی وکدے
راتاں وکدیاں
ایتھے جگر! جگراتے وکدے
نندراں وکدیاں
سفنے وکدے
سفنیاں دے وچ
سجن وکدے
وارث شاہ ایتھے۔۔۔۔

ایتھے جنگل بیلے وکدے
منگل وکدے میلے وکدے
ایتھے چن چنا وی وکدے
سوہنی وکدی
ماہی تے مہیوال وی وکدا
ایتھے موجاں موجاں وکدیآں
بیلے وچھیاں لاشاں وکدیاں
فوجاں وکدیاں
وارث شاہ ایتھے۔۔۔۔

اوہدے گل دی گانی وکدی
ہر اک پیار نشانی وکدی
وارث شاہ ایتھے۔۔۔۔۔

گور پیا کوئی ہور وی وکدا
بکل دے وچ چور وی وکدا
ایتھے تخت لہور وی وکدا
کیہ جاناں میں کون کوئی وکدا
وارث شاہ ایتھے….

تو لکھ لکھ مارے وین
وارث شاہ
لکھاں روندیاں دھیاں وکدیاں
ایتھے جیوندیاں ماواں وکدیاں
نی مائے میں کنوں دساں
ایتھے مرگئياں ماواں وکدیاں
وارث شاہ

وارث شاہ میں تینوں آکھاں
ہائے وے میں وی مر گیاں
فیر میں مرگئی ہاں

صوفی! تو کیویں کہندا سی
پتر ہٹاں تے نہیں وکدے؟
پر ایتھے پال تے پالنے وکے
پنچھی تے فیر آہلنے وکے
ایتھے گھر گھروندے وکے
ایتھے بند تے بوہے وکے
ایتھے میرا کمرہ وکیا
کیہہ کیہہ وکیا نہیں
کناں سنیاں بول نہیں وکیا
اکھاں ویکھے ویکھ نہیں وکے
ہر اک دل دا منظر وکیا
اندر وکیا باہر وکیا
کیہہ کیھہ رنگ رتول نئیں وکیا
اوہدا برش کنواس وی وکیا۔

ہر اک رت دی لیکھا وکی
تیری پیار بھلیکھا وکی
تیری سبھ اڈیک وی وکی

اوہدے میرے ہاسے وکے
اوہدے میرے اتھرو وکے

اوہدا ہر اک چتر وکیا
میرا ہر اک اکھر وکیا
مٹی دا ہر ذرہ ذرہ
میرے گھر دی اٹ اٹ وکی
میری رات تے دن وی وکیا
میرا اج اجوکا وکیا
تے ایک میرا سورج وکیا

ایش ٹرے توں سانبھے ہوئے
سگرٹ دے اوہ ٹوٹے وکے
ساحر دی اوہ حوشبو وکی
اوہدی کو‏ئی رسید نہ منگی

اندر دا بس بانبھن وکیا
اوہدا پر پرچھاواں وکیا
تے میرا اکلاپا وکیا
ہر اک ملن والا وکیا
نالے وچھڑن والا وکیا

ہر اک نظم کہانی وکی
میری ناگ منی وی وکی
ویساکھی تے ہولی وکی
ماں وکی ماں بولی وکی

سارے پھل کھڑ ن وی وکے
رکھ وکے تے بوٹے وکے
وا دے سارے جھوٹے وکے
میریاں ساریاں ہوکا ں وکیاں
اہ کوئل دی کوکاں وکیاں
اور میرا ٹرنا وی وکیا
میری اج اخیر وی وکی
میرا ہر ایک ویس وی وکیا
دلی وکیا دیس وی وکیا
ہائے نی میں لوڑھے لُٹی
میرا وارث شاہ وی وکیا
وارث دا پنجاب کیہہ تکنا
تک اپنا پنجاب نی مائے
تک اپنا پنجاب۔

وارث شاہ ایتھے کیہہ کیہہ وکدا
وکدا وچ بزار

New York
July 12, 2011

Poem sent by Ijaz Syed

Heritage havoc
By Nirupma Dutt
Punjabi’s grand dame of letters Amrita Pritam had willed that her house in the Capital should be preserved as a memorial to her and that her partner Imroz should live there. However, just five years after her death, it has been sold by her son to builders, who have lost no time in razing it to the ground. While writing an ode to the house that Amrita built, Nirupama Dutt recounts the insensitive attitude we, as a nation, have to our cultural heritage…

View Nirupma’s article at Tribune India