‘Capturing the Essence of Patriarchy in Skeena’ by Shikha Kenneth

Book Review

Skeena
By Fauzia Rafique
Libros Liberated, Surrey, 2010
Pages: 206
Price: $20.00
Shikha Kenneth

A Vancouver-based South Asian Canadian writer of fiction and poetry, Fauzia Rafique captures the essence of patriarchy in her novel Skeena. The narrative, in fact, encompasses both the universality of patriarchal violence and the specificity of violence against women in Pakistan.

The story spans thirty years of existence of a Muslim woman named Skeena. Here the protagonist narrates her life history – from 1971 to 2001 – thereby lending an autobiographical touch to this fictional text. The novel is divided into four sections; each segment touches upon the various forms of violence introduced into Skeena’s life. The narrative focuses on Skeena’s interactions with her family, friends and community, and her observations about numerous aspects of social oppression such as patriarchy, religious fanaticism, immigration, racism, class distinction, war, etc.

The first section of the novel titled “The Inner Yard” opens with the image of a young Skeena finishing her homework which involves memorizing the phrase ‘thank you’ to store it in her vocabulary. The young protagonist is, in fact, continually and rigorously instilled with the code of femininity by the older women of her family. Obedience and submissiveness are required as feminine attributes within the socio-cultural ideology of Skeena’s community; however, Skeena is forbidden to demonstrate such qualities in front of lower castes and classes, thus throwing light on the hypocrisy and oppressiveness associated with social binaries. Rafique has, in effect, skillfully woven the complexities, contradictions, brutality and duplicity of various social practices into her narrative.

Since childhood Skeena is forced to witness the brutal consequences of the Islamic teaching propagated by a maulvi: “Good women are obedient to men” (41). According to him, physical violence is decreed by God as an apt punishment for women who attempt to transgress social conventions. The maulvi’s ideology – which he states to be authorized by religion – encourages village men to view violence as an essential factor which cements the male’s position of power within his community. Skeena witnesses several instances of violence inflicted on women often leading to the loss of their lives. For instance, a village youth named Gamu is not held accountable for his act of brutally murdering a woman because he is his mother’s only son. The lascivious Munshi’s marriage to young women of different ethnicities is lauded by Skeena’s community for he forces these Kafir women to accept Islam as their religion. Skeena’s best friend Nooro, a victim of the custom of dowry, is beaten severely by her female in-laws for daring to suck on a piece of lemon without their permission. All these instances instil a sense of determination within Skeena to attempt to transcend and overcome the violence-ridden social standards.

The second section of the novel aptly titled “Wild Elephant” shows Skeena entering her youth with an ambitious mind to challenge the injustices of society. Her family raises numerous objections to her plans. Skeena desires to attain a law degree but her mother and brother forbid her to enroll in any kind of co-educational institution. Her dream of participating in Asian Games for her college female hockey team is shattered for the mullahs issue a fatwa that it is “obscene” for women to enter any such sport (182). Skeena is prohibited by her mother from joining politics and advised to concentrate on learning her marital duties.

However, her association with a young Muslim woman activist named Ruffo proves a catalyst for Skeena’s breaking away from the shackles of societal conventions.
Ruffo drinks, smokes, and does not view woman’s virginity as being a requisite for matrimony. Her blatant disregard for narrow-minded social practices influences Skeena to oppose the patriarchal laws laid down by her mother. After Skeena is caught by the police for attending secret political conferences, her mother banishes her to their village, placing her under the servants’ surveillance. But this exile is not enough to suppress Skeena’s fighting spirit. She threatens violence to save Jeeno – wrongly accused of adultery by a maulvi – from the wrath of the villagers. Skeena thus ends up becoming the antithesis of the woman her community wants her to be.

In her introduction, Fauzia Rafique reveals that the name ‘Skeena’ has diverse meanings in different languages namely the “spirit of tranquility” in Arabic, the “indwelling feminine face of divinity” in Hebrew, and the “River of Mists” in Nisga people’s language. Skeena’s mother has raised her according to the values and qualities represented in her forename. But Skeena ruins all her mother’s efforts to cultivate her into an ideal patriarchal feminine figure. Skeena is self-aware, insightful, rational and empathetic to other women’s experiences of violence. She is aware that social biases are anathema to progress and she strives to rise above them. She is, in fact, the “wild elephant” threatening to trample the socially constructed patriarchal values promoted by her family. However, Rafique avoids turning her protagonist into a feminist revolutionary. The author keeps her writing realistic by showing Skeena being forced to surrender to familial pressure and married off against her will to her Canadian groom, a doctor named Ihtesham.

The next chapter of Skeena’s life comprises her nine-year marriage marked by domestic violence. Ihtesham basically relegates her to the position of a servant in their home. Moreover, he uses her to vent his sadistic impulses. Skeena’s mother-in-law is characterized as a “foul-mouthed, mean, selfish, and ruthless woman” (129). She too is a patriarchal subject who maintains her dominant status in the household by allowing her son to be physically abusive to his spouse. “Mumie Jee” deliberately creates conflict between the married couple by accusing Skeena of having illicit relations with one of their male acquaintances. However, she ignores her son’s extramarital affairs. The dynamics within Ihtesham’s family shows how patriarchy constitutes both men and women who would always associate themselves with different forms of violence to maintain control over others. Rafique also delves into the psyche of the victim of domestic violence. Despite witnessing violence throughout her young life, Skeena has never been a direct recipient of it until her marriage to Ihtesham. Moreover, her being an immigrant in Canada adds to her sense of detachment and passive stance towards violence. But once she manages to escape her marital home and reach a women’s shelter, her association with other battered women instills a sense of independence in her. She leaves behind her elitist notions such as viewing any form of help from women rescue centers as charity and despising menial jobs. With a broadened perspective Skeena relocates to Surrey, British Columbia.

The last section of this book focuses on Skeena’s quest for transcendence which involves her struggle to dissociate from the numerous social identities imposed on her. Living in Surrey as a divorced woman, Skeena comes across new people who pose a new set of challenges to her. She is forced to endure a dead-end job. Her boyfriend named Iqbal Singh comes off as emotionally abusive in his attempts to dissuade her from living an independent life. Moreover, she faces the brunt of racism when news of ‘twin towers destruction by Muslim terrorists’ hits the global media. Skeena is shunned by her close friends. She is put under police surveillance based on the past facts of her attending political meetings with Ruffo in Lahore as well as her persistent interest in women political activists. However, this “house arrest” has a different outcome than the previous two.

The novel ends with Skeena escaping from her apartment by jumping off the balcony with the notion “I have no history, I have no biography, I have no name” (206). The last chapter entitled “Teasing the Awake” shows Skeena facing hardships in her new environment but finally daring to take the first step in challenging patriarchal ideology. Skeena realizes that her social identification as an educated Muslim woman makes her the target of criticism and violence. Despite losing every relationship to different forms of violence, Skeena tries to disentangle herself from fear and oppression forced upon her by her biological, racial and socio-cultural history. The novel thus ends on a positive note.

Skeena can be viewed as Rafique’s detailed examination of patriarchy and the manner in which it operates in society. The author successfully captures those nuances of violence undergone by third world women which are often overlooked within the stream of feminism. Rafique puts forth various feminist realizations through Skeena’s perspective such as “it is difficult to fight for human rights when they are usurped by divinity” (182). Passive existence is often viewed as woman’s sole means to escape from violence. Indeed the fear of evoking the wrath of society forces most women to accept their own oppression. Moreover, most victims of violence are not able to cultivate the feeling of tolerance in their treatment of others. For instance, Skeena befriends a lesbian couple named Maggie who is a Jew, and Joyni, a Christian, in Surrey. But these differences that set them apart from social norms as well as from each other do not deter them from judging Skeena as their enemy after the terrorist attacks on America. Skeena is forced to battle the ideologies that hold men as being superior to women. Her brother, her husband Ihtesham, and her boyfriend Iqbal Singh (Gamu’s new persona to escape his past as a murderer) are all staunch followers of patriarchal ideology. Several scenes in the novel, in fact, shed light on the position of third world woman caught between the dogmas of their ethnicity and biology.

The novel makes it clear that the boom in technology and the rise of global media have not been successful in broadening the socio-cultural perspective. Instead these innovations may really be leading to an increase in insularity and violence. The novel takes a well-informed view of the way contemporary socio-political events have impacted women. Skeena’s interaction with women belonging to different ethnicities reflects the conflicting views that have arisen between Western feminist theory and third world feminism. For instance, there is a sense of impatience, lack of understanding, disdain, and frustration within the Canadian white women over Skeena’s failure to pull herself away from her cultural ties.
Rafique displays real authorial skills by managing to save her fictional work from turning into a sermon on feminism. She has been successful in uniting various contemporary topics of interest and presenting them in the form of an expansive, emotive, well-paced and realistic fictional work.

Published in
South Asian Ensemble
A Peer-reviewed Canadian Quarterly of Arts, Literature and Culture
Vol. 3, Number 4, Autumn 2011 &
Vol. 4, Number 1, Winter 2012
ISSN 1920-6763

Pages 223-28

For South Asian Ensemble
Contact
Editor Rajesh Kumar Sharma
sharajesh@gmail.com
http://kriticulture.blogspot.com
www.southasianensemble.com
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Celebrating Gursharan Singh (1929-2011) – Surrey BC Oct 10/11


Mere dil vich dard jagaey, chutki le ja na, le ja na … chatta channan da dey ja na
(From ‘Chatta Chandna Da’ by Amritshar Natak Kala Kendra)

Bhaji Gursharan Singh passed away in his home in Chandigarh on September 27. This
great human being from Punjab, a revolutionary spirit, a ground-breaking artist who
changed the face of Punjabi theatre and culture, a champion of the downtrodden and
fearless defender of the oppressed is mourned not only in Punjab and India but wherever there are South Asians who ache for the deprivation and sorrow of others and who work for social justice.

Join us in celebrating the life of this revolutionary artist.
Monday, October 10
1.30 pm-4.30 pm
7475-135 Street
Surrey BC

Organized byHarinder Mahil, Chin Banerjee, Raj Chouhan, Sadhu Binning, Charan Gill, Makhan Tut., and Paul Binning, Sukhwant Hundal and Sarwan Boal.
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‘Why I am an Atheist’ by Bhagat Singh

Shaheed Bhagat Singh wrote this document on 5-6 October, 1930. It is presented to us by Professor Chaman Lal in celebration of Bhagat Singh’s day of birth, September 28, 1907.

A new question has cropped up. Is it due to vanity that I do not believe in the existence of an omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient God? I had never imagined that I would ever have to confront such a question. But conversation with some friends has given me, a hint that certain of my friends, if I am not claiming too much in thinking them to be so – are inclined to conclude from the brief contact they have had with me, that it was too much on my part to deny the existence of God and that there was a certain amount of vanity that actuated my disbelief. Well, the problem is a serious one. I do not boast to be quite above these human traits. I am a man and nothing more. None can claim to be more. I also have this weakness in me. Vanity does form a part of my nature. Amongst my comrades I was called an autocrat. Even my friend Mr. B.K. Dutt sometimes called me so. On certain occasions I was decried as a despot. Some friends do complain and very seriously too that I involuntarily thrust my opinions upon others and get my proposals accepted. That this is true up to a certain extent, I do not deny. This may amount to egotism. There is vanity in me in as much as our cult as opposed to other popular creeds is concerned. But that is not personal. It may be, it is only legitimate pride in our cult and does not amount to vanity. Vanity or to be more precise “Ahankar” is the excess of undue pride in one’s self. Whether it is such an undue pride that has led me to atheism or whether it is after very careful study of the subject and after much consideration that I have come to disbelieve in God, is a question that I, intend to discuss here. Let me first make it clear that egotism and vanity are two different things.

In the first place, I have altogether failed to comprehend as to how undue pride or vaingloriousness could ever stand in the way of a man in believing in God. I can refuse to recognize the greatness of a really great man provided I have also achieved a certain amount of popularity without deserving it or without having possessed the qualities really essential or indispensible for the same purpose. That much is conceivable. But in what way can a man believing in God cease believing due to his personal vanity? There are only two Ways. The man should either begin to think himself a rival of God or he may begin to believe himself to be God. In neither case can he become a genuine atheist. In the first case he does not even deny the existence of his rival. In the second case as well he admits the existence of a conscious being behind the screen guiding all the movements of nature. It is of no importance to us whether he thinks himself to be that supreme being or whether he thinks the supreme conscious being to be somebody apart from himself. The fundamental is there. His belief is there. He is by no means an atheist. Well, here I am I neither belong to the first category nor to the second. I deny the very existence of that Almighty Supreme being. Why I deny it shall be dealt with later on. Here I want to clear one thing, that it is not vanity that has actuated me to adopt the doctrines of atheism. I am neither a rival nor an incarnation nor the Supreme Being Himself. One point is decided, that it is not vanity that has led me to this mode of thinking.

Let me examine the facts to disprove this allegation. According to these friends of mine I have grown vainglorious perhaps due to the undue popularity gained during the trials – both Delhi Bomb and Lahore conspiracy cases. Well, let us see if their premises are correct. My atheism is not of so recent origin. I had stopped believing in God when I was an obscure young man, of whose existence my above mentioned friends were not even aware. At least a college student cannot cherish any short of undue pride which may lead him to atheism. Though a favourite with some professors and disliked by certain others, I was never an industrious or a studious boy. I could not get any chance of indulging in such feelings as vanity. I was rather a boy with a very shy nature, who had certain pessimistic dispositions about the future career’ And in those days, I was not a perfect atheist. My grand-father under whose influence I was brought up is an orthodox Arya Samajist. An Arya Samajist is anything but an atheist. After finishing my primary education I joined the D.A.V. School of Lahore and stayed in its Boarding House for full one year. There, apart from morning and evening prayers, I used to recite “Gayatri Mantra” for hours and hours. I was a perfect devotee in those days. Later on I began to live with my father. He is a liberal in as much as the orthodoxy of religions is concerned. It was through his teachings that I aspired to devote my life to the cause of freedom. But he is not an atheist. He is a firm believer. He used to encourage me for offering prayers daily. So, this is how I was brought up. In the Non-Co-operation days I joined the National College. it was there that I began to think liberally and discuss and criticise all the religious problems, even about God. But still I was a devout believer. By that time I had begun to preserve the unshorn and unclipped long hair but I could never believe in the mythology and doctrines of Sikhism or, any other religion. But I had a firm faith in God’s existence.

Later on I joined the revolutionary party. The first leader with whom I came in contact, though not convinced, could not dare to deny the existence of God. On my persistent inquiries about God, he used to say, “Pray whenever you want to”. Now this is atheism less courage required for the adoption of that creed. The second leader with whom I came in contact was a firm believer. Let me mention his name-respected comrade Sachindra Nath Sanyal, now undergoing life transportation in connection with the Karachi conspiracy case. From the every first page of his famous and only book, “Bandi Jivan” (or Incarcerated Life), the Glory of God is sung vehemently. In the last page of the second part of that beautiful book his mystic-because of vedantism – praises showered upon God form a very conspicuous part of his thoughts. “The Revolutionary leaflet” distributed- throughout India on January 28th 1925, was according to the prosecution story the result of his intellectual labour, Now, as is inevitable in the secret work the prominent leader expresses his own views-which are very dear to his person and the rest of the workers have to acquiesce in them-in spite of differences, which they might have. In that leaflet one full paragraph was devoted to praise the Almighty and His rejoicings and doing. That is all mysticism. What I wanted to point out was that the idea of disbelief had not even germinated in the revolutionary party. The famous Kakori martyrs-all four of them-passed their last day in prayers. Ram Prasad Bismil was an orthodox Arya Samajist. Despite his wide studies in the field of Socialism and Communism, Rajen Labiri could not suppress his desire, of reciting hymns of the Upanishads and the Gita. I saw only one man amongst them, who never prayed and used to say, “Philosophy is the outcome of human weakness or limitation of knowledge”. He is also undergoing a sentence of transportation for life. But he also never dared to deny the existence of God.
Up to that period I was only a romantic idealist revolutionary. Uptil then we were to follow. Now came the time to shoulder the whole responsibility. Due to the inevitable reaction for some time the very existence of the Party seemed impossible.

Enthusiastic comrades-nay leaders-began to jeer at us. For some time I was afraid that some day I also might not be convinced of the futility of our own programme. That was a turning point in my revolutionary career. “Study” was the cry that reverberated in the corridors of my mind. Study to enable yourself to face the arguments advanced by opposition. Study to arm yourself with arguments in favour of your cult. I began to study. My previous faith and convictions underwent a remarkable modification. The Romance of the violent methods alone which was so prominent amongst our predecessors, was replaced by serious ideas. No more mysticism, no more blind faith. Realism became our cult. Use of force justifiable when resorted to as a matter of terrible necessity: non-violence as policy indispensable for all mass movements. So much about methods. The most important thing was the clear conception of the ideal for which we were to fight, As there were no important activities in the field of action I got ample opportunity to study various ideals of the world revolution. I studied Bakunin, the Anarchist leader, something of Marx the father of Communism and much of Lenin, Trotsky and others the men who had successfully carried out a revolution in their country. They were all atheists. Bakunin’s “God and State”, though only fragmentary, is an interesting study of the subject. Later still I came across a book entitled ‘Common Sense’ by Nirlamba Swami. It was only a sort of mystic atheism. This subject became of utmost interest to me. By the end of 1926 I had been convinced as to the baselessness of the theory of existence of an almighty supreme being who created, guided and controled the universe. I had given out this disbelief of mine. I began discussion on the subjects with my friends. I had become a pronounced atheist. But, what it meant will presently be discussed.

In May 1927 I was arrested at Lahore. The arrest was a surprise. I was quite unaware of the fact that the police wanted me. All of a sudden while passing through a garden I found myself surrounded by police. To my own surprise, I was very calm at that time. I did not feel any sensation, neither did I experience any excitement. I was taken into police custody. Next day I was taken to the Railway Police lock-up where I was to pass full one month. After many day’s conversation with the Police officials I guessed that they had some information regarding my connection with the Kakori Party and my other activities in connection with the revolutionary movement. They told me that I had been to Lucknow while the trial was going on there, that I had negotiated a certain scheme about their rescue, that after obtaining their approval, we had procured some bombs, that by way of test one of the bombs was thrown in the crowd on the occasion of Dussehra 1926. They further informed me, in my interest, that if I could give any statement throwing some light on the activities of the revolutionary party, I was not to be imprisoned but on the contrary set free and rewarded even without being produced as an approver in the Court. I laughed at the proposal. It was all humbug. People holding ideas like ours do not throw bombs on their own innocent people. One fine morning Mr. Newman, the then Senior Superintendent of C.I.D., came to me. And after much sympathetic talk with me imparted-to him-the extremely sad news that if I did not give any statement as demanded by them, they would be forced to send me up for trial for conspiracy to wage war in connection with Kakori Case and for brutal murders in connection with Dussehra Bomb outrage. And he further informed me that they had evidence enough to get me convicted and hanged. In those days I believed-though I was quite innocent-the police could do it if they desired. That very day certain police officials began to persuade me to offer my prayers to God regularly both the times. Now I-was an atheist. I wanted to settle for myself whether it was in the days of peace and enjoyment alone that I could boast of being an atheist or whether during such hard times as well I could stick to those principles of mine. After great consideration I decided that I could not lead myself to believe in and pray to God. No, I never did. That was the real test and I came out successful. Never for a moment did I desire to save my neck at the cost of certain other things. So I was a staunch disbeliever : and have ever since been. It was not an easy job to stand that test. ‘Belief’ softens the hardships, even can make them pleasant. In God man can find very strong consolation and support. Without Him, man has to depend upon himself. To stand upon one’s own legs amid storms and hurricanes is not a child’s play. At such testing moments, vanity-if any-evaporates, and man cannot dare to defy the general beliefs, if he does, then we must conclude that he has got certain other strength than mere vanity. This is exactly the situation now. Judgment is already too well known. Within a week it is to be pronounced. What is the consolation with the exception of the idea that I am going to sacrifice my life for a cause ? A God-believing Hindu might be expecting to be reborn as a king, a Muslim or a Christian might dream of the luxuries to be- enjoyed in paradise and the reward he is to get for his sufferings and sacrifices. But what am I to expect? I know the moment the rope is fitted round my neck and rafters removed, from under my feet. that will be the final moment-that will be the last moment. I, or to be more precise, my soul, as interpreted in the metaphysical terminology, shall all be finished there. Nothing further. A short life of struggle with no such magnificent end, shall in itself be the reward if I have the courage to take it in that light. That is all. With no selfish motive, or desire to be awarded here or hereafter, quite disinterestedly have I devoted my life to the cause of independence, because I could not do otherwise. The day we find a great number of men and women with this psychology who cannot devote themselves to anything else than the service of mankind and emancipation of the suffering humanity; that day shall inaugurate the era of liberty. Not to become a king, nor to gain any other rewards here, or in the next birth or after death in paradise, shall they be inspired to challenge the oppressors, exploiters, and tyrants, but to cast off the yoke of serfdom from the neck of humanity and to establish liberty and peace shall they tread this-to their individual selves perilous and to their noble selves the only glorious imaginable-path. Is the pride in their noble cause to be – misinterpreted as vanity? Who dares to utter such an abominable epithet? To him, I say either he is a fool or a knave. Let us forgive him for he can not realize the depth, the emotion, the sentiment and the noble feelings that surge in that heart. His heart is dead as a mere lump of flesh, his eyes are-weak, the evils of other interests having been cast over them. Self-reliance is always liable to be interpreted as vanity. It is sad and miserable but there is no help.
You go and oppose the prevailing faith, you go and criticise a hero, a great man, who is generally believed to be above criticism because he is thought to be infallible, the strength of your argument shall force the multitude to decry you as vainglorious. This is due to the mental stagnation, Criticism and independent thinking are the two indispensable qualities of a revolutionary. Because Mahatamaji is great, therefore none should criticise him. Because he has risen above, therefore everything he says-may be in the field of Politics or Religion, Economics or Ethics-is right. Whether you are convinced or not you must say, “Yes, that’s true”. This mentality does not lead towards progress. It is rather too obviously, reactionary.
Because our forefathers had set up a faith in some supreme, being-the Al mighty God- therefore any man who dares to challenge the validity of that faith, or the very existence of that supreme being, he shall have to be called an apostate, a renegade. If his arguments are too sound to be refuted by counter-arguments and spirit too strong to be cowed down by the threat of misfortunes that may befall him by the wrath of the Almighty-he shall be decried as vainglorious, his spirit to be denominated as vanity. Then why to waste time in this vain discussion? Why try to argue out the whole thing? This question is coming before the public for the first time, and is being handled in this matter of fact way for the first time, hence this lengthy discussion.
As for the first question, I think I have cleared that it is not vanity that has led me to atheism. My way of argument has proved to be convincing or not, that is to be judged by my readers, not me. I know in the present, circumstances my faith in God would have made my life easier, my burden lighter and my disbelief in Him has turned all the circumstances too dry and the situation may assume too harsh a shape. A little bit of mysticism can make it poetical. But I, do not want the help of any intoxication to meet my fate. I am a realist. I have been trying to overpower the instinct in me by the help of reason. I have not always been successful in achieving this end. But man’s duty is to try and endeavour, success depends upon chance and environments.
As for the second question that if it was not vanity, then there ought to be some reason to disbelieve the old and still prevailing faith of the existence of God. Yes; I come to that now Reason there is. According to. me, any man who has got some reasoning power at his command always tries to reason out his environments. Where direct proofs are lacking philosophy occupies the important place. As I have already stated, a certain revolutionary friend used to say that Philosophy is the outcome of human weakness. When our ancestors had leisure enough to try to solve out the mystery of this world, its past, present and the future, its whys and wherefores, they having been terribly short of direct proofs, everybody tried to solve the problem in his own way. Hence we find the wide dufferences in the fundamentals of various religious creeds, which some times assume very antagonistic and conflicting shapes. Not only the Oriental and Occidental philosophies differ, there are differences even amongst various schools of thoughts in each hemisphere. Amongst Oriental religions, the Moslem faith is not at all compatible with Hindu faith. In India alone Buddhism and Jainism are sometimes quite separate from Brahmanism, in which there are again conflicting faiths as Arya Samaj and Sanatan Dharma. Charwak is still another independent thinker of the past ages. He challenged the authority of God in the old times. All these creeds differ from each other on the fundamental question., and everybody considers himself to be on the right. There lies the misfortune. Instead of using the experiments and expressions of the ancient Savants and thinkers as a basis for our future struggle against ignorance and to try to find out a solution to this mysterious problem, we lethargical as we have proved to be raise the hue and cry of faith, unflinching and unwavering faith to their versions and thus are guilty of stagnation in human progress.
Any man who stands for progress has to criticise, disbelieve and challenge every item of the old faith. Item by item he has to reason out every nook and corner of the prevailing faith. If after considerable reasoning one is led to believe in any theory or philosphy, his faith is welcomed. His reasoning can be mistaken, wrong, misled and sometimes fallacious. But he is liable to correction because reason is the guiding star of his life. But mere faith and blind faith is dangerous: it dulls the brain, and makes a man reactionary. A man who claims to be a realist has to challenge the whole of the ancient faith. If it does not stand the onslaught of reason it crumbles down. Then the first thing for him is to shatter the whole down and clear a space for the erection of a new philosophy. This is the negative side. After it begins the positive work in which sometimes some material of the old faith may be used for the purpose of reconstruction. As far as I am concerned, let me admit at the very outset that I have not been able to study much on this point. I had a great desire to study the Oriental Philosophy but I could not get any chance or opportunity to do the same. But so far as the negative study is under discussion, I think I am convinced to the extent of questioning the soundness of the old faith. I have been convinced as to non-existence of a conscious supreme being who is guiding and directing the movements of nature. We believe in nature and the whole progressive movement aims at the domination of man over nature for his service. There is no conscious power behind it to direct. This is what our philosophy is.

As for the negative side. we ask a few questions from the ‘believers’.
(1) If, as you believe, there is an almighty, omnipresent, omniscient and omnipotent God-who created the earth or world, please let me know why did he creat it? This world of woes and miseries, a veritable, eternal combination of number less tragedies: Not a single soul being perfectly satisfied.

Pray, don’t say that it is His Law: If he is bound by any law, he is not omnipotent. He is another slave like ourselves. Please don’t say that it is his enjoyment. Nero burnt one Rome. He killed a very limited number of people. He created very few tragedies, all to his perfect enjoyment. And what is his place in History? By what names do the historians mention him? All the venomous epithets are showered upon him. Pages are blackened with invective diatribes condemning Nero, the tyrant, the heartless, the wicked. One Changezkhan sacrificed a few thousand lives to seek pleasure in it and we hate the very name. Then how are you going to justify your almighty, eternal Nero, who has been, and is still causing numberless tragedies every day, every hour and every minute? How do you think to support his misdoings which surpass those of Changez every single moment? I say why did he create this world-a veritable hell, a place of constant and bitter unrest? Why did the Almighty create man when he had the power not to do it? What is the justification for all this ? Do you say to award the innocent sufferers hereafter and to punish the wrong-doers as well? Well, well: How far shall you justify a man who may dare to inflict wounds upon your body to apply a very soft and soothing liniment upon it afterwards? How far the supporters and organisers of the Gladiator Institution were justified in throwing men before the half starved furious lions to be cared for and well looked after if they could survive and could manage to escape death by the wild beasts? That is why I ask, ‘Why did the conscious supreme being created this world and man in it? To seek pleasure? Where then is the difference between him and Nero’?

You Mohammadens and Christians: Hindu Philosophy shall still linger on to offer another argument. I ask you what is your answer to the above-mentioned question ? You don’t believe in previous birth. Like Hindus you cannot advance the argument of previous misdoings of the apparently quite innocent sufrerers? I ask you why did the omnipotent labour for six days to create the world through word and each day to say that all was well. Call him today. Show him the past history. Make him study the present situation. Let us see if he dares to say, “All is well”.

From the dungeons of prisons, from the stores of starvation consuming millions upon millions of human beings in slums and huts, from the exploited labourers, patiently or say apathetically watching the procedure of their blood being sucked by the Capitalist vampires, and the wastage of human energy that will make a man with the least common sense shiver with horror, and from the preference of throwing the surplus of production in oceans rather than to distribute amongst the needy producers-to the palaces of kings built upon the foundation laid with human bones…. let him see all this and let him say “All is well”. Why and wherefore? That is my question. You are silent. All right then, I proceed. Well, you Hindus, you say all the present sufferers belong to the class of sinners of the previous births. Good. You say the present oppressors were saintly people in their previous births, hence they enjoy power. Let me admit that your ancestors were very shrewed people, they tried to find out theories strong enough to hammer down all the efforts of reason and disbelief. But let us analyse how far this argument can really stand.

From the point of view of the most famous jurists punishment can be justified only from three or four ends to meet which it is inflicted upon the wrongdoer. They are retributive, reformative and deterrent. The retributive theory is now being condemned by all the advanced thinkers. Deterrent theory is also following the same fate. Reformative theory is the only one which is essential, and indispensable for human progress. It aims at returning the offender as a most competent and a peace-loving citizen to the society. But what is the nature of punishment inflicted by God upon men even if we suppose them to be offenders. You say he sends them to be born as a cow, a cat, a tree, a herb or a best. You enumerate these punishments to be 84 lakhs. I ask you what is its reformative effect upon man? How many men have met you who say that they were born as a donkey in previous birth for having committed any sin? None. Don’t quote your Puranas. I have no scope to touch your mythologies. Moreover do you know that the greatest sin in this world is to be poor. Poverty is a sin, it is a punishment. I ask you how far would you appreciate a criminologist, a jurist or a legislator who proposes such measures of punishment which shall inevitably force man to commit more offences ? Had not your God thought of this or he also had to learn these things by experience, but at the cost of untold sufferings to be borne by. humanity? What do you think shall be the fate of a man who has been born in a poor and illiterate family of say a chamar or a sweeper. He is poor, hence he cannot study. He is hated and shunned by his fellow human beings who think themselves to be his superiors having been born in say a higher caste. His ignorance, his poverty and the treatment meted out to him shall harden his heart towards society. Suppose he commits a sin, who shall bear the consequences? God, he or the learned ones of, the society ? What about the punishment of those people who were deliberately kept ignorant by the haughty and egotist Brahmans and who had to pay the penalty by bearing the stream of being led (not lead) in their ears for having heard a few sentences of your Sacred Books of learning-the Vedas? If they committed any offence-who was to be responsible for them and who was to bear the brunt? My dear friends: These theories are the inventions of the privileged ones: They justify their usurped power, riches and superiority by the help of these theories. Yes: It was perhaps Upton Sinclair, that wrote at some place, that just make a man a believer in immortality and then rob him of all his riches, and possessions. He shall help you even in that ungrudgingly. The coalition amongst the religious preachers and possessors of power brought forth jails, gallows, knouts and these theories.

I ask why your omnipotent God, does not stop every man when he is committing any sin or offence? He can do it quite easily. Why did he not kill war lords or kill the fury of war in them and thus avoid the catastrophe hurled down on the head of humanity by the Great War? Why does he not just produce a certain sentiment in the mind of the British people to liberate India? Why does he not infuse the althuistic enthusiasm in the hearts of all capitalists to forgo their rights of personal possessions of means of production and thus redeem the whole labouring community-nay the whole human society from the bondage of Capitalism. You want to reason out the practicability of socialist theory, I leave it for your almighty to enforce it. People recognize the merits of socialism in as much as the general welfare is concerned. They oppose it under the pretext of its being impracticable. Let the Almighty step in and arrange everything in an orderly fashion. Now don’t try to advance round about arguments, they are out of order. Let me tell you, British rule is here not because God wills it but because they possess power and we do not dare to oppose them. Not that it is with the help of God that they are keeping us under their subjection but it is with the help of guns and rifles, bomb and bullets, police and millitia and our apathy that they are successfully committing the most deplorable sin against society- the outrageous exploitation of one nation by another. Where is God? What is he doing? Is he enjoying all I these woes of human race? A Nero; A change (Changez): Down with him.

Do you ask me how I explain the origin of this world and origion of man? Alright I tell you. Charles Darwin has tried to throw some light on the subject. Study him. Read Soham Swam’s “Commonsense”. It shall answer your question to some extent. This is a phenomenon of nature. The accidental mixture of different substances in the shape of nebulace produced this earth. When ? Consult history. The same process produced animals and in the long run man. Read Darwin’s ‘Origin of Species’. And all the later progress is due to man’s constant conflict with nature and his efforts to override it. This is the briefest possible explanation of this phenomenon.
Your other argument may be just to ask why a child is born blind or lame if not due to his deeds committed in the previous birth ? This problem has been explained away by biologists as a more biological phenomenon. According to them the whole burden rests upon the shoulders of the parents who may be conscious or ignorant of their own deeds led to mutilation of the child previous to its birth.
Naturally you may ask another question-though it is quite childish in essence. If no God existed, how did the people come to believe in him? My answer is clear and brief. As they came to believe in ghosts, and evil spirits; the only difference is that belief in God is almost universal and the philosophy well developed. Unlike certain of the radicals I would not attribute its origin to the ingenuity of the exploiters who wanted to keep the people under their subjection by preaching the existence of a supreme being and then claiming an authority and sanction from him for their privileged positions. Though I do not differ with them on the essential point that all faiths, religions, creeds and such other institutions became in turn the mere supporters of the tyrannical and exploiting institutions, men and classes. Rebellion against king is always a sin according to every religion.
As regards the origin of God my own idea is that having realized the limitations of man, his weaknesses and shortcoming having been taken into consideration, God was brought into imaginary existence to encourage man to face boldly all the trying circumstances, to meet all dangers manfully and to check and restrain his outbursts in prosperity and affluence. God both with his private laws and parental generosity was imagined and painted in greater details. He was to serve as a deterrent factor when his fury and private laws were discussed so that man may not become a danger to society. He was to serve as a father, mother, sister and brother, friend and helpers when his parental qualifications were to be explained. So that when man be in great distress having been betrayed and deserted by all friends he may find consolation in the idea that an ever true friend was still there to help him, to support him and that He was almighty and could do anything. Really that was useful to the society in the primitive age. The idea of God is helpful to man in distress.
Society has to fight out this belief as well as was fought the idol worship and the narrow conception of religon. Similarly, when man tries to stand on his own legs, and become a realist he shall have to throw the faith aside, and to face manfully all the distress, trouble, in which the circumstances may throw him. That is exactly my state of affairs. It is not my vanity, my friends. It is my mode of thinking that has made me an atheist. I don’t know whether in my case belief in God and offering of daily prayers which I consider to be most selfish and degraded act on the part of man, whether these prayers can prove to be helpful or they shall make my case worse still. I have read of atheists facing all troubles quite boldly, so am I trying to stand like a man with an erect head to the last; even on the gallows.
Let us see how I carry on : one friend asked me to pray. When informed of my atheism, he said, “During your last days you will begin to believe”. I said, No, dear Sir, it shall not be. I will think that to be an act of degradation and demoralization on my part. For selfish motives I am not going to pray. Readers and friends, “Is this vanity”? If it is, I stand for it.

Uddari Weblog is grateful to Professor Chaman Lal for making this document available.
Chaman Lal
Visiting Professor Centre for Language Learning(CLL), Faculty of Humanities and Education(FHE) University of West Indies St. Augustine Campus, Trinidad & Tobago(West Indies). Professor & Former Chairperson Centre of Indian Languages, JNU, New Delhi. Former President JNU Teachers Association(JNUTA).
www.bhagatsinghstudy.blogspot.com
http://www.chamanlal-jnu.blogspot.com
http://www.drchaman.wordpress.com
http://www.twitter.com/DrChaman
http://www.facebook.com/Dr.Chaman.JNU
http://in.linkedin.com/in/chamanlaljnu
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‘MERA RANG DE BASANTI CHOLA’ by Ajoka – Lahore 14-15 Sept/11

AJOKA THEATRE
in collaboration with
Lahore Arts Council
presents
‘MERA RANG DE BASANTI CHOLA’
Based on the struggle of the great freedom fighter Bhagat Singh
On 14th & 15th September 2011
At 7:30pm
VENUE: Hall #2
Alhamra the Mall
Lahore

Written by
Shahid Nadeem
Directed by
Madeeha Gauhar

For further Information & passes
Ajoka: 042-36682443, 36686634 , 36677047
Alhamra: 99200917-8

MERA RANG DE BASANTI CHOLA
Mera rang de basanti chola is a much deserved and long over-due tribute to one of the most influential revolutionary leaders of the independence movement and the one of the most charismatic sons of the Punjab, But the story does not end with the execution of Bhagat Singh and his comrades on 23 March 1931. The story of this fearless 23-year old revolutionary freedom fighter gets intertwined with some other stories of struggle between defenders of freedom and justice and the forces of darkness and oppression. As the play reveals links with the past and the future, the spirit of Bhagat Singh lives on. His last words were Inqilaab Zindabad. These words still resound in the air of Lahore, we can feel his presence and seek inspiration from the way he lived and died.

See following links for press reviews on this play
http://www.dawn.com/2011/05/29/theatrics-in-death-is-life.html
http://www.thefridaytimes.com/beta2/tft/article.php?issue=20110624&page=22
http://tribune.com.pk/story/167327/revisiting-bhagat-singh/
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‘Rare documents on Bhagat Singh’ by Chaman Lal

From: The Hindu

The photograph of Bhagat Singh and B.K. Dutt was taken by Sham Lal in Delhi on April 4, 1929 and sent for publication to newspapers by Bhagat Singh’s comrades. Photo Courtesy: Chaman Lal

Digitalised records with the Supreme Court reveal some inspiring facets of the revolutionary. Bhagat Singh and B.K. Dutt offered themselves for arrest after throwing harmless bombs in the Central Assembly to ‘make the deaf hear.’ Their case drew worldwide attention.

When the Supreme Court of India established a museum to display landmarks in the history of India’s judicial system, it also put on display records of some historic trials. The first exhibition that was organised was the ‘Trial of Bhagat Singh’. It was opened on September 28, 2007, on the occasion of the birth centenary celebrations of one of the most significant among martyrs and popular heroes. Noorul Hooda, Curator of the Museum, and Rajmani Srivastava of the National Archives worked to collect documents, items like bomb shell remains, pictures and publications. Not all of what was collected could be displayed in the exhibition. In 2008, the Supreme Court digitalised the exhibits. Some of Bhagat Singh’s rare writings thus came to light for the first time since he was executed on March 23, 1931 at the Lahore Central Jail along with Rajguru and Sukhdev. How the three young patriots were put to judicial murder, is brought out by the eminent legal scholar, A.G. Noorani, in his book, The Trial of Bhagat Singh — Politics of Justice.

The most significant part of Bhagat Singh’s life is that spent in jail since his arrest on April 8, 1929 from the Central Assembly in Delhi, where he and B.K. Dutt offered themselves to be arrested after throwing harmless bombs in the Assembly to ‘make the deaf hear.’ They faced two trials. The first was in the Delhi bomb case. It started on May 7, 1929 in Delhi and was committed to the Sessions Judge, on charges under Section 307 of the Indian Penal Code and the Explosives Act. That trial started in June. Bhagat Singh and Dutt made a historic statement on June 6. Dutt was represented by the nationalist counsel Asaf Ali. Bhagat Singh fought his own case with the help of a legal adviser.

On June 12, in less than a week, both were convicted and transported for life. From the June 6 statement to his last letter to his comrades written on March 22, 1931, a day before his execution, Bhagat Singh read and wrote so much: one can only marvel at the explosion of talent at the age of 21 years-plus. He wrote letters to family members and friends, jail and court officials, and penned major articles including Why I am an Atheist, Letter to Young Political Workers, and Jail Notebook.

On June 14, after the conviction, Bhagat Singh was transferred to Mianwali and Dutt to the Lahore jail. That was the start of a chain of struggles throughout the period they were in jail. It began with a hunger strike from June 15 by both Bhagat Singh and Dutt, demanding the status of political prisoners. Bhagat Singh was also shifted to Lahore jail after some time. He and Dutt were kept away from the other accused in the Lahore conspiracy case, such as Sukhdev. The trial in that case, related to the murder of Saunders, began on July 10, 1929. Bhagat Singh, who was on hunger strike since June 15 along with Dutt, was brought to the court on a stretcher. The other accused in the case came to know about this hunger strike on that day, and almost all of them joined the strike.

This historic hunger strike by Bhagat Singh and his comrades resulted in the martyrdom of Jitender Das on September 13, 1929. Bhagat Singh and the other comrades ended their hunger strike on September 2 after receiving assurances from a Congress party team and British officials on the acceptance of their demands, but they resumed it on September 4 as the British officials went back on their word. It finally ended on October 4 after 112 days, though the status of “political prisoner” was still not given; some other demands were acceded to.

During the Lahore conspiracy case trial conducted by Special Magistrate Rai Sahib Pandit Kishan Chand, an incident occurred on October 21, 1929. Provoked by an approver named Jai Gopal, Prem Dutt, the youngest among the accused persons, threw a slipper at him. Despite the other accused dissociating themselves from the act, the magistrate ordered the handcuffing of all of them. Bhagat Singh, Shiv Verma, B.K. Dutt, Bejoy Kumar Sinha, Ajoy Ghosh, Prem Dutt and others were beaten after they refused to be handcuffed. They were treated brutally inside the jail and at the court gate in front of the magistrate. Ajoy Ghosh and Shiv Verma fell unconscious following the police brutality. Bhagat Singh was targeted by a British officer by name Roberts.

The details of the brutalities were recorded by Bejoy Kumar Sinha. In February 1930, Bhagat Singh resumed his hunger strike for 15 days, as the British officials did not fulfil the promises they had made earlier with respect to demands.

Meanwhile, the fame of revolutionaries, arising from their hunger strikes and court statements, soared, while the image of the British was at its lowest ebb. The case drew attention the world over. While dismissing appeals from Bhagat Singh and Dutt against the Delhi bomb case judgment, the Punjab High Court in Lahore acknowledged Bhagat Singh to be a ‘Sincere Revolutionary.’

The British colonial regime led by Viceroy Irwin took the unprecedented step of issuing the Lahore conspiracy case ordinance on May 1, 1930. Under this, the proceedings that were being conducted by a Special Magistrate in Lahore were transferred to a three-judge Special Tribunal established to complete them within a fixed period. The Tribunal’s judgment was not to be challenged in the superior courts; only the Privy Council could hear any appeal. This ordinance was never approved by the Central Assembly or the British Parliament, and it lapsed later without any legal or constitutional sanctity. Its only purpose was to hang Bhagat Singh in the shortest possible time. That judgment sentencing Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru to the gallows was delivered on October 7, 1930.

The Tribunal began its proceedings on May 5, 1930. The accused in the Lahore conspiracy case refused to attend the proceedings after May 12. On that day they raised slogans and sung revolutionary songs. Brutalities were repeated on them, as in October 1929, in front of the Special Magistrate. This time Ajoy Ghosh, Kundan Lal and Prem Dutt fell unconscious. The accused remained absent during the whole proceedings and remained unrepresented by counsel. Advocates engaged to defend them were insulted by the Tribunal. Subsequently, the accused themselves directed them not to defend them in their absence. These details are in A.G. Noorani’s book, The Trial of Bhagat Singh.

What remained out of view all these years were the many letters that Bhagat Singh wrote and the petitions he sent to either the jail authorities or to the Special Tribunal or to the Punjab High Court, during the period 1929-1930. In these letters and petitions, Bhagat Singh sought to expose the British colonial regime’s determined efforts to get him hanged by denying the accused any defence during the trial. Even though the accused were choosing not to be present in the court, they were participating in the legal proceedings through counsel. The Tribunal refused the revolutionaries’ counsel, Amolak Ram Kapoor, permission to cross-examine 457 prosecution witnesses and allowed the cross-examination of only five approvers. This was a farce.

The letters reveal another hunger strike by Bhagat Singh from July 28, 1930, on which he himself informed the High Court it was against the jail rules. He was joined in the hunger strike by Kundan Lal, Prem Dutt Verma, Sukhdev and Bejoy Kumar Sinha. This hunger strike continued till at least August 22. With this, the total period of hunger strikes observed during his nearly two-year incarceration becomes about five months. Probably this is more than the total period of Mahatma Gandhi’s hunger strikes during his prolonged political career starting from South Africa.
When the court finally allowed interviews as sought by Bhagat Singh to prepare his defence, and when he asked for an adjournment of the case, the court closed the proceedings without giving any chance to defence counsel to cross-examine prosecution witnesses or present defence witnesses. Then it reserved judgment, which was delivered on October 7, 1930.

More such documents might emerge. The compilation of the complete proceedings of the Delhi Assembly bomb case and the Special Magistrate Court’s proceedings could bring more facts to light. The Punjab Archives in Lahore has 135 files of the Bhagat Singh case. These are not accessible even to Pakistani scholars; Kuldip Nayar is now trying to get access to them. In 2006, at the time of the 75th anniversary of the martyrdom of Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev, the Acting Chief Justice of the Pakistan Supreme Court, Rana Bhagwan Dass, handed over to the Punjab and Haryana High Court in Chandigarh four volumes of exhibits of the Lahore conspiracy case. These included some new documents.

While the source of the documents in the Supreme Court records is not clearly mentioned, undoubtedly these are part of the trial proceedings at both levels. The letters, self-explanatory in the context of the freedom struggle, show the amazing command Bhagat Singh had over the English language, apart from Urdu, Hindi and Punjabi, his knowledge of legal terminology and his beautiful handwriting. In the book, Gandhi and Bhagat Singh, historian V.N. Dutta expressed doubts about Bhagat Singh’s command over English as he was an under-graduate. He sought to ascribe the language to Jawaharlal Nehru or Asaf Ali. For legal professionals, scholars and students, the letters present a wonderful experience of how Bhagat Singh had such maturity in complex matters of legal defence.

But Bhagat Singh’s very talent and competence scared the British colonial regime and it became even more determined to get rid of him.

The Supreme Court’s digitalised records include nearly 20 written Bhagat Singh documents. Some of these, such as the June 6, 1929 statement, ‘Ideal of Indian Revolution,’ have been published. Only 12 letters or petitions remain unpublished. This writer acknowledges the permission granted by the Supreme Court to do so. Ten of the documents are in complete form. Only the first page remains of two letters/documents, one relating to the October 21, 1929 incident in court and another petition from early-1930; the second and likely final page in these two are not in the digital records. Also available now is a photograph of Bhagat Singh and Dutt, published in ‘Bande Matram’, Lahore (on April 12, 1929) and Hindustan Times(April 18, 1929). This was taken by photographer Sham Lal of Kashmere Gate in Delhi on April 4, 1929 and sent to newspapers for publication by Bhagat Singh’s comrades. The writer is grateful to the National Archives, New Delhi, for providing the rare newspaper photographs.

Chaman Lal, the editor of the Bhagat Singh Documents (Hindi: Publications Division) and the Jail Notebook and Other Writings (LeftWord), is a Professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University, now on deputation to The University of the West Indies, Trinidad &Tobago, as Visiting Professor.

http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/article2356959.ece
http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/article2356952.ece
http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/letters/article2359803.ece
http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/letters/article2363174.ece

Information sent by IJAZ SYED
syedi@sbcglobal.net
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Iftikhar Nasim Ifti – English and Urdu Poems

Ghazal
By Iftikhar Nasim Ifti

Saza he de hai, duaoun main bhe asar de kar
zuban le gaya meri, mujhay nazar de kar

khud apnay dil se mita de hai khawahish-e-parwaaz
ura diya hai magar khud usko apnay par de kar

nikal paray hain sabhi ab panah-gahon se
gozar gae hai seeah shub, ghum-e-sahar de kar

usay main apni safai main kia bhala kehta
wo poochta tha jo mohlat bhe mukhtasar de kar

Ghazal
By Iftikhar Nasim Ifti

Kise k haq main sahi, faisla hoa tu hai
mera nahi, wo kise shaks ka hoa tu hai

Ye he bohat hai k us ne mujhay bhe mas tu kia
ye lams mujh main abhi tak racha hoa tu hai

Usay main khul k kabhi yaad kar tu sakta hon
mujhay khushi hai, wo mujh se juda hoa tu hai

Sakot-e-shub he sahi mera humsafar lekin
meray siwa bhe koe jaagta hoa tu hai

Ghutan k barhti chali ja rahi hai andar ki
tamaam khush hain k mousam khula hoa tu hai

Ye aur baat k main zinda reh gaya hon Naseem
har ek sitam meri jan par rawa hoa tu hai

Poem
By Iftikhar Nasim Ifti

There was no knock at the door
My cats were waiting in the foyer,
Listening to the steps passing by.
Children were knocking at door
of the apartment in front of mine.
“Trick or treat. Trick or treat”
My money jar full of quarters
looked so empty.
What happened? Who played
These dirty tricks on me?
Thirty one year as a law abiding citizen
I am still a foreigner. Foreigner
With a crude face and features of
a terrorist. My color two shade
Darker than an average white man
Is not accepted anymore.
My café ole color, once I was so proud of,
Is a guilt trip for me now.
My ethnicity has become a crime.

Mean streets of Chicago have become meaner.
“Go back to your country. Go back to your country.”
They yell at me.
And I am a citizen of USA
with no country.
Airports, train stations, shopping malls, schools,
Hospitals wherever I go, I am watched and scrutinized.
I yearn for the freedom I came here for.
Right now I am worst than a slave.
I am tired. I am tired. I feel like Rosa Park
and there is no bus for me.
Because I am not only two shade darker
than an average white man
But I am also a Muslim

Mere Baabaa
By Iftikhar Nasim Ifti

Mere Baabaa,
sab kahte haiN
merii shakl
aap se miltii-jultii hai

merii aaNkheN
merii peshaanii
mere hoNT
meraa lahjaa
baateN karne kaa andaaz
uThne-baiThne
chalne-phirne ka andaaz
mere haathoN kii harkat
sab kuch aap hii jaisaa hai

maiNe sunaa hai beTaa
baap kii nasl kaa vaaris hotaa hai

mere zehn meN ek savaal ubhartaa hai
maiN jo bilkul aap par huuN
to phir merii tarjiih-e-jins
aapse kyuuN is darja alag hai?

My Father
By Ifti Naseem

My father,
everyone says
my appearence
resemble yours.

My eyes
my forehead
my lips
my accent
the way I talk
sit around
the way I walk;
movement of my hands,
everything is like yours only.

I have heard that the son
is the heir of his father’s lineage.

A questions comes to my mind.
If I am exactly like you
then why my sexual preference
is so much different from yours?

Courtesy Syed Raza

Poems selected by:
Tabby Shahida
http://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/profile.php?id=530977471&sk=notes
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Punjabi Film makes it to International Film Festival

Congratulations to Film Director Gurvinder Singh and all members of the team who created ‘Anney Gorhey da Daan’!

Anney Gorhey da Daan ਅੰਨ੍ੇ ਘੋੜੇ ਦਾ ਦਾਨ (Alms of the Blind Horse) a film in Punjabi directed by Gurvinder Singh and based on the novel of the same title on the so-called Dalit theme by Gurdial Singh has been selected for the 68th Mostra Internazionale d’Arte Cinematografica – Venice International Film Festival – to be held from 31st August 2011 to 10th September 2011. This is the first Punjabi film to make it to an international Film Festival of great repute and that too in the Competition section. This is indeed a proud day for Punjab.

The film produced by the Indian National Film Development Corporation (NFDC) was shot in Bathinda earlier this year. It has all non-professional local Punjabi cast except the one main role played by Samuel John of Patiala.


Samuel John who plays the main role of Melu

Anhey Ghorhey Da Daan / Alms of the Blind Horse
Synopsis
On a foggy winter morning, a family in a village in Punjab wakes up to the news of the demolition of a house on the outskirts of the village. Father, a silent sympathiser, joins the community in demand for justice. The same day, his son Melu, a rickshaw puller in the city, is participating in a strike by his union. Injured and alienated, Melu spends the day quietly resting and hesitantly drinks with friends in the night as they debate the meaning of their existence. Cycling through the city streets, Melu feels lost and wonders where to go and what to do. Back in the village, his mother feels humiliated at the treatment meted out by the landlords in whose fields she works. Gunshots are heard in the night and the village is tense. It’s the night of the lunar eclipse. A man wanders asking for the traditional alms while Father decides to visit the city with a friend, even as his daughter Dayalo walks through the village streets in the night.

Director’s Comment
The human face is a landscape. The lived reality of the face reflects time: endured, lived and suffered. Cinema unravels time through the movement in space. The visible evokes the invisible through relationships, contexts, gestures, conflicts. There is the immediate invisible, off screen: the image confronting sound, space confronting space, time confronting time. Then there is the larger cosmic invisible, devoid of cause and effect paradigm, layered through centuries.
Anhey Ghorhey Da Daan tries to evoke the effect of years of subordination of the struggling classes reflected in the macrocosm of events spinning beyond their control. It’s about silent witnesses devoid of power to change or influence the course of destiny, about the invisible violence of power equation and simmering discontent reflected on their faces.

Photos by Sunaina Singh

View Gurvinder’s profile on Uddari Art

‘City Spirit – Shehr Atma’: A set of Gurvinder’s black&white still photography
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AFGHANISTAN: Child Sex, Bacha Bazi and DynCorp

This item is presented for the information it contains regarding child abuse in Afghanistan. It’s pro-Taliban stance is unacceptable to this web page.

Contributor: Musa Khan Jalalzai

In recent two e-mails I received from the parents of two teenage girls who were forcefully married to wealthy and powerful Tajik war criminals in Northern Afghanistan, they have painted heart-broken stories of their innocent daughters’ torture, humiliation and imprisonment by their ignorant husbands. Sajida and Rashida were barely 12 years old at the time of their marriage. The story, though interesting but ignominious. I am not going to comment it in detail as I have limited space here.

The recent sale of two more Afghan girls in separate incidents in the hands of Uzbek war criminals has sparked concern about the protection of young girls in Northern Afghanistan. Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission has received hundreds complaints about the sale of teenager girls in Herat, Mazar-e-Sharif, Kunduz, Jaozjan, Shiberghan, Baghlan, Samangan and Takhar provinces. In Takhar province, a nine year old girl was sold for just 240 dollars while in Baghlan, 11 years old girl was sold to a Tajik warlord for only 300 dollars.

Sex trade and male prostitution has brought disgrace and shame to Afghanistan. (Sex trade and male prostitution has taken deep roots in the country after the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001). The Persian word, Bacha Bazi means “boy play” or “boy for play.” As per its conservative nature, in Afghan society, women either prostitute or professional are not allowed to perform dance among the male parties, therefore, in all parties arranged by warlords and their cronies, play boys are lured to dance all the night.

Warlords in Northern Afghanistan, according to press reports, recruit young boys for sex and dance, while local authorities remain powerless in stopping the practice. Bacha Bereesh of ages 15 to 20 are normally dressed in women cloths, dancing all the night then abused by several men.

The issue is very complicated. According to press reports, more than one hundred thousands Afghan men and women are suffering from HIV and Aids. Local warlords in Northern Afghanistan don’t even know about the fatal consequences of prostitution and sex trafficking business. There is huge increase in the number of sex workers in the country. US Department of State report (2007) has placed Afghanistan as a source, transit, for women, and children trafficked for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation In Afghanistan, Chinese and Afghan women serve both Afghans and foreigners in guest houses and brothels. Under the Afghan law, sex trade and prostitution is often considered adultery, which is punishable by five to 15 years in prison.

Recent investigative reports have revealed some facts and figures about the play boy hobbies in Pashtun majority provinces. Pashtun transport mafia is deeply involved with the business and every two in ten Pashtun truck drivers are involved in male prostitution. In Paktia, Paktika, Ghazni, Bannu, Waziristan, Zabul, Quetta, Kandahar and Khost, male prostitution is not considered an illegal custom. Every young and old man, if they want can have you boy.

Recently I was told by one of my Afghan friend in London that some Afghan male prostitutes have claimed asylum in the UK due to the fear of their persecution in returning to Afghanistan. They are sexually abused, and they are even bought and sold. Fights take place over these bacha bereesh. It’s increasing day by day, and it’s catastrophic. To dress up their actions, the men involved in sex trade often insist these boys are to be dressed up in women’s clothing and dancing in front of groups of paying men. Man-boy homosexuality has flourished anew in the aftermath of Taliban zero-tolerance laws, albeit a selectively punished offence in that era. Afghan boys are mostly turn to sex work and a life on the streets because they were fleeing something worse at home.

In the past, Brothels were openly allowed in the street of Kabul and they openly enjoyed this business. Islam doesn’t allow such a practice and count it as one of the most sinful acts. Afghan Ulema are of the opinion that making boys dance and sexually abuse is not allowed in Islam. Afghan police officers are deeply involved in male prostitution while Interior Ministry in Kabul has recently received thousands complaints from locals regarding the police sexual attacks on young boys.

An intelligence website, Wikileaks recently released a cable from Afghanistan revealing U.S. government contractor DynCorp involvement in boy play business. DynCorp is a company of private militia training Afghan police force. According to recent reports, more than ninety five percent budget of the militia comes from the US and part of that is being spent on child abuse parties and sex trafficking in Northern Afghanistan.

To meet the sexual needs of the Afghan police officers, in December 2010, as Wiki Leak Cable reported DynCorp purchased young boys for Afghan policemen. The boys were to be used in Bacha bazi. DynCorp members and officers have already been engaged in sex with 12 to 15 year old children, and sold them to each other as slaves in Bosnia. After the WikiLeak revelations about the DynCorp involvement in sex trade in Northern Afghanistan, Afghan Interior Ministry carried out a thorough investigation against the private militia company.

The investigation resulted in the arrest of two Afghan police and nine other Afghans for the crime of “purchasing a service from a child.” The US State Department began its own investigation whether DynCorp had ignored signs of drug abuse among employees in Afghanistan or not, but Inspector General of the State Department in its report concluded that dancing boy incident is no criminal activity in Afghanistan.

This shameless practice has also prompted Defence Department of the United States to hire a social scientist, Anna Maria to investigate the problem, as several US soldiers on patrol often passed older men walking hand-in-hand with pretty young boys.There are thousands young boys undergone ordeals. But actual numbers of these vulnerable boys are not known.

The views shared in this article do not necessarily reflect those of the AHRC, and the AHRC takes no responsibility for them.

About the Author: The Writer is author of Afghanistan Beyond 2014 and Punjabi Taliban; he can be reached at: zai.musakhan222@gmail.com.

http://www.humanrights.asia/opinions/columns/AHRC-ETC-035-2011
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Special Performance: Ajoka’s play on Honour Killings – Lahore July 26/11

AJOKA THEATRE
in collaboration with
SOUTH ASIAN PARTNERSHIP (SAP)
Cordially invites you to
A special performance of
Maikoon Kari Kareenday ni mae
They are honour-killing me O Mother

Written by Shahid Nadeem
Directed by Madeeha Gauhar
July 26th 2011
11.a.m
Ali Institute Auditorium
Ferozpur Road, Lahore

No Invitation passes required
Free Event

Fiction not as grotesque as fact
“Maikoon Kari Kareenday ni mae” (They are honour-killing me O Mother!) is a fictional account of the proceedings of a Panchayat of men sitting on judgment on their own women, who are accused of violating the tribal code of honour. But the fact is that reality in our society is much stranger and shocking than fiction, as we have learnt from the cases such as the murder of Saima Sarwar and the Mukhtaran Mai gang rape. The recent Supreme Court judgment on MUKHTARAN MAI case has made decision a laughing stock of the world.

“Maikoon Kari Kareenday ni mae” is part of Ajoka’s campaign to create awareness about the savage custom of “honour” killing and mobilise public opinion for its eradication. The play has been performed in big cities as well as in the areas badly affected by “Karo Kari” killings. Ajoka is already involved in theatre workshops and video screenings to enable community activists to mobilize support for the campaign against honour killings through theatre and the performing arts.

In its 27 year of uninterrupted and undeterned struggle to bring about social change through theatre, Ajoka reaffirms its determination to keep the flag of socially meaning theatre flying and be a part of the democratic movement for a secular, just and egalitarian society.

The theme song of the play is translation of a poem by Sindhi poet Seeikh Ayaz.

If any organization is interested in having this play performed in their communities do contact us at: ajokatheatre@gmail.com
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Iftikhar (Ifti) Nasim

By Ijaz Syed

NEW YORK, July 23: Iftikhar Nasim, a poet of Pakistan origin, died in Chicago of heart attack on Friday. He was 64.

The Faisalabad-born Ifthikhar Nasim – poet and Gay activist – had moved to the United States to pursue higher studies in law, but his passion was poetry. He wrote in three languages — Urdu, Punjabi and English.

A life sketch on the web says: “Ifti (as he was known in US) devoted his life to writing and has performed and published poetry in English, Urdu and Punjabi all over the world.”

Raana Javed, a lover of Nasim`s works, paid a moving tribute to the poet: ‘Our community has lost an important figure, but we must continue to be inspired by his activism, his art, and his exuberance… I have lost a special friend, but I will attempt to sustain the difficult work that he has done, and widen the path he has laid.’

The Person
1. http://www.3quarksdaily.com/3quarksdaily/2011/07/rip-iftikhar-nasim.html
2. http://www.desiclub.com/community/culture/culture_article.cfm?id=56
3. http://www.glhalloffame.org/index.pl?todo=view_item&item=91

The Poet
A video clip of a reading many years ago (1996?) . Introduced by Dr. Azra Raza.
http://www.dawn.com/2011/07/24/anniversary-how-i-started-writing.html
A later longer clip
http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=6059382105079073443

From Pakistan to Roger Park
4/22/2001
Chicago Tribune – Arts & Entertainment
By Cara Jepsen

Ifti Nasim has gotten in trouble for his writing ever since he was growing up in Lyallpur (now Faisalabad), Pakistan. It started when he was 16, at a protest against martial law. He was standing at the lectern, reading a politically charged poem. Suddenly the auditorium doors flew open, and a soldier shot him in the leg. Someone pulled him out of the way before he caught another bullet.

“I put a cloth on my leg and went home,” says Nasim, 53. “I didn’t tell anyone. The next day my sister came into my room and saw blood all over.” The wound became infected, and he was bedridden for six months.

The ordeal ruined a promising career in classic Kathak dance, which relies on intricate footwork. But it did nothing to diminish his budding activism. “When my parents found out, they were very upset,” he says. “They told me not to demonstrate. Of course I didn’t listen to them.”

But that was the least of his worries. Nasim had known from an early age that he preferred men to women, but he had learned to keep it under wraps. “I could not tell anyone that I could not be with girls – that I liked them so much I wanted to be one,” he says. “In Islam you can never be a homosexual. You might as well be a dead person.”

His parents arranged a marriage for him. “I did not want to live a double life,” he says. “I did not want to leave a wife at home and go out and pick up guys. I thought that was a dishonest way of living.” He’d read a Life magazine article that showed “gay people living happily ever after in the U.S.” and talked his father into bankrolling a three-month trip to America.

The months turned into years. He enrolled at Wayne State University in Detroit, continued to write and worked to bring the rest of the family over. He’d assumed his sexuality was a passing stage until he moved to Chicago in 1974 and into the thick of the gay disco scene. “At first I was afraid to go into a gay bar,” he says. “But I went in. They were the nicest people on the planet earth. I said, What the [heck]-why haven’t I been here before? It was a non-stop party; I loved it.”

He also saw some terrible things, such his friends’ getting beaten up and robbed by homophobes. “I couldn’t believe my ears and eyes,” he says. “What had happened to the Life magazine story? But the gay liberation movement was on, and I joined.”

When he wasn’t selling cars at Loeber Motors (he quit several years ago to write full time, but still drives a gold Mercedes), he wrote poetry in Urdu, Punjabi and English, and continued to hit the clubs. In his poem ” A Car Salesman Blues,” he writes, “My show room is my stage and / I have a stage fright. I am smiling now but my ulcer is flaring up / One more rejection and I shall fall down / Like a mud wall in the rain.”

Nasim, who favors fur jackets and ample jewelry, has written three books of poems in Urdu that deal with the ostracism of homosexuals in Third World countries. The most popular, “Narman” (it means hermaphrodite in Persian), was distributed underground in India and Pakistan and sparked a movement called narmani, or honest poetry; While spawning an awareness of gay rights, it also earned him death threats from religious groups.

In 1986 he co-founded Sangat/ Chicago, a South Asian Les/Bi/Gay/Transgender organization and support group that takes its name from the Sanskrit word for togetherness. “They’re lost when they come here and find out they’re homosexuals,” .he says. “They are a minority within a minority.”

That work got him inducted into the Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame in 1996. But his frankness about his sexuality has alienated the family he brought over from Pakistan, with whom he has an uneasy truce. “My family isn’t my problem anymore,” he says. “I guess I’m their problem.”

He doesn’t plan on showing them his new book, “Myrmecophile: Selected Poems, 1980-2000” (Xlibris, 2000), the cover of which shows him in an over-the-top drag getup. (a myrmecophile is defined as an insect of a foreign species that lives more or less permanently in an ant colony;) Its personal and political poems are laced with humor and outrage and touch on everything from pedophilia and homophobia to Princess Diana and the nature of God.

In “Infanticide,” he writes, “In some primitive tribes / there was a custom: / the parents bury their female offspring /alive. / The birth of a male child was celebrated. / To be gay is like being born as a female offspring. / I would rather be buried alive…

When he’s not working on a novel set in the disco era, Nasim pens a weekly column for the Pakistan Express newspaper. In it he’s been critical of Muslim policies toward women and homosexuals. “I’m basically a Muslim person,” he says. “I don’t practice. But I compensate by helping other people, by doing my activism, But I don’t think activism should be extreme, either.”

His work inspires extreme reactions, On March 12 Nasim was at a restaurant near his Rogers Park apartment when a Muslim I man called him an “abomination” and allegedly threatened him with a knife. Nasim pressed charges.

He can’t discuss the incident -the court date is May 1- but Nasim says the notoriety surrounding it has deflected attention from his book. “The issue of my being a serious writer is being overlooked now,” he says. “I don’t like it. But in a way I’m relieved “that people are noticing finally the structure we put into place [in past decades] for gay and lesbian rights. We are seeing the results now. We are standing up for our rights. In a different time I would have walked away; Now I refuse to do that”
http://www.tullman.com/ff/iftibook/default.asp.
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Cultural Activist Nafees Ghaznavi Passed On

Pakistani Canadian cultural activist Nafees Ghaznavi passed away in Pickering Ontario this July 7.

Nafees consistently supported initiatives for equality and human rights. In Toronto in the Eighties he was actively involved in South Asian Resources and Information (SARI) with Himani Bannerji, Poonam Khosla, Krisantha Sri Bhaggiyadatta, Judy Whitehead and others. During the Nineties, he moved back to Karachi where he continued to work for democratic change.

Nafees came to visit Canada to meet with friends earlier this month. However, he was living in a motel in Pickering, and died alone following a cardiac arrest. His body was found six days after his death.

Nafees was an advertising genius, and was instrumental in establishing Pakistan’s MNJ advertising company. Later, he went into travel business. He was a former editor of Canadian Asian News.

His neighbour in Karachi, Dancer/Activist Sheema Kermani, says this about him:

‘Nafees Ghaznavi was a wonderful human being, always a great supporter of the oppressed, supporter of all Left causes and a great supporter of my work and of Tehrik-e-Niswan. He was always there to help in any way he could. He was not just a personal friend but a great moral support as well. We will miss him.’
Sheema Kermani
Tehrik-e-Niswan
Website www.tehrik-e-niswan.org.pk

Nafees was laid to rest in Pickering Cemetery Tuesday July 12.

Nafees Bhai, we will see you soon.
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Poet Iftikhar Nasim Ifti Moves On

Way to go, Ifti!

Chicago-based Urdu poet, radio host and gay rights activist Iftikhar Nasim Ifti passed away this Friday night in Chicago where he was in a coma for two days.

Ifti was the Chief editor of Chicago’s ‘Pakistan News’, a radio host for program Sargam, and an author and a poet. He was the first Pakistani to recieve Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame citation.

Ifti was a beautiful person with a strong spirit.

See you soon, Ifti.

More information at Ravi International:
http://www.dailyravi.com/
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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
syedi@sbcglobal.net

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
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‘I Am’ by Sonali Gulati in Vancouver Queer Film Festival – August 13/11

For the past 6 years, the Vancouver Queer Film Festival has asked Trikone-Vancouver to sponsor a film as a community partner. For Trikone-Vanc, that gives an opportunity to introduce/talk about Trikone-Vanc and our South Asian queer existence/presence to the audience.

This year, the film we are sponsoring is “I Am” directed by Sonali Gulati. Read about it and/or watch the trailer here:
http://www.sonalifilm.com/I-AM.html

“I Am”
Saturday, August 13
7 p.m. (PRIME TIME for the film festival)
Rio Cinema
Broadway & Commercial Drive
To buy tickets online, go here:
http://www.queerfilmfestival.ca/content/TICKET_INFORMATION/710

The director, Sonali Gulati, will be in attendance. She will speak after the film. This makes it a very special screening!

Afterwards, at 10 p.m. the same night, there’s a party at Canvas Lounge where we can hang out some more with Sonali.

The Queer Film Fest this year is showcasing films from Asia (called “Focus on Asian Voices”) so there’s a lot of programming to catch. There are 20 films from Asia or with primarily Asian content, but only 5 are feature films, including “I Am”. Check out the program here:
http://www.queerfilmfestival.ca/film/FILMS/739

“I Am” looks/sounds really interesting and of value not just to us but to our parents too, if by some miracle we can get our parents to watch it sometime. :))

For more information on Trikone Vancouver, send email message to:
trikone_vancouver@yahoogroups.com

Information provided by Randeep Purewall.
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Poet Romantic Revolutionary – Faiz Ahmed Faiz – Bradford July 16/11

Tribute to Legend in Bradford
Poet, Romantic, Revolutionary – Faiz Ahmed Faiz

We cordially invite you to attend a centenary event to pay tribute to one of the greatest international poets of the twentieth century, even in death, Faiz’s extraordinary ability to bring together nations, often entangled in bitter disagreements, persists. His continuing importance, to the 21st century, as a major literary voice whose words continue to have the power to move peoples’ hearts and minds the world over cannot be overstated.

7.00 p.m.
Saturday, 16 July 2011
Kala Sangam
St. Peters Squire, 1 Forster Square, Bradford BD1 4TY

Program
Introduction: Laiqa Shiekh & Dr. Geetha Upadhyaya (7/8 minutes)
Message from Councillor: (5 minutes)
Talk on Faiz ahmed Faiz: Helen Goodway (15 minutes)
Poem of Faiz: Mehmooda Hadi (5 minutes)
Song: Dr. Ashfaq Ahmad Khan(5 minutes)
Talk on Faiz: Professor Nazir Tabbasum (7/8 minutes)
Poem for Faiz: Tasneem Hassan (5 minutes)
Recitation of Faiz by other participants: (10 minutes)
Song: Dr. Ashfaq Ahmad Khan (5 minutes)
Discussion and Contribution from the floor and Questions and Answers (20 minutes)
Thanks: Lala Younis, Bradford Faiz National Centenary Organising Committee
Total Time: 1 hour and 30 minutes

RSVP
Co-ordinators:
Mohsin Zulifqar, 07540 829564
Prof Nazir Tabassum, 07828 174854
Lala M. Younas, 07878 996658
Ajit Singh, 07720 400242
Cllr Mohammad Shafiq, 07904120986
Pervez Fateh, 07958 541672
Sarwan Singh, 07989 062965
Khalid Saeed Qureshi, 07869433475
Dr Geetha Upadhyaya, 01274 303340
Cllr Mohammad Shafiq, 07904120986

Jointly organised by Faiz Centenary National Organising Committee and Kala Sangam Bradford.
http://uk.faizcentenary.org
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