Recognize Sikh Community As Integral Part of Pakistani Society – Add Sikhism to the Current Headcount Form

Ramesh Singh Arora, MPA, Punjab Assembly, Lahore (Photo: Pakistan Today)

It is a scandal that Pakistan’s Sikh community does not feature in the country’s Headcount happening now after a gap of 19 years. In the section of religion, the forms offer Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, Qadianiat, scheduled caste, and ‘others’. This has prompted the Sikh community to launch protests in different parts of the country, and one of the leaders who is the ‘first and only Sikh lawmaker in the Punjab Assembly since the partition,’ Ramesh Singh Arora spoke on a point of order in the Punjab Assembly on Monday, and said that he feels his community is being ‘marginalised’, and he asked that the federal and provincial governments redress this issue immediately as the country’s 6th Headcount was already underway.

According to Arora, there may be about 25,000 Sikhs in Pakistan, but the actual number can not be ascertained if the current Headcount does not provide a clear option.

This oversight on part of Pakistan government, that Arora attributes to bureaucracy, may be another reflection of the prejudice that exists against minorities within this self-entitled ‘Muslim’ government that chose to use religion as one of the coercive weapons to control the population.

Not only that Sikhism was founded in areas now in Pakistan, but the Sikh community represents the richness and continuity of Punjabi culture through literature, language, architecture and songs, and it reminds us that there once was a secular and humane Punjabi Sikh Empire in Indian Subcontinent that at its peak in the 19th century ‘extended from the Khyber Pass in the west to western Tibet in the east, and from Mithankot in the south to Kashmir in the north’, and that it was ‘the last major region of the subcontinent to be conquered by the British’. (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sikh_Empire)

Pakistan and Punjab governments must add Sikhism to the provided list of religions, because it’s not just about the numbers; omitting Sikhism from the list of religions from the forms for national census, also omits and makes invisible the historical and the ongoing peaceful and constructive role played by Sikh community in the development of Pakistani society.

Fauzia
gandholi.wordpress.com

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Nigar Ahmad – A Great Punjabi Woman

nigar-ahmad1Nigar Ahmad (1945 – 2017)

Nigar Ahmad, an educationist and a woman’s rights activist, was one of the founding members of Women Action Forum (WAF) established in the 1980s to fight General Ziaul Haq’s Islamicization policies that attacked women’s status in Pakistan. Later, Nigar founded Aurat Foundation and served as its Executive Director for many years.

Her contributions to the enhancement of the status of women include mobilizing women candidates to run for local government during the 1993 and 1997 general elections, organizing networks of citizens’ action committees in 70 districts to provide support to women; organizing national conferences and radio programs to inform peasant women on health and agricultural issues. ‘She was a consultant to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in 1991 on the gender impact of a watershed management project in Azad Kashmir. She presented a case study to the Asian Development Bank on a pilot on credit for rural women, and, as a consultant to the United Nations Development Fund For Women, has been involved in a rural credit and gender sensitization training program of UNDP staff. Nigar has also been involved with the National Commission on the Status of Women, and the South Asian Partnership. She was a coauthor for the report on Women’s Development Programs for Pakistan’s Eighth Five-Year Plan.’ (wikipeacewomen.org)

Nigar was awarded the Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah Life Time Achievement Award in 2010 for her work for the empowerment of women. She was one of the 1000 women proposed for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005, and a nominee from Pakistan of the Global Sisterhood Network.

Nigar was suffering from Parkinson’s disease. She was admitted to a hospital in Lahore for chest pain where she passed away on February 24, 2017. She was the daughter of Mian Riaz Uddin Ahmad, a prominent civil servant in the Punjab.

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This is what Nigar had to say for George Bush, i wonder what she would have said for Donald Trump.

Fauzia Rafique
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The Beef with British Bank Notes

five-pound-note

Written by Randeep Singh

Hindus in the United Kingdom recently grew outraged over the Bank of England’s decision to issue a new £5 bank note. The note apparently contains traces of beef fat.

The Hindu Forum of Britain called the note “totally and utterly unacceptable.” Locally incensed Hindus have since been joined by Sikhs, vegetarians and vegans in petitioning to have the chemical content of the notes changed.

The Hindu Forum opposes the note on the grounds of freedom of religion. Freedom of religion protects one from interference from or coercion by the state in religious belief or practice. It does not require a government, however, to change its otherwise secular policies to accommodate religion.[1]

What would happen to Hindus if they came into contact with the bill? Would they be violating their religion? Haven’t they come into contact with beef-fat chemicals before in plastic shopping bags or in the leather soles in their shoes? Haven’t they sat next to someone eating beef in a school canteen or at a pub?

I don’t believe that the Hindu abstention from beef is a religious practice. It is a caste-based practice. Millions of Hindus in India eat beef. [2]  The Rig Veda and the later Vedic literature provide evidence that ancient Hindus did so too. [3]  When Hindus later abstained from eating beef centuries later, it was largely because it was deemed a “polluting” food eaten only by outcastes.[4]

In law, British Hindus are citizens who enjoy the same rights to freedom of religion as any other citizen. To ban the note does not promote equality or religious freedom: it promotes a sense of exceptionalism to the rules, encourages others to follow suit, and sanctions all sorts of practices in the name of “religion.”

Notes

[1] This happens where religious beliefs or practices compromise other freedoms like freedom of expression (e.g. the blasphemy row over Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses). It also happens where accommodating a particular religious belief or practice amounts to preferential treatment of that community.

[2] http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/%E2%80%98More-Indians-eating-beef-buffalo-meat%E2%80%99/article16085248.ece.

It is often said the cow is sacred to Hindus because it provides milk, manure etc. Shouldn’t the cow then be sacred in all societies where it provides those goods?

[3] http://www.countercurrents.org/ambedkar050315.htm

[4] Hinduism borrowed the practice of vegetarianism from Jainism and Buddhism which were the dominant religions in India at the time.,

 

Film Review: Muzaffarnagar Baaqi Hai

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Directed by Nakul Singh Sawhney

There was a time when Muslims and Hindus lived together in Muzaffarnagar. Their children played cricket. They celebrated Eid, Holi and Diwali. They worked the fields and sat on farmers’ collectives like the Bharatiya Kisan Union. The town was referred to as “Mohabbatnagar,” the city of love.

In September 2013, however, the Muzaffarnagar and Shamli districts of Uttar Pradesh suffered one of the worst pogroms in modern India’s history. Over 100 people (mostly Muslim) were massacred while more than 80,000 were displaced. Homes were wrecked, mosques were vandalized and dreams turned to dust.

In Muzzafarnagar Baaqi Hai, Sahwney probes the underlying causes of the pogrom. He shows how the BJP (and its agents) instigated the pogrom to win the general election of 2014 which brought Narendra Modi to power. The BJP was assisted in Muzaffarnagar by local Hindu Jats who used the pogrom to seize Muslim property, women and wealth.

Sawhney also unravels the BJP’s strategy in stirring up violence for votes. First, they turn Islamist terrorism into the new bête noire deeming Muslim youths as members of ISIS. Second, they revive the idea that Hindus have been “cheated” with election banners and posters speaking about “struggling” for Hindus. Third, they play on old anxieties of Hindu men about Muslim men stealing Hindu girls through the new “Love Jihad” conspiracy.

Those who survived the pogrom were put into camps. As Sawhney shows, however, the refugees failed to receive adequate provision for food or medical care. When it was discovered that over one hundred children died in the camps due to disease, the government has the camps bulldozed to avoid any unwanted scrutiny.

Muzaffarnagar Baaqi Hai is a difficult film to watch. Sawhney could have reined in the many threads in the documentary (such as the Bharatiya Kisan Union) for a tighter narrative and unity of theme. Still, in giving voice to the unheard and letting us enter their world, Muzaffarnagar triumphs.

Back to the Moment of Promise – ‘Azadi’ (freedom) Series of Art Work by Shahid Mirza

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

azadi-5-shahidmirzaAzadi 5
Sectarian violence.

azadi-6-shahidmirzaAzadi 6
Early faces of hope.

azadi-7-shahidmirzaAzadi 7
Freedom for who?

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

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Azadi Series by Shahid Mirza first Published at Uddari Art, Punjab 1947 & After
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‘What is happening in Palestine is a genocide and we will not allow anyone to bully us into sanitizing our words.’

Uddari supports the following statement
made by Dream Defenders on August 6, 2016.

dreamdefenders

Dream Defenders Statement
on the Condemnation of M4BL Platform
by Some Pro-Israel Groups

On Monday, the Dream Defenders along with 50 other organizations, representing hundreds of Black people across the country launched A Vision for Black Lives, an agenda that clearly defines policies, organizing tactics and resources to advance Black liberation. The platform included a call for the US government to divest from military expenditures and US aid to the State of Israel and instead, invest this war-making money towards building infrastructure to support Black and Brown communities in the US. Since our launch, some Zionist organizations have condemned the platform and have announced that they will cut all ties with the Movement for Black Live, going so far as to label some in the BLM movement anti-semitic.

Their response has made it all the more clear why we stand in solidarity with Palestine and with Black and Brown people around the world fighting for justice.

Those who have previously claimed to be allies of the Black lives matter movement have shown us that they are comfortable with our resistance so long as it fits within particular confines and restrictions. It is convenient to endorse black lives matter when it benefits you. And as long as we stay silent about Israeli apartheid, they will “stand” with Black liberation in the US. Now that our movement has taken a stand against all forms of white supremacy and oppression, Black lives no longer matter. We want no part in this quid pro quo form of politics. True solidarity does not come with strings attached.

We’ve been dealing with this type of hypocrisy with our supposed “allies” for generations. On the American left, there are many wolves in sheeps clothing. You have revealed yourselves. And now that we know who you are, we will not forget.

We remain steadfast in our condemnation of the State of Israel and their illegal occupation of the Palestinian people’s homeland no matter the consequence. Solidarity with Palestine is not a requirement, it is a choice” and is rooted in the basic understanding that the state violence we experience is directly tied to the violence facing Black and Brown communities in Palestine and around the world. While our struggles are not identical, we recognize that we are up against the same systems. What is happening in Palestine is a genocide and we will not allow anyone to bully us into sanitizing our words. In 1948, the State of Israel created a Jewish majority by destroying approximately 500 Palestinian towns and driving over 700,000 Palestinians out of their homeland.  Ethnic cleansing continues today in the form of expulsions, Jewish-only settlements, massive attacks in Gaza and across Palestine, in addition to over 50 Israeli laws that sanction discrimination and apartheid.

As Black and Brown people living in the US, the heart of global empire, we bear a particular responsibility for global liberation. It is our taxpayer dollars that are funding Israeli apartheid and a military industrial complex that is devastating entire peoples and communities throughout the world.  Having an international analysis, means we must call for the divestment of our support of Israeli apartheid and to the wars being waged in Africa, Latin America and throughout the Middle East, just like we are calling for a divestment from the policing of our neighborhoods and incarceration of our people. This is both an ideological and a strategic decision. Resources are needed to advance the Vision for Black Lives platform and there are plenty of resources to be distributed, they are just being spent on waging war against, rather than stabilizing, our peoples.This is why the Dream Defenders believe in Black and Brown solidarity and why we fight for the liberation of Palestine.

We have more work to do now than ever before. In moments like these, we must double down and fight on. Check out A Vision for Black Lives – it is full of information about potential legislative action at the local, state and federal level and campaigns to support our efforts to advance global liberation. Launch a Campaign in support of the Boycott Divest and Sanctions Movement to show the State of Israel that we do not support their oppression of the Palestinian people. If you want to see it for yourself, look to organizations who run delegations with a principled stance that would allow for a real look at the situation on the ground, not a manicured one. Read more about what Black Palestinian solidarity means and looks like here. Do not stay silent. We applaud Jewish organizations like, Jewish Voices for Peace, If Not Now and the Jews of Color Caucus  that have spoken out in this moment in solidarity with the Movement for Black Lives and have called upon others to do the same.

The Dream Defenders remain committed to a world in which ALL people are free. As Black people fighting for our freedom, we are not thugs and our Palestinian brothers and sisters are not terrorists. For the children who are met with tear gas and rubber bullets as they walk home from school, for the families of those we have lost to police violence, for the communities devastated by economic violence and apartheid walls, we fight. To all those who believe in a world in which all people are free, join us. For those who no longer stand with Black people because of this belief, goodbye. We do not need nor want you in our movement.

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Lessons in Remembering

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“Never Forget 1984.” These were the words on a sign outside a Sikh gurdwara in Surrey. The sign was posted to announce the anniversary of Operation Bluestar, the Indian army attack on the holy Sikh precinct between June 3 to June 8, 1984.

Operation Bluestar has not been forgotten. It has been the subject of living-room chats, news coverage, documentaries, history books and gurdwara activities in the years since … so what is it we should never forget?

The gurdwara wants you to remember the cause of Khalistan (‘Pure Land’), a separate Sikh state. Khalistan though has become a “Khaalistan” (’empty land’). Its supporters are now mostly on the fringe. Many Sikhs have left India. Few desire another partition.

… I remember 1984. I just don’t want any part of it.