Fauzia Rafique gets Ali Arshad Mir Award for novella ‘Keerru’

Amjad Salim Minhas, the Publisher of ‘Keerru’, received
the award from Farooq Nadeem in Lahore

Fauzia Rafique’s novella ‘Keerru’
(Sanjh Publications, Lahore 2019)
has received Ali Arshad Mir Award 2020
for the best in Punjabi Literature (prose).
Presented at the 12th Mir Punjabi Mela
organized by Professor Ali Arshad Mir Foundation
and Punjab Arts Council
at Lahore’s Open air Theatre
on December 26-27, 2020.

When i saw Hassan Junaid Arshad’s Facebook message informing me that ‘Keerru‘ has won Ali Arshad Mir Award, i was amazed because it is a tough book to recommend.* Anyone can enjoy reading ‘Keerru’ but in order to recommend it the readers/jurors must be free of prejudices related to not just class, caste and patriarchy but also of religion and sexuality. I know that this is a tall order, but ‘Keerru’ aka the Little Big Book, does it effortlessly in just over a hundred pages. My compliments to the decision makers of this award for choosing it.

This is the complete list of award winners. Congratulations to my peers for excellence in each area.
Fauzia Rafique (Literature, prose)
Dr. Saeed Bhutta (Research)
Hameed Razi (Translation)
Asim Padhiar (Poetry, nazm)
Zafar Awan (Poetry, ghazal)
Abdul Karim Qudsi (Children, poetry)
Dr. Fazeelat Bano (Children, prose)
Mahboob Sarmad (Faith-based, poetry)
Aleem Shakeel was posthumously awarded Ali Arshad Mir Service Award for his contributions to Punjabi literature.

My thanks to jurors, organizers and participants of the 12th Mir Punjabi Mela 2020.

It is delightful that at the end of 2019, both my hometowns, Surrey and Lahore, honored me by recognizing my work; earlier, I had received the City of Surrey’s Arts and Heritage Literary Arts Award.

This is a hopeful beginning for 2021. Happy New Year to us all!

*That is also the reason why I value the reviews of ‘Keerru’ by Qaisar Abbas, Ramsha Ashraf, and Sara Kazmi. Thank you.

Fauzia Rafique
Author of Skeena, The Adventures of SahebaN: Biography of a Relentless Warrior, and Holier Than Life

A scam to remember: Shaheed Bhagat Singh Centenary Celebrations 2008

Rs 1 crore fraud in 2008 during Bhagat Singh’s Birth Centenary Celebrations
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh, 22 March 11

Even as frantic preparations are on these days to make the martyrdom day function of Shaheed Bhagat Singh being held at his ancestral village Khatkar Kalan on Wednesday, a ‘historic’ event, a probe by the Vigilance Bureau has pointed to the embezzlement of nearly one crore from the funds sent by the Union Ministry of Cultural Affairs in 2008 to the state government for the concluding function of Shaheed-E-Azam’s birth centenary which was organized in 2008. The information provided by the Bureau to an NGO, Human Empowerment League of Punjab (HELP) under the Right to Information (RTI) Act reveals how bogus bills were raised in the names of not only the event management and supplier companies but renowned Bollywood artistes also to ‘utilize’ the money. The probe, report of which is under the consideration of Vigilance Bureau chief, is learnt. to have indicted a number of persons including a bureaucrat. The probe was ordered on the complaint of HELP activist Parvinder Singh Kitna.

A whopping Rs 3.05 crore were spent by the organizer Punjab Arts Council (PAC) on the function which was held on September 29, 2008 at Khatkar Kalan, out of which Rs 1.49 crore were spent on lighting, stage, sitting arrangement, tents, green rooms, sound system and power supply, Rs 1.12 crore on calling singers and musicians and Rs 18.53 lakh on television video production besides lavish spending on lodging and transportation. Rs 11.42 lakh was spent on publicity and Rs 2.52 on hospitality.

Vigilance probe has revealed that to provide benefit to a Chandigarh based “The Professionals Stage Management Company”, two fictitious bidding firms were raised which were shown to have quoted higher rates than this company. The investigating team failed to trace these addresses. The PAC engaged G M Entertainment Company to arrange Bollywood artists from Mumbai. The company pretended to have paid the performers (some non performers also) much higher a price than it actually did. Vigilance team, obtained statements of all concerned artists or their promoters to find out that except Pammi Bai, no one else was paid the quoted money. Music director Uttam Singh, for instance was showed to have been paid Rs 20 lakh whereas he was paid Rs one lakh only. Playback singer Udit Narayan, Sadhna Sargam and Punjabi folk singer Daler Mehndi were paid Rs 12 lakh, 10, lakh and 5 lakh respectively in books, but the singers themselves claimed to have received one lakh each. As per bills, actor Ajay Devgan was paid Rs 6 lakh whereas he told the investigating team that he was invited at all for the said function. Daler Mehndi’s manager said the singer was told by the entertainment company that he need not come but who deposited Rs one lakh in his account was not known.

The PAC signed an MOU with another Chandigarh based company ‘Rainbow Entertainment’ to make a documentary on the celebrations for Rs 15 lakh. The record shows three quotations from three firms including Rainbow but the other two companies again came out to be fake. The address given by Rainbow too proved to be false. During the probe, misappropriations were detected in purchase of cloth, flex banners, sign boards, and other miscellaneous items.

Vigilance Bureau also questioned Punjab Art Council chairman Dr Swaran Singh, secretary general Rajpal Singh and executive officer Sham Sunder Sharma. Dr Swaran Singh, who was then principal secretary, Cultural Affairs, said in his reply that the detailed budget estimate was prepared by a team of experts. He revealed that the original project cost was pegged at Rs 6 crore but it was rejected by the Central government following which, the cost was curtailed. He claimed that that the budget estimates and issue of selection of artists were discussed in the Cabinet. Since the organizing committee had not much time at its disposal, a “trustworthy” Karan Brar was asked to assist, he said. Dr Singh argued that in this high-tech era it was not “unusual” to call quotations in a single day.

As for participation of artists, Dr Singh said that the state government had suddenly made up its mind to turn the event into a political function despite the knowledge that pricey performers had been booked and advance paid. It was government’s ‘fault’ and not theirs if they could not perform, he added. “The cultural affairs minister got two stages built instead of one and left every thing topsy-turvy. Although I had technical competence but my advise was not sought”, he said.

Information sent by Harpreet Kaur