The Dawn: 13th July, 2013

Sethiís gestures for the good of Punjabi

Mushtaq Soofi 

Caretaker chief minister of Punjab Najam Sethi. — File Photo.

Najam Sethi, after taking over as the care taker chief minister of Punjab, took some measure galvanizing the cultural scene that would have attracted little attention in the normal circumstances but as we all know, we do not live under normal circumstances in the cultural sense.

Thus his action is being perceived as very significant in view of the self- induced cultural amentia the Punjab suffers from. In order to appreciate the implications of his cultural activism we need a perspective. The Punjab these days seems to be a cultural wasteland despite having more than 5,000 years glorious history. In view of our intellectual inertia, it will seem hard to believe that it was Punjab that created what we call civilization of the subcontinent as a result of confrontation and interaction between the Dravidians and Arya.

It was Punjab where the Rig-Veda was composed or revealed to the ‘Rishis’, the sages. It was the universally celebrated Taxila University in the Punjab where great Panini wrote his Ashtadhyayi, the first book on linguistics and Chanakya Kautilya his famous Arthshastra, analyzing the dirty but real secrets of stat-craft for the first time in the recorded human history.

Ghandhara in Punjab produced some of the finest pieces of sculpture. And again it was Punjab that laid the foundations of synthetic Hindu Muslim culture after the arrival of Arabs from the south and that of Turks from the north, leaving indelible imprint on our collective life.

The visible sign of our cultural deterioration and decline is the disowning or rejection of our language by our elite, wallowing in its self created arrogant ignorance. If you lose language, the most vital element of culture, you are destined to lose your culture as it is language that enduringly preserves and transmits collective memory from generation to generation. Not just that! Language is a mode of thinking and each language has a mode of thinking specific to it. So by losing your language you lose your intellectual and spiritual evolution as well as your specific way of thinking.

The rot, as far as our language is concerned, started after the annexation of the Punjab by the British in mid-nineteenth century. The British colonial administration deliberately demolished the vast network of indigenous system of education. The use of the Punjabi, the Persian and the Sanskrit was almost banned in the new European type schools set up by the colonialists where English was adopted as medium of instruction for upper class and Urdu for middle and lower classes. Soon after the demolition of old educational infra structure, Punjabis were declared illiterate and ill cultured as Dr GW Leitner, one of the most celebrated linguists and educationists, pointed out in his famous survey known as ‘A report on education in the Punjab’. According to Leitner’s findings Punjab was not only most literate in the entire subcontinent but also had the highest female literacy rate.

Back to Shafqat Tanvir Mirza's  Page

Back to Column's Page

BACK TO APNA WEB PAGE