The Dawn: March 21, 2007

Heer in court of law

Shafqat Tanvir Mirza 

ANOTHER resolution for introduction of Punjabi lan guage as medium of instructions at the primary level was passed by a newly-formed organization, Aalami Punjabi Akatth, at its maiden session at the Alhamra on Sunday. The organization owes its existence to Dr Amanullah Khan of Kasur and Mr Karamat Gardezi, both settled in the United States. The first session was to be presided over by Punjab Chief Minister Pervaiz Elahi who has a soft corner for Punjabi. But he could not come because of other pressing engagements. Anyhow organizers of the meeting were not informed about his inability to come over. A.G Josh, the Akatth vice-president, was not happy with the situation and he criticized the Arts Council’s authority for charging Rs32,000 for the use of Alhamra’s hall No 2 for the meeting. The local press was most probably aware that the chief minister was not coming. That was indicated by its absence from the event. The seminar about the language was not covered in the next day’s papers.

The second session was presided over by Senate chairman Muhammadmian Soomro who supported the demand for teaching of Punjabi in schools in the province. He disclosed that his mother was a Punjabi and he had all respect for his mother tongue. This session which included a Mushaira, was covered by the media not because of Punjabi but because of the Senate chairman. Perhaps the media has not been sensitised on the language issue. There is another plausible reason, that most of the Punjabi organizations have no lobby amongst the media people.

Dr Amanullah Khan is a cancer specialist and also a poet. The first collection of his Punjabi poetry was published last year. He, in collaboration with his friends, has been successful in establishing the Akatth but it is as yet not clear how they would go about achieving due status for the language. The only indication on this so far is a comment by stage secretary Prof Jameel Ahmad Pal at the maiden meeting. He said the organization was not political. Maybe, but in Pakistan all demands for rights are labeled as political demands. That Urdu in the primary classes be replaced by Punjabi is a simple and genuine demand but it has always been taken as a political demand. Bengalis demanded national status for their language which was then the language of the majority. This demand was not accepted until a lot of blood was spilled in the streets of Dhaka, in the memory of which a Shaheed Minar was raised, to be destroyed completely in 1971 when Bengalis were up in arms. That is the saddest chapter of the language history in Pakistan.


N the Punjabi literature only I one case has ever been referred to a court of law and that was the case of HeerRanjha. It was unfortunate that under law of necessity, the Qazi of Jhang Maghiana, Maulvi Shamsuddin tried his best to convince Heer that she should accept Saida Khairra of Rangpur (Muzaffargarh) as her husband. Ranjha, a domestic servant of the Sials, the tribe of Heer, was no match to aristocratic Sial family. But Heer refused to accept the advice on which the Qazi (a judge also) forcibly sent her with the Khairras after performing Nikah ceremony without Heer’s consent.

Heer was sent to Rangpur and Ranjha after having some training in jog from the Tilla Balnathh’s jogis went to Rangpur in disguise of a jogi. It was the sister-in-law of Heer, Sehti, who helped the couple to meet and then run away from Rangpur Khairras. In the bargain Sehti, with the help of Ranjha, eloped with her lover Murad Baloch for which Sehti paid tribute to Ranjha:

(before leaving with Murad, Sehti came to thank Ranjha for the help he rendered for Sehti to meet with Murad) And the drop scene came in Rangpur when both the couples left for their destiny The Khairra’s parties rushed to haul up Ranjha and Murad Baloch. The party which pursued Murad was beaten back by the Balochs while Heer-Ranjha were not so lucky. They were stopped by the Khairras and the issue was referred to the court of law by Adali Raja. Again the judge was a Maulvi and according to the Shariat laws ordered that Heer be handed over to her husband Saida Khairra who in Qazi’s view was lawful husband of the Sial’s daughter.

One early version says that the Qazi’s verdict was in favour of Ranjha and the couple went to Arabia where they lived happily. But the popular versions are contrary to that according to which Heer in utter hopelessness prayed in Munir Niazi’s words:

Some invisible characters set the city Kot Qabula on fire and Raja Adali came to know that it was due to Heer’s curse. Raja Adali immediately assessed that the Qazi’s decision was totally wrong, injustice was done to Heer and Ranjha. The people and courtiers also confirmed; that; Raja’s decision cancelled the court decision and according to Waris Shah he handed over Heer to Ranjha.

Is there any Raja Adali in this country today?

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