by: Shafqat Tanwir Mirza

Dawn Lahore Edition


A FIVE-day international Punjabi conference was held at Chandigarh towards the end of December. The conference decided to set up a new organization, the World Punjabi Foundation, it will. start working soon. Ms Afzal Tauseef a writer and a columnist has been nominated as the convener of the Pakistani chapter of the foundation. Ms Afzal accompanied a 35-members delegation from Pakistan, including senior journalists and intellectuals, Abdullah Malik, Hameed Akhtar, Ahmad Bashir and Anwar Ali, while among the younger journalists were Tanvir Zahur, Feica the cartoonist, Shaista Nuzhat and Tauqir Chughtai. The conference was attended by 500 writers and intellectuals from 20 countries.

In a resolution passed by the conference governments of Pakistan and India were urged to ease visa restrictions for the two Punjabs which have heavily suffered because of partition and wars in the last 54 years. No other area of South Asia had gone through the destruction which the Punjabs had to face. Even now when there is calm on the borders the citizens of the two Punjabs cannot directly travel across Wagha. Transport is routed through Delhi and the Pakistani delegates could not travel by the Samjhota Express or the Dosti Bus service between Lahore and Chandigarh through the Punjabi Suba.

One may recall the recent visit of the Sikhs to the Nankana Sahib on the eve of Guru Nanak's anniversary when thousands of them were refused visas and they demonstrated against the Indian government on the Wagha border. Delhi has always played a negative role in the affairs of the Punjab both in the Mughal and British periods and also in Nehru and Indira Gandhi's Congress years. It were not the Punjabis who had stormed the Darbar Sahib in Amritsar. It was Mrs Indira Gandhi. One must not forget what the Aryans did to the original Darawars of the Indus Valley. It were Muslim invaders like Nadir Shah and Ahmad Shah Abdali and his sons and grandsons who weakened the Delhi rulers and again it was Shah Zaman who handed over the keys of the city of Lahore to Rarijit Singh who later took a very strong stand against the invading British. The latter could not conquer the Punjab in his lifetime while they had already humbled the Mughal emperor in Delhi. It was Delhi about which the war poem on Nadir Shah says:
Dilli manshariey, rat dharri bowai, Toon mass khaen raj puttran, jion bakarqasai.
It is not the fault of the city but of the rulers who ruled over South Asia from Delhi.
This main theme, according to Mr Fakhar Zaman, head of the Pakistan delegation, was the main theme of the Chandigarh conference held under the auspices of the Punjab Arts Council. Other themes included Punjabiat, Pakistani Punjabi literature, challenges to Punjabi culture, reshaping the history of the Punjab, recognition of the Punjabi language at international level, contribution made by Punjabis in medicine, agriculture, economics, literature, the fine arts and the cinema. The following were declared people of the millennium: 1 K Gujral, Dilip Kumar, Fakhar Zaman, Surinder Kaur, Ramanand Sagar, Gulzar, Dr Marwah, Dr Surinder Hara, Kanwarjeet Sandhu, Kartar Singh Duggal and Khushwant Singh.

One wonders where do stand amrita Preetam, Allama Iqbal, Amrita Sher Gill, Bhagat Singh, Dr Abdus Salam, Ayub Chakwali and many others. They were the sons of the Punjab and great poets like Khwaja Farid, Man Muhammad Bukhsh and Maulvi Ghulam Rasul. One cannot understand the philosophy behind the "people of the millennium" awards.

The Sikhs of east Punjab got worried when the Congress refused to help them realize their dream about the revival of their nation-state while the Hindus and the Muslims won the separate states. This created a sense of frustration among the Sikhs which has manifested itself in different forms. Even the Khalistan movement is one of the manifestations of that frustration. Even Master Tara Singh, the rabid religious and political leader of the Sikhs, while visiting Hasan Abdal. confessed that the stand of the Sikhs on partition of the Punjab was wrong. So far as the Muslim League is concerned, its leader, Muhammad Ali jinnah, was ready to accept the Cabinet Mission plan for 10 years. Now it is the historical duty of the Muslims and the Sikhs to find the culprits who afflicted such miseries on the Punjab and the Punjabis.

The point of concern for the Sikhs of the Punjabi Suba is that in some of the important cities of their province, they are rapidly losing their majority. Ludhiana is one of such places which, before partition was beautifully portrayed by Anwar Ali in his autobiographical book, Cavachian Gallan. Hameed Akhtar in his recent Urdu columns has narrated the Muslims' flight from Ludhiana when they had to face the worst form of religious frenzy.

The state of Bihar provides the cheapest agricultural and untrained industrial labour which the Punjabi Suba is in dire need of. They have come over to the Suba and settled there while the Sikhs are more interested in migrating to European and American countries, leaving a vacuum to be filled by cheap labour from Bihar. Concern on this changing cultural and demographic patterns was also expressed in the conference, mainly by the Sikhs. The issue was not discussed officially but the Sikhs were very worried about the situation. But neither can they stop their compatriots from migrating to foreign countries nor can they block the way of the Biharis and others against whom the Sikhs nurse a historical grouse. It were the Poorbis who under the command of the British conquered the Lahore Darbar. They were contemptuously named as "Hindostanis."

The Punjabis from India settled in foreign countries are more conscious of their cultural problems and this awareness has led them to start the publication of a Punjabi newspaper, International Punjabi News from six different places, London, Jullunder, Vancouver, Los Angeles, Toronto and New York. The Multimedia Corporation, London, supplies news to ten dailies of Punjabi, English, Hindi and Urdu and it has a network of reporters in over 20 cities of South Asia, North America, Europe and South-East Asia. The paper will make its debut soo.