Finding lost heritage: Pakistan’s Sikh legacy

My Personal Political column in Himal Southasian, Aug 3, 2016, published also in Aman ki Asha and TOI blogs, posted here with additional links and visuals.

Author Amardeep Singh shares a story from his travelogue. Photo: Beena Sarwar

Author Amardeep Singh shares a story from his travelogue. Photo: Beena Sarwar

Finding lost heritage

“If you could visit any place in Pakistan, where would you go?” asks Amardeep Singh whenever he gives a talk to introduce his recently published travelogue Lost Heritage – The Sikh Legacy In Pakistan.

The question, aimed primarily at Sikh members of the audience, invariably elicits two answers: Sikh holy places. Their ancestral village.

It was the same in Boston on June 18, 2016 at the E-5 Center where Amardeep Singh gave his 42nd such talk. He understands the response all too well. After all, he too once had the same “myopic” reasons, as he says, for wanting to go to Pakistan, which he considers his “homeland”, being the land of his ancestors and also where Sikhdom’s holiest sites are located, like Nankana Sahib, birthplace of Guru Nanak, the first Sikh Guru. Continue reading

Author of travelogue on Pakistan’s Sikh legacy experienced “nothing but love” there, grateful for visa

Amardeep Singh-book

Author Amardeep Singh shares a story from his travelogue. Photo: Beena Sarwar

“I experienced nothing but love in Pakistan,” says Amardeep Singh, author of the photo-illustrated travelogue “Lost Heritage – The Sikh Legacy In Pakistan”, published in January 2016 (Himalayan Books).  Continue reading

India/Pakistan: Sedition and blasphemy – Southasia’s déjà vu

Something I wrote last month about how sedition and blasphemy are the two sides of the same hyper-nationalist coin in India and Pakistan. Updated after the tragic bombing at a park in Lahore on Easter Sunday, published in Himal Southasian on March 30, 2016. 

People vote in the February 2008 elections in Lahore Photo: Wikimedia Commons / boellstiftung - Flickr

People vote in the February 2008 elections in Lahore Photo: Wikimedia Commons / boellstiftung – Flickr

From Pakistan there is mixed news. Recent headlines on the country juxtaposed with news from India prompts the thought that the kind of fascism that Pakistanis have been fighting against is now erupting across India. The encouraging news from Pakistan includes its second award at the Oscars, the execution of convicted killer Mumtaz Qadri (arguments against the death penalty notwithstanding) despite the militant rightwing support for him, and the recovery of the kidnapped son of Qadri’s victim Salmaan Taseer, killed for alleged blasphemy. The bad news includes the horrific suicide attack, allegedly by Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan Jamaatul Ahrar, on Gulshan-i-Iqbal Park in Lahore on 27 March 2016.

Continue reading

Two disappearances… and a suicide

Zeenat-%22Quaid and daughter of Quaid%22 2014

Zeenat Shehzadi: “Quaid and daughter of Quaid” – her own caption, 2014.

Tragic news from Salman Lateef, brother of the young Lahore-based journalist Zeenat Shehzadi who was trying to help the Indian national Hamid Ansari in detention in Pakistan and was herself ‘disappeared’ in August 2015. Zeenat and Salman’s younger brother Saddam Hussain, 18 years old, who had been pining for his ‘Api’, killed himself last night – hung himself from a tree near their house. They’ve taken him to Sheikhupura / Manawan for burial after Friday prayers. Can’t bear to think of the parents.

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Another tragedy: Zeenat Shehzadi’s beloved younger brother Saddam Hussain, 18, missed his Api terribly. He took his own life last night.

Salman was beside himself, couldn’t stop crying. He said that Saddam often asked about Zeenat – he was her special favorite and she would never let anyone scold or hurt him. ‘Humarey paeron taley zameen nickal gayi hai, ham barbad ho gaye…inn logon ko kab sharam aye gi…’ (the earth has gone from under our feet, we are destroyed… when will these people feel any shame). He said the police had come to the hospital and taken the family’s statement that Saddam killed himself in despair about Zeenat ‘but who knows what report they’ll make’  Continue reading

#StandwithJNU… “But what about Pakistan?”

I wrote this piece a couple of days ago for Scroll.in on why I, as a Pakistani, am bothered about what’s happening in India – and also what people like me have to deal with from hyper-nationalists on both sides of the border. Also see this post from New Pakistan raising the question of whether the applause in Pakistan for political dissent in India means that such dissent is acceptable in Pakistan too – with reference to the young cricket enthusiast Umar Daraz in Pakistan, arrested for raising an Indian flag. Also see this excellent piece by Rubeena Mahato in Nepali Times raising alarm bells about South Asia’s constricted freedoms.
JNU crisis: But what about Pakistan?

JNU crisis: But what about Pakistan?

 

For the past few days, the row between those who stand for free speech and those who don’t has intensified in India. As a journalist from Pakistan, I stand unequivocally with the students and journalists in India who are being vilified and targeted by hyper-nationalists. In the process, I am getting more than my usual share of nasty comments from Indians – and Pakistanis – on social media. Continue reading

India/Pakistan: ‘Peace is a process, not an event’

My first monthly column for Himal Southasian (Feb 2016 issue), a Kathmandu-based magazine I’ve been associated with since its launch in 1997. The headline derives from something I remember a Naga woman from India saying at a conference I attended in Colombo, Sri Lanka many years ago. I focus my piece on what links the Pathankot and Bacha Khan University attacks, Modi’s Christmas Day visit to Pakistan and beyond – the issue may have died out from the headlines, but remains relevant. Article below with additional links and photos.vxtvfzk
By Beena Sarwar

If Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s stopover in Lahore to meet his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif on 25 December last year came as a surprise, the subsequent militant attack in India barely a week later on 2 January did not. Continue reading

Amateur theatre group from Pakistan tours USA with Partition stories

My article on Islamabad-based group Theatre Wallay’s theatre project ‘Dagh Dagh Ujala’ (This Stained Dawn), that toured the US recently, published in Scroll.in today – Partition retold: A Pakistani theatre group dramatises survivor stories to shatter myths. Below, the unabridged version filed on Oct. 26.

DaghDagh Ujala-Isbd

Scene from the play, Islamabad performance. Photo courtesy: Fizza Hassan

Beena Sarwar

An amateur theatre group in Pakistan has started its tour of the USA with a dramatisation of Partition stories based on interviews of Partition-survivors by group members.

The play’s title Dagh Dagh Ujala’ (This Stained Dawn) refers to the first words of the Urdu poem ‘Subh-e-Azadi’ (Dawn of Freedom) by the acclaimed poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz. Penned in 1947 on the eve of India’s Independence from British rule and its bloody partition, the poem is popular on both sides of the border. Continue reading

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