Pakistan Connection

About Dr Zafar Cheema I may add to Bhanwar ji’s commendation. Zafar had around ten Ph D scholars researching on Sikhism [2005]. I have met a couple of them in conferences and their awareness as well as ability to relate Sikh precepts in English is impressive.

Dr Cheema chaired the session in which the main presentation was by me. His comments showed the facility of his understanding of Sikh ethos and in several cases he cited ayyats from Quran to buttress his views. An amazingly erudite and helpful person

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‘Munshi Mehboob Alam’s standpoint was that Punjab has two languages.  One is spoken by the unschooled and unsophisticated masses. It is named Punjabi. The other is the language of the refined and educated Punjabis. It is called Urdu. But Urdu is not an alien or borrowed language. It is only the refined and civilized form of Punjabi.’

I think this continues to be the general take in Punjab Pakistan even today. The educated families mostly converse in Urdu even if they happen to be traditional Punjabis and not progeny of migrants from UP etc. A similar trend is emerging in Punjab [India] where school children are speaking in Hindi in increasing numbers. The reason they told me was that in schools they are allowed to speak only in Hindi.

In both parts Urdu and Hindi are the preferred language of the elite – with English in a supra elite position.

This debate wears thin as we move away from the Hindi heartland – which incidentally is nearly the same as the Urdu heartland of earlier days.

Punjab has been at the center of this almost civilization clash between native Hindus and invading Muslims going back several centuries. We cannot however totally term it fallout of this divide. Even in the times of Gurus in spite of the prevalence of Arabic, Farsi and emerging Urdu on one hand the inner language hierarchy preferred by the Punjabi elites seems to have been Farsi, Braj and local language with Sanskrit and Arabic secure in their positions as languages of religious texts.

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It was good meeting you and Meliha ji. Come again and next time let us know and if we are in Delhi, we would welcome you to stay with us.
Hope your return travel was uneventful.

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Attaching a few of the snaps taken at the Gurudwara NANAK SHAHI, DACCA on 16 Dec, 2013 night. After Kirtan, there was Ardass and later tea was served to us all. Our group consisted of 5 visiting Sikh + one Bengali officers and their wives, ADA Couple and the Bangladeshi Military escort with us (Capt Zaman + his team). At present ADA is Sqn Ldr Sidhu from Bathinda, who helped us in having darshan in spite of local strike in town. Special thanks to him for this great favour to us. 

Guru Nanak Dev ji visited the place in 1504 AD, the first seva was done by Bhai Natha ji, on the orders of Sixth master Guru Hargobind Sahib. Gurudwara was burnt during 1971 War. After 1971, S Harbans Singh, Retd IAS officer who was posted at Dacca as Head of International Jute Organisation, did a yeoman service in getting the Gurudwara into present shape. Like in all muslim majority countries, weekly gatherings are on FRIDAY, which is a close day (like our Sunday).  Langar is served after weekly prayers on Friday.

In the pictures attached, one shows a page of ‘hand written’ Guru Granth Sb (1360 pages), which was retrieved from some other place in DACCA after 1971, and is preserved in NANAK SHAHI gurudwara. This ‘bir’ is not used for prakash as it is very old and it’s pages are joined with cello tape (as can be seen from photo). Another picture shows ‘khdaons’ of Guru Nanak Dev ji, which are kept on one side, behind the place, where Guru Granth Sb is installed daily. (Left side, Behind the daily prakash sthan of GG Sb)

There is NO local Sikh population at DACCA and the sevadars are on rotational basis from India. There are disputes between local people managing the Gurudwara and other; which are resolved using our Defence Attache staff. I would request some of you to please bring it to the notice of Gurudwara managements in DELHI / AMRITSAR for the betterment of the place.

There are more Gurudwaras in Bangladesh at places visited by First Guru and Ninth Guru Teg Bahadur ji.

Guru Nanak came to Dhaka by boat, which anchored at Shivpur village in the north of Dhaka. Later it took the name of Rayer Bazar, Dhanmandi and turned Dhanmandi Colony after 1961. He succeeded in winning the innocent hearts of the poor working class of people living in the area. The news that Nanak possessed limitless powers of a real spiritual guru, spread speedily among those people and moved them to come up with due respect for him.

There were ferry ghats, harbours, some godowns and a small market at Shivpur, but acute scarcity of pure drinking water was dragging people towards the grip of diseases and death. Nanak got a well dug at Zafrabad of the village and consecrated it to the welfare of the local people. Later a king came and had a large tank excavated near the well for tourists to bathe there. Led to the belief that diseased man recovered soon after using the water of the well, people used to flock around it with pots to collect holy water from there. According to Dr. Trilochan Singh, an author, the erstwhile Pakistan Government requisitioned the entire area including the well and the tank kept under Sikh supervision till 1959. The government hacked the area into several small plots and leased them out to people for housing. It is learnt that Guru Nanak’s well now lies at House No. 278, Road No. 26, Dhanmandi residential area. The allotee of this plot of land got it for 8,000 taka, constructed a building house there in 1968 and then rented it to the UN employees.  One gurudwara is in the heart of town at Gurudwara Sangat tola – 14 Sreesh Das Lane, Bangla Bazar,  which we could not visit due to internal strife. Guru Teg Bahadur Sb stayed here for two years (1666-68). Gurudwara Nanak Shahi, SYHLET, Gurudwara CHOWK Bazar, Chhitagong (both palces visited by Guru Nanak Dev ji) and Gurudwara Pahar Tali, Chittaging (by Ninth Guru) are other historical Gurudwaras in Bangledesh. Gurudwara at Mymen Singh was constructed by local Sikhs in 1945, who all left after 1947.

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Thanks for your response. In the meanwhile the discussion on GLZ has moved on and as I sit to pen this short note, I am hearing of the 7.4 Richter earth quake that has hit parts of Pakistan a short while back. My prayers for the well being of all!
My sense is that the Sikhs were wrestling with a very complex set of circumstances at the time of partition. The division not only failed to settle many of the potential problems between the two successor Countries but also left the Sikh issues festering.
I have made brief references to the lingering effects of partition on the way Sikhs have related to some of their contemporary issues in my papers. I am attaching a couple of these for your perusal and would value your views on the perspective I have presented.

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I have always found your writings about partition insightful, empathetic and thoughtful.

I was 16 at the time of partition, a student at F C College Lahore for one year 1946-47. I recall reading about the incident about Master Tara Singh that you have referred in the newspaper when I was in the Hostel. This episode is now mostly denied by Sikh historians, but my recollection is that the discord got worse, the riots spread and a few weeks later, we were asked to leave for homes as the Colleges were closed down. Story of what all I experienced and witnessed in the following several months at Rawal Pindi, Hasan Abdal, Solan, Lahore and Delhi is interestingly intriguing but I would leave that for another time.

My main interest in addressing you this letter is your reference to the Sikh perceptions about Nehru, Gandhi vis-a-vis the purported offer by Jinnah. In my relatively simplistic search about the Sikh expectations, options and choices, I sort of came to the conclusion that while Sikhs had notions of some kind of autonomy, they really had not grasped the reality of changes that had taken place from the century before and could not come up with any credible solution.

On further reflection I also concluded that even if the Sikh leadership had been a match for Gandhi or Jinnah, there really was no solution to the Sikh problem even if the historical factors were taken out. Over time therefore I have developed a sort of resigned empathy for what most have termed our leadership ineptitude. You have spent years pondering over these happenings and talked to a lot more knowledgeable people than I would have had the opportunity to. I therefore thought I would ask you to share your sense of what could have been the right thing for Sikhs to ask for, given the hind sight that we have now of the developments and their aftermath.

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