14 August, 2009

1947 Partition: Unhealed Wounds

105-year-old Ishar Singh, whose family was separated during the Partition of Punjab and India in 1947, has had a life-long wish: to see his daughters before he closes his eyes forever.

Prior to the Partition, Ishar Singh, who now lives in Jammu - in 1947, part of a united Punjab - had a happy family living in what is now in West Punjab (Pakistan), but the line of separation that bisected the sub-continent, also divided his family.

On the fateful day, Ishar Singh, a transporter, was on the Indian side and his wife - along with their seven children, including four sons and three daughters - was still on the Pakistani side of the border.

"I tried to locate them and get them back but all my efforts turned futile, as now they had become citizens of Pakistan," said Ishar Singh.

It was not an uncommon story - those left behind became hostages and were forced to convert to Islam.

His family in Pakistan ,too, had no choice but to convert to Islam. Later, his sons immigrated to the United States where Ishar Singh was able to meet them many years later.

His three daughters still live in Faisalabad, in Pakistan.

In 1975, after 28 years of struggle, he got a chance to visit Lahore, Pakistan, where he met his daughters.

Thirty-four years have passed since then, but because of visa restrictions, he could not visit them again.

"We lost so many people and so many families were separated by the partition. For the past six decades, I have not been able to sleep comfortably, as I miss my family," said Ishar Singh.

Not only Ishar Singh himself, but also his daughters in Pakistan have been struggling hard to meet their father. Every time they apply for a visa, their request has been turned down.

"They, too, want to meet their father. They tried hard to get visas but whenever they applied, they were refused," said Satwant Kaur, daughter-in-law of Ishar Singh.

Though the relations between the two nations were strained, this father still has a hope that before he closes his eyes, he will get a chance to meet his daughters.

People like Ishar Singh who live by such hope have been praying every day of their lives for the improvement of relations between the two nations.

Courtesy: TNS

Also visit Partition of 1947

Afghanistan's marginalised Hindus

Above: Linga with one face (Ekamukhalinga), Shahi period, 9th century Afghanistan. Marble; H. 22 7/16 in. (56.8 cm) Rogers Fund, 1980 (1980 . 415)

The Guardian, 2nd August, 2009

Reza Mohammadi

Despite its long history in the country, Afghanistan's Hindu minority has been pushed to the fringes of society

Perhaps Radha wasn't the most beautiful girl in Afghanistan. But such were this Hindu girl's looks and kindness that all of Kabul's bachelors fell in love with her. Her fame was such that the people of Kabul composed a famous song for her. The song says: "We have made Lala promise not to cremate Radha". Nearly 80 years later, this song is still sung in Afghanistan. Lala, meaning brother, is the term Afghans use to refer to Hindus. In the song, the people ask Lala not to cremate Radha's beautiful body after her death, as is required by Hindu tradition.

During the reign of King Amanullah Khan (1919-1928) Radha's father, Ranji Das, was finance minister, a role that had long been filled by the Hindus of Afghanistan. But the growth of religious fundamentalism has now pushed the Hindus out of government offices, forcing them into the bazaars. It is now many years since a Hindu held a government post in the country. But they are still running a major part of the Afghan bazaars, and come second in trading medical products.

Overlooking Kabul is a mountain called Asmayi. The name is apparently a Hindu term, deriving from the godess Asha. Today, the mountain has become the largest pilgrimage centre for Hindu worshippers. According to a Hindu tale, an eternal fire burns at the summit of Asmayi, a fire which has refused to die out for 4000 years. There are two other centres of worship in Kabul, the Harshari Natha temple in Kabul's Baghban Kucha, and the Shorbazaar Temple. These are Kabul's oldest temples, where Hindus celebrate divali and naradatar. They are also the meeting places of the Sikh and Hindu religious associations. In addition to these, Kabul today has many other newer and larger temples scattered in different parts of the city.

According to Professor Rajesh Kochhar's book, The Vedic People, Afghanistan is one of the oldest Hindu centres of the world. Kochhar says that a large part of Rigveda was written in Afghanistan, with Helmand and Arghandab being mentioned as sacred rivers in both the Rigveda and Mahabharata. The Surya temple, dedicated to the god of sun, and the Yogi of Panjshir, which represents a worshipper turned into stone, north of Kabul, are both ancient Hindu sites. And yet, if foreigners were to travel to Afghanistan today, they would encounter so few Hindus that they would assume the Hindus are either from elsewhere or recent immigrants. They would encounter a community that is neither playing its part in politics nor getting involved with the rest of the world.

Hindus are clearly among the oldest inhabitants of Afghanistan. They are the native people, whom Islamic fundamentalism has turned into unprotected strangers. Strangers, who this year found themselves forced to argue for days with Muslims in the centre of Kabul in order to be allowed to cremate their dead in line with their tradition. Strangers who never dare to send their children to school for fear of mockery.

In February 2001, during the Taliban's reign, Hindus found themselves forced to wear a distinguishing yellow stripe on their arm. Even though the Taliban have been removed, Abdurrab Rasul Sayyaf, presently an MP in Karzai's administration, has expressed a similar opinion on TV:

The Sikhs and Hindus of Afghanistan are considered part of the dhimmi in line with sharia law. The government has an obligation to protect them but they are required to pay a poll tax. They can hold civilian occupations, such as doctors, but they cannot be in charge of a governmental body or office. Upon meeting a Muslim, a Hindu is required to greet the Muslim first. If a Muslim is standing and there is a chair, the Hindu is not allowed to sit down on the chair.

According to MP Anarkali Honaryar, a representative of Sikhs and Hindus in the Afghan parliament, the majority of the country's 200,000 Sikhs and Hindus are now living abroad, and the number of people leaving Afghanistan for India, Europe and or Pakistan grows by the day.

Friends of Afghanistan's cultural heritage increasingly fear that these ancient inhabitants of the country might one day meet with the same fate of other peoples of Afghanistan, including Jews and Buddhists, and so vanish from the the country altogether.


02 August, 2009

Police complaint filed against Emran Hashmi

Times Now, 2nd August, 2009

In a new twist to the episode of alleged religious profiling involving Emran Hashmi, a police complaint has been filed against the actor, who had claimed that he was denied a house because he was a Muslim, accusing him of promoting enmity between different communities.

The complaint, filed by a social activist and the executive member of National Youth Committee of BJP leader Sanjay Bedia with D B Marg police station here last night, has accused Hashmi and noted filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt of various offences under IPC, Bedia's lawyer Ketan Mehta said.

Bedia claimed that Hashmi had not entered into any agreement with the house owner or even paid a token amount to him. The actor had "unnecessary" raked up the issue of NOC saying it was refused by the housing society only because he was a Muslim, the BJP leader said.

"We are upset over his allegations which have been denied by the housing society," said Bedia.

Hashmi has been accused of promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion by his acts under Sections 153-A and of deliberate and malicious acts with an intention to outrage the religious feelings (Section 295-A).

He has also been accused of giving false information to authorities to initiate legal action under Section 177 and for lodging false complaint to initiate the authorities to take action under Section 182. Mahesh Bhatt has been charged with section 120-b (conspiracy) and 34 (common intention).

The complaint was also lodged against him because he had supported Hashmi by issuing statements in the media, Mehta said.