Thoughts by Bahadar Ali

July 23, 2009

Punjab: Bullets in Bansri (Part 2)

Filed under: Political — bkhan @ 11:58 am

In 1992, for the first time Hindu families of the Ratuwaal were made to realize that their village where they lived for centuries, is no longer a safe place for them. This happened on Feb 5th, 1992 when Kashmir-Solidarity-Day was observed. Almost 200 people under the lead of a local Jumat Islami leader from neighboring Sialkot, invaded the village and demanded that Hindus don’t belong here and they should leave for India. The local Muslim population of the village didn’t like the demands of hooligans and defended their non-Muslim village mates. A fight ensued and outsiders were made to run. They were told that Hindus are as much dwellers of that village as any Muslim does. But this event left a deep scar on the secular face of Ratuwaal history. Please also allow me to interpret the word ‘secular’ As in Pakistan a vast majority considers it equivalent to ‘Atheism’. Infact the secular attitudes are the true teachings of Islam whereby you allow every individual of the society to spend his/her life according to the belief he/she is imparted with. At the same time in a Muslim society it is the responsibility of the society to defend and protect the non-Muslim minority population and their places of worship. But for the sake of record, Ratuwaal didn’t have any Hindu temples or Christian churches.

As the story goes, by the end of 1992, the Hindu population of the village got scared because after the first attempt to eliminate them there were couple of more events of the same nature happened. But after the destruction of the Babri Mosque in Ayodhia by hooligans accross the border, the Hindu men who would go to Sialkot for the employment quit their jobs as they were afraid that someday they will be killed by somebody there. As of now only Five Hindu families are left in that village and that too because of their financial situation didn’t permit them to migrate to India while 18 other families quietly moved across the border and currently living in Jalindhar. There are so many emotional tales that emerged from the migrated families and how they missed their native land but I want to remain confined to post-migration chain of events

Also important to note is that Hindus that moved to India might not have done so had the threat remained external however their prime concern was the local Jihadis who after getting trained from Afghanistan and Kashmiri training camps were on the mission to eliminate Hindus from their own village and neighboring villages of Harpal, Anola, Cylum, Beni Sulehrian, Jodhay Wali, Krishna Vali, Bajira Garhi, Mendowaal, Ramo Chak, Akhnore, Bhalore and Chobara. Their message was simple either convert to Islam or move to India.

Because of relatively thicker Hindu population Ratuwaal was the prime focus of the Jihadis. One night three Hindu girls of this village, Kamlesh Vanti, Lajwanti and Ganga were abducted. The local police station failed to register a case against perceived kidnappers. Three days later the news was broken that abducted girls have converted to Islam. On this occasion one of the Jihadi group distributed sweets in the village and aerial shots were fired. But this was not true. The unfortunate reality of this episode, almost two weeks later ended with a sorry ending. Two of the abductees committed suicide and one of them fled to Peshawar with her husband.

Now something about the the only Ahmedi family of Ratuwaal which faced a different fate. The head of that family was a school teacher and a widely respected person of the village. The day he died one of the Jihadi outfit, obtained fatwa and distributed the literature in the village that an Ahmedi cannot be buried in a graveyard for Muslims. In favour of this another Jihadi group staged an armed protest and declared that if the deceased was buried in the local grave yard, he will be exhumed (out of the grave) and his body would be set on fire. Seeing this his grieving family quietly took his body and moved to Rabwa where he was buried and the family got a house on rent and opted to settle there.

After seeing this, the most poverty sticken Christian families had other reasons to worry about. Especially they were scared because of the events of Gujranwala and Sumandri where some Christians were murdered by the crowd because allegedly they committed blasphemy. Also they had seen the fate of Hindu and Ahmedi families of their village already. Hence, majority of them, who could afford, moved to urban centers like Lahore and Fasialabad.

Currently there are three mosques and one Imam Bargah in Ratuwaal and the young khateeb of main mosque gladly tells everybody that, Alhamdolillah, Ratuwaal is now almost a complete Muslim village and most of the minorities have left the village while remaining will follow the course.

( Continued ….)

( Adapted and translated from Urdu for wider audience)

July 22, 2009

Punjab: Bullets in Bansri (Part 1)

Filed under: Political — bkhan @ 12:35 pm

The rural Punjab has gone through a subtle but certainly very conspicuous change during the last two decades. The ‘new’ Punjab doesn’t resonate with its traditional and historical composition, as it used to be known for its friendliness, easy going, open mindedness and secular attitudes of life. The emerging trends reflect the geo-political developments taking place around its periphery. These trends encompass the rigid attitudes, intolerance of dissention and cynicism. Though change is a compulsory human trait but the problem with this change is its unnatural progression and non-indiginousness. The new ways of life almost entirely are caused by the outside factors and alien forces whose thoughts remained foreign to the local mind set.

Another unfortunate factor is the complicity of the State to permit and encourage the new values which are placed under the banner of puritinzation of faith or indoctrination of the belief-set to the extent of dragging it towards orthodoxy. Though this change was primarily designed for urban areas of Pakistan in general and Punjab in particular. However, as time and events proved later, its pervasiveness remained limited in urban centers and city-dwellers couldn’t appreciate the new and vigorously disseminated ideals. But the case of rural Punjab against this onslaught turned out otherwise. It proved more fertile in this regard and subscribed to the new ideals more easily. This change wasn’t difficult to feel but as most of the intellectuals mainly stayed focused on the developments in the urban areas, they ignored this mini-revolution that turned the existing ways of life in Punjabi villages and the inhabitants of small towns.

To cater to nostalgia I must say that the Punjab we find in the pictures of Usataad Allah Bakhsh and the Punjabi movies of the 1970’s decade, is there no more. (Please don’t mix the films of 70s with the ‘gandasa’ style movies of 80s). The new culture and its values have completely replaced the old ones. It has overshadowed Punjab’s traditional softness, its folklore and the message of the great Sufi poets. Now, the imaginative visualization of the new Punjab doesn’t hold any more traditional sweet melodies of the pipe (bansri not fiddle), rather it has been replaced with the echoes of boom and sensation caused by the passing Klashinkov bullets. The sweet ‘mahia and tappa’ culture is switched with the loud sectarian and jihadi sermons blasting from the powerful loud speakers of the newly and rapidly constructed mosques and madrassas.

These new realities are pointing towards the similar dangerous and emerging trends as the ones already set in motion in the tribal and settled areas of NWFP, whereby life has been confined to my way or highway hypothesis. The state of Pakistan seems powerless to undo new and painful realities of tribal mindset blended with religious orthodoxy despite its change of heart towards its erstwhile so-called ‘strategic assets’.

To understand this phenomenon, I have chosen a small village in Punjab and will try to narrate the changes that it has gone through. The village Ratuwall in district Sialkot was a similar kind of village where Punjabi traditions as described, prevailed. As per legend this village was started by two Hindu brothers Ratta and Paal almost three hundred years ago. After the partition this village become part of Pakistan by a narrow margin of 200 yards, where by the Line of Control passes through. Till 1990 there were 77 Muslim, 23 Hindu, eight Christians and one Ahmedi family lived there. Among the 77 Muslim families there were 60 Sunni Brelvi and 17 Shia families. This village had exemplary peace and religious tolerance. Among the Hindu families, one family were land holders while remaining 22 Hindu families would work for Muslim land owners. Some of the Hindu community men would go to the nearby Sialkot where they were employed by the sports goods manufacturers. For three hundred years of its history nobody has witnessed any event which can be counted as religious intolerance or hatred.

( Continued ….)

Published in Daily THE NEWS of Jully 22, 2009

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