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Pardes Hoya Pardes

A recent article carried by Asian News International claims that many Pardesi Punjabis are sending their children back to Punjab for education. Citing Christian evangelism in places such as Canada, a desire to ‘imbibe Punjabi values and tradition,’ and learning the Punjabi language were all reasons why some parents have decided to send their children to school in Punjab.

stamp.jpgOne particular school in Gurusar Sudhar Village (Ludhiana), Jatindera Greenfield School, seems to be catering to the needs of these pardesi Punjabi students. Boasting of a “Western” style curriculum, students are said to engage with computers, crafts, and languages. A preliminary Google search of the school cited a tree plantation camp and a kindergarten clay-modeling contest.

In the past, I remember parents would often threaten to send their children to Punjab if they misbehaved. I can think of a number of children still in Punjab for this very reason. Still others pardesi Punjabis would send their children to India’s most prestigious school as America, Canada, UK, etc. provided them the means to gain access for their children. So my question, would you consider sending your kids to school in Punjab? Why or why not? Is this some misplaced romanticism or is this a real alternative? What would be the positives and what would be the drawbacks?

Updated: Failed Assassination Attempt on Dera Sacha Sauda Cult Leader

Earlier today, Gurmeet Ram Rahim narrowly escaped an assassination attempt when someone from a truck passing by his motorcade threw an explosive object.

derasachasauda.jpgWhile members of his entourage were injured, the Dera Sacha Sauda leader walked away unscathed. The rumor mills are buzzing and expect the words “RDX” and “Pakistan” to soon circulate. What seems to be completely missing from the coverage in terms of the timing was the recent directive by the Punjab and Haryana High Court calling the state of Punjab not to file a chargesheet in the case registered against Gurmeet Ram Rahim at Bathinda a few weeks ago. Badal was using the Punjab and Haryana High Court’s directive to wiggle himself out of upholding the Sikh masses’ pressure after the Jathedars had to call an emergency meeting last year at Takht Dam Dama Sahib announcing that if the Punjab Government failed to act, the Sikhs would be “forced to act against the Dera” and would commence all social boycott.

From newspaper reports, GT Road has been flooded with his followers and closed down. Unfortunately, expect clashes and a brutal random round up by the police within the next three days. (See earlier “joke” about this issue)


Two men, Mohinder Singh and Swaran Singh, have been apprehended in connection to Saturday’s failed assassination attempt against the Dera Sacha Sauda leader. Another man, Bakshish Singh, has been implicated and it is not yet known whether the police have already apprehended him or if he is eluding their capture. (One is never quite sure with the draconian Punjab Police)


Patchwork towards Justice

There is a fascinating article in this week’s Wired Magazine. The article discusses a new software that is being developed by German computer scientists that may be able to take shredded documents and piece them together. Before the Berlin War came down, the East German Secret Police, the Stasi (there is a wonderful highly-recommended movie about this) created huge dossiers on its citizens. In this surveillance-state, government conformity was maintained through fear, paranoia, and torture, if required. These huge dossiers have since been made open to the public, but just prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall, Stasi workers made an effort to destroy the documents. However, even these may not be beyond recovery:

kps_gill.pngThe machine-shredded stuff is confetti, largely unrecoverable. But in May 2007, a team of German computer scientists in Berlin announced that after four years of work, they had completed a system to digitally tape together the torn fragments. Engineers hope their software and scanners can do the job in less than five years — even taking into account the varying textures and durability of paper, the different sizes and shapes of the fragments, the assortment of printing (from handwriting to dot matrix) and the range of edges (from razor sharp to ragged and handmade.) “The numbers are tremendous. If you imagine putting together a jigsaw puzzle at home, you have maybe 1,000 pieces and a picture of what it should look like at the end,” project manager Jan Schneider says. “We have many millions of pieces and no idea what they should look like when we’re done.”

The implications for this project are tremendous. On the Big Brother side, citizens may be worried that even after shredding vital personal information, it may still be recoverable. However, keeping Big Brother in check may also be possible.

“People who took the time to rip things up that small had a reason,” Nickolay says. “This isn’t about revenge but about understanding our history.” And not just Germany’s — Nickolay has been approached by foreign officials from Poland and Chile with an interest in reconstructing the files damaged or destroyed by their own repressive regimes.


Sikhi, Light, and Social Activism

Recently, when I was watching Shaheed Jaswant Singh Khalra’s speech that he gave at a Gurdwara in Toronto in 1995, I found his metaphor of Light and Darkness particularly inspirational for social activist. He said (English translation of Panjabi),

“There is a fable that when the Sun was setting for the first time, as it was completing its journey, light was decreasing and the signs of Darkness were appearing. jyot.gifIt is said, lamentation was rife amongst the people that the Sun will set, Darkness will spread, no one will be able to see anything, and what will happen to us? Everybody was worried, but the Sun set. In order to show its strength, Darkness set its foot on the earth, but it is said – far away, in some hut, one little Lamp lifted his head. It proclaimed, “I challenge the Darkness. If nothing else, then at least around myself, I will not let it settle. Around myself I will establish Light.” And it is said, watching that one Lamp, in other huts other Lamps arose. And the world was amazed that these Lamps stopped Darkness from expanding, so that people could see. I believe, today when Darkness is trying to overwhelm Truth with full strength, then if nothing else, self-respecting Panjab, like a Lamp, is challenging this Darkness. And I pray to the Guru, who identifies with Truth to keep this light lit.”

Even though Shaheed Jaswant Singh Khalra was talking about all those individuals who make-up Panjab and were fighting against the Darkness of the lies prepuatated by the Indian State and were trying to spread the Light of Truth about the murders during the 1980s and 1990s, I would like to extend this metaphor to talk about local and global social activism. As Shaheed Jaswant Singh Khalra said about the Lamp, “I challenge the Darkness. If nothing else, then at least around myself, I will not let it settle. Around myself I will establish Light.” I believe our activism needs to start locally … we need to start with spreading Light around our local communities and preventing Darkness from engulfing them. Too often I have seen activism begin globally, but have little effect locally because we fail to understand how global issues take a unique form in the local context. Therefore, with little knowledge of the local context we try to implement global solutions that mean very little and let Darkness spread. Don’t get me wrong, I think the global and local should constantly be in dialogue and inform each other, but solutions are based on local implementation. As we become more strategic and effective at local implementation, I think we can inspire more Lamps to spread the light around themselves and begin to build local activism into a larger global social movement with practical solutions.

Also, as Shaheed Jaswant Singh Khalra spoke about how one Lamp arose and inspired other Lamps to also arise, I began to think how social activism is a form of seva which makes it a crucial component of our spiritual journey as Sikhs. To some degree, I kept equating the Lamp and it’s Light to the Divine Light that resides in all of us. As Sikhs, our spiritual journey is based on seeing the Divine Light (jyot) of Truth in others and ourselves. It is this recognition that makes us act. We act to fight the Darkness (i.e. injustice) that engulfs and dims the Divine Light in people and ourselves. As we allow this process to take place, our individual and communal Divine Light becomes more visible, larger, and stronger in fighting Darkness (i.e. injustice).

What does everyone else think?

Farmer suicides continue…

A couple of years ago, in the farmer suicide capital of Punjab (Sangrur-Mansa belt), the first People’s Tribunal on farmers’ suicides took place, organized by the Human Rights Law Network and the Voluntary Health Association of Punjab. Word got out about the tribunal by word of mouth and women traveled to Lehragaga, Sangrur by bus and foot to have their stories heard and recorded.

farmer-suicides.jpgAs people from 10 villages spoke of how their families had witnessed double, even triple, suicides in a year, everyone knew of the havoc debt and unsustainable agricultural practice had wreaked on farmers in the state.

So they spoke fearlessly, revealing shocking details. National Samples Organisation data shows “whereas the average annual loan taken by farmers in India is Rs 13,000, the corresponding figure for Punjab is Rs 40,000.” It also shows that around 40 per cent Indian farmers want to quit farming due to the cost it involves.

Why are farmers in such debt? Agriculture is no longer the profitable livelihood it once was, yet many do not have the skills or education to turn to other forms of livelihood.


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