Category Archives: Minorities

The Lights of Lahore: A Cartography of Loss

This article was written by Farha Noor for Coldnoon.com

Ae roshnion ke shahar
Kaun kahe kis simt hai teri roshnion ki raah
Har jaanib be-noor khadi hai hijr ki shaharpanaah
Thak-kar har soo baith rahi hai shouq ki maand sipaah

Oh city of lights
Who could say in what direction is the road to your lights?
On every side stand the unlit city-walls of banishment:
Weary, in every direction, the exhausted army of ardour is sitting (Faiz Ahmed Faiz, trans. by V. G. Kiernan)

 

I went to Lahore in search of a dead woman – a woman who belonged, more in death than in life, to this city she decided to make her own. I went to know about the unknown, to throw some light on the darkness of her past. In belonging to a city in death, one often imparts life to the city itself. My journey to Lahore made me realise much more than I could imagine: that the search for the dead can often lead one to many more deaths, to being trapped within the apparition of an illuminated city that thrives on darkness. For me, Lahore now translates into an enigmatic sense of loss. It is a loss that is not mine, that would never be mine, that could never have been mine. I am an outsider, a mere traveller. Yet, it is this loss that reaches out, connecting dots on the map of Lahore, darker than any other line. It is this loss that I have gained. It is this loss I accidentally inherited as I went astray in the glittering alleys and gardens of the ruining city I thought I escaped. Continue reading

160 Bhagat Singh files lie in oblivion in Lahore

This article was originally posted here

Even more than eight decades after Bhagat Singh and his comrades’ martyrdom, an important bunch of files related to their trial in the Lahore Conspiracy Case are lying in oblivion in Lahore.

More than 160 files titled ‘Crown vs Sukh Dev, Lahore Conspiracy Case 1929-1931′ are lying behind closed lockers in the Punjab Archives in Lahore, Pakistan. According to sources, no international scholar on Bhagat Singh so far has been allowed to access them.
Amarjit Chandan, London-based poet and independent researcher on Bhagat Singh, who has tried to access those files numerous times in the past said that these files are of immense historical importance as they are from a special tribunal, which was formed for Bhagat Singh and his comrades’ trial. “I myself went to the Lahore Archives and there are many academics who have tried to access the files. I was shown just one file and my request was turned down to take a copy of the catalogue of the collection,” he said.

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Dateline Liberty Chowk Lahore

This article was originally posted on The Nation

salman taseer6

By Marvi Sirmed

If you want to commit suicide, all you have to do is defend a persecuted non-Muslim in a case of alleged blasphemy. The slain Governor of the Punjab decided to stand up for the rights of a downtrodden woman from the persecuted Christian community booked under a case of purported blasphemy. He became liable to be killed.
So told us scores of Barelvi (and some Shia) ‘muftis’ and a TV anchor-lady back in 2009. Taking an informed and brave decision, Taseer chose to go ahead with the cause. Result: he lost his life, left us in obscurity to deal with the madness, the killer became a hero and a large chunk of media and so called intelligentsia busied themselves in justifying what was a brutal broad day-light murder.
Remembering him, and remembering him with reverence has been an act of resistance ever since his guard assassinated him in 2011. Like every year, this year too we planned to hold a quiet vigil in his remembrance and to pay tribute to his struggle on the day of his martyrdom. Already in Lahore for a personal trip, I thought to join fellow activists here while requesting comrades to hold similar events in Karachi and Islamabad.
We were able to pull off tribute-vigils in Mirphur Khas, Multan, Bahawalpur, Larkana and Hyderabad in addition to Karachi, Islamabad and Lahore. Everywhere they went well with small chunks of progressive citizenry who have always afforded threats to their lives while standing up for the rights of weaker communities and for democracy and justice. The vigils went smoothly everywhere, even in the restive and unpredictable Karachi. Lahore became the odd-man-out. Continue reading

Sikh Maharaja Sher Singh’s baradari in pity condition

This is a three year old report from the Sikh Sangat News being posted in Lahore Nama as very little difference has been made since then. Sher Singh Baradari is being ruined like many other Sikh era relics.

Sher-Singh-baradari

Lahore, Pakistan: Proposed conservation plan of Parks and Horticulture Authority (PHA) to preserve an important historical monument of 19th century Baradari of Sher Singh is in doldrums due to lack of funds and the existing structure can collapse any time, TheNation has learnt.

The sources said that the Archeology Department had prepared a feasibility report for the conservation and renovation of the Baradari’s structure on the request of PHA about three months back with the estimated amount of Rs 22 million. They further said that PHA also allocated Rs 32 million for the preservation of historical monument and also adjacent garden but despite lapse of three moths, the department could not manage the amount.
The monument, which is surviving with skeleton, was declared protected under Antiquity Act 1975 but not a single plan had been carried out to preserve it.

It may be mentioned here that the monument was badly damaged and set on fire by an angry mob in 1992 in retaliation to the demolition of the Babri Mosque in India and at that time the people had taken its precious wooden doors, as informed by the locals. Continue reading

When Jews found refuge in an unlikely place: Pakistan

Growing Up Jewish in Lahore — And in an Internment Camp

Kahan

From left, Hazel Kahan, her mother Kate, and her brother Michael, in Lahore, Pakistan, in 1948. / Photo by Hazel Kahan / The Forward

By Gabe Friedman

 

When Hazel Kahan went back to Lahore, Pakistan, in 2011 for the first time in 40 years, her childhood homes were completely different. Her first home, formerly a tan stone mansion covered in flowery vines, was now completely painted in white and inhabited by the Rokhri family, one of Pakistan’s most powerful political clans. Her second home, where her parents had run a medical clinic, had become the Sanjan Nagar Institute of Philosophy and Arts.

After living in England, Australia and Israel, and having worked in market research in Manhattan for years, Kahan, 75, now lives in Mattituck, on the North Fork of Long Island. She produces interviews for WPKN radio in Bridgeport, Connecticut, and has recently begun discussing her family history in public presentations, telling a story that illustrates how complicated citizenship and allegiances were for Jews during and after World War II in Pakistan and beyond. She has presented her piece “The Other Pakistan” in Woodstock and Greenport, New York and twice in Berlin. She plans to bring her performance to Montreal in November.

“I never really cared about it, I never bothered, until [my father] died [in 2007],” Kahan said of the project. “Then I realized there’s no one left to tell this story. He did his best to pass it on to us. And we’re responsible, you know?”

The story begins in 1933, when Kahan’s parents, Hermann Selzer and Kate Neumann, left Nazi Germany separately for Italy, where Jews were allowed to study medicine. Hermann and Kate (who had briefly met in Berlin years before) met again in Rome and married in 1935. As Europe became increasingly dangerous for Jews, they decided to leave the continent. Most Jews migrated to British-controlled Palestine, but Kahan’s parents made their decision of where to go on a whim. At a dinner party in Rome, an Italian monsignor suggested that they move to Lahore, Pakistan, which was then still part of British India and a city that had an exotic reputation as a crossroads for travelers and traders.

“He said to them: ‘Why are you thinking of going to Palestine?’” Kahan said. “‘You’re young, you’re cosmopolitan, you have medical degrees; in India they need European doctors. Go to India.’”

It turned out to be a great decision — at least for a while. Kahan said that her parents were graciously welcomed in Lahore. They set up a successful medical practice, and her father became part of the British elite class. Lahore was a worldly city with a vibrant international culture.

“Lahore was a very special place because it was at the crossroads of a lot of trade from the East going to Iran and Turkey,” Kahan said, who was born there in 1939. “So people came through and the whole place became a room for travelers.”

That didn’t mean that there were a lot of Jews in Lahore. In the 40s, around 2,000 Jews lived in Pakistan, and most of them were settled in the port city of Karachi.

Kahan’s family lived a largely secular life. For Passover, Kahan recalls eating chapati (more commonly called roti), the unleavened flatbread found throughout India and Pakistan, without really knowing why. The annual sign of Yom Kippur was her father’s fast, which gave him a headache each year.

“It’s kind of difficult to be a Jew if there are no Jews around,” Kahan said.

In December 1940, in the early stages of World War II, Kahan’s family was forced by the British-Indian government to move to internment camps in Purandhar Fort, and later in Satara, in the southwest of India. This happened because the Selzers were “stateless,” and thus considered enemy aliens by the government. Poland had passed a law in 1938 that revoked citizenship from any Polish citizen who had been abroad for at least five years. The Selzers fit this description: Hermann was born in Poland, but his family had moved to Oberhausen, Germany, when he was a child. Kate was born in Germany but assumed Polish nationality when she married Hermann. They had Polish passports to travel to British India, but ceased to be citizens of Poland after the new citizenship laws took effect.

“I think there were maybe like 200 families [in the interment camp],” Kahan said. “They were classified as German Nazis, German anti-Nazis, which we were, and then Italian fascists. So the camp was kind of divided in that way, and we were lopped in with the German anti-Nazis, who were mainly missionaries.”

In the internment camp, the family had a house and lived a relatively normal life under supervision of local officials for five years. Nevertheless, the Selzers had to abandon their medical practice and move away from Lahore. Most interned families faced financial hardships. Their relations to the government and those around them inevitably changed.

In the internment camp, Hermann Selzer began to write down his experiences. He continued to write until he had a stroke, a few years before his death in 2007. Many of his writings, in addition to a collection of his letters, legal documents, and photographs from the 40s through the 60s are now archived on microfilm at the Leo Baeck Institute, a research library of German-Jewish history housed in the Center for Jewish History in New York. Selzer never published any of his work.

“He was a very disciplined man,” Kahan said of her father. “And I bought him a typewriter. He sat writing every morning and then I bought him an electronic typewriter, and he wore it out so I bought him another one.”

After the war ended, the Selzers moved back to Lahore and restarted their practice. By the Six Day War in 1967, relations between Jews and Muslims had soured (Pakistan is home to the second largest Muslim population in the world). By 1971, the atmosphere had gotten so tense that the Selzers decided to move to Israel. Kahan said that her parents wanted to spend their entire life in Pakistan, and dreamt of dispensing free medical care to people throughout the Middle East after they retired.

“But being Jewish was no longer being Jewish, it was being Zionist,” Kahan said. “And that was the problem.”

In Israel, Hermann worked part-time at Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem and kept writing. By this time, in a testament to the international turmoil they lived through, the Selzers had accumulated four passports: They had retained their Polish passports, earned Pakistani passports, were given German passports after the war (as a recognition of suffering, Kahan explained), and obtained Israeli passports upon settling in Jerusalem.

Decades later, Kahan went through her father’s letters and documents and wrote two unpublished memoirs — “A House in Lahore” and “An Untidy Life” — about her childhood; both were subtitled “Growing Up Jewish in Pakistan.”

The title of her new presentation, “The Other Pakistan,” refers to the seemingly unexpected hospitality and warmth that she has repeatedly experienced as a Jew in a predominantly Muslim country. (Today, at most 800 Jews live there.)

“Pakistan is obviously a really horrible country, with everything bad from Taliban to whatever you want to say,” Kahan said. “But the point is for me is that the other Pakistan is this hospitable place.”

Despite having gone to boarding schools in England and living in various other countries throughout her adult life — not to mention being forced to live in an interment camp as a child — Pakistan is still close to Kahan’s heart. She explained that she has been graciously welcomed back into the Pakistani community every time she has visited.

“I feel because I was born there that in a very profound way it’s my home,” she said. “Even though I’m not of it, I’m from there.”

This Article was originally posted here

Lahore Updates 16-10-2014

Dengue virus claims first life in Lahore

LAHORE: A 26-year-old patient suffering from dengue breathed his last on Friday, becoming the first person to have died from the virus this year in Lahore.

Awais was among the 44 patients in Lahore who have been diagnosed with the dengue virus, which has now infected hundreds of people across the country.

The total number of dengue infected patients now stands at 386 in Punjab alone.

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Lahore High Court Upholds Death Penalty of Aasia Bibi

Members of the Pakistan Christian Democratic Alliance march in support of Aasia Bibi, 2010. Arif Ali—AFP

Blasphemy convicted woman’s lawyer vows to appeal the ruling before Supreme Court.

The Lahore High Court on Thursday upheld the death sentence of Aasia Bibi, a Christian woman convicted of blasphemy four years ago, as her lawyers vowed to appeal.

Bibi, a mother of five, has been on death row since November 2010 after she was found guilty of making derogatory remarks about Islam’s Prophet during an argument with a Muslim woman. “A two-judge bench of the Lahore High Court dismissed the appeal of Aasia Bibi but we will file an appeal in the Supreme Court of Pakistan,” said her lawyer Shakir Chaudhry.

Blasphemy is an extremely sensitive issue in Pakistan where 97 percent of the population is Muslim and unproven claims regularly lead to mob violence.

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Trade display: SAARC fair to be held in Lahore

The Trade Development Authority of Pakistan (TDAP) announced that it will organise the 12th Saarc Trade Fair at the Expo Centre, Lahore from January 30 to February 1, 2015.

This will be the third Saarc trade exhibition hosted by Pakistan and first of its kind in Lahore. Exhibitors from Saarc member countries and its observer countries will exhibit a range of products at the exhibition, TDAP press release said.

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PTA unearths illegal gateway exchange in Lahore

Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) in its ongoing efforts to control grey trafficking unearthed another illegal gateway exchange in Lahore.

According to details, a successful raid against the grey operators was carried out along with Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) team at Nain Sukh and Shahdara areas of Lahore, a press release said on Monday. During the raid, an illegal VoIP exchange comprising of six illegal gateways, 24 ports, one PC, one LCD, three network switches, three routers, three line switches, PTCL modem and hundreds of SIMs were confiscated.

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بھیرو کا استھان، ہندوؤں کی قدیم تاریخی عبادت گاہ جو رہائش گاہ بن گئی

This article was originally posted in The Daily Express

مندر کی عمارت میں رہائشی لوگ بہت ساری طلسماتی اور ماورائی کہانیوں کے اسیر ہیں۔ فوٹو: فائل

قدیم لاہور کے مقام کے بارے میں مؤرخین کی ایک رائے یہ بھی ہے کہ اس وقت کے پرانے لاہور سے کچھ فاصلے پر واقع اچھرے کو قدیم لاہور کہا جا سکتا ہے۔ہندوستان میں کئی قدیم شہروں کے گرد فصیلوں میں موجود دروازوں کے نام نسبتی ہونے کے ساتھ ساتھ دوسرے شہروں کے رخ کی جانب ہونے کے باعث ان شہروں کے ناموں پر بھی دکھائی دیتے ہیں۔ جس طرح پرانے لاہور میں دہلی اور کشمیری دروازوں کے رخ ان شہروں اور مقامات کی جانب ہیں۔ اسی طرح اگر لاہوری دروازے کی سیدھ میں دیکھا جائے تو اچھرہ کا علاقہ دکھائی دیتا ہے۔

یہ قرین قیاس ہے کہ قدیم لاہور کا مقام اچھرہ ہی ہو۔ اچھرہ میں ہمیں دو قدیم مندروں کے حوالہ جات بھی تاریخ کی کتب میں ملتے ہیں۔ ایک مندر ’’چاند رات مندر‘‘ تھا جس کا رقبہ کئی کنال پر محیط تھا۔ لیکن اب اس مندر کے آثار ڈھونڈنے سے مل نہ پائیں گے۔ دوسرا مندر ’’بھیرو کا استھان‘‘ تھا۔ تاریخ کی کچھ کتب میں اسے ’’بھیرو استھان‘‘ بھی کہا گیا ہے۔

’’استھان‘‘ ہندی زبان کا لفظ ہے جس کے معنی مقام‘ جگہ‘ حالت‘ رہائش گاہ‘ مندر‘ مزار کے ہیں۔ ’’تھان‘‘ بھی ہندی زبان کا لفظ ہے جس کے معنی مقام اور جگہ کے ہیں۔ چونکہ یہ مندر بھیرو سے منسوب ہے تو یہ مندر بھیرو کا مندر‘ یا بھیرو کی رہائش گاہ کے معنی میں لیا جاسکتا ہے ۔ اب ایک نگاہ بھیرو پر بھی ڈال لی جائے۔

ہندو اساطیر کی روشنی میں بھیرو نامی ایک دیوی کا تذکرہ ملتا ہے جو ہندوئوں کے لیے اپنے تقدس کے باعث مشہور ہے۔ اس کے بھگت کامیابی کے لئے اس کی پوجا کرتے ہیں۔ سید لطیف نے اپنی کتاب ’’تاریخ لاہور‘‘ میں اس مندر کے حوالے سے دیوی ہی کا ذکر کیا ہے۔

دیوی کے ساتھ ساتھ بھیرو نامی دیوتا بھی دیو مالائی کہانیوں کا ایک مشہور اور خاص کردار ہے۔ ہندوستان میں کئی مقامات پر اسی دیوتا کے نام سے بڑے بڑے مندر اور پوجا گھر دکھائی دیتے ہیں۔ ہندو روایات میں یہ دیوتا اپنے غیض و غضب کے حوالے سے مشہور ہے۔ اس کے بھگت عموماً اس کی پوجا اپنے دشمنوں پر کامیابی حاصل کرنے کی غرض سے کرتے ہیں۔ لاہور کی تاریخ کے حوالے سے کئی کتب میں یہ مندر اسی دیوتا سے منسوب ہے۔ یہ دیوتا شیوا جی اور دیوی ستی کا اوتار ہے۔

دیوی ستی کا باپ دکھشا نامی دیوتا تھا۔ دکھشا نے ایک بار بہت عظیم الشان یوجنا کا اہتمام کیا جس میں تمام دیوتاؤں کو مدعو کیا گیا لیکن شیوا کو نہ بلایا گیا۔ ستی دیوی کو اپنے شوہر کی بے عزتی کا گہرا رنج ہوا اور وہ اسی یوجنا کی آگ میں جل کر مر گئی۔ شیوا نے ستی دیوی کی موت کے باعث اس کے باپ دکھشا کو مار ڈالا اور یوجنا کی آگ سے اس کا جسم اٹھا لیا تاکہ وہ تاندوا کی رسم پوری کر سکے۔ اس کتھا کے آخر میں دھرتی کا پالن کرنے کے لئے وشنو دیوتا نے ستی کے جسم کے ٹکڑے پرتھوی (زمین) پر گرا دیئے جو کہ ہندوستان کے مختلف علاقوں میں گرے۔

جہاں جہاں وہ ٹکڑے گرے وہیں وہیں پر بھگتی کے مندر تعمیر ہوتے گئے۔ شیوا ان مندروں کی حفاظت کے لئے بھیرو کی شکل میں آتا ہے اور بھیرو کوتوال کے نام سے جانا جاتا ہے۔ کوتوال کے علاوہ بھیرو راہو اور یوگیوں کے دیوتا کے نام سے بھی جانا جاتا ہے۔ یوگی اور تانترک بھگت شدھی حاصل کرنے کے لئے خاص منتروں کی پڑھائی کے ساتھ ساتھ کئی طرح کی جسمانی مشقتیں بھی کرتے ہیں۔ یوگا اور تانترک یہ مشقیں نروان حاصل کرنے کے لئے کی جاتی ہیں۔ ان مشقوں کا ذکر بارہا گرو رجنیش المعروف اوشو نے بھی کیا ہے۔

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Photo of the Day: A Hindu Temple in Sanda

Hindu Temple

The Photo was taken by @ShirazHassan

Time Report on Lahore – March 30, 1953

PAKISTAN: The Mad Mullahs

For two days last week, a wild mob ruled the Pakistan city of Lahore (pop. 849,000). Surging through the streets, hungry Moslems stoned and stabbed police, burned buses and automobiles, ripped up railroad tracks, cut telegraph wires, smashed traffic lights and forcibly blackened the faces of anyone caught riding a bicycle or automobile. All shops closed and public officials fled. The city’s 300 police, disarmed by the mob, were withdrawn from the streets. All communication with the outside world was cut off.

It was a minor revolution which swept this capital of the fertile Punjab province—a revolution engineered by fanatical mullahs against the Pakistan government. Five and a half years ago, when millions of frightened refugees were pouring into newly created Pakistan, the mullahs were the people’s leaders. They had a strong voice in the government. But when the country began establishing industries, hospitals, schools and banks, the mullahs protested that these innovations clashed with Islamic law. When Pakistani women shed their veils and emerged from purdah (complete seclusion in the home), the more fanatic mullahs were outraged. When the time came for Pakistan to draw up a constitution, the mullahs demanded that it be based on the Koran. (Result: Pakistan, a nation of 76 million, is still without a constitution.) The government of Prime Minister Kwaja Nazimuddin avoided an open clash with religious leaders, but paid less attention to their counsel. Continue reading

4,000 Sikhs arrive for Besakhi celebrations

By Atif Nadeem in the NEWS

SOME 4,000 Indian Sikhs Friday, wearing colourful turbans, arrived at the Wagah station to participate in a three-day Besakhi festival which starts from April 12.

The Pakistan Sikh Gurdawara Parbandhak Committee (PSGPC) and the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) received them at the Wagah station. They were showered with rose petals amidst drumbeat and dancing horses. They were also offered lunch and drinks by PSGPC President Sardar Bishan Singh and ETPB officials. The Indian pilgrims will visit various sacred places during their stay in the Punjab, including Nankana Sahib, Sacha Sauda, Kartarpur Sahib, Rohri Sahib and Gurdawara Punja Sahib. The Besakhi festival is celebrated to renew the pledge for promoting harmony and brotherhood as enshrined in Sikhism in the teachings of Guru Granth Sahib, the last guru of the Sikh faith. Pilgrims come to Pakistan from across the world to celebrate the festival while Sikhs visit Gurdawara Panja Sahib at Hassanabdal, where the 10th guru, Guru Govind Singh, settled around 300 years ago to preach Sikhism.

The pilgrims arrived at Wagah by three trains and there was a great hustle and bustle at the station. Immigration, rangers, customs, railway and ETPB officials were trying their level best to facilitate the pilgrims. Continue reading

Protest Over Demolition of Christian Church in Lahore

Apparently the mafias are now attacking a place of worship. We join this protest albeit virtually …..

In the image above, members of the minority Christian community are holding a sit-in against the demolition and occupation of Lahore’s Christ Church by a group of people. The protest was organized by the Human Liberation Commission of Pakistan. Activists of civil society groups joined the protests. Speaking on the occasion, Pastor Anwar Kamal said that a week after the city’s top police officers assured to arrest the culprits, no action has been taken.

The text in black background on left reads: Who will deliver justice to Christians in Pakistan?

Source: Roznama Express, Pakistan, February 6, 2008