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By Supporting What Happened in J&K, Akali Dal Has Betrayed Punjab

History thewire.in

SAD won numerous elections on the planks of federalism and state autonomy. It has now betrayed that history, and the people of Punjab.
'Home minister Amit Shah’s announcement to revoke Jammu and Kashmir’s special status was, unsurprisingly, met with jubilation among Bharatiya Janata Party leaders, both in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. Independent regional parties like the Bahujan Samaj Party, Biju Janata Dal, AIADMK and YSR Congress supported the resolution on Article 370 and a Bill to reorganise the state in two separate union territories. However, various opposition parties like the Congress, Trinamool Congress, DMK, Nationalist Congress Party, Rashtriya Janata Dal, Communist Party of India and Communist Party of India (Marxist) raised vociferous protests in the Upper House. Even National Democratic Alliance constituent Janata Dal (United) walked out of the House in protest, while all other allies of the BJP like Shiv Sena, Shiromani Akali Dal, Asom Gana Party and Bodoland People’s Front strongly supported the Centre. Reaction from Punjab One state where the Narendra Modi-led Union government’s move has received widespread condemnation  is Punjab. The criticism has come from various sections including the Sikh religious clergy, Panthic outfits, political leadership, intellectuals, retired civil servants, student groups and farmers’ unions. The highest seat of religious and temporal authority in Sikhism, the Sri Akal Takht Sahib, has also stepped in and condemned the comments against the dignity and honour of Kashmiri women. Giani Harpreet Singh, the acting jatehdar of the Sri Akal Takht Sahib, issued a statement urging Sikhs to protect Kashmiri women in all adverse circumstances. Recalling how Sikh women were treated by some people in 1984, the jatehdar took strong notice of the comments targeting Kashmiri women, and stated that Sikhs will not allow anyone to repeat 1984 with Kashmiri women. Such strong directives coming from religious leaders holds high significance for Sikhs living across globe. It is pertinent to recall that it was Sikhs who had come forward to help Kashmiri youth who were being targeted by right-wing groups in the aftermath of the Pulwama attack . Also read:  Despite Being an ‘Exiled’ Kashmiri, I Won’t Celebrate the End of the State Condemnation of the Centre’s move to dismember a state without even consulting the people who live there has come not only from Sikhs living in Punjab, but from the Sikh diaspora as well . No doubt, the revocation of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status and the ongoing lockdown in the erstwhile state has sparked fear and anger among the Sikhs. There are fears that what has happened in Kashmir might happen in Punjab, and that the march of Hindutva under the BJP-RSS nexus could eventually harm the Sikhs as well. Akali Dal gives up its stand on federalism and state autonomy For Punjab, the biggest embarrassment was the support provided by the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) in favour of the Bill ( J&K Reorganisation Bill 2019 ). A regional political party that emerged and evolved on the basis of its firm commitment to decentralisation and federal functioning has now significantly contributed to diluting the federal set-up of its neighbouring state. SAD, which in the past has led various agitations and protests, and passed historical resolutions demanding greater autonomy for Punjab on the Jammu and Kashmir pattern, has now taken a shocking u-turn favouring centralisation. One of the oldest regional parties of India, SAD contested the 1967 assembly elections demanding “Sikhistan”, and its Batala resolution in 1968 was essentially based on this articulation. The Batala Conference is considered a precursor to the Anandpur Sahib Resolution of 1973 . In the Batala Conference, SAD demanded the ‘correction’ of the constitution on a proper federal basis, and said that states should have greater autonomy. In the landmark Ludhiana Resolution of 1978 , the SAD, apart from the decentralisation of powers, demanded shared political sovereignty in a coordinated manner with the Centre. The Akali leadership was also a major supporter of the  Dharamyudh Morcha of 1982 which emphasised issues of state autonomy including the implementation of Anandpur Sahib Resolution. SAD has contested and won several assembly elections on the basis of its federal agenda. Attributing people’s issues to strong interference from the Centre and the weaker position of the state has been a hallmark of Akali politics, especially under the leadership of five-time chief minister Parkash Singh Badal. A betrayal By opting to support the Bill that scrapped vital provisions of Article 370, and even abolished the statehood of Jammu and Kashmir after imposing president’s rule there, the SAD led by Sukhbir Badal has deliberately given up its stand on federalism and greater autonomy for Punjab. It is ironic that one of oldest regional parties of the country gave away its fundamental stand on Punjab by remaining more committed to power politics and political opportunism. By supporting the BJP’s anti-federal, anti-democratic move, Sukhbir Badal has clearly voted for dominant, centralised policies. The Akali Dal’s role in getting the J&K Reorganisation Bill passed confirms that present leadership has rejected the spirit of federalism and state autonomy, not only in theory but also in practice. This irrational and irresponsible move is not only harmful for  federal autonomy and Kashmiri identity , but also dilutes Punjab’s claim on Punjabi-speaking areas and the inclusion of Chandigarh within its territorial boundary as the capital city. It will be unrealistic and illogical for a regional party to demand the abandoning of Chandigarh’s status, when the same party had supported and celebrated the bifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir. The Akali Dal has sacrificed Punjabis’ most vital demand. Also read:  Interview: ‘Revocation of Article 370 Biggest Betrayal of J&K, Won’t Stand Test of Law’ SAD could easily have replicated the stand taken by the Janta Dal (United) . Refusing to be a part of the passage of resolutions concerning the state of Jammu and Kashmir, Nitish Kumar’s party staged a walkout from the Rajya Sabha. Like SAD, JD(U) is also BJP’s alliance partner at the Centre. But unlike the Akali leadership, JD(U) upheld the party’s ideological position. The Akali Dal has taken a regressive stand that is extremely dangerous for religious minorities. It is pertinent to mention that Punjab shares some vital similarities with Jammu and Kashmir: a long border with Pakistan; a history of suffering from Partition and militancy; and a religious minority being the majority (Sikhs in Punjab and Muslims in J&K). By ignoring these crucial facts, SAD has knowingly opted for a route that can be unfavourable for the interests of Sikhs. Already having lost recognition as the Panthic party of Sikhs, SAD under the leadership of the Badals has also recorded itself as a political force contributing to dismantling Jammu and Kashmir and tinkering with the uniqueness of Kashmiriyat . Now, the party is in no position to challenge any move by the Union government that attacks the federal fabric and autonomy of Punjab. What can it say now to stop the alteration of Punjab’s territorial boundaries and constitutional status? The Akalis have shown that their priority is not Sikhs and Punjabis, but instead a complete commitment towards the objectives of the Sangh parivar . Kanwar Deep Singh Dharowali is a political analyst and research fellow.'

'At Last History Has Meaning': The Poetry of Jean Arasanayagam

History thewire.in

A deeply sensitive investigator of identity, Arasanayagam straddled multiple heritages in her poetry.
'Jean Arasanayagam (born 1931), a leading Sri Lankan poet, passed away on July 30 after a brief illness. She was a uniquely political writer, whose poetic identities were forged in the volatile crucibles of the ethnic strife that marked Sri Lanka in the 1980s. Arasanayagam was awarded the Sahityaratna by the Sri Lankan government in 2017 for her contributions to literature and the Premchand Fellowship from the Sahitya Akademi in India in 2014. She was also a recipient in 2017 of the Gratiaen prize, the most prestigious award for Sri Lankan writing in English, for her poetry collection The Life of the Poet. She had an MLitt in literary linguistics from the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow and taught English at various institutions in Sri Lanka. She was also a painter who exhibited her work at Commonwealth exhibitions in London, at the Paris Biennale and at the Lionel Wendt Art Centre in Colombo. A deeply sensitive investigator of identity, Arasanayagam straddled multiple heritages in her poetry and sought to chart a cartographic course that would transcend ethno-nationalist boundaries. She was born Jean Solomons into a Dutch Burgher family, an ethnic minority of Dutch origin who had married Sri Lankan women. The Dutch Burghers enjoyed wealth and social privilege in colonial Sri Lanka. Acutely aware of this former inheritance of privilege, she was nevertheless fascinated by the non-indigenous culture that had shaped her upbringing. In her ‘lifetime’s search for an identity’, the origins of her ancestry in a distant space and time added great nuance. Also read:  Subhash Mukhopadhyay’s Poems Anticipated the India of Today Her marriage to a Tamilian from Jaffna, another minority group in Sri Lanka, additionally positioned her to uniquely explore poetry from within her lifelong quest for meaning, belonging, and identity in postcolonial Sri Lanka. The Tamils are a numerically significant and politically active minority in Sri Lanka. However, Arasanayagam also had to adapt to their stringent social strictures and traditional norms as an outsider. In a poem, she thus writes: “my eyes looking into yours tell me that I cannot belong…”. In these ambivalent spaces that she occupied between colonised and coloniser in the sociocultural milieus of Sri Lanka, Arasanayagam’s poetry is exceptional for its vivid explorations of her personality. Each crisis of identity, displacement, and belonging does not allay her; it simply sets her apart in her liminality: “Can you see me, stranger at your doorway Of a ruined house or standing where Your home once was, a mound of earth and later, nothing; through my sifting fingers seeps the ghostly light of gems that spill …”. Her poetry was thus deeply personal in its imaginaries, but the terrain it explored was not merely interior. In fact, Arasanayagam directly witnessed the violence during Black July, the anti-Tamil pogrom in Sri Lanka in 1983, and had to flee to a refugee camp with her family on account of her husband’s Tamil lineage. Katrina M. Powell says of Arasanayagam’s poetry that she “uniquely links identity, documentation and alienation” in capturing the life-worlds of minoritised identities. Yet her poetry also retains the privacy of her search for freedom from within quotidian necessities. This is because for Arasanayagam, the political is also crucially a question of self-discovery in and through the other. Thus, in her poetry, the registers of kinship, violence, existence and identity are not solely ethnic or national problems. They are also vital questions of self and its freedom: “someone smashed in the door And gave me my freedom To walk out into the world Free, free from the prison of myself.” It is her proximity to crisis and articulation of intimacy that Reggie Siriwardene, the noted critic recognised when he pronounced Arasanayagam’s voice as “our collective sense of horror and tragedy” in the aftermath of the ethnic riots. The poetic form afforded Arasanayagam to imbricate the interior in the exteriority of the political landscapes she found herself negotiating. In this way, her quest for identity was not simply a subjective negotiation of her different social roots and existential routes. It was, more widely, a mediation of self through the sediments of history which she foregrounded and actively pursued in her poetry. This exploration of the violent entanglements of self and other, and also pointing to a future horizon of freedom, was the basis of her ‘political’ poetry. In “1958….’71….’77……’81….’83”, she wrote: “At last history has meaning When you’re the victim When you’re the defeated The bridges bombed And you can’t cross over.” The poetic voice here of lament, and even despair, suggests a privatised fate or a personal response to the tragedy. But Arasanayagam does not posit the individual as a distant counterforce to a historical narrative. Instead this awareness of identity is also intimately linked to the poet’s own role in Arasanayagam’s poetic craft. Also read:  The Poetess of ‘No’: 50 Years of Kishwar Naheed’s ‘Lab-e-Goya’ In “Am I that Poet?” she wrote, “Is that myself, the struggling fish/ Am I that poet?” The testimonial structure of her poetry is complicated by a constative relation to events that appears direct but is indeterminate and layered. The poet does not perceive only the individual; instead she apprehends the collective and the plural. Thus, in ‘Nallur’ she writes: “and at the entrance to Nallur the silent guns are trained upon a faceless terror Outside, the landscape changes the temples by the shore are smoking ruins charred stone blackened, on empty roads are strewn.’ For Arasanayagam, the political role of the poet is not to be politicised, and thus narrowly regimented, by being aligned with a governmental position or nationalist agenda. This cultivation of a poetic distance is especially remarkable considering the identity work that a literature canon often constitutes in the creation of a postcolonial state. The minority identities that Arasanayagam traversed all her life allowed her to consciously resist the exclusionary rhetoric and the divisive logic of the new postcolonial nation-building state. Along these multiple pathways, through her poetry, Jean Arasanayagam created narrative spaces that actively embraced history and its recurring crises. For her, history was not a mere chronicle of events; instead it was a living medley of shifting identities, oppositions, and reconciliations. As a witness to violence and trauma, and simultaneously as a beacon of hope, she documented with visceral intensities the national through a poetic persona that was staunchly against any narrow partisanship. Thus, in “Poet. Myself?”, we find her writing with a silent defiance: “The poet too is then, a survivor Bombed out, shelterless, dispossessed, diploid by history By powerful regimes, by repressive measures to silence you.” Susan Haris is a writer pursuing my Phd in Literature and Philosophy at IIT Delhi.'