A Pakistani in Delhi


Farooq Sulehria
Tuesday, June 11, 2013
On January 6, I nervously landed at the Delhi airport. I say nervously because I wasn’t there as a tourist. I had gone to India as a researcher – to spend six months conducting research on the Indian media. As a Pakistani, I was uncertain if I’d be able to get my work done without being suspected of any other activities.

 

On reaching India, however, it did not take long to for my nervousness to dissipate. My Pakistani origin, I soon discovered, was not a disadvantage. On the contrary, my Pakistaniat was not only helping me achieve desired research goals, it also began to pose gastronomic challenges: in the form of endless dinner invitations.

 

That my arrival coincided with the alleged beheading of an Indian soldier at the LoC invoked an unknown fear within me. Four months later, Sarabjit’s murder terrified me as well for a while. A fear of the unknown would grip me even otherwise – particularly when alone or lonely. ‘Anything can go wrong and land me in trouble,’ was a thought constantly nagging at me. However, the hospitality extended by my Delhi friends and acquaintances would lay to rest all such fears. Most importantly, a sense of familiarity – at times transforming into a sense of belonging – hardly ever made me feel alien.

 

My language, skin colour, name, or religion – nothing is alien to Delhi. On the streets, people would stop by and ask for directions. In one incident, while at a metro station I had asked a person standing next to me: “Which line goes to Rajiv Chowk?” Ironically, I was standing right underneath a route-map, which happened to be in Hindi. Rather well dressed and holding a laptop, I hardly looked like the stereotypical unlettered person. The man I spoke to was perhaps in a bad mood. Pointing towards the map, he shouted, “Why don’t you read for yourself?”. “I am from Pakistan, can’t read Hindi”, I replied in Urdu. At which he apologised immediately, shook my hand and politely guided me.

 

The similarities were even stronger in the case of Punjabis and Muslims – even though I am neither Punjabi nor religious. For about four months, I lived in Malviya Nagar, a Punjabi neighbourhood. My Punjabi language skills invoked such an affinity that within weeks I had an udhar system working with two local grocery stores.

 

Everywhere in Delhi, one overhears the azaan. Is it that moezzins in Delhi recite the azaan in a highly melodic way. My Swedish-Pakistani friend Prof Ishtiaq helped me understand that the azaan is also an assertion of Indian plurality and rights of the Muslim there.

 

As if to appreciate this plurality, I would candidly discuss the Kashmir question as well as the situation of Indian Muslims with my non-Muslim friends and comrades. My interaction with Muslim and Kashmiri students at Jamia Millia Islamia, with which I was attached, helped me enrich my understanding of their situation. While Kashmiri students – infested with conspiracy theories – visualised Pakistan as an Islamic paradise, Indian Muslims have no such illusions about Pakistan even if, like any other Indian, they are concerned about the crises in our country.

 

Also, like any other religious community, Muslims are divided along ideological and sectarian as well as class and caste lines. Jamia Millia epitomises Muslim diversity as well as the cultural progress Indian Muslims have made.

 

Imagine a campus in Pakistan with statues of Mirza Ghalib and Maulana Jauhar. While the road to the Mir Taqi Mir Hall is dedicated to Manto, a beautifully built auditorium is attributed to Noam Chomsky. However, my favourite hang-out was the Castro Café surrounded by the M F Hussain Gallery and the Maulana Azad Hostel.

 

Beyond Jamia Millia, my favourite escape was Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU). Away from conservative Delhi, JNU’s walls – graffitied with huge images of Marx, Lenin, Che, Bhagat Singh and Manto – offer relief to any frustrated progressive. However, it is Faiz one finds all over the place. But Faiz and Manto are not confined to the JNU’s romantic campus. They are all over Delhi. In fact, Delhi it seems has become Urdu’s last refuge in the Subcontinent.

 

While the annual Jashn-e-Baharan Mushaira symbolised Delhi’s role in preserving Urdu, a qawali session during Khusro Week at the National Museum or an evening with dhrupad master Ustad Wasifuddin Dagar at the India International Centre (IIC) convinced me that Delhi is also protecting other forms of culture that Muslims have greatly contributed to.

 

There is a vibrant Urdu press and a flourishing publishing business. At the International Book Fair held in February at Pragati Maidan not merely offered a glimpse into Urdu publications, it was interesting to see an Ahmadiyya bookstore next to Tahirul Qadri’s Minhaj-ul-Quran bookstall. While Urdu press and publications promote a conservative agenda, progressive Muslim voices have found refuge in the recently-launched DD Urdu.

 

Visits to Doordarshan were always a great experience owing to the warmth shown by its Additional Director General, Ranjan Thakur. However, Faiz’s life-size portrait – surrounded by those of Gandhi jee and Tagore – at DD’s reception would add a special touch to every visit. Once a profitable enterprise, DD is now running huge financial losses. However, it remains committed to its social responsibility.

 

Apart from DD, the Indian television media is sensationalist. TRP-hungry channels have compromised themselves – journalistically and morally. Luckily, sections of the daily press, notably The Hindu and some magazines, haved stayed committed to the Indian tradition of quality journalism. Interestingly, India is the only major newspaper market that has expanded even after the arrival of the digital age.

 

But electronic media – the television – has outdone other outlets. The sprawling Noida Film City, on the outskirts of Delhi, is a testament to this growth. An enviably modern and efficient, though overcrowded, metro is the best way to reach Noida. Ironically, from metro station one can reach huge media houses via cycle-rickshaws. Initially, I tried to avoid using cycle-rickshaws pulled by skinny migrant workers from Bihar. But they were unavoidable as well as living proof of India’s ‘combined and uneven development’, a theory brilliantly propounded by Leon Trotsky.

 

Beyond glaring class contradictions, one also comes across sights that would be very familiar for a Pakistani. The traffic is messy; manholes are usually uncovered; and there is an utter neglect for monuments (with few exceptions) and old buildings. Apart from some posh areas, most streets are littered with garbage. While there may be no power cuts, there is a real water crisis.

 

Since my return on June 4, I have been quizzed by siblings and cousins, friends and acquaintances. ‘What do they think about us? Do they hate us?’ I am asked. ‘I do not know. However, I had wonderful time,’ is my standard reply. Honestly, such simple questions cannot be answered in a similarly simple manner. Also, I do not have any documented evidence to substantiate or deny any claims. I can only narrate my impressions. And I think Pakistan is not the most hated country in India. We could say that about perhaps Bangladesh or Afghanistan where Pakistan is disliked near-universally. However, I can safely assert that the only country where I have been warmly received as a Pakistani is India.

 

The writer is a freelance contributor.Email: mfsulehria@hotmail.com

source- http://www.thenews.com.pk/Todays-News-9-183118-A-Pakistani-in-Delhi

 

Invitation – Discussion on Use and Abuse of Dalit Assertion on 1 May 2012


India International Centre
Working Group on Alternative Strategies and
Maharashtra Sanskritik ani Rannaniti Adyayan Samiti

Cordially invite you to a Discussion on

Use and Abuse of Dalit Assertion: Micro to Macro – Maharashtra to Rashtra

on  Tuesday 1 May 2012 at 6.30 pm
at India International Centre
(Conference Room I)
40, Max Mueller Marg
New Delhi – 110003

Panelists:

 

Prof. Sushma Yadav, Ambedkar Chair, Indian Institute of Public Administration;

Dr. M. Sukumar, Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, DU;

Dr. Milind Awadh, Associate Professor of English, Zakir Hussain College, DU;

 

Dr. RajkumarAssociate Professor of Political Science, Dayal Singh College, DU;

Dr. Y. S. Alone, Assistant Professor, School of Arts and Aesthetics, JNU


Discussants:

Shri Rajeev Shahare, IFS, Joint Secretary(West Asia & North Africa), Ministry of External Affairs;

Dr. Doss Parimala, Assistant Professor, Department of Education, DU.

 

Moderator: Suhas Borker


The discussion is to be held in Conference Room I located above the IIC Library; 

The discussion begins at 6.30 pm and shall close at 8.00 pm.

 

Wheelchair access is available.

Bus Numbers: 047,052,440,521,522,526,580;

Bus Stops:  Get off at ‘Lodhi Road Xing’ or ‘Max Mueller Marg’.

Bus Numbers: 326, 344, 970, 994;

Bus Stops: Get off at  ‘Mausam Bhawan’ or ‘Lodhi Garden’.

Bus Numbers: 026, 048, 056, 408, 719, 734;

Bus Stop: Get off at ‘ Lodhi Colony 18 Block’.

 

Nearest Metro Stations:

‘Jorbagh’ on Yellow Line  ———–

‘Khan Market’ on Violet Line ——–

 

 

Jointly organised by India International Centre, Working Group on Alternative Strategies and

Maharashtra Sanskritik ani Rannaniti Adhyayan Samiti


For any further information please contact:

IIC Programme Division: 24619431

Working Group on Alternative Strategies: 26259310/11

Maharashtra Sanskritik ani Rannaniti Adhyayan Samiti: 9810041082/9811022844\


In solidarity

Suhas Borker

Convener, Working Group on Alternative Strategies

info.wgras.in@gmail.com

Indian doctors consider alternatives to nuclear energy


International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War is a non-partisan federation of national medical organizations in 62 countries, representing tens of thousands of doctors, medical students, other health workers, and concerned citizens who share the common goal of creating a more peaceful and secure world freed from the threat of nuclear annihilation. IPPNW has remained a leader in the global movement for a world without nuclear weapons, launching the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) in 2007, and working with numerous other NGOs to promote a Nuclear Weapons Convention that would outlaw these instruments of mass extermination under international law. Indian Doctors for Peace and Development (IDPD), IPPNW’s Indian affiliate, held an interactive session on nuclear energy on October last year  at the India International Centre in New Delhi. Professor Andreas Nidecker, President IPPNW Switzerland, and General Vinod Saighal were the featured speakers. The session was moderated by Dr. L.S. Chawla, President of IDPD. Dr. Nidecker presented medical arguments against the civil use of nuclear power, explained in detail the reasons why nuclear energy is not a viable source for meeting the world’s energy needs, and reported that after the Fukushima nuclear reactor crisis the Swiss government decided to phase out nuclear energy. He described the harmful effects of radiation throughout the nuclear chain — from uranium mining to nuclear waste disposal. Fukushima, he said, has put a full stop to the false claims about the safety of nuclear energy. Dr. Nidecker noted several specific drawbacks to nuclear energy, including rising costs, security issues, the absence of a solution to the waste problem, intense water usage, environmental contamination, the health effects of exposure to ionizing radiation, and the increasing risks for nuclear proliferation, and the diversion of investments away from better, safer, and more sustainable alternatives, such as wind and solar power technologies. General Saighal urged the development of a strong antinuclear movement. Dr. Chawla pointed out that nuclear energy is fraught with dangers to the health of the people, particularly those living around nuclear facilities. He said these problems had been confirmed by the IDPD study on the health effects of people living around Jadugoda uranium mines. Dr. Arun Mitra, General Secretary of IDPD, said that the Indian people have to build a strong resistance against the nuclear policy of the government “against all the odds posed by the government and the pro-nuclear lobby in our country.” Read the Report hereConnect with them at -http://peaceandhealthblog.com/

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