The History for Peace quarterly newsletter is out with a fresh teaching learning resource for these times and many other updates!: https://conta.cc/2GMy5mo
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On the night of 13th December 1971, people in the village of Turtuk, Baltistan, ‘went to sleep in Pakistan but woke up in Hindustan.’ The five border villages of Turtuk, Thyakshi, Thang, Pachathang and Chalungka, located in the Karakoram mountains, ‘entered’India that week; they became a part of Ladakh, then two more Balti villages were joined to Kargil. Baltistan, once a vital part of theIndian imagination as well as trade routes to Central Asia, had become virtually sealed off from India in 1948 as the borders of India and Pakistan were imposed in this region. At this time the Balti people living in Kargil had been separated from their kin in the rest of Baltistan that had gone under the control of Pakistan. In 1965, the village of Hundarman, caught in the war between the two countries, was virtually cut off from both for many months, and ultimately came to India in 1971.
A part of Baltistan became accessible again to Indians with the opening up of Turtuk in 2010. The major part however, of more than 500 villages in Pakistan, continued to remain inaccessible to the Balti people of India and vice versa. Over 9000 families still remain divided across the border between India and Pakistan. When mutual access did become possible for them, it was not directly across, but after a journey of 4000 Km via Amritsar or Lahore and the Wagah border.
Balti people thus witnessed the trauma of three partitions, in 1948, 1965 and 1971, and their evocative poetry is suffused with the experiences of loss, parting, divided families, a deep sense of alienation – and also a resilient sense of hope.
Much of this poetry is permeated by the spirit and wisdom of Qurban Ali, the great Balti poet of Turtuk, also known as ‘Bulbul-e-Baltistan’. He is said to have lived for over 105 years, turned blind in his sixties, continued to compose poetry, and died in the 1950s. His poems are inscribed on the rocks in Turtuk. Qurban Ali’s poems were never published, yet they are on everyone’s lips in the region; and he never wrote directly of these partitions, yet most poets who did, drew upon his insights to express themselves.
This conversation is between the much loved Balti poet & lyricist Fazil Abbas of Turtuk, who is also Qurban Ali’s great-grandson; Sadiq Hardassi of Kargil, a scholar of both Balti literature and Divided Families; and Kavita Panjabi,Professor of Comparative Literature at Jadavpur University, Kolkata, who is working on an oral history of Balti villages in India. In the interactions we hope to revisit the poetry of Qurban Ali in relation to the Balti people’s historical experiences of distances & partings, dislocation and loss; and explore Balti poetry of the partitions in relation to the pain as well as the wisdom born out of the ruptures of this history.
Writing Early India:
Conversations with Romila Thapar
Developing sound historical consciousness is critical in our ability to effectively respond to the realities we are faced with. Active reading of a vast multiplicity of narratives, critical thinking and analysis, and questioning existing knowledge opens up our sensibilities to the pasts.
How do we write history? How has it been written so far in relation to early India? How do we bring the complexities of multiplicities in everyday classroom? How can we oppose any one linear narrative?
In this conversation, Professor Thapar responded to pre-submitted questions from teachers across the country based on her lecture titled Conversations with India’s Ancient Past (available at https://bit.ly/3j88fH9) and on her work titled Talking History: Romila Thapar in conversation with Ramin Jahanbegloo, with the participation of Neeladri Bhattacharya.
The canvases of Mahmud Husain reach out to all of humanity. They are an entirely new and incredibly vibrant rendition of stories about the common man and his dreams, unburdened by any larger claims of emancipation or representation. Mahmud sets afloat a series of unreal figures; they wander across surreal landscapes at the same time as they call to us, to listen to their lives. He creates a new mythology, drawing upon a multitude whose stories, dreams and hopes often remain unhear, even unvoice. Combining memories, experiences, dreams and fables, Mahmud presents canvases that are full of drama arising out of the tension between the various protagonists and the circumstances of the worlds they inhabit. The voice of the protagonist is free, and Mahmud is carefully to resist assuming their authorship. His compassion for humanity is like a breath of fresh air at a time when so much of our lives and circumstances are dogged by hostility and conflict. —Premjish Achari
[18 October 1925 –
4 August 2020]
A Tribute by
There was providence in that he did not live to see the bhumipuja at Ayodhya, the culmination of a years long trajectory of brutal majoritarianism, vandalism, violent divisiveness and genocide. Ebrahim Alkazi passed away the day before. He loved to talk about his growing up in Pune, studying at an English medium Christian school, with a young private tutor teaching him Arabic and, reading the Koran with him at home; taking legitimate pride in being as much an Arab as an Indian. A Nehruvian to the core in his temperamental and cultural inclusiveness, Alkazi was Nehru’s choice for the position of Director of the National School of Drama two years before his death. Meanwhile Alkazi had made his choice between his two early passions, preferring theatre to painting, but retaining his eye for the visual throughout. A course at RADA, a series of productions of European classics covering the entire range from the Greeks to the Moderns had given him a rich feel of, and sensitivity to the poetry of theatre from deep within.
Read full tribute here
Three months into an unprecedented lockdown in living memory, the need to remember that physical distancing does not need to be at the cost of social solidarity, is ever important. The anti-racist protests that have swept across so many parts of the world in the aftermath of the brutal police killing of George Floyd have brought inspiration, but with it the urgent need to introspect, question and address our own convenient silences and everyday unseeing of injustices we as a society are complicit in. This edition of our newsletter is a reflection of these deliberations.
How does one define someone who assumes an identity different from yours? This could be in terms of race, caste, class, religion, gender, ethnicity, nationality, and most importantly culture. One would usually call them the Other—other nations, other cultures, other genders, and the list goes on, as long as the power structures live on. The term ‘othering’ was coined by Gayatri Spivak for the process through which imperial discourse creates its ‘others’ as subjects to be mastered upon by the colonial ruler. How would the process of ‘othering’ then be understood and translated in everyday discourse?
This is exactly the question we hope to help you address with our multimedia lesson plan.
The notion of superior and inferior colours both racial and caste discrimination—a link social reformer and educator Jyotirao Phule wrote about as early as the second half of the 19th century. In light of this link, what questions does the current renewed momentum of the Black Lives Matter movement illuminate for caste?
This forms the basis of this two part teaching/learning module. ‘Shades of Resistance’ attempts to introduce high school students to specific significant moments and movements from the 20th century against racial and caste discrimination, through interactive multimedia activities that encourage critical thought and engagement with the ideologies of these resistances.
A subcontinent-wide network of social science teachers History for Peace has organized several conferences on themes of ever-increasing relevance that demand a space in the classroom.
Seagull Books now brings you the History for Peace Journals—meticulous compilations of the content of these conferences, which include lectures by Romila Thapar, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Irfan Habib, Krishna Kumar, Audrey Truschke, Sundar Sarukkai, Jerry Pinto, Vijay Prashad, Naeem Mohaiemen, Anam Zakaria, Sohail Hashmi and Aanchal Malhotra amongst many others. An invaluable resource for anyone who believes in the importance and persistence of asking ‘why’.
The PeaceWorks Human Rights Defenders Programme
In 2015, PeaceWorks, as India partner for The Anne Frank House, Amsterdam, developed a resource on human rights stemming from the Anne Frank: A History for Today travelling exhibition. The resource, ‘Learning to Live with Difference’ moves from an understanding of rights and identity to looking at genocides from across the world, acknowledged and otherwise, using the arts to question and explore the mindsets that ultimately become apathetic to, or even support genocidal violence. You can access the resource here.
We have been taking this programme to schools and 2019 – 20 has particularly been a busy year.
With every new batch of this programme, the resource comes to life differently, guided as it is by our volunteers’ subjective ideas and responses to the content. Interested in how improvisations in the classroom have gone?
This year began on a busy note, with two History for Peace conferences back to back.
How do we equip our teachers to become enablers of life affirming education? How do we create classrooms that deal with ideas and teachers who nurture intelligence plus character, wonder plus amazement, curiosityplus questioning, thought, reflection, creativity and imagination.These were some of the questions that were explored with over 130 teachers from across the country.
In July 2019, Romila Thapar opened the first chapter of The Idea of the Indian Constitution, a conference for teachers, in Calcutta, with the question: When does a constitution become a requirement? What followed was an explosion of ideas and thoughts from some of the finest minds in the country over three days. Read the report here
This was followed by chapter II of The Idea of the Indian Constitution in Pune with fresh insights and new voices.