Initiating a dialogue

Lifting up spirits, Majha House creates safe online spaces where alternate and mainstream voices are explored at this critical time

Initiating a dialogue

Neha Saini

Punjab has always been in the eye of the storm, facing some of the toughest battles and never losing in spirit. While it undergoes yet another trying time, with rising COVID-19 cases and a possibility of economical fallout post the lockdown, its soul thrives with its people, a few men and women, who are creating, nurturing and encouraging creative discourse beyond the confines of the walls, inward and outward. Majha House has come up with two new initiatives that aim to highlight, think and start a dialogue on the issues that Punjab is facing these days.

Punjab – A shared heritage

Sanjha Punjab is an online platform on which writers, artists, poets and musicians come from across the border to talk about the shared culture, history, language, music, poetry and food in the two Punjabs. The first session of this series had four eminent voices from Pakistan - Afzal Saahir, Madiha Haneef Arsalan, Sughra Sadaf and Raza Rumi, who discussed various aspects of the current situation and the shared threads between the two countries. The session was curated by poet Arvinder Chamak from Amritsar. Despite the growing political hostilities between India and Pakistan, the panel sounded hopeful, building their case on the strong cultural and artistic ties between the two countries.

Afzal Saahir, a noted poet and journalist, said, “We are all joined by our common history and culture; no one can take that away from us.’ Seconding this thought, Madeeha Haneef Arsalan, who is a writer and educator, said, “As people, we have experienced only warmth and love between us. We should all beware of divisive policies, which are aimed solely at sowing seeds of dissent among the innocent citizens who share much more than just a border.”

Not to forget the stand-off between the two countries that started with the abrogation of Article 370 in Kashmir and continues despite the COVID 19 pandemic, Madeeha was critical of the political intent of the two governments towards a peaceful solution, as she pinned her hopes on people-to-people interactions.

While discussing the current pandemic situation in both countries, Madeeha said that the situation of the pandemic is much the same for both the Punjabs. “The government has issued directives for the people, instructions and guidelines to observe, which the people are doing. The difference is that we don’t have a full curfew imposed; the mosques are open.”

For the love of Panj-aab

Ideas need a fertile ground to take root and providing that ground online, Majha House in collaboration with two other virtual spaces Sanjhi Sikhiya and Kirrt, The Panjab Dialogue was created. The online series aims to bring together people from across the state and beyond to talk about the burning issues of Punjab and work towards a solution.

“The idea behind this programme is to start a dialogue about things that really concern everyone living in this state,” said Preeti Gill, founder, Majha House. “In these sessions, we are going to talk about what is happening to our culture, our language, our development and our environment.”

The first guest speaker of the series was Amandeep Sandhu, author of Panjab: Journeys through Fault Lines.

Amandeep had a healing journey while writing a part autobiographical, a part contextual reportage and a part memoir of contemporary Punjab.

Jasdeep Singh, founder of Kirrt, an online platform for promotion of art and craft, has been working in Punjabi cinema as a script writer. Simranpreet Oberoi and Ankit Chabbra, the brains behind Sanjhi Sikhya, pan Punjab virtual education platform, started the Punjab Young Leaders Program (PYLP) to develop 100 young leaders, who will be committed to transforming Punjab into a land of hope, courage and possibilities over the long term.

The first session with Amandeep Sandhu shared his understanding of Panjab as a post-conflict state. It enumerated the myriad issues that face the state and these range from faith, land, water, education, health, caste to Sikh masculinity, gender roles, Dalit perspectives, drugs, migration, Hindu anxiety and more.

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