Category Archives: Creative Corner

Creative Corner is a space for creative expressions in the form of poems, fiction or creative non-fiction that expresses thoughts, feelings, experiences and passions that we’d like to share. The intention of this corner is to be able to encourage readers and writers to allow their imaginations to experience or create aesthetic work that expresses our journeys, our identities and our times. The word limits for stories and poems is approximately 1500 words.

As a starting project, we invite stories and pieces on ‘Home’ and will be posting contributions we receive from SANSAD members. The idea around ‘Home’ is for us to explore the emotions, experiences or ideas that the word inspires.

Uphold independence and freedom of press

SANSAD News-release June 8, 2017

Uphold the Independence and freedom of the Press

South Asian Network for Secularism and Democracy (SANSAD) condemns the Central Bureau of Investigation raid on the offices of NDTV and the residence of its owners in and around New Delhi on June 4 as a blatant politically motivated attempt to intimidate and silence its independent and critical voice. NDTV is one of the most respected and influential media outlets in India, and one of the very few such voices left in an increasingly gloomy mediascape. The current raid is the latest of a series of episodes of harassment faced by NDTV, which the government had tried to shut down for 24 hours in 2016 as punishment for its coverage of the terrorist attack on the military base in Pathankot.

Journalism in India is in a state of acute crisis. Most of the mainstream media is owned by a small number of corporate houses whose owners are also intimately connected with the ruling BJP and the government of Narendra Modi. Indeed, NDTV too is indebted to Mukesh Ambani, the richest man in India and owner of Reliance corporation, and has promoted the interests of the BJP and the multinational, Vedanta. Such corporate and political domination ensures that the media presents the official narrative of the party and the government without question and has established hyper-nationalism as hegemonic. Any dissent is branded “anti-national” , with the cry taken up by an increasingly mobilized section of the populace affiliated with the party or its various social forms who hound the culprit  on social media or attempt to silence her/him with physical violence. In addition, any media attempting to cast a critical eye on the government and its friends is  branded “Presstitute” by the ruling politicians and their supporters bringing the media into disrepute. Since Modi’s coming to power in 2014 it has become almost impossible to expose manipulated data and opaque government operations. This is the background against which the President of India recently affirmed in an important speech to journalists that discussion and dissention were essential to a vibrant democracy and public institutions had to be held accountable for all their actions and inactions.

India has 406 news channels in various languages and tens of thousands of newspapers and magazines. Yet this year it has fallen 3 places to 136th among 180 countries ranked in the World Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters Without Borders, which places India below Afghanistan and United Arab Emirates. This is not surprising given the Hindu nationalist’s rampage to cleanse India of all “anti-nationalist” thought, as a result of which in 2014 at least 114 journalists were attacked, with only 32  attackers arrested, and between January 2016 and April 2017 there have been 54 attacks reported though the actual number is much higher since many attacks are unreported because of threats from politicians, police, and the vigilantes.

We, members of the South Asian diaspora in Canada stand in solidarity with the many brave people of India fighting for democracy against fascistic developments and with the courageous journalists and independent media engaged in the struggle for press freedom, which is the bedrock of all democracy.  We applaud the declaration of NDTV that it will fight all attempts to bully it. We demand that the government of India stop using the institutions of the state to attack the freedom of the press and take appropriate action against those who use violence to silence critical voices.

Late Poet Shamshur Rahman wrote this poem during the 1969 Gono Andholon (against President Ayub Khan) in which many people from all walks of life were killed by the army. We dedicate it to the memory of “Niloy Neel” (Niloy Chakraborty), Abhijit Roy, Ananta Bijoy Das, and Wahiqur Rahman, secular writers who were killed by Islamists in Bangladesh in 2015.

Where Shall We Keep this Body?

Where shall we put this body?

Where is its fitting grave?

Say the earth, or the mountain,

Or the deep-blue water of the sea–

All are tattered, only trifles.

That’s why we don’t put  this body in earth,  mountain or sea

But have kept it in our hearts.

–Shamshur Rahman (Trans. Chinmoy Banerjee)

From: “Gonojagoron Moncho”

এ লাশ আমরা রাখবো কোথায় ?

এ লাশ আমরা রাখবো কোথায় ?

তেমন যোগ্য সমাধি কই ?

মৃত্তিকা বলো, পর্বত বলো

অথবা সুনীল-সাগর-জল-

সব কিছু ছেঁদো, তুচ্ছ শুধুই !

তাইতো রাখি না এ লাশ

আজ মাটিতে পাহাড়ে কিম্বা সাগরে,

হৃদয়ে হৃদয়ে দিয়েছি ঠাঁই।

– কবি শামসুর রাহমান

 

 

 

Homeless

Chinmoy Banerjee

 

I cannot enter

Where he sits

On the freezing sidewalk

Beside the bank

With his head bent on his knees

 

 

The snow has gone

With the rain

But the man who sat

In his wheelchair

Where I cross the street to the coffee shop

Watching people go by

Talking with those who stopped

Is no longer there

 

Nor is the man in the baseball hat

Who weaved his way through the walkers

Passing and re-passing the window of the pizza shop

To be seen

 

The old man with the long white beard

Stands in the doorway

At the side of the barber shop

Conversing with a friend

 

Round the corner

Where the roses and potted plants

Light up the pavement

The man with the black beard

And denim jacket

Hails me as always

With wish for a nice day

The woman sometimes beside him

Is bent on the book in her lap

 

Crossing the street to the new tower

That I have made my home

I see the shopping cart

Covered in blue tarp

An umbrella protecting

Something I cannot see

Under the hoarding of

“Blue Sky” developers

A sign on the cart reads

“Blueberry Hotel”

 

 

 

 

Culture, religion, and nation

 

Culture Supersedes Religion in  Establishing  National     Identity

By Promod Puri

Culture is a distinctive feature of one group of people comprising of several aspects. One of them is religion, and the others are language, cuisine, social habits, music and arts. Obviously, one aspect of a culture does not represent the totality of it.

The expression “Hindu culture” is as vague as saying Hindu cuisine (except by airlines referring to “Hindu meal”). And it is as much blurred as trying to contrive a language, music, arts, customs, etc with suffix of Hindu. This applies to all other religions as well who try to create a culture exclusively linked to their faiths.

Culture in most cases is secular in nature.

When we talk about a cultural community, we mean an all inclusive explicit way of life. It represents all the group of people sharing common identities despite belonging to different religious denominations. But all speaking same language and sharing same social and cultural traits.

Often people of one cultural community have several religions. These sub differentiations are covered by conventions and customs. Together these are represented by the sanctified rituals on which Hindu tradition, Sikh, Muslim or Christian traditions establish their respective identities.

The unity of India lies in its cultural plurality. This factor was the basis of states’ reorganization at the time of India’s independence in 1947. Each state was constituted representing the cultural homogeneity of that region. And wherever there were more than one homogeneity states split respectively. Thus the cultural aspirations of people have been adequately addressed.

“India is a colorful country” mainly because of the exuberant nature of its diverse cultures. The cultural sameness in each Indian state along with the religious diversity is the accepted model for both political and administrative purposes.

Whereas each Indian state mostly represent one single cultural distinctiveness, it is the state of Jammu and Kashmir which within itself does carry more than one identity. The state has three regions, namely Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh. And each one of them is culturally, religiously, geographically and even climatically different. Azad Kashmir under Pakistan domain has its own identity which is again quiet varied from rest of Jammu and Kashmir state.

The Kashmir problem has never been examined and tackled from its diversity aspect. The politics of the state has always been dominated, controlled and represented by the Muslim leadership of the Valley from the Kashmir region. The multi-facet and heterogeneous character of the state is the undetermined reality which otherwise can play a dominant role in resolving the Kashmir problem. Aligning the issue only on religious basis because about 64 percent of the state’s population is Muslim is a futile exercise to determine its fate. By not allowing the diversity factor in the Kashmir debate is suppression of its other identities as well.

In a democratic setup regions or nations which play only the religious factor in politics and governance, always have cultural identity crisis.

That has been the fate of Pakistan. It does not recognize and accept that the country’s cultural affinity lies with India which it can’t shake off. Both the political and military leaderships of the country in their hatred toward India try to establish a religious-based Arabic identity. Naturally, this is not working.

Pakistan must realize that cultural-based identities cut across religious-based identities. And the former can play more decisive and healthier roles in determining a cohesive and stable future for the country.

Pakistan may find some motivation from the Canadian society, not from its mostly racist governments, as how this multi- ethnic nation is establishing its national identity.

In a diverse Canadian society there are a multitude of cultures, traditions and religions, with lot more sub banners within each group. It is a myriad with a diversified web which gives Canada an image of acceptance and tolerance.

This evolutionary trend is being established despite the known retrogressive and discriminatory policies embraced by most Canadian governments over the years particularly toward the First Nation and visible minorities.

The Canadian cultural plurality is a unique experience in human social history which is trying to weave a frictionless social fabric from its distinct and assorted fibers. This multi-facet aspect gives Canada the color and character of being ever involving and exciting.

 

( Promod Puri is a former editor and publisher of South Asian Canadian weekly newspaper, The Link, retired and resides in Vancouver, Canada). The views expressed are those of the author.