Discussion on the problems is the only way for civilized society
Canadian Punjabi Conference organized by Disha-Brampton June 15,2014
-Shamshad Elahee Shams
Pressing situations of immigrant community in Canada broke its silence on June 15,2014 at Century Garden Recreation centre Brampton. The first Canadian Punjabi Immigrant Women conference was conducted by newly formed DISHA and deliberated issued related to immigrant women and their challenges. Conference marked the first Punjabi women Harnam Kaur, Kartar Kaur, Bishan Kaur who landed in Canada 100 years before.
Syeda Nuzhat Siddiqui, Peace Ambassador of United Nations welcomed the panel members and house, underlined the urgent necessity for education amongst immigrant women, which is the key to solve their personal, social and economic problems. She called upon the community for a systematic change to upgrade their skills according to the requirement of the job market and also said that immigrants have to be aware about Canadian values.
Brampton Mayor Susan Fennell was delighted to be a part of the first Punjabi women conference and emphasized the need of speaking up. She welcomed the organizers and thanked them to provide a platform to discuss the issues related to immigrant community at large. Discussion on the problems is the only way for civilized society. She said Canada is a wonderful country for women to grow and get all what she want. She said Brampton has its own unique significance in the world where people from around the world live peacefully and achieving the goals of their lives. We are example to the world to show how multi cultural people co-exist peacefully. She also praised Punjabi Culture and relevance of its rich heritage.
Veteran Punjabi literature writer, Sahitya Acadamy prize winner Dr. Wariyam Sandhu addressed the audience and went to the extent to expose the hypocrisy of so-called Indian culture in detail. In his keynote speech, he said no any religion based society could provide a justice to women, be it Hindu, Islam or Christianity, since all religion were invented by male and thus we all see a certain pattern of patriarchal social order in every religion. Explaining Indian culture, he said, India has two contradictory faces while it deals with the women. On one hand Indian culture symbolises women as its holy deities like Saraswati, Durga, Lakshmi, Indira, Kali etc. They can name her anything but what they could not give her, is her individuality. India failed to recognise women as human being. In his sharp attack of duplicity he went on to give details how Dropdi was put on stake by Yudhishter and how she was disgraced by his opponent Duryodhan in the court. He then narrated the infamous hymn written by Tulsidas who said “Dhor Gawar Shoodr aur Nari, Charon taran ke adhikari”.
He felt pity for those who worship Sita, wife of Lord Rama. He is the same Rama who forced Sita to prove her sanity by a whisper of a Dhobi. It’s a known fact of Hinduism philosophy that which enshrine the ultimate goal of life in Moksha (Liberation). And what an irony, a woman can’t achieve it. She has to take birth as male and then can acquire Moksha since woman is restricted for this path of spiritual height.
Dr. Wariyam said that Sikhism provided equal rights to women since it abolished Sati Pratha, Parda Pratha and also entitled them to be a part and parcel of Gurudwara management. But, same community is now degenerated as former Chief of Shiromani Akal Takht Bibi Jagir Kaur conspired to slain her own pregnant daughter who married against her wishes. She was convicted for five years.
He said, even Buddha was biased against women as he suggested his Bhikshu not to save a drowning woman in river even if she is your mother. Pope did not allowed a woman to be a Saint for centuries though they worship Mother Mary. We all know what the state of women in Islamic countries is though Islam provided some relief to women in history of mankind. The same community is now being represented by Malala who was shot for her basic right to education.
He attacked on honor killings and phenomenal violence against women in Indian subcontinent. The recent honor killing in the premises of Lahore High Court by brother and father and double murder case of Badaun and many other similar incidents taking place incessantly in India bring shame to him. He said all organised religions are basically against women as they want to control her and her sexuality. Woman is just a piece of property for them. These are the values which immigrant community carries with them to across the oceans. They are the real recipient of these cultural burns and they have to face the yoke of modern capitalism in Canada.
The veteran writer called upon the audience that we have to recognise woman as human being first. Stop female foeticide and if you allow your son to love, please also allow your daughter’s love and her choice of groom. In an emotive discourse he said no matter if people responsible for 1984 riots do not repents for their crime, does not matters if organizers of Gujrat pogrom does not apologise publicly for their crime against humanity but He begged pardon on the behalf of Chandra Singh Shaheed who wrote a story 100 years ago “Stri Sabha” and painted a grey picture of women folks, now the time has changed as the picture is changed and men are the real culprits now.
Second session of the conference was dedicated to the Punjabi Literature and Feminist issues. A book of poetry written by immigrants in last 40 years was released by Dr Sheila Embleton (FRCS, Dean of Languages, Linguistics and Literature York University). ‘Koonjan’ is edited by Dr. Kanwanjit Dhillon and Surjit Kaur followed by papers presented by Surinder Kaur (Ludhiana), Dr Surjit Bhatti (Patiala) and Dr. Jaskiran Mathur (New York).
Famous critique Prof. Satish Verma also spoke about the book and explained the status of women in our society. He said Women is born immigrant worldwide. She is supposed to leave home of her parents and settle with in laws family which is also immigration in itself. She is the main creator of the world. The plight and pain expressed in ‘Koonjan’ is not immigrant’s pain but its related to every women of the world.
Dr. Vinita, Khalsa College Delhi, winner of Sahitya Acadamy prize spoke in length about the book Koonjan. She said women have a social subordinate status in the whole world since it’s a result of patriarchal society. Women have their head high wherever there is a matriarchal society.
Third session was dealt with the challenges of Punjabi immigrant women. 63 years old social psychologist Aruna Papp gave her detailed personal account and shared her pain and agonies being a boggy puller of so-called Indian culture. She told about those situations she faced back home in India where her father had six daughters and a son, married to abusive husband made her life a living hell and when she tried to get divorce from him, she was faced in numerous challenges from within the family. She told, there are no communication channels in Indian household, particularly with the female members of the family. A daughter has to communicate with the help of mother in case she needs to convey some message. She was 56 years old when she got her first communication with her father. A tale of agonies she wrote in her book “Unworthy Creature”. She had gone to UN representing case of Canadian women last year as well. She analysed the difference between domestic violence and honor killing and its modus operandi. She told the house that there have been 22 honor killings in Canada till now.
Dr. Maria Wallis from Ryerson University gave details of the racial discrimination being practice under the skin in Canada. She told, many highly educated South Asian professionals are being sidelined by the authorities here in GTA. She told that 55% population of Peel region is racialized by the system. People paying taxes but they are not being given equal opportunities in jobs and executives. She called upon the community to get organized and fight back to have their genuine share in the society.
Research scholar Jaspreet Kaur from Queen University also spoke about her experiences from India and Canadian society. She emphasised to keep the best virtue from Indian culture but to shun all stereo typed behavior.
Last session was a colorful bouquet of cultural events. Uzma Mehmood, Kavita Gupta, Sunder Pal, Syeda Nujhat Siddiqui enchanted the audience with their classy poetry. Baby Bhatti performed a Katthak Dance which was widely appreciated by the audience.
Proceeding of the conference continued for eight long hours where 26 speakers spoke on the issues, two chorus were performed, six poetesses graced audience with their emphatic poetry and one dance performance was conducted. About 300 people attended the conference, so many plaques were distributed to distinguished people, it was a dream come true for Dr. Kanwaljit Dhillon who conceived the idea for this conference and successfully touched the chord of ailing society i.e. South Asian Immigrant community, Punjabi in particular.
शमशाद इलाही शम्स। लेखक टोरंटो स्थित टीकाकार हैं। वह हस्तक्षेप के सम्मानित स्तंभकार हैं।