Saturday, May 06, 2006

Kee Sade apne Barah Baj Gaye ah?

Last week my wife sent this to me, she said she sent it all her Hindu friends at her company as well to inform them where the phrase Barah Baj Gaye comes from. I admitted to her that if this is truely the history I was not aware of it. Today, on my business trip sitting in this hotel room as I cleaned my inbox I saw this again. Read this email she sent and then read the rest of my thoughts on this as I reflected on this alone in a strange city...

I was waiting at Jalandhar railway station when I noticed a Sikh youth wearing a black turban having a long beard and wearing a kirpan over his shirt. After a while, a totally packed train arrived. The Sikh youth tried to get in but failed. Just then a voice was heard from the back coach 'Sardarji Barah Baj Gaye'

The Sikh youth looked over at that voice maker who was a young mischievous person and instead of showing any anger gave him a smile.

His smile so enigmatic that I could not able to resist walked upto him to ask as to why he smiled at that person who teased him.

The Sikh youth replied, 'He was not teasing me but perhaps asking for my help'. I was surprised with these words. He told me that there was a big history behind that which I may like to know.

During 17th Century, when Hindustan was ruled by Mughals, Hindus were humiliated. Mughals treated Hindu women as there own property and were forcing Hindus to accept Islam or face death penalty.

At time, ninth Sikh Guru, Sri Guru Teg Bahadarji came forward, in response to a request of Kashmiri Pundits to fight against Mughal atrocities. Guruji challenged the Mughal emperor that if he could succeed in converting him to Islam, all Hindus would accept the same. But, if he failed, he should stop harassing them.

The Mughal emperor happily agreed. Guruji and four of his followers were tortured. Since the Mughals were unable to convert them to Islam they were assassinated.

Thus Guruji sacrificed his life for the protection of Hindu religion. Can anybody lay down his life and that too for the protection of another religion? He is still remembered as "Hind Ki Chaddar"*, shield of India.

Tenth Sikh Guru Sri Guru Gobind Singhji (Son of Guru Teg Bahadarji) founder of khalsa made a resolution that he would convert his followers so that they can be easily located in thousands, and called for help.

Sikhs kept fighting against the Mughal emperors. At that time, Nadir Shah raided Delhi in the year 1739 and looted Hindustan and was carrying lot of Hindustan treasures and nearly 2200 Hindu women along with him. The news spread like a fire and was heard by Sardar Jassa Singh who was the Commander of the Sikh army at that time. He decided to attack Nadir Shah's Kafila on the same midnight. He did so and rescued all the Hindu women and they were safely sent to their homes. It didn't happen only once but thereafter whenever any Abdaalis or Iranis had attacked and looted Hindustan and were trying to carry the treasures and Hindu women along with them for selling them in Abdal markets, the Sikh army although fewer in numbers but brave hearted and attacked them at 12 midnight and rescued women.

After that time when there occurred a similar incidence, people started to contact the Sikh army for their help and Sikhs used to attack the raider's at 12 Midnight.

Those ignorant, feel that Sikhs go out of their senses at 12 O'clock.

This historic fact was the reason which made me smile at that person as I thought perhaps his mother or sister would be in trouble and wants my help and was reminding me by saying off 'Sardarji Barah Baj Gaye'

Let us respect all religions.

... so the thought that came to mind today was, historically when foreign Muslim invaders were taking Hindu daughters Sikhs would attack them and bring the girls back home safely. If we were the saviors of others daughters, their pride, their dignity then where did we pick up the disease of killing our own daughters?

Are we no longer ashamed of tarnishing our own turbans? We have become so bold that the fear of being marked as a “Kuri Maar” is not scary to us anymore, or could it be that with our Sikh leadership the way it is, its one eyed leading the blind.

We do not need any one to come tell us that our own little angels are being killed in medical clinics and hospitals all across Punjab today. So this time kyon na asee apney Barah Bajaa laiye lets sound off the biguls, wake up the artillery and let’s stop the killing our own daughters this time.

I invite comments with links to sites or NGOs working in Punjab for this cause.

Training Women to become Leaders by Kiran Bedi

This is a "cut and paste" of a Kiran Bedi Op-Ed piece that appeared in the Tribune on Sunday May 07, 2006. She has never been afraid to take the issues head on and I admire her courage and strength to stand up for what she knows to be right. Hope you will enjoy reading this...

Training women to become leaders
by Kiran Bedi

This fortnight was full of creative happenings for me from which I drew greater learning and inspiration. The happenings were: (a) Listening to Muslim women in a training programme, (b) An interaction with over 120 officers, men and women, in one of our premier civil services of the country, and (c) the release of a police manual for police trainers on gender issues.

In all the three events, the common thread happened to be women at different levels of development in our society. Let me first come to the Muslim women: I witnessed the closure of a training programme for Muslim women, sponsored by a Trust and supported by large-hearted Muslim donors, and a bank from overseas. It was indeed a heartening experience to see where the Muslim women’s needs too were slowly coming into focus. The feedback revealed a world of a difference the training programme had made in their attitudes. Perhaps a first such exposure for all of them.

Many of these women attending/sitting in the training room were with veils on their faces, while I was amongst them in my police uniform. They listened to me with great respect and awe. I wondered how much more time will they take to shed these ‘curtains’ (as I see it) from their faces…

I wanted to ask them (but did not, due to the presence of men) if they were keeping themselves camouflaged because of the absence of personal courage or fear of men or being shy of elders or strictly faith?

Well, this is India with all its diversity of circumstances and opportunities. But I was quite surprised to see that the Self Help Group (SHG) programme for women was still alien to them, when it has become a success in micro credit schemes for women all over the country. It had been specially mentioned and supported by our Finance Minister in this year’s budget speech. Apparently, women end up “shopping or sobbing” with all kinds of soap operas on the television, than for acquiring knowledge and information. I told them that while such training courses were of immense importance, today the media has educative value too if they so choose to pick. The remote is in their hands. This is one huge segment of Indian society which truly needs greater attention of the government and the non-government sector.

In the Question and Answer session, one of the answers which was probably difficult for them hear was, when they asked me, “What has made work and home possible”? I said, “ Small family. I decided to give birth to one child and not more.” For most of the women sitting in the audience, this was still a distant dream. But then, they were not alone.

My second happening confirmed this when I got to speak to probationers of a premier service of our country. After I finished my interaction with the officers, one of the women officers who accompanied me in my car to drop me back, asked me “Madam, how will my juniors take my orders if I assert? Or if I make a mistake? Or if I tell them not to do a particular thing in the manner they are used to doing? Will they listen to me as a woman?

I shot back instinctively and said, “of course they will? Yes, a lot depends on how you prepare yourself. How well you train yourself. How well you keep yourself informed or how confident you become? And certainly how willing you are to learn even from your juniors: Knowing that they could know more than you”.

She went back wondering the tough and long journey of professional life that lies ahead of her. More so as a woman. She was not behind a veil.

Yet not sure of her still, even when she had academically qualified for the premier service of this country. I wondered was she an isolated case? No she was not…!

Now on to the third issue: concerning a matter of training men to respond and enforce matters which concern women’s safety and security. I was invited to present a critique on the Manual being released for Police Trainers. I found it to be a very useful training manual, brought out by the Center for Social Science Research, Delhi. The manual is an excellent road map for police trainers to train police trainees on gender issues, particularly domestic violence and trafficking in women.

But the pertinent question I did ask was — while the trainers have this material to train, who are the trainers? Where will they come from? Because so far training in police is still not a priority issue. Those appointed to training feel discounted.

Unless police training becomes a priority for police leadership, well written manuals will remain unutilised. In fact, if a collection of state police training policies is made from all states it may be an eye opener. Some states may still not have a well declared training policy. Delhi Police itself did not have one, worth being called a policy, till just a few years ago. (I framed one and Police Commissioner Ajai Raj Sharma approved it).

So much for fighting terrorists? Naxalites? Cyber crimes, Communal riots? Crimes against women? Any one listening?