After making this demand for years, the citizens of Lahore have finally changed the name of Shadman Chowk to Bhaghat Singh Chowk on his 79th death anniversary
By Haroon Khalid
There are few people who have challenged the status of Gandhi as the most famous leader of the Indian Freedom Movement. Bhagat Singh at the age of 23 was able to do that. This name has received immense coverage in the recent years, courtesy the Indian cinema. Had it not been due to the recent popular Indian movies, not many people in Pakistan would have been aware of this young revolutionary, who shook the foundations of the British Imperial Empire and gave a new impetus to the freedom struggle. His methods and methodology was a marked departure from the popular modus operandi of the Congress Party. Initially, Bhagat Singh supported Gandhi's cause but after sudden end to the non-cooperation movement following the Chauri Chaura incident, he was disillusioned by the non-violence of Gandhi, preferring to do things his own way. Bhagat Singh says in his writings that when the deaf can't hear, their ears need to be pulled up; 'to make the deaf hear'. His bombing of the Delhi Assembly was to achieve this purpose. The aim was not to kill anyone as a low intensity bomb was used, and it was thrown at a vacant location where it could do minimum damage. It was thrown only with the purpose of making their voice reach the rulers. Gandhi rejected the 'cowardly' act; however, both Jinnah and Nehru developed a romantic association with this young patriot and tried till the end to stop the hanging of Bhagat Singh.
Much has been brought in front of the public about the life and thoughts of the young revolutionaries by the movies; however, what many people in Pakistan do not know is that this part of India, which later became Pakistan, played a prominent role in the life of Bhagat Singh. He was born in a small village in the out-skirts of Faisalabad, where his ancestral house and primary school still stand. It is told that one of his Muslim friends from early days, still lives in the village.
Bhagat Singh got his education from Lahore, and this is where he became a revolutionary in the true sense of the word. He also formed his Naujawan Bharat Sabha in Lahore, whereas the office of the Party was in a small room in the precincts of Mozang. It is said that the room, where the office once was, still exists.
Bhagat Singh was kept in Lahore Jail which exists near Ichhra today. However, at that time the jail was much bigger than what it is today, covering most of the area of Shadman, right up to the Hata Mul Chand Chowk.
Near the Main Market of Shadman, there is a roundabout with a fountain, called the Shadman Chowk or Faware wala Chowk. It is said that the gallows of the jail were around this area, and this is where Bhagat Singh, along with his compatriots, Sukhdev and Rajguru, were hanged on March 23, 1931.
The state of history in Pakistan is pitiable. Instead of being taught as a subject to illumine the mind of the pupil, it is used as a political weapon to mould the thoughts of the young. The results achieved so far have been more than satisfactory. It is bizarre how even the elitist schools in the country would begin teaching history from Indus valley, talk about Gandhara civilization and jump straight to the Mughals, leaving a void of more than a thousand years. The legacy of Bhagat Singh has also escaped history books even though he is so closely associated with Lahore; not many people are able to make that connection. Despite receiving recognition from the founder of Pakistan, Bhagat Singh has failed to make an impact on the policy makers of the country, which sadly is not Bhagat Singh's loss but our own. The reason seems to be the non-Muslim credentials of the martyr. Hopefully one day, we would be able to look outside the pale of religious boundaries and admire and own people by their actions and thoughts and not by their dogmatic parameters.
There are nonetheless a few organisations and individuals in the country who seem to admire the history of our land, and make an effort to own and disperse it amongst the people. On the 23rd of March this year, when most of the Pakistanis were enjoying the 'Pakistan Day' holiday with their families and friends, there were a handful of people who were protesting at the Shadman Chowk. These people, who belong to the various communist and socialist groups of the city, have been gathering here on this particular day, exhorting the government to change the name of this Chowk from Shadman Chowk to Shaheed Bhagat Singh Chowk, in memory of the youth of Lahore who sacrificed his life for the desolate people of India, irrespective of their colour, creed or religion.
Over the years this particular group has been able to get recognition from local politicians and the media. Some years ago, the then Governor Punjab Lt. General (Retd) Khalid Maqbool conceded to their demand verbally. However, since this issue is for the local government and not for the governor, the order could not be implemented. Therefore, the struggle goes on. This year when the group met at a preliminary meeting at Diep Saeeda's house, it was suggested by Iqbal Qaiser that instead of asking the officials to change the name, they should rather put up a board next to the Chowk, declaring it Shaheed Bhagat Singh Chowk, just like somebody decided to call it Chaudary Rehmat Ali Chowk a few years ago. The former board that sprang up over night may likely counter the demand of this group. On March 23, they completely covered the existing board with spray paint, and wrote Shaheed Bhagat Singh Chowk on it. Even though the local inspector objected to their action, he did nothing. Salman Rashid pointed out a few weeks ago, how various crossings are named after local traders, etc. Let us see if this crossing would be able to retain its new name given to it by this group.
There is another interesting story related to this area. The British rule at that time demanded presence of a magistrate by the gallows at the hour of persecution. However, such was the support of these three people that no magistrate in whole of India wanted to take the risk. The British in desperation turned to Nawab Muhammad Ahmad, who was an honorary judge from Kasur. He was present at the time of their hanging, from where their bodies were taken to the bank of River Sutlej where they were cremated in his presence. Later on, people built samadhis to mark the area. These are present on the Indian side of the border, and are visible from Ganda Singh, Pakistan.
The irony is that later, during Bhutto's tenure, Nawab Muhammad Khan was killed at this place (Shadman). His son Ahmad Raza Khan Kasuri launched an FIR against Z.A. Bhutto at the Ichhra police station for the murder of his father. Later, Zia-ul-Haq hanged Bhutto for the death of Nawab Muhammad Ahmad. He is buried in Kasur near Bulleh Shah's tomb. On one side of Sutlej is the grave of this magistrate and on the other are the Smadhs of the Shaheeds.
Being a historical location and closely associated with Bhagat Singh, it is a reasonable demand on the part of the citizens of Lahore to rename this Chowk after Shaheed Bhagat Singh. After years of futility, they have finally taken the action themselves. In a city where anybody can name a Chowk on his/her name, it would indeed be a pity if the name of Shaheed Bhagat Singh Chowk is not accepted by the authorities, and the populace.
The Road Prince & I
By Haneya H. Zuberi
Kids like to live in fantasy worlds of their own. If these fantasies are innovative and slightly on the wilder edge, it can be taken for granted that the child is right brained. Not that I was any exception as a child but as far as my fantasies were concerned, well, to say the least they were a little beyond the fence. Or in safer words I should confess being right brained.
Being the only child of my parents fuelled my fast pacing fantasies even more. If I were in the car, riding with my parents, I would have the entire back seat to myself. If it were night time I would watch the moon move parallel to my car and was convinced that it was going exactly where my parents were driving me. I would sit on my knees and turn my face towards the back screen and watch cars come behind me sometimes. It used to look like they were chasing me. It was the age of need for speed after all!
I always won because my daddy was the best driver in the whole wide world. I used to think of Aladdin's carpet and even flying cars. How one day I will invent a flying car and would advertise it on the flying carpet. Life was magical. Paradoxically, a real life popular vehicle caught my attention one day and took less than a microsecond to top my favorite vehicles list.
It was the Rickshaw; the colourful, vibrant, rattling vehicle. I would play "Rickshaw Wala" with my friends where I would be the rickshaw operator and would drive all the way to United States for a few rupees only. Yes, I grew up in the era when the "original" Barbie dolls used to come from United States only and hence it used to be my favourite destination. This explains to me why I am pro free trade now. Nevertheless, my desire for driving a rickshaw was not fulfilled.
Many moons later, now, when I own a computerised green ID card of my own and am considered an adult by all the adults that I know, my childhood dream materialised. Well I couldn't really eat the cake but at least I had it. Allow me to simplify it for you. I couldn't drive the rickshaw but I got to travel in it.
In case you're wondering, what kind of cocooned life have I lived that I never really travelled solo in a rickshaw before, I would suggest you blame my parents. They were the ones who insulated me from the wonderful world of rickshaws and had wired me in the car all my life. Unless, of course, one fateful day I had to go to a government office for some official documentation which unbelievably took four heavy hours while my driver waited outside. He had no idea that it would take ridiculously long and neither did I. It was my bad luck that I was not carrying my cell phone with me that day or else I would have informed him.
Thanking God, I left the office when I was done with my work but suddenly felt like taking the Thank You back from Him. My car was nowhere to be seen. Thanks to global warming, the March Sun was blazing on me. I walked across the road but my car and driver were no where in sight. I had never been in such a fix before. Neither had I ever been standing in the middle of the road standing all by myself as a public amusement monument before. After a few minutes, I figured that my driver had gone and I had to quickly think of an alternative.
That was when a wave of adventure took over me albeit it was not like I had any other option because a queue of Pakistani Jawans fully armed to rescue the damsel in distress was forming. The child inside me was fantasizing about being Dorothy lost in the Oz. Lions and tigers and bears, Oh my! I gestured a Rickshaw Wala to stop. He did. I told him where I lived and if he could take me. He replied in negative as it was not his route. Dejected, I gestured another one to stop. He had the same reply. Then another, and then another. Luck was not siding with me. It felt like I lived in the Neverlands where nobody could take me.
Just when I was about to give up; one rickshaw driver agreed to drive me to the other side of the city. Within a few seconds I hopped onto the rickshaw. That was when the real adventure began. I can never thank the man who discovered compressed natural gas. The CNG rickshaw drive was smooth and mesmerizing. The engine sounds were epic. The view from inside was novel. It was like watching the same city, the same people but from a different lens. It was a long ride home; it took me about an hour to get back. In those sixty minutes I learned a lot more about the people and routes of Lahore than I had in my nineteen years of riding in a car. To me, the rickshaw was my saviour, my knight in shining armor. No wonder they call it the Road Prince!
*Solo Show by Hussain Tariq at The Drawing Room Art Gallery till Tue, March 30
from 5:00 pm to 8:00 pm.
*Exhibition of Works by Mansoora Hasan
at Rohtas Gallery till Sat, April 3.
*Solo Show 'Sound of Colours' by
Mohammad Ali Bhatti at Revivers Galleria till
Apr 3. Gallery Timing: 11 am to 9 pm.
*Mental Health Week 2010 from
Wed, Mar 31 to Sat, Apr 3 at Government
College University Lahore. Theme:
Forensic Psychology: Issues and Interventions.
*Exhibition: The embroidered linen company showing its work from Tue, Mar 30 to Thu, Apr 1 at The Drawing Room Art Gallery.
Revolutionary and ambitious
About 17000 public sector schools in the province are going to switch over to English medium from next month
By Tariq bin Khalas
Herbert Spencer said that the great aim of education is not just knowledge but action. Many ventures were taken as part of Punjab government plans to reform public sector school education in yesteryear. The highlights of it were introduction of Danish school system for poor, the setting up of 4286 state of the art computer labs, on-merit induction of school educators and promotion of co-curricular activities through debate and essay contests.
Punjab school education department is going to introduce English as the medium of instruction in all the public sector schools. That will be done in phases. From the fresh academic session commencing from 1st April, 2010 about 17,000 public sector schools in Lahore, Faisalabad and Multan districts are being turned into 'English medium'. Half of the children studying in public sector go to these schools. The remaining 44,000 schools will switch over to English medium from April 1, 2011.
"Layman's complaint of being exploited by private institutions in the name of English medium, can only be checked if public schools provide a reliable alternate," says Provincial Minister for Education Mujtaba Shuja-ur-Rehman. "English medium, elegant uniform and computer literacy in private schools attract the parents, consequently public schools are losing talented students," he adds. "The experiment of one English medium section in selected schools has shown first-rate results and proved the potential of public sector schools", the minister claims.
According to the plan, initially science and mathematics will be taught in English from nursery class in selected schools. The remaining subjects will be taught in Urdu. These schools will be giving complete instructions in English within four years.
To generate complete English medium atmosphere in the schools, all signboards, attendance boards, registers and correspondence will be in converted in English. The assembly would be conducted in English three days a week. English Translation of Quranic verses, National Anthem and 'Dua' along with message of the day in English will be communicated to assembly audiences. The proceedings of all the co-curricular activities will be in English up to a possible extent. Daily display of two English newspapers on stands will be compulsory. The class size will be kept under 50.
Though the system of external exams is the same, internal examinations will undergo a complete change. The exam papers would follow a pattern of Punjab Examination Commission (PEC).
Wajid Husain Malik, an educationist and English language teacher, says, "English is the language of science and technology. It is the language of internet too. In India, apart from Hindi, there are more then 26 regional languages, yet they adopted English as the medium of instruction in all schools, whether private or public, soon after independence. Consequently, they are far ahead of us.
Others are doubtful about the teachers' potential to deliver under the new system. How can a teacher, who has been teaching Science and Math in Urdu for years, will be able to do the same in English? asks a Physics lecturer.
But Education Minister Mujtaba Shuja-ur-Rehman shows strong faith in Government teachers as they are comparatively more talented, qualified and trained with better salary and job security. Majority of the newly recruited educators hold masters degree.
When asked that around 55,000 primary school teachers are simply Matriculates, how can they impart instructions in English to their pupils, the education minister says, "Actually these teachers were hired before 1990. Some of them are inefficient so we are trying to formulate a criteria to relieve them honourably."
In order to achieve this objective, the department held a six-day spoken English course for a large number of teachers at Directorate of Staff Development (DSD) Lahore and these 'master trainers' are now passing on 12-day training to teachers in their own schools as well as in nearby schools. Many teachers are skeptical about this training. "My trainer at DSD had no answer when I asked whether a person can be trained to chat in English in 12 days," says a high school teacher.
Wajid Malik, English language teacher argues, "It is simply hesitation, nothing else; teachers would simply get used to speaking English within a year or two as they switch over to the new medium. People resist change and introducing something becomes even more difficult in the field of education it has been seen around the globe."
Many teachers told that DSD trainers asked them to keep speaking English in classes regardless of whether it was correct or not. "This is called Direct Method and is very effective. I remained consultant in Saudi Arabia's Education ministry for some time. Initially, to teach English, the Saudis hired teachers from Syria, Jordan, Palestine and other Arab speaking African countries. The result was disappointing. Consequently, they appointed teachers who did not know Arabic. They applied 'Direct method' to teach English and the result was amazing," Wajid elaborates.
The Punjab Education Minister says introduction of English as medium of instruction in government schools is in accordance with the Education Policy of federal government which aims to introduce English medium in all public sector schools by 2015. However, Islamiyat, Arabic and optional subjects will be taught in Urdu.
One of the main objectives of the programme is to raise the standard of science education in public sector schools. Nonetheless, despite induction of new science teachers public high schools still face shortage of science teachers. "Science teachers are overworked as they are one to four in ratio compared with the strength of arts teachers. Moreover, their subjects are highly demanding. To meet the demand of time, Science education should me made compulsory for regular students up to matric level and seats allocation for science teachers must be increased," says Malik Amir Sultan, a recently retired senior high school headmaster. "This can easily be done by promoting B.Sc or M.Sc elementary teachers as Science teacher, especially those who are performing well," he suggests.
This medium conversion programme seems incredibly revolutionary and ambitious. Keeping in view past experiments, the authorities should tread with care as a hurried shift will directly affect 13 million children studying in public sector schools.
The project of Lady McLagan School's expansion will leave as many as 25 'illegal' residences in the premises demolished
By Waqar Gillani
As many as 25 small residences of an old slum of Lahore which was set up in the quarters of Lady Mclagan Government Girls High School have been demolished.
The residents were occupants of a piece of land and quarters of the schools since last 50 to 60 years and now were demanding ownership rights of these quarters as an old Katchi Abadi. However, a local resident, who was not living in this slum, engaged the school authorities and the government in litigation, a couple of years back, claiming that the land was owned by him. However, the court gave the verdict in favour of school early this March on which the government decided to vacate the whole land and extend the school to avoid further controversies in future, TNS learnt from reliable school authorities.
The residents claim that they had been living in these quarters for decades and never engaged themselves in any controversy. "We demand from the government to give us substitute land to build our houses," says Zebunnisa, an old lady in late 50s and a retired grade four employee of the Government Education College for Women situated at the back of the school. She says most of the people living here earn their bread and butter by doing small jobs and labour. Ali Asghar, in early 20s, is one of those whose father was even born here in these quarters but today, he thinks, the government has forgotten them at this difficult time.
Muhammad Ejaz, 28, a clerk in the education department, mentioned the quiet role of the local political leadership. "They always come here to get votes at the time of election but they did nothing for us in this hour of need. Yes, we are illegal residents of katchi abadis like thousands others in Pakistan but we demand our right to live," he emphasized. He also protested that the quarters were demolished without any prior notice.
The Chief Minister of the province Shahbaz Sharif has repeatedly announced low-cost housing facilities for the deserving families and lower middle class of the province in the national press. However, the local political leadership of Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) has yet not paid any attention to this dwelling and the demolition of the houses of the poor in this old part of Lahore," says Saleem Jadoon, a local journalist whose family is also affected in this operation.
According to a directive of chief minister's secretariat dated August 31, 2007, a copy of which is available with TNS, the CM, on the pursuance of Dr Farzana Nazir, former member Punjab Assembly (MPA) had directed the secretary Zakat and Ushr department to submit views and comments on the request of the aforementioned afectees to give them ownership rights of these quarters where they have been living for many decades. In the application, attached with the directive, the affected families claimed that they have been living in these quarters since 1947 and now the government, as per its announced scheme to give proprietary rights to the people of slums living there for more than 20 years, should give them ownership rights of these quarters. However, no concrete step was taken, says Jadoon.
The affectees also showed TNS a written claim that they have been living in this area for the last 50 to 60 years. The claim made on two sheets of plain paper also show stamp of a local Union Council nazim Muhammad Ilyas Khan, nazim UC 80, of City District Government Lahore (CDGL) but it shows no date on it.
The affectees also tried to negotiate with the government demanding Rs 300,000 compensation per family and six months time to vacate the place but the education department did not agree.
On the contrary, Executive District Officer (EDO) of education department of CDGL, Dr Arshad Ali, says the issue has been 'amicably' resolved. "They were illegal occupants of government land and some of the people of the area had gone into litigation in higher court to grab this piece of land. After winning the case in the court, the authorities have decided to vacate this piece of land to avoid further controversies and build a block to upgrade the school to higher secondary level," the EDO tells TNS.
He says the residents of these quarters were served with notices by the department many times. At one point the school administration after seeking permission from the education department also pasted notices outside the walls and doors of these houses but the illegal occupants did not pay heed to it. They always deny that they received any notice, he mentioned.
"Now, the issue has been amicably resolved and as per discussion with the affectees, the government is paying Rs100,000 compensation to each family and has asked them to vacate the place at the earliest (by this Sunday)." They will get the compensations after they vacate the slum and they have unanimously agreed to this, claims Dr Arshad.