After the bravado and bluster: The end of the show at the Wagah border.
The choreographed aggression of flag-lowering ceremonies on the Wagah border dividing Punjab and frequent cross-border gunfire in Jammu and Kashmir are stereotypical images of the Indo-Pak border. They tend to resonate especially on the days that commemorate the birth of both countries – August 14 for Pakistan and August 15 for India. In both states, national narratives dominated by such images ignore other border crossings between the two neighbours. This is especially true of border crossings that emphasise not the animosity but the continuing links that exist across the border. The Munabao-Khokhrapar crossing on the Sindh-Rajasthan border is an example.
Home and heart
By Sarita Kumari Sodha
The Sodha Parmers, the Rajput clan to which I belong, settled in Amarkot (The royal house of Amarkot; the place was renamed Umerkot after Partition) in Sindh, now Pakistan, in 1123 AD. During Partition, my grandfather Rana Arjun Singh was asked to cede Amarkot to India, but he refused. He joined the Muslim League instead, saying that he could never imagine leaving his motherland, the land of his ancestors. Sadly he died in Janary1947.
My grandmother Dev Kunwar, who was from from Jaipur and had married into Umerkot, was asked by her brothers to return to Jaipur, but she too refused and braved Partition alone with her three young sons. She was a lady of small stature but great character who in those times rode a horse, carried a gun and refused to give an inch. The other Sodha families also stayed behind, not wanting to leave their ancestral lands.
Sindh has a unique culture of love and brotherhood, a legacy that Sindhis carry from the advent of Sufism in the 11th century. The Sodhas share their culture, language, dress and dietary habits with other groups in Sindh, but still maintain their own beliefs. Their clan deity, Deval mataji, resides in Kharore, a small place close to Amarkot. All the Sodhas worship her. At the time of the Navrathri festival, colourful fairs are organised here. It is a time for worship and gathering.
The Sodhas are an integral part of Sindh; even the folklore of the area recognizes that. The famous folk song ‘Mor thor tile rana’, sung at marriages and festivities in Sindh, praises Rana Ratan Sodha of Amarkot, who was martyred by the British in 1859 for resisting and killing the local chieftain appointed by the Raj to collect taxes.
In Rajasthan and in Sindh, the 14th-century Sodha ruler Ramdev is worshipped by both Hindus and Muslim on both sides of the border. Ramdev was married to a Sodha princess of Amarkot.
There is a strong connection between Sindh and Rajasthan as all the Sodha girls are married across the border into Rajasthan, mainly in Barmer and Jaisalmer districts, as they are close to the border area and share the same culture. For Sodha girls married across the border, the experience is is heart-wrenching, as they miss their beloved homeland and crave a sight of ‘Khejri’, a small tree found in the Thar Desert which reminds them of what they left behind. After marriage, their movement is restricted by the border and visa requirements, and many of them never return to see their families and homes again.
This is a land divided by a border found only on maps. For its people, the other part of their land is just across the desert.
Romila Thapar addresses invitees at the
Southasian relaunch of Himal Southasian,
IIC, New Delhi, January 2013.
China, Southasia and India
On May 19 2013, newly appointed Chinese Premier Li Keqiang arrived in New Delhi for a series of meetings with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The visit is Keqiang's first outside of China since assuming power in March.
From our archive:
Purna Basnet discusses Chinese engagement in Nepal vis-a-vis security issues in Tibet and broader geo-strategic plans in Southasia (April 2011).
Fatima Chowdury relates the story of Calcutta's Indian Chinese community through the lens of political and economic upheavals in Southasia and China (May 2009).
Simon Long notes the importance of the Sino-Indian relationship for the rest of Southasia (September 2006).
J.N Dixit ruminates on the strategic concerns of the 'Middle Kingdom' in the wake of India's 1998 nuclear tests (June 1998).