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August 08, 2019 - Image 9

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The Michigan Daily

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Thursday, August 8, 2019
The Michigan Daily — michigandaily.com MICHIGAN IN COLOR

Punjab. Literally the land of
five rivers. . . or, well, it used to
be. You see, even the name of
our homeland brings pain these
days. How can I tell you the pain
of Punjab? Quite honestly, it is
a pain that I can hardly even
understand. My experience as
a member of the Punjabi dias-
pora has been filled with tragic
realizations, one after the other.
In the moments where I realize
that my Bebe Ji (maternal grand-
mother) did not just “develop” a
brain tumor, but she likely devel-
oped it after growing up and
spending much of her life in the
“Cancer belt” of Punjab, a region
so named due to the presence of
villages having cancer rates near
100 percent. This, of course, is
the result of Indian state-man-

dated pesticides that used by
farmers in the region. Mind you,
those pesticides were not needed
when farmers were able to grow
the crops they wanted on their
land. The Green Revolution and
the Indian State, in collabora-
tion with powers in the West like
Rockefeller, the U.S. and others,
forced these farmers to adhere
to Western standards of farming
that were designed for high yield.
What they did not realize was
that these farmers had the wis-
dom of their ancestors and knew
how to take care of this land.
These crops and the water they
require are drying up a water
table that has allowed Punjab to
be one of the most fertile places
on earth, yet soon Punjab will be
a desert. The land of five rivers
reduced to none. The pain I feel
comes from the fact that on this
issue alone I could talk for days
on end about farmer suicide, can-

cer rates, and how farming fami-
lies are slowly being destroyed
by the Indian state. There are so
many more issues in my ances-
tral homeland.
And you see it was these farm-
ers that invented this bhangra
that you all enjoy so much, or
perhaps you’ll recognize it more
if I refer to it as “bong-ra”. You
see, those same farmers that
used to dance so joyously when
their crops were successful are
the ones committing suicide as
their work only brings profits
in their dreams these days. The
five rivers are now diverted from
the land of Punjab and sold back
to Punjabi farmers. And yet that
same water is sent to the rest of
India for free. Yet I see so many
engage in Punjabi culture with-
out even realizing that the deriv-
atives of my culture that they
participate in may be all that is
left of it in a few decades. All I ask

is that you realize how little is
left of authentic Punjabi culture
and the fact that the Indian state
is systematically destroying Pun-
jabi land and culture in a pure act
of empire. The links to Palestin-
ians being robbed of their water
by the Israeli state should be rec-
ognized, but this also just proves
that Imperial states are not cre-
ative in their violence.
And of course, now we see
full-on occupation as the Indian
state, using their philosophy of
Hindutva, attempts to finally
complete its colonial project of
destroying the one of the Mus-
lim-majority state in the South
Asian region. Of course, I cannot
do Kashmir justice in a few lines,
but I plead to all of you to educate
yourself on what is happening to
my Kashmiris and Palestinians
and support their resistance and
efforts to finally be free. But I

digress . . .
This is not a claim of cultural
appropriation. This is a plea to
simply recognize that the mini-
mizing of Punjabi culture to
songs about “Patiala peg” and
whatever other intoxicant y’all
want to romanticize this week
is just another violence on top
of what Punjab has been put
through for the past 72 years if
you want to only speak of Indian
state-sponsored violence. I just
hope that I will see some respon-
sibility in how Punjabi culture
is represented in spaces and not
simply minimized to hype music
and getting hammered. For those
of us that spend every day learn-
ing more and more about how
much we lost, please remember
us next time you understand
Punjabi culture within this mini-
malistic lens. The spirit of Pun-
jab cannot be boxed in, no matter
how hard y’all try.

On Punjab

MiC Assistant Editor

Courtesy of Harnoor Singh
“I took it at Dr. Hari Singh Sevak Senior Secondary School in Kot Kapoora, Punjab (school named after my Nana ji, parental grandfather in my mom’s hometown)”

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