Qurban Ali’s Legacy and the Partitions of Baltistan
Time & Location
About the Event
Qurban Ali’s Legacy and the Partitions of Baltistan Saturday 31st October, 6.30 P.M.
On the night of 13th December 1971, people in the village of Turtuk, Baltistan, ‘went to sleep in Pakistan but woke up in Hindustan.’ The five border villages of Turtuk, Thyakshi, Thang, Pachathang and Chalungka, located in the Karakoram mountains, ‘entered’ India that week; they became a part of Ladakh, then two more Balti villages were joined to Kargil. Baltistan, once a vital part of the Indian imagination as well as trade routes to Central Asia, had become virtually sealed off from India in 1948 as the borders of India and Pakistan were imposed in this region. At this time the Balti people living in Kargil had been separated from their kin in the rest of Baltistan that had gone under the control of Pakistan. In 1965, the village of Hundarman, caught in the war between the two countries, was virtually cut off from both for many months, and ultimately came to India in 1971.
A part of Baltistan became accessible again to Indians with the opening up of Turtuk in 2010. The major part however, of more than 500 villages in Pakistan, continued to remain inaccessible to the Balti people of India and vice versa. Over 9000 families still remain divided across the border between India and Pakistan. When mutual access did become possible for them, it was not directly across, but after a journey of 4000 Km via Amritsar or Lahore and the Wagah border.
Balti people thus witnessed the trauma of three partitions, in 1948, 1965 and 1971, and their evocative poetry is suffused with the experiences of loss, parting, divided families, a deep sense of alienation – and also a resilient sense of hope.
Much of this poetry is permeated by the spirit and wisdom of Qurban Ali, the great Balti poet of Turtuk, also known as ‘Bulbul-e-Baltistan’. He is said to have lived for over 105 years, turned blind in his sixties, continued to compose poetry, and died in the 1950s. His poems are inscribed on the rocks in Turtuk. Qurban Ali’s poems were never published, yet they are on everyone’s lips in the region; and he never wrote directly of these partitions, yet most poets who did, drew upon his insights to express themselves.
This conversation is between the much loved Balti poet & lyricist Fazil Abbas of Turtuk, who is also Qurban Ali’s great-grandson; Sadiq Hardassi of Kargil, a scholar of both Balti literature and Divided Families; and Kavita Panjabi, Professor of Comparative Literature at Jadavpur University, Kolkata, who is working on an oral history of Balti villages in India. In the interactions we hope to revisit the poetry of Qurban Ali in relation to the Balti people’s historical experiences of distances & partings, dislocation and loss; and explore Balti poetry of the partitions in relation to the pain as well as the wisdom born out of the ruptures of this history.
Join Zoom Meeting https://bit.ly/3mohmVT Meeting ID: 839 4652 8611 Passcode: 106018