Exploring the Impact of Sufi Music for Reconciliation Between East and West Punjab

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In this dissertation I explore how music can be used to assist in the process of reconciliation between the Sikhs and Muslims of East and West Punjab (respectively), who had exhibited centuries of interdependence - exemplified by the flourishing Sikh Empire, or Khalsa Raj, which encompassed the region of the Greater or Historical Punjab, including present day Kashmir, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Eastern Afghanistan (including Kabul), as well as Punjab Province Pakistan and Punjab State India. I suggest that this period of fruition was systematically disrupted and damaged by British colonialism, which ultimately led to the partition of Punjab and the creation of a national boundary on the basis of artificially construed lines of ethnic and religious demarcation. Under the illusion of independence, the Punjab Province of Pakistan, and the Punjab State of India, experienced decades of nationalist propaganda from the political centres of their respective countries, which contributed to resentment and intolerance, several drawn out wars, and the continued violent conflict that engulfs the neighbouring Kashmir region, which has a deeply rooted and profound connection to the Punjab plains. Kashmir has been historically connected to Punjab as the two regions presently border one another, but were both a part of the Sikh Empire. Even today, Sikh and Kashmiri groups mobilize together with the common goal of obtaining increased autonomy for their own people in their own lands. The interdependence between Sikhs and Kashmiris plays out in both non-violent political activism, including the push to implement a plebiscite referendum in both East Punjab and Kashmir, and also at times through militancy with both groups working together in efforts of armed resistance. At the national level, propaganda delivered by both countries centralized around the Kashmir conflict remains the primary antagonist against the process of reconciliation – but this research will show that a very large proportion of the Sikh and Muslim communities have turned the efforts of Hindu- Nationalist groups such as the RSS on their head, and have instead become closer to each other than they have ever been since partition. Through data collected during detailed fieldwork, including interviews and workshops with East and West Punjabis, as well as applied interventions incorporating the creation and distribution of my own music videos, I demonstrate how through the revival of the Punjabi variant of Sufism, primarily transmitted through the medium of musical exchange, Sikhs and Muslims are once again recreating a strong mutually interdependent cultural relationship with one another, which has had several positive socio-political ramifications for both groups. These include: the opening of the Kartarpur Corridor, a passageway for Sikhs to visit the final resting place of Guru Nanak in Pakistan’s Punjab Province, as well as the annual pilgrimage of thousands of Sikhs to the many other sites of historical significance for their community in Pakistan; the recreation of kinship bonds between both communities; increased positive representation of women in the region in areas of Sufi scholarship and performance; decreases in open popular support for violence as a means to settle the conflict in Kashmir; and, increases in non-violent political mobilization to secure greater autonomy for Sikhs and Kashmiris in their own lands.

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