Current Affairs (18th May 2021)
Importance of Malerkotla
- The only Muslim-dominated town of Punjab, Malerkotla, has been in the news recently after Punjab Chief Minister announced that the former princely state would be the 23rd district of the state.
- Historically, Malerkotla owes its foundations in the 15th century to Sufi saint Sheikh SadrauddinSadar-i-Jahan, also known as Haider Sheikh.
- The initial beginnings were humble with the settlement being called ‘Maler’ which was bestowed by the Behlol Lodhi to the Sheikh whose lineage too was Afghan, as was Lodhi’s, and they were said to be distantly related.
- ‘Kotla’, meaning Fortress, was added later in 17th century with a collection of villages which formed a jagir which was awarded to Bayzid Khan, a descendant of Haider Sheikh, by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan.
- Bayzid Khan supported Aurangzeb against his brother Dara Shikoh and thus gained favour with the emperor and added permanency to the rule of his family. A hereditary succession began thereafter.
- After the decline of the Mughal empire, Malerkotla’s rulers exercised greater independence and at the time of the invasion of India by Ahmad Shah Abdali from Afghanistan, they aligned with him.
Relations of Malerkotla with neighbouring states:
- According to historian Anna Bigelow’s work, ‘Punjab’s Muslims’, after Maharaja Ranjit Singh consolidated his rule in Northern Punjab in the early 19th century, Malerkotla aligned itself with the neighbouring Sikh states like Patiala, Nabha and Jind which too were feeling threatened by Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s consolidation of the Sikh empire.
- These cis-Sutlej states accepted British protection in 1809 and were free from interference from the Sikh Maharaja.
- Malerkotla continued under the British protection and the alliance with the neighbouring Sikh states till 1947 when it became the only Muslim majority Sikh state in East Punjab.
- After the dissolution of the princely states in 1948, Malerkotla joined the new state of PEPSU or Patiala and East Punjab States Union (PEPSU). PEPSU itself was dissolved in 1954 and Malerkotla became a part of Punjab.
Background of the special status of Malerkotla with the Sikh community:
- The special relationship between Sikhs and Malerkotla goes back to the period when the tenth Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singh, was engaged in a series of battles with the oppressive Mughal rules of the region.
- Sher Mohammad Khan was the Nawab of Malerkotla at the time and though a supporter of Aurangzeb and his lieutenants who governed Punjab at the time, he is said to have expressed his anguish at the bricking alive of two young sons of Guru Gobind Singh, Zorawar Singh (aged nine years) and Fateh Singh (aged seven years), by the Subedar of Sirhind Wazir Khan in 1705.
- The ‘Haa da Naara’ or cry for justice was made by Sher Mohammad Khan before Wazir Khan when the order to brick the two young boys was pronounced.
- This incident has been narrated over the years and has attained an image of tolerance of the Nawab towards the two young Sahibzadas and given placed Malerkotla a special place in the Sikh narrative.
- After the death of Guru Gobind Singh, when his follower Banda Singh Bahadur sacked Sirhind and razed it to the ground, he spared Malerkotla.
- Anna Bigelow says while there could be many reasons for this act of Banda Bahadur, Iftikhar Khan, the last Nawab of Malerkotla, has declared in his history of the kingdom, as do many others believe, that Malerkotla was spared because of ‘Haa Da Naara’.
- “Alternate explanations for Banda Singh Bahadur’s avoidance of Malerkotla are not necessary and are not sought,’ says Bigelow. In popular sentiments, Malerkotla is believed to blessed by Guru Gobind Singh for the ‘Haa da Naara’.
Aftermath of the ‘Haa Da Naara’ episode:
- It is documented that even after this episode, the Malerkotla rulers continued their affinity with the Mughal rulers and once the suzerainty of the Mughals was on the decline, they aligned with the Afghan invader Ahmed Shah Abdali.
- However, who the rulers of the various states of Punjab, Malerkotla included, side with in the conflicts often depended upon a number of factors including money gains, temporary alliances and survival instinct.
- For example, Nawab Jamal Khan of Malerkotla fought against rulers of Patiala and also against Abdali before joining hands with him.
- His successor Nawab Bhikam Shah is said to have fought on the side of Abdali’s forces in a battle against the Sikhs in 1762 which is known as ‘Wadda Ghallugara’ or the Great Holocaust where tens and thousands of Sikhs were killed.
- In 1769, a treaty of friendship was signed with Raja Amar Singh of Patiala by the then Nawab of Malerkotla and thereafter the Patiala princely state was often to the aid of Malerkotla especially in 1795 when Sahib Singh Bedi, a descendant of first Sikh Guru, Guru Nanak Dev, attacked Malerkotla over the issue of cow slaughter.
- However, the Namdhari (a sect of Sikhs) massacre of 1872 in Malerkotla is an important incident in the historical annals of the town.
- The Namdhari followers — some accounts say there were rogue followers — attacked the town. Certain accounts say the attack was to cause loot and plunder while others say a Namdhari woman had been raped in Malerkotla.
Partition in 1947:
- Despite the odd communal trouble in the town, like in 1935 over Hindu Katha happening before a mosque, the general atmosphere in Malerkotla remained congenial.
- Communal tension in the days leading to Partition remained under control despite there being a general breakdown of law and order in the neighbouring princely states. While Patiala, Nabha and Jind territories saw large scale killings, Malerkotla remained free from it.
Impact of climate change on cave art
- Scientists have warned that environmental degradation is killing one of the oldest and most precious pieces of the world’s human heritage.
- Pleistocene-era rock paintings dating back to 45,000-20,000 years ago in cave sites in southern Sulawesi, on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, are weathering at an alarming rate.
Significance of the cave paintings
- A team of Australian and Indonesian archaeological scientists, conservation specialists, and heritage managers examined 11 caves and rock-shelters in the Maros-Pangkep region in Sulawesi.
- The artwork in the area includes what is believed to be the world’s oldest hand stencil (almost 40,000 years ago), created by pressing the hand on a cave wall, and spraying wet red-mulberry pigments over it.
- A nearby cave features the world’s oldest depiction of an animal, a warty pig painted on the wall 45,500 years ago.
- The cave art of Sulawesi is much older than the prehistoric cave art of Europe.
Findings of the study
- The researchers studied flakes of rock that have begun to detach from cave surfaces to find that salts in three of the samples comprise calcium sulphate and sodium chloride, which are known to form crystals on rock surfaces, causing them to break.
- The artwork made with pigments was decaying due to a process known as haloclasty, which is triggered by the growth of salt crystals due to repeated changes in temperature and humidity, caused by alternating wet and dry weather in the region.
- With increased rapid environmental degradation, the researchers have recommended regular physical and chemical monitoring of the sites, akin to the preservation efforts at the French and Spanish prehistoric cave art sites such as Lascaux and Altamira.
Language Learning App
- MyGov, the citizen engagement platform of the Government of India, in partnership with Department of Higher Education has launched an Innovation Challenge for creating an Indian Language Learning App.
- This Innovation Challenge has been launched to take forward Prime Minister’s vision of celebrating India’s cultural diversity through greater interaction among its constituent parts.
- MyGov has launched the Innovation Challenge to create an app that will enable individuals to learn simple sentences of any Indian language and acquire working knowledge of a language.
- The objective of this challenge is to create an app that will promote regional language literacy, thereby creating greater cultural understanding within the country.
- The key parameters that will be looked into will include ease of use, simplicity, Graphical User Interface, gamification features, UI, UX and superior content, that makes it easy and fun to learn an Indian language.
- The Innovation Challenge is open to Indian individuals, startups and companies. MyGov envisions the app to be multi-modular, with the capacity to teach through the written word, voice and video/visuals.
- App developers can propose multiple interfaces for engagement of learners.
- The government had launched the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomic Consortia (INSACOG), comprising 10 labs spread across India to ascertain the status of new variants of SARS-CoV-2 in the country.
- It would monitor the genomic variations in the SARS-CoV-2 on a regular basis through a multi-laboratory network.
- It has a high-level Inter-Ministerial Steering Committee.
- Also, it has a Scientific Advisory Group for scientific and technical guidance.
- The 10 identified laboratories of INSACOG Consortium report their sequencing results to the Central Surveillance unit of the National Centre for Diseases Control [NCDC] from where it is shared with the State Surveillance Units (SSUs) of Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme (IDSP) by the Central Surveillance Unit (CSU).