What are the aims and some of the activities of World Punjabi Centre? As you notice this is a centre to foster goodwill across the Punjabi speakers around the world. Leaving aside the fact that there is also Punjabi Diaspora across the world, two states of India and Pakistan, both named Punjab, are homelands of Punjabi language, culture and folklore. If you are quite new to the geography of Indian subcontinent and its recent history, let me remind you how two states of Punjabsformed just one major province of the Indian subcontinent until 1947.
In 1947, as India gained freedom from the British rule, the large province of Punjab was partitioned into two parts –a small region becoming part of India while a larger area joined the new state of Pakistan. The two states of India and Pakistan, unfortunately,have had an uneasy relation since 1947 with few amicable intervals. Despite such factors and the tragic events that accompanied the Partition of Punjab in 1947, Punjabis in both states have consistently desired an open dialogue. Such hostile relations or policies are not reflected in the will of Punjabis who wish to meet each other, be able to discuss common issues, and cooperate through mutual beneficial trade.
It was during the 1980s when a thaw took place in the belligerent relations between India and Pakistan. An event called ‘World Punjabi Congress’was held at Lahore in April 1986 that attracted several Punjabi writers from all over the world. They passed a resolution seeking an open dialogue and opportunities to promote common cultural, linguistic concerns besides having visiting each other across the borders of two Punjabs. In the Punjabi diaspora there were parallel development in the formation of Punjab Research Group in Britain and a few years later an Academy of Punjabi in North America.
In January 2003, came another opportunity for dialogue when a‘World Punjabi Conference’was held in Delhi. Although delegates from Pakistan could not attend, but the pioneering efforts by a well-known writer-statesman, Mr.FakharZamanfor friendly relations between India and Pakistanmade some dent in political circles. This resulted in a cordial meeting of two Chief Ministers in Lahore during April 2004 when Amrinder Singh from Indian Punjab metChaudhryPervaizElahiof Pakistani Punjab. In a joint statement both agreed to set up an institution promoting the common issues of two Punjabs.
Their meeting was followed by a major gathering of Punjabi writers from two sides of Punjab at Punjabi University, Patiala in December 2004. Here again, two chief ministers of East and West Punjab came together to lay the foundation stone for a World Punjabi Centre at the Punjabi University campus. Subsequent to this, the government of Punjab set up a charity TheWorld Punjabi Centre Society in December 2006and it was formally incorporated under the Societies Registration Act of 1861.
The objectives of the World Punjabi Centre were carefully formulated in 2005-06 and it wasdecided that it should function as an autonomous institution, linked closely with various faculties of the Punjabi University.