The Punjab University, Lahore, has created a chair for research on Guru Nanak Dev, the first Guru of Sikhism, with the move coming days after a suicide attack orchestrated by a Pakistan-based terror outfit in Jammu & Kashmir’s Pulwama left at least 40 CRPF men dead leading to heightened tension between the two countries.
It also comes at a time when the Punjab government on the Indian side has made elaborate arrangements to celebrate 550th birth anniversary of the Sikh Guru, who was born at Nankana Sahib in Lahore.
“The Punjab University, Lahore, has created the Baba Guru Nanak Dev research chair. This is a first ever initiative by any university in Pakistan. The students will carry out research on the teachings of Guru Nanak,” Punjab University spokesperson Khurram Shahzad said Wednesday.
Vice-Chancellor of the university, Dr Niaz Ahmad, inaugurated the chair Tuesday in the presence of a seven-member delegation of Punjabi academicians and writers from India.
Speaking to The Indian Express over phone from Lahore, Jasbir Kaur, retired professor, department of Punjabi development, Punjabi University, Patiala, said, “We attended the inauguration ceremony of the Guru Nanak Dev Chair after receiving an invite. We have gifted them two volumes of senchiyaan of Sri Guru Granth Sahib written in Shahmukhi script (Punjabi language is written in Gurmukhi script on Indian side and in Shahmukhi script on Pakistan side) to the V-C”.
“There cannot be a bigger achievement and an occasion to celebrate than this when a dedicated chair for research on teachings of Guru Nanak has been established in Pakistan,” Kaur, who is leading the delegation, said.
Gulzar Singh Sandhu, senior fellow, Punjabi University, Patiala, who is also part of delegation, said, “There could not have been a better way to promote peace and harmony between two countries than this. Guru Nanak Dev taught peace, love and compassion and Punjab University has taken the lead by establishing a research Chair to study his teachings and values.”
The Punjab University was originally established as University of the Punjab at Lahore in 1882. After the partition, the Panjab University was established in Chandigarh. The university in Chandigarh already has a ‘Department of Guru Nanak Sikh Studies’ for research on values, life, philosophy and teachings of the Sikh Guru.
The Lahore-based university’s Prof Nabila Rehman, chairperson (department of Punjabi), told The Indian Express that the initiative has been taken to let students know about the life, teachings and values of Guru Nanak. “The Chair has been established under the College of Oriental Learning, which has department of Punjabi and offers MA, MPhil and PhD in Punjabi for students in Pakistan. We are happy that academicians from Indian side came to attend the inauguration,” Rehman said.
Rehman clarified that the university teaches students “both Shahmukhi and Gurmukhi scripts” in the department. “It is the first ever Chair on Guru Nanak Dev by a University in Pakistan for which a notification has been issued,” Rehman said.
The V-C, meanwhile, said said that Guru Nanak promoted the message of tolerance through his actions and teachings. “He made great efforts for a peaceful society. The purpose of setting up the Guru Nanak research chair is to promote the message of peace that he preached,” he said, adding that the initiative will help strengthen relations between Muslims and Sikhs.
Welcoming the development, Deepak Manmohan Singh, president, World Punjabi Congress (India chapter), said that research on Guru Nanak Dev and such academic exchanges between the two countries can help in diffusing tension. “Guru Nanak Dev is of extreme importance not only for both countries but for entire world as his teachings of peace and humanity are followed across the globe. He connects both countries like no one else can.”