Nobal and Global Mission Of Wikipedia:Building Bridges over Borders -Case For Punjab

Wikipedia has shown the way that in 21st century  we can live without borders as human beings in spite of living in different administrative  boundaries as citizens.

In the inaugural ceremony of Wikimania held in June 2016 in a beautiful tiny town ,  Esino Lario , Italy, Jimmy Wales , (co) founder of Wikipedia remarked that “Wikipedia is about building bridges and not walls”.

This is really a noble and global mission of Wikipedia.It has  special significance for  people having common language ,culture and shared life style otherwise  living in divided territories. East and West Punjab falls in this category.

In 1947 at the time of Independence of India,  British Indian Empire was divided into sovereign States of India and Pakistan .Consequently this partition  led to division of Punjab into  East Punjab and West Punjab. Unfortunate  part of  this historical event was that it was not merely the division of territory but also division of people and their common  language, literature ,culture and economic resources..As per estimates of The United Nations High Commissioner of  Refugees ,around 14 million  Hindus , Sikhs and Muslims were displaced .This was  largest mass  migration in the human history. Millions of innocent people including women and children were killed in communal riots that took place during this migration. This event has left scars on the minds not only of affected people and their future  generations also.People  were separated from their motherland without any legitimate reason.Most of  the people who migrated during this period  still feel nostalgic about  their beloved motherland, their language, dialects ,folk songs , folktales and legends of their land they left. The story does not end here. As mentioned earlier this partition  created divide in common  language, literature ,culture, and  heritage of the people also and which  has a far reaching consequences for future.Now,Punjabi language has been split in two scripts i.e. Shahmukhi (Written in Urdu) and Gurmukhi. Shahmukhi is  used in West Punjab and Gurumukhi in East Punjab. After partition Shahmukhi  is rarely  used in East Punjab as a  medium to read and write . Gurmukhi has similar fate  in West Punjab.Consequently, literature written in Punjabi language but in two different scripts cannot  be read by all people of  both the Punjabs. Perhaps Punjabi is the only language which has two separate Wikipedias.For  East Punjab it is in Gurmukhi script and for West Punjab in Shahmukhi script.In addition to it , this division restricted  people’s access to their common cultural and heritage due to,the formation of  hostile borders.

Emergence of Wikipedia in the beginning of this century may be marked as one of the great blessing for the regions like  Punjab  as  it is the most vital medium to bridge such  man made territorial divisions through web based digital means. .Its glaring feature is that it is created by the people for the people through participatory approach. However uptil now , people  of  both the Punjabs have realized  and utilized its potential to a limited extent.There is very limited content on both East and West Punjabs’ Wikipedias .Moreover quality of available content is also not much satisfactory.There are around 24  thousands articles only  on East Punjab Wikipedia and 43 thousands articles on West Punjab Wikipedia whereas English Wikipedia has nearly 5.33 million articles. Punjabi is the 10th most spoken language of the world.It has 130 million native speakers out of which around 100 million live in East and West Punjabs.In this context status of Punjabi language on Wikipedia  appears not to be much satisfactory and lot needs to be done. Efforts are also required to make some arrangements for sharing of content available on East and West Punjab Wikipedias.

Cultural heritage Sharing :

Wikipedia’s another allied project known as “ Commons”, which is a photograph repository, has a lot of potential to preserve and share common  cultural heritage of  both Punjabs. It has also not been utilized much so far. Punjabis must come forward to tap this opportunity of cultural exchange and integration of  both the Punjabs. All these efforts will also reduce hostility of  borders and promote people to people  brotherhood and harmony between both the nations.

Sum up:

Wikipedia is not merely an encyclopedia it is a powerful medium to build bridges over borders also.It has a special significance for  culturally common but territorially divided regions like Punjab. Punjabi people need to realise and utilize the this potential of Wikipedia to promote knowledge sharing and  cultural integration which will ultimately reduce hostility of borders and create  peace and harmony.People of all backgrounds and interests must come together for this purpose.Experienced Wikpedians and other people should also join  this campaign.Wikimedia Foundation may also like to take it as special project of  translating mandate of  Wikipedia of building “Bridges”  and supplement these initiatives.In a recent blog post  Wikimedia Foundation Executive Director ,Katherine Maher rightly concluded that knowledge knows no borders.

Wikipedia has shown the way that in 21st century  we can live without borders as human beings in spite of living in different administrative  boundaries as citizens.

*Harvinder Chandigarh*


(Photographs, Wikimedia Commons)


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