India’s Crusader Against Impunity

Manoj Mitta speaking at MIT. Credit: Beena Sarwar

Manoj Mitta speaking at MIT. Credit: Beena Sarwar

My recent article for IPS 

BOSTON, Oct 25 2014 (IPS) - As senior Indian journalist Manoj Mitta was testifying before the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission of the U.S. Congress last month about mass violence and impunity in India, President Barack Obama escorted India’s newly elected Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the Martin Luther King Memorial.

“They were just three miles away,” Mitta told IPS, commenting on the irony of this coincidence, remembering that the United States had banned Modi’s entry on the mass violence on his watch in 2002 leading to the killing of about 1,000 Muslims in Gujarat state. Continue reading

Human rights: Pakistan’s Ahmadis Faced with Death or Exile

Saad-Farooq

Saad Farooq, 26, shot dead in Karachi. “In Karachi, people are being killed every day. Doctors, professors, not just Ahmadis but also Shias and others,” says his father Farooq Kahloun, who still has four bullets in his body.

NOTE: Those who can, do please attend advocate Mujeebur Rahman’s talks at Columbia U., Oct. 23; NYU Law School, Oct. 27; UC Irvine, Oct. 30; Stanford, Nov. 4.

By Beena Sarwar

BOSTON, Oct 20 2014 (IPS) - Two years ago, gunmen shot dead Farooq Kahloun’s newly married son Saad Farooq, 26, in an attack that severely injured Kahloun, his younger son Ummad, and Saad’s father-in-law, Choudhry Nusrat.

Saad died on the spot. In Pakistan after travelling from his home in New York for the wedding, Nusrat died in hospital later. Four bullets remain in Kahloun’s chest and arm. A bullet lodged behind the right eye of Ummad, a student in the UK, was surgically removed months later (See his interview with BBC, while the bullet was still inside).

As an Ahmadi leader in his locality, Kahloun knew he was a target for hired assassins in the bustling but lawless metropolis of Karachi. General insecurity in Pakistan is multiplied manifold if you are, like Kahloun, an Ahmadi – a sect of Islam that many orthodox Muslims abhor as heretic.

Continue reading

Pakistan court upholds death penalty for Asia Bibi despite serious legal loopholes in trial

"Blasphemy: The True, Heart-Breaking Story Of The Woman Sentenced To Death Over A Cup Of Water by Asia Bibi" - related by French journalist Anne-Isabelle Tollet (Virago, London, 2012)

“Blasphemy: The True, Heart-Breaking Story Of The Woman Sentenced To Death Over A Cup Of Water by Asia Bibi” – related by French journalist Anne-Isabelle Tollet (Virago, London, 2012)

Pakistani Christian Aasia Bibi had an argument with some coworkers over drinking water in 2009. The argument turned into a religious one and she was accused of blasphemy against Islam. Two politicians have been killed for standing up for her. She was convicted in Nov. 2010 and yesterday her appeal was rejected by the appellate court. Legal arguments in this story, published in Worldwatch Monitor, October 17, 2014, reproduced below (emphasis added). Also see The dangers of ignoring ‘malicious intent’ while accusing of ‘injuring religious sentiments’:

By Asif Aqeel

The first Christian woman to be sentenced to death under Pakistan’s blasphemy laws had her appeal rejected by the High Court in Lahore on Thursday.

Aasiya Noreen, commonly known as Asia Bibi, received the death penalty in 2010 after she allegedly made derogatory comments about the Prophet Mohammed during an argument with a Muslim woman.

While the two women were working together, the Muslim woman had refused water from Noreen on the grounds that it was unclean because it had been handled by a Christian.

The Muslim woman, together with her sister, were the only two witnesses in the case, but the defence failed to convince the appeals judges that their evidence lacked credibility.

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India, Pakistan should focus on children — not bullets

Pakistan has a million Malalas: My interview in Times of India, Oct 15, 2014 

20141015-TOI interview - Anahita Mukherjee

Beena Sarwar is a Pakistani journalist and documentary filmmaker. As an Indian and Pakistani together win 2014’s Nobel peace prize, Sarwar spoke with Anahita Mukherji about the joint award, tension at the LoC – and how Pakistan has a million Malalas:

Will Malala Yousafzai winning the Nobel inspire more Pakistanis now — and enable her to return to Pakistan?

Continue reading

Thirty years after 1984 Sikh carnage, ‘Kultar’s Mime’ underscores truths about victimhood and violence

Cat with Rano ptg by Evanleigh Davis

“Rano” – painting by Evanleigh Davis

“Innocent victims are the same, regardless of how they worship God and what tongues they speak” – Sarbpreet Singh 

A dramatic production of Sarbpreet Singh’s poem ‘Kultar’s Mime’ is being performed to acclaim in the USA and Canada, and will be in India at the end of the month. Here’s the link to my article in Scroll.in; text below with photos, links and dates not included in the Scroll version. Continue reading

Pakistan’s Nobel Laureates – united by the tragedy of militancy

My article for Scroll.in today about how “Takfiri” thinking drove physicist Abdus Salam out of the country, and keeps Malala Yusufzai away from her home. 

Malala: "I decided that I would speak up. Through my story I want to tell other children all around the world they should stand up for their rights"

Malala: “I decided that I would speak up. Through my story I want to tell other children all around the world they should stand up for their rights”

There is no escaping the irony that the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize for 2014 has gone jointly to two child rights advocates from Pakistan and India – 17-year old Malala Yousafzai and 60-year old Kailash Satyarthi — while the armies of their countries trade bullets and kill innocents across the Line of Control in Kashmir. Continue reading

Modi ji’s NRI government and Badri ji’s ‘Good Non-Resident Indians’ poem (substitute ‘desis’ etc)

Ashis Nandy: incisive, if controversial

Ashis Nandy: incisive, if controversial

As the hoopla and hype about Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s triumphalist trip to the USA and United Nations General Assembly dies down, this may be a good time to re-visit Indian politics from another angle. The online publication Scroll.in recently published an interview of the noted political psychologist Ashis Nandy about his views on Modi. Good and bad. Worth reading in full; here’s an extract:

Q. The Swachhta pledge doesn’t even mention open defecation, which is a huge problem. Doesn’t this mean his campaign emphasises on urban priorities and is guided by a certain sense of aesthetics?

A. Absolutely. What will the foreigners think? What will NRIs think? How would they feel when they go to these areas and feel a sense of inferiority about their country? He is brightening the face of the NRIs, as the Bengali saying goes. This is an NRI government. The NRI consciousness dominates this government. Continue reading

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