“Art for art’s sake is fine, but with a social consciousness it’s even better” – Nandita Das

IMG_5338-Nandita I met Nandita Das for the first time at the World Social Forum in Mumbai, 2004,  introduced by our mutual friend, the activist Shabnam Hashmi, sister of the late Safdar Hashmi. Since then I have caught up with Nandita several times, most recently at Brown University in Providence where she talked about her life and work. Here’s my article about her for The News on Sunday - it includes bits they had to delete due to space constraints. Also published in Times of India blogs.
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Play for peace: Mahesh Bhatt’s ‘Milne Do’

Mahesh Bhatt-Imran Zahid play

Mahesh Bhatt’s forthcoming play is creating a media buzz

My article in the Aman ki Asha page of The News, Dec 4, and in the TOI blog

Play for peace: Mahesh Bhatt’s ‘Milne Do’

A behind-the-scenes look at what is driving a veteran film producer and peace activist’s fourth stage production, coming up

By Beena Sarwar

It was Google’s “Reunion” ad released on the web that pushed Delhi-based actor Imran Zahid to move on an idea that he has been thinking about for some time, creating waves in the media.

Last week Imran messaged me, asking for story ideas for a stage play “to promote Aman ki asha and the concept of ‘Milne do’ (let them meet) to be staged in various cities of India and Pakistan in association with Mahesh Bhatt Saab”. Continue reading

Peace activists urge India-Pakistan Judicial Committee to make efforts for release of prisoners

July 2010: Indian fishermen being bussed to Wagah border for repatriation

Received earlier today from Jatin Desai

Press Release: Peace activists urge India-Pakistan Judicial Committee to make efforts for release of prisoners

Pakistani and Indian peace activists have urged India-Pakistan Judicial Committee on Prisoners to recommend to both the governments to immediately release all Pakistani and Indian prisoners who are languishing in each other’s jails even after completing their periods of sentence and to establish a Joint Commission to devise a mechanism to determine and demarcate the maritime boundaries in a way that is visible to the fishermen of both countries. Continue reading

Rajasthan Home Secretary, PUCL, join hands for Dr Chishty

PUCL General Secretary Kavita Srivastava: fighting for a cause

Note: Report compiled from information sent by Kavita Srivastava, General Secretary PUCL, to Dr Chishty’s family and those engaged in working for his release.

With the sympathetic involvement of the Government of Rajasthan and the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), hope rises for a Pakistani prisoner, retired virologist Dr Khaleel Chishty, 78, who has been under trial for nearly 19 years before an Ajmer sessions court finally pronounced sentence in January this year, convicting him to life imprisonment (14 years). Continue reading

Dr Chishty’s imprisonment: his daughter Amna’s update

Received an email this morning from Amna Chishty in Canada, copied to various people working to secure the release of her father, the aged Pakistani professor Dr Khalil Chishty, a prisoner in India for over 19 years, currently in Ajmer Prison hospital (report in The Hindu April 15, editorial in The News on April 13). She expresses her family’s gratitude for the continued efforts to help Dr Chishty and bring his case to the forefront and stresses the following points that need to be highlighted in the media:
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Appeal to Indian President for release of aged Pakistani prisoner

On April 4, 2011 Amna Chishty, daughter of retired Pakistani professor Dr Khaleel Chishty currently a prisoner in Ajmer prison hospital appealed to Aman ki Asha to secure her father’s release, inspired by the Indian Supreme Court’s appeal for the release of Indian prisoner Gopal Dass in Pakistan, whom the Pakistan government subsequently released. Since then, events have moved fast in India, with various high-powered individuals working behind the scenes to help Dr Chishty. Below, an appeal from distinguished Indian citizens to their president.

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Indian Peace Delegation meets Pakistan Prime Minister, policy makers and people in successful visit

PRESS STATEMENT

Indian Peace Delegation meets Pakistan Prime Minister, policy makers and people in successful visit

An Indian Peace Delegation visited Pakistan from March 17-25, 2011. During their stay they visited Karachi, Hyderabad, Islamabad and Lahore. They met Pakistan Prime Minister Mr. Yusuf Reza Gilani, Sindh Chief Minister Mr. Syed Qaim Ali Shah, Senators of various political parties, civil society activists, journalists, members of business community, and students amongst others. Continue reading

Indian peace delegation is back from Pakistan with a message of love & friendship

Their faces smudged with the colours of holi, Indian peace delegation wearing Sindhi ajraks address a gathering in Hyderabad. Photo: Piler, Karachi

PRESS STATEMENT: Indian peace delegation is back from Pakistan with a message of love & friendship

An Indian Peace Delegation visited Pakistan from 17th to 25th March 2011. During their stay they visited Karachi, Hyderabad, Islamabad and Lahore. They met Pakistan Prime Minister Mr. Yusuf Reza Gilani, Sindh Chief Minister Mr. Syed Qaim Ali Shah, Law makers of various political parties, civil society activists, journalists, members of business community,  students amongst others. The 12 member Indian delegation was led by Mr. Kuldip Nayar and included Mr. Mahesh Bhatt, Mr. Bhalchandra Mungekar, Mr. Shahid Siddiqui, Mr. Jatin Desai, Dr. Mazher Hussain, Ms. Kamla Bhasin, Mr. Ramesh Yadav, Mr.Sanjay Nahar, Mr. Haris Kidwai, Mr. Laxmi Prasad. Mr. Krishna Rao. Continue reading

Indian Supreme Court judges appeal to Pakistan for prisoner’s release, quote Faiz, Shakespeare

March 14, 2011, New Delhi: “The quality of mercy is not strained” and  “Qafas udaas hai yaaron” – Indian Supreme Court judges quote Shakespeare and Faiz in appealing to the Pakistani authorities to release an Indian prisoner detained for 27 years, applaud “humanitarian spirit on both sides”. Judgement below (thank you Jatin Desai for sending the judgment so fast)

REPORTABLE

IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
CRIMINAL ORIGINAL JURISDICTION

WRIT PETITION (CRIMINAL) NO. 16 OF 2008

Gopal Dass Thru. Brother Anand Vir    ..       Petitioner

-versus-

Union of India and anr.        ..  Respondents

J U D G M E N T Continue reading

Flood relief: Beyond politics

Article published in Aman ki Asha page, Aug 25, 2010

Beyond politics

It is heartening to see efforts by Indians and others around the world to help Pakistan in its hour of need

Even as the deadliest floods in living memory rage across Pakistan – affecting more people than the 2005 Kashmir earthquake, the 2006 Asian tsunami, and the 2010 Haiti earthquake combined – tensions between India and Pakistan can still obstruct efforts to help those in need. With over 20 million people affected – more than the population of Australia or several European nations – and about a quarter of Pakistan under water, some people still find time to play politics.

When India generously offered $5 million to Pakistan, cyberspace and media pundits exploded with negative comments. From Pakistan came comments like: “Too little too late” and “Pakistan should not accept because of the bloodbath in Kashmir”. From India came: “The PM should withdraw the offer if Pakistan doesn’t immediately accept it”, and “India should not offer aid to Pakistan because they sponsor terrorism”.

It is to the credit of both governments that they did not succumb to this pressure. Meanwhile, Indians at home and abroad, as well as others, are increasingly stepping up on a private level to help out with flood relief efforts in Pakistan. Continue reading

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