Finding lost heritage: Pakistan’s Sikh legacy

My Personal Political column in Himal Southasian, Aug 3, 2016, published also in Aman ki Asha and TOI blogs, posted here with additional links and visuals.

Author Amardeep Singh shares a story from his travelogue. Photo: Beena Sarwar

Author Amardeep Singh shares a story from his travelogue. Photo: Beena Sarwar

Finding lost heritage

“If you could visit any place in Pakistan, where would you go?” asks Amardeep Singh whenever he gives a talk to introduce his recently published travelogue Lost Heritage – The Sikh Legacy In Pakistan.

The question, aimed primarily at Sikh members of the audience, invariably elicits two answers: Sikh holy places. Their ancestral village.

It was the same in Boston on June 18, 2016 at the E-5 Center where Amardeep Singh gave his 42nd such talk. He understands the response all too well. After all, he too once had the same “myopic” reasons, as he says, for wanting to go to Pakistan, which he considers his “homeland”, being the land of his ancestors and also where Sikhdom’s holiest sites are located, like Nankana Sahib, birthplace of Guru Nanak, the first Sikh Guru. Continue reading

Lifting the veil: Queer life undercover in South Asia

AMZ-photo

“Secret” – fine art photo by Ali Mehdi Zaidi

The struggle of Muslim homosexuals in Pakistan, South Asia, or as expatriates is not just about LGBTQ rights but part of the larger fight for inclusion and pluralism within Islam. My essay published in The Boston Globe Ideas section (July 31, 2016)  on South Asian and Muslim attitudes towards homosexuality, reproduced below with additional links, info and photos, as well as parts not included in the final published version. The attack in the Orlando gay nightclub put the spotlight not just on the perpetrator, but his victims — Muslim gay (queer) folk who are particularly vulnerable to homophobia besides facing as Islamophobia in the West, and receiving little or no support from the Muslim community at home and abroad. Plus they are now increasingly being targeted by extremists claiming legitimacy from Islam. Thanks to all those who took the time to speak to me, gave me feedback and entrusted me with their stories, and to the Boston Globe editors for their empathy and openness.  Continue reading

Save Nepal’s Edhi, Dr Govinda KC, on hunger strike for pro-poor medical reforms

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Dr Govinda KC: fighting for pro-poor medical reforms

UPDATE: Sign the online petition

If South Asia has a viable public health icon after the passing of Edhi in Pakistan, this man is it,” says a Nepali friend. 

Dr. Govinda KC is a man who is considered a saint in Nepal –  a middle-class doctor who on his own expense offers medical help wherever there is a disaster: Haiti, the Kashmir earthquake in Pakistan, Bangladesh floods. 

By all accounts an incredible human being, he is entering the third week of his hunger strike, a fast unto the death for reforms in the medical education sector. His demands: lower the cost of medical education and create a public health system that allows access of all to quality care, in the place of Nepal’s present highly privatised and centralised system.  Continue reading

Titillate us, entertain us, even educate us, but please, don’t talk about rights

Women Protest Qandeel murder

Women and men in Peshawar protest Qandeel Baloch’s murder. Photo via Javed Aziz Khan

Pakistani model and social media icon Qandeel Baloch rocked the boat with outrageous antics like offering to strip if Shahid Afridi led the Pakistan cricket team to victory against India in the T20 match a few months ago. Yesterday, her brother in Multan strangled her to death in apparently because she was bringing a bad name to the family — a family she financially supported. Continue reading

Opposing elected PM Erdogan doesn’t mean supporting a military coup

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A man lies in front of a tank near Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport early Saturday, July 16. Ismail Coskun / AP

The coup in Turkey is a reminder of the dangers of impatiences with flawed democracy. Democracy, like peace, is a process, not an event. In the long run, the worst democracy is better than the best dictatorship. Agree with the Awami Workers Party, Pakistan – “The solution to imperfect democracy is not to abolish it, but to deepen it”. Sharing their statement below:  Continue reading

Call me unpatriotic, or even a traitor…

Respect to and solidarity with those who refuse to fall in line with the oppressive narratives peddled by hyper nationalists and security establishments. Sharing a post here by senior journalist Saleem Asmi, former Editor of Dawn and a dear friend of my late father:

Call me unpatriotic, even a traitor if you like, but I must say this straight, without mincing words that we have no right, absolutely no right at all, to condemn what the Indian occupation troops are doing in Kashmir, as long as we are ourselves guilty of committing the same, even worse, crimes in Balochistan. Now look at this: 1) The Indian army has invaded and occupied Kashmir, 2) They brutally oppress the Kashmiri people, and call the freedom fighters ‘terrorists’, 3) We invaded and occupied Balochistan in 1948, 4) We brutally oppress the Baloch people, and call the freedom fighters ‘terrorists’. If anything, we surpass the Indians in kidnapping young Baloch by their thousands without trace. Then their brutally tortured bodies appear under flyovers, by the roads, anywhere.

Also see – by Hasan Raza in Pakistan: Kashmiris continue to be the biggest victims of the Indo-Pak tussle for Kashmir – and Nirupama Subramanian in India: Face the disillusion

 

The importance of history and being human

With rising racial tensions in the USA exacerbated by bigots like Trump and easy availability of weapons, I wanted to share my friend Jaspal Singh’s recent ‘Reflections’ that he emailed to a few friends from his base in Cambridge MA (visuals added). Also see this post by Partha Banerjee, an activist friend in New York City, on the racism of South Asians (he talks about Indians but it applies equally to others in the region) and the need to contexualise injustice and violence and demand “justice for all the sufferers” and “punishment for all the criminals”.

Andover PD-Jul 8-2016

#Edhism #BlackLivesMatter #Kashmir #Police We could all use a bit more humanity. A powerful little story shared on Facebook by the Andover Police Department about what happens when we see each other as human beings first.

REFLECTIONS

July 10,2016

By Jaspal Singh

A wave of protests against police brutality has engulfed the US. Thousands of people have come out in the streets against the killing of black men by police in several cities. In Dallas Texas, a sniper killed five police officers.People are demanding that these police officers who are killing black men with impunity , be brought to justice and be punished. The Black Lives Matter movement has highlighted the plight of the black people in the US.They can be killed by the law enforcement officers without any accountability as black lives are not considered to have any value. Every year hundreds of black men are killed in police shootings and nothing comes out of it, no police officer is punished. People are incensed against this kind of impunity. Continue reading

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