Writing for peace. And activism in Himachal Pradesh

Lee Krishnan in Mumbai, Mohsin Tejani in Karachi: Breadloaf friends, great synergy. Photos: supplied.

Really enjoyed this Sapan online family writing workshop by educators and teacher trainers Mohsin Tejani in Karachi and Lee Krishnan in Mumbai, hosted by the amazing Khushi Kabir in Dhaka, joined by educationist and writer Benislos Thushan in Jaffna – looking dramatic due to a power cut, just before dashing off for an overnight bus to Colombo. Human rights activist and physician Fauzia Deeba from Quetta now in New Jersey talked about the floods in Pakistan and shared the In Memoriam section designed by a young journalist Sushmita Preetha in Dhaka. Senior journalist Namrata Sharma in Kathmandu delivered the heart warming closing remarks that the piece starts with.

Namrata Sharma: “Who and how can anyone say that Southasia is divided?” – screenshot from the workshop.

Lovely writeup on it by young agriculturist-researcher-educationist M. Waqas Nasir in Lahore, published as a Sapan News Network syndicated piece in several media outlets. Read it here: Divided by borders, united by aspirations. This piece and the event would not have been possible without the efforts of data analyst and researcher Priyanka Singh in New Delhi. Both she and Waqas are Sapan founder members.

I’m also happy to share this piece young lawyer Vishal Sharma in Shimla, also a Sapan founder member. I love how hard and patiently he worked on the article, taking in feedback from various friends to shape it into what it became. I also learnt a lot by working with him on it, especially the idea of ‘Himachaliyat’ which reminds me of ‘Kashmriyat’ – promoting pluralism and peace. Published in Himachal Watcher. Read it here: A young leader’s activism may be a gamechanger for the Congress in Himachal‘. Vishal had the visual specially made by an artist friend.

Vikramaditya Singh uses the shield of “Himachaliyat” and “Virbhadra Singh Vikas Model” to counter political rivals. Visual by artist Deepak Saroj in Noida

Kabir festival in Boston this weekend

UPDATE 11 June: Due to rain Kabir Festival postponed to Sunday June 19,2022. Please inform everyone

Some friends have been working hard on the upcoming Kabir Festival in Cambridge MA. Excited for it and fingers crossed it doesn’t rain. Our weekly Wednesday meeting this time focused on Kabir, and they showed this documentary by Kashif ul Huda, TwoCircles.net

Details about the Kabir Festival in the press statement below:

Kabir Festival 2022: Celebrating the humanistic values of an ancient mystic

Event poster

BOSTON: A cultural event to commemorate the birth anniversary of Kabir Das, an ancient South Asian mystic and social reformer will take place Sunday, 12 June 2022, at Danehy Park, Cambridge MA.

The Kabir Festival 2022 honors the values propagated by Kabir Das, a 15th century poet whose message of humanism, fraternity, love, harmony and equality resonates today in a world that is in many ways much like his. Then as now, great and astonishing changes were taking place, causing anxiety, fear, strife and dislocations.

Kabir’s message of humanism, fraternity, love, harmony and equality resonates today in a world that is in many ways much like his. Then as now, great and astonishing changes were taking place, causing anxiety, fear, strife and dislocations.

Ahead of Kabir’s birth anniversary on 14 June 2022, several individuals and organizations of the South Asian community are organizing a Kabir Festival in Cambridge. The organizers hope to bring Kabir’s message of peace, harmony and love to people in our troubled times.

The festival includes performances by local musicians, singers and artists. The event is free and open to the public. All are welcome.

The outdoor gathering will observe Covid-19 guidelines as per the City of Cambridge.

Participating organizations include Learn Quest Academy of Music, New England Hindi Manch, Kabir Society, Sanjha Punjab, Southasia Peace Action Network, Subdrift Boston, Boston Study Group and Jago World.

Contact: Rupal Shah: Email – south-asian-center@googlegroups.com

Sapan News

The Wednesday discussion also shared this music video by the Kabir Cafe in Mumbai:

May Day and Eid greetings: Solidarity with workers around the world and Southasia

It was activist friend Kavita Srivastava in Jaipur who suggested focusing on ‘Labour Rights and Democracy’ for our April event ahead of May Day. Like all Sapan events since launch in March 2022 – the Southasia Peace Action Network – this was also on the last Sunday of the month.

As usual, we live-streamed the discussion on FB – video at this link. We truly appreciate all the ‘likes’, comments and shares that help ensure that our voices are heard amidst the din.

Thanks to old friend and talented musician Arieb Azhar in Islamabad for agreeing to sing at the last minute. Dhonobad Khushi Kabir in Dhaka for transliterating the first verse of the workers’ anthem, The Internationale in Bangla for him. She knows them all by heart. Arieb also sang some of his own verses in Urdu, reflecting contemporary realities. He’s doing an English translation to add. Here’s the clip – thanks Priyanka Singh in Delhi for uploading it so fast.

Priyanka has a great affinity for music and poetry – she was reciting a poem at the online PIPFPD event in January 2021 where I first ‘met’ her. Not surprised she also took time out to post the extempore song by young Lucky Akter in Dhaka ended her presentation with. A former former student activist working with Bangladesh’s oldest and largest peasant organisation, Lucky’s stirring call for rights is lovely even if you don’t understand Bangla.

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Evoking the madness of Manto, what we need is ‘one big roar of laughter across Southasia’

Sharing a feature I co-wrote with Priyanka Singh in Delhi about Sapan’s last event on the first anniversary of the Southasia Peace Action Network. The next one, on labour rights and democracy, will take place on the last Sunday of April.

Southasia Peace Action Network

Artists, journalists, sportspersons, healthcare workers, educators, businesspersons, students, gather for the first anniversary of a Southasian peace coalition.

By Beena Sarwar and Priyanka Singh

April 9, 2022, Sapan News Service: “Each of our countries is facing moments of total insanity and the only recourse is laughter – one big roar across Southasia,” said arts educator Salima Hashmi of Lahore, speaking at an event organised recently to mark a year of Sapan, the Southasia Peace Action Network

“To see the ludicrousness of Southasia right now,” she said, we need the “dark humour” of the great storyteller Saadat Hasan Manto.

The online discussion tackled various themes in nine breakout sessions, even as Pakistan plunged into a constitutional crisis and Sri Lanka into an economic tailspin.

“It’s us the little people who can say the emperor has no clothes, and laugh at the demi-gods pretending to be gods — because they…

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Sara Suleri bows out

Sharing personal memories of the brilliant Sara Suleri whose genre-defying book Meatless Days inspired generations of writers, feminists, memoirists and dislocated Southasians. Thanks Ailia Zehra at The Friday Times for asking me to write this piece. Published as a Sapan syndicated feature in TFT, The Wire, Geo TV blog, South Asia Monitor and The Print – shared here with additional pix and links.

February 2018: Sara Suleri pays tribute to Asma Jahangir. Photo: Beena Sarwar.

PERSONAL-POLITICAL

By Beena Sarwar

March 25, 2022, Sapan News Service:

Aur bataiye” – tell me more, a polite invitation to keep talking. I can hear her voice, perhaps naturally husky, made deeper with years of cigarette smoking and perhaps more recently with pain and other medications.

She’d send her love to Pakistan whenever I’d call before flying out from Boston, where we had both ended up around ten years ago – she after retiring as Professor Emeritus of English from Yale University. I had transplanted myself from my home city Karachi where I was editing Aman Ki Asha, hope for peace – between India and Pakistan.

“Dream on!” I hear Sara say. And yet, she agrees, it’s important to keep going. She’s also a hundred percent supportive of our push for a regional approach – the South Asia Peace Action Network, or Sapan, the more recent endeavour, launched last year with a wonderful group of inter-generational, cross-border peacemongers.

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A South Asia women and peace weekend

Thrilled and honoured to be part of two peace building events with some awesome women this weekend, Saturday and Sunday. Tune in.

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The continuing trauma of Kashmir

Sharing below a press release rejecting India’s continued violations of the constitutionally guaranteed rights of the people of Jammu and Kashmir – from the Pakistan India People’s Forum for Peace and Democracy (PIPFPD), the region’s largest and oldest people-to-people organisation, launched in 1994.

Also below – a PDF of the just-released report by the Forum for Human Rights in Jammu and Kashmir, an informal group of concerned citizens including retired Indian judges and armed forces personnel. The Forum aims to ensure attention to continuing human rights violations in the disputed region that both India and Pakistan claim. This is its third report.

#WIthKashmir – courtesy PIPFPD
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Talking to the Indian diaspora on India-Pakistan: Youth, Media, Aspirations, Common Issues

A couple of weekends ago I was invited to share my thoughts with Indian Diaspora Washington DC Metro on a topic close to my heart: India-Pakistan: Youth, Media, Aspirations, Common Issues. I posted the information to social media and was amazed at the response – the most I’ve had for any post in a long time. An indication of the passions and aspirations associated with this issue. Sharing a recording of the video below.

Coincidentally, this event took place barely a week after the Directors General of Military Operations (DGMOs) of India and Pakistan’s agreement that came into effect at midnight Feb. 24/25, to implement the 2003 Ceasefire that couldn’t have happened without high level approval. Then a couple of days ago, the Pakistan Army chief in a speech reached out to India, saying it’s time to bury the past, move forward – read my friend Nirumpama Subramaniam’s analysis in The Indian Express here.

Here’s the talk I gave. They edited out the worst of the abuses. but you can still see some of the trolling that took place. Just a glimpse of what we are up against when we stand for peace, countering the military-industrial complex:

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Reflections: Baba Bujha Singh, revolution, poetry, and democracy

Sharing below an informative, moving and insightful piece by friend Jaspal Singh in Cambridge commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of Baba Bujha Singh’s extrajudicial murder in Punjab, India. The story is reflected in other instances of police brutality elsewhere too. And so is his comment on democracy. He regularly dispatches his ‘Reflections’ to friends via email; a list I feel privileged to be on. Over to Jaspal ji:

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Pakistan’s ‘best kept secret’ (not The Samosa)

Sumaira Samad, Shahid Nadeem, Anwar Akhtar at Lahore Museum (screengrab)

Anwar Akhtar is a Pakistan-origin cultural activist based in London who started The Samosa many years ago — think cross-culture, activism, media, teaching. We had met several years ago and reconnected recently when he reached about his intriguingly titled documentary, Pakistan’s Best Kept Secret. I invited him to write about it for Aman Ki Asha. Sharing the documentary, as well as his piece, here:

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