#NotInMyName and expanding ‘islands of sanity’

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Residents say they keep a 24-hour vigil during disturbances to prevent any mischief by ‘outsiders’

Talking about the #NotInMyName campaign in India against lynch mobs that forced PM Modi to break his near-silence on the vigilante violence, my friend Jaspal Singh in an email also discusses the model of citizens’ “defence committees” against communal violence, as seen in Canada and in India. He gives the example of Ram Rahim Nagar (population over 20,000), Ahmedabad, cared for by a welfare society formed by two security guards in 1974. “It is to their great honour that to this day not a single communal incident has taken place there, even when Gujarat was burning,” added Jaspal when I probed him further about it. An earlier piece, Islands of Sanity (PUCL, Feb 2006), examines  more such examples. Do these examples still hold true? Have more islands of sanity emerged? How do we expand such islands of sanity? Another journalist friend, Shivam Vij, argues for shifting the focus from “Keyword Beef (which only furthers Hindutva) to Keywords Farmer, OBC, unemployment, demonetisation, economic slowdown” in his piece taking a critical look at the Not in My Name protests. Jaspal Singh’s ‘Reflections’ below. Continue reading

Owning Mashal Khan: Pakistan’s road to redemption

MashalLike many, I feel shattered and heartbroken by the brutal murder of the university student Mashal Khan. In this op-ed published in The News, April 19, 2017, I try to contextualise the tragedy, share my observations about changes underway and suggest a way forward. Copied below with additional links and visuals. Please also sign and share this online petition: Pakistan Against Extremism: Minimum Common Agenda. Continue reading

RIP Mashal Khan – University Student, Latest Victim of Pakistan’s ‘Blasphemy’ Vigilantism

Here’s the story I wrote for The Wire about journalism student Mashal Khan and his barbaric murder on campus yesterday – a tragedy I felt quite gutted by and felt compelled to write about (text below). For a short, sharp analysis of the phenomenon that led to the brutality, read Raza Rumi’s piece in The Daily Times, ‘Blasphemer Hunting must Stop’.

Mashal Khan-poem

Facebook post by Mashal Khan with an Urdu couplet (roughly translated): Along the way sometimes I feel / As if those hidden eyes are watching me.

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Don’t snuff out the lights

The horrific murder of a journalism student lynched on a university campus in Mardan on April 13 after being accused of ‘blasphemy’, 2017 has revived the urgency of coming together on a joint platform with a minimum common agenda to uphold humanitarian values. Nothing will bring back Mashal Khan, a poet, self-declared humanist and “voice of the voiceless”, but we can at least try to ensure that no other mother loses her Mashal (light) to such barbaric ignorance and orchestrated violence.

We drafted this statement a few months after the massacre of schoolchildren in Peshawar, signed by over a hundred activists, teachers, lawyers and other professionals as well as students in March 2015: Pakistanis against terrorism: Minimum common agenda against violence in the name of religion – below. Does it need to be amended or updated?  Continue reading

Women’s Action Forum letter to the Chief Justice, Supreme Court of Pakistan

recover-activistsReproducing below the letter sent by the Women’s Action Forum letter to the Chief Justice, Supreme Court of Pakistan about the “disappeared” activists and the deliberate and sustained campaign against them in the media and on social media. This campaign, with its accusations of blasphemy and treason being leveled against the missing activists and those campaigning for their safe recovery poses a danger to those missing, their families and the human rights campaigners.

WAF urges that the state, its institutions and agencies be held responsible for the recovery of the missing bloggers/activists and inform what the investigation has yielded, and that the federation be held answerable for non-compliance of SC orders on the issue of enforced disappearances.

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Lahore attack: a political context

I wrote this for the Huffington Post after the attack on the Lahore park on Easter Sunday.

How Pakistan’s Religious Right Uses ‘Blasphemy’ to (try and) Usurp Political Power

Aamir Qureshi/Getty Images

The horrific suicide bombing at a park in Lahore on Sunday that killed over 70 people, mostly women and children, is one of many assaults by religious hardliners in Pakistan who are striving to remain politically relevant and in the media limelight.

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India/Pakistan: Sedition and blasphemy – Southasia’s déjà vu

Something I wrote last month about how sedition and blasphemy are the two sides of the same hyper-nationalist coin in India and Pakistan. Updated after the tragic bombing at a park in Lahore on Easter Sunday, published in Himal Southasian on March 30, 2016. 

People vote in the February 2008 elections in Lahore Photo: Wikimedia Commons / boellstiftung - Flickr

People vote in the February 2008 elections in Lahore Photo: Wikimedia Commons / boellstiftung – Flickr

From Pakistan there is mixed news. Recent headlines on the country juxtaposed with news from India prompts the thought that the kind of fascism that Pakistanis have been fighting against is now erupting across India. The encouraging news from Pakistan includes its second award at the Oscars, the execution of convicted killer Mumtaz Qadri (arguments against the death penalty notwithstanding) despite the militant rightwing support for him, and the recovery of the kidnapped son of Qadri’s victim Salmaan Taseer, killed for alleged blasphemy. The bad news includes the horrific suicide attack, allegedly by Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan Jamaatul Ahrar, on Gulshan-i-Iqbal Park in Lahore on 27 March 2016.

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