Behind criminal acts motivated by religion, bigotry, misogyny, lies fear of change

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Gauri Lankesh, Sabeen Mahmud.

My piece for The Wire on the assassination of journalist Gauri Lankesh in Bengaluru, that reminded me of the target-killing of my friend, activist Sabeen Mahmud in Karachi. I traced the patterns and similarity behind these murders.

A spoke in the wheel of this “intellecticide” is the ‘anti-intellectual’ nature of the vote for Donald Trump who shares a host of similarities with Modi in India despite differences. The rise of white supremacy in a nation of migrants built after virtually annihilating indigenous populations is a continuation of ongoing racism in the US.

The pendulum swings of history ushers in periods of the rise of the ‘Right’ or the ‘Left’. We are witnessing the rise of the militant Right at this moment with its ensuing bloodshed in India, Pakistan, the US and elsewhere.

But what will continue to rise inexorably, despite bloodshed along the way, are human aspirations to basic rights, equality and justice. There is no going back, no matter how fiercely the chaddis, topis or kluxies fight it.

Read more: In Life, and in Death, Gauri Lankesh and Sabeen Mahmud Battled Powers Fearful of Change

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Protest at Harvard Square: Commemorating Gauri Lankesh’s murder and ongoing Rohingya massacre. Photo: Beena Sarwar

 

#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

Harsh Mander and his vision of “a world of new solidarity”

My column in Himal Southasian, published 10 June 2016 –  Harsh Mander on why we should raise our voice against injustice

By Beena Sarwar

Photo : Beena Sarwar

Harsh Mander: Committed, consistent and soft-spoken. Photo: Beena Sarwar

Cross-border solidarity isn’t exactly a new idea. The rallying cry, “Proletarians of all countries, unite!…” that emerged in 1848 from The Communist Manifesto has resounded around the globe in many forms since it was first articulated.

Meeting Harsh Mander, one of India’s foremost activist-intellectuals and a courageous former civil servant, again revived the idea for me, but this time, beyond workers. I had first met the soft-spoken Mander in Karachi, when I worked for Geo TV. He had been part of a small delegation from India visiting Pakistan in early 2004, a visit aimed at improving understanding between India and Pakistan, organised by the social-cultural group Act Now for Harmony and Democracy (ANHAD). Continue reading

It all comes together: Kashmir Day, banned organisations, and a warped narrative

DIG Khalique Shaikh and PPP leader Sharmila Farooqi negotiating with protesters outside CM House, Karachi. PPI photo

DIG Khalique Shaikh and PPP leader Sharmila Farooqi negotiating with protesters outside CM House, Karachi. PPI photo

It all comes together. When the Sindh government agreed on Tuesday to the demands of the citizens observing a sit-in for over 30 hours in protest against the Shikarpur blast, probably everyone forgot about Kashmir Solidarity Day. It has been observed annually in Pakistan every February 5 since 1991 when the Nawaz Sharif government during its first stint in power demarcated it as a national holiday. Continue reading

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

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

‘This is not about Shia or Sunni but barbarians hijacking our religion and our country’

Syed Shehroz Hussain (centre) holds a picture of his father, Dr Riaz Hussain Shah who was killed in Peshawar recently.

Syed Shehroz Hussain (centre) holds a picture of his father, Dr Riaz Hussain Shah who was killed in Peshawar recently.

Students and professionals in the Boston area organised a well-attended vigil on Friday evening in solidarity with Pakistan’s Shia Muslims and in protest against the ongoing target killings. A heavy snowstorm cleared up hours before the candlelight vigil at picturesque Copley Square in downtown Boston that some participants travelled for hours to attend. Continue reading

All the Perfumes of Arabia

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In this important article sent for publication to this blog, Justice Katju argues that those  clamouring for Narendra Modi must realise that equal respect and treatment for all communities is the only way forward, and appeals to Indians to not make the same mistake which Germans made in 1933 by electing Hitler.  Continue reading

Petition: STOP the violence against Pakistan’s religious communities

Pakistan needs rule of law and de-politicisation of police. Those engaging criminal offences like hate speech, threats and incitement to violence, and vigilante violence must be charged, tried, prosecuted, and punished. We will not allow people in public office or public positions, like political parties and traders’ unions to go around supporting hate-campaigns and violence. Please sign this petition demanding an end to violence against religious communities in Pakistan Continue reading

Email exchange: Sanjiv Bhatt (day before his arrest), Badri Raina and Siraj Khan

Suspended IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt was on Friday detained in connection with an FIR filed against him by a police constable. File photo/PTI

Badri Raina’s poem on Sanjiv Bhatt posted to my yahoogroup and to this blog  on Sept 27 led to an inspiring and informative email exchange, on which I am privileged to have been copied. While compiling extracts for this post (with permission), I heard that Sanjiv Bhatt had been arrested (update: A court in Ahmedabad sent him to judicial remand on Saturday, to be be lodged in Sabarmati jail till his bail hearing comes up on Monday)

“Sanjeev Bhatt’s arrest proves how frightened his detractors are,” tweeted @reenasatin.

Film producer Mahesh Bhatt (@MaheshNBhatt): “If there is one man who is fearlessly living the Gandhian creed in Gujarat it is Sanjeev Bhatt. Will our courts protect this Whistleblower?”

That, time will tell. Meanwhile, below, the correspondence, which began with Siraj Khan’s prescient email to me on Sept 27th: Badri Raina’s poem is awesome. Sanjiv Bhatt needs to be protected. Unfortunately, he will not be allowed to walk away to get a hero’s status and have a fan club.”

My reply: “Thanks and I hope you are wrong about Sanjiv’s fate. Cc’ing to Prof Badri Raina, the poet, because I think you guys should know each other.” (See Bhatt’s last email of the series, just posted at the end). Continue reading

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