#Goodnews update. And an upcoming event

Glad to report that Ajeet Kumar Nagdev and his children are on the train headed to Amritsar, and will hopefully cross the border on Saturday along with some 50 other Pakistanis who had been stranded in India due to the coronavirus pandemic. Thanks for all those who helped Nagdev and his family, especially Samir Gupta, Shishir Arya and others, including the helpful folks at the Pakistan High Commission, New Delhi, operating under stressful conditions. Salute to all of you.

Meanwhile, need help getting the word out about this upcoming regional event Sunday, on the rights of the incarcerated with legal experts and human rights activists from around the region. Pls subscribe, join, share, post, comment, like, tweet, whatever you can. Much appreciated.

Poster for the event. Thanks Vishal Sharma.

The main panel is coincidentally all women…. (Read more)

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Undaunted by temple attack, Pakistani Hindu stuck in India with three children yearns to return home

This is a followup report to a piece I did in May about a Pakistani Hindu family that migrated to India but wants to go home to Pakistan, made more desperate after a personal tragedy. This not about patriotism or religion but humanity. p.s. I sent this report to several media houses. It’s been published in The News, NayaDaur, South Asia Monitor, The Wire, Aman Ki Asha, Pakistan TodayVibes of India, and its Gujrati portal and others. Note the credit at the end — Sapan News. This report may be a soft launch for syndicated service I’ve long dreamt of. Sapan News is linked with the South Asia Peace Action Network, Sapan, recently initiated by some of us. Check it out! Grateful for your support.

A couple of weeks ago, Ajeet Kumar borrowed a car and took his children on a rare outing: Coping with bereavement and desperate to go home. Photo: Supplied.

A Pakistani Hindu stuck in India with three children after his wife died in April is pleading with the authorities to let him return to before Independence Day, August 14.

“Mein TooT gaya huN – I am broken,” says Ajeet Kumar Nagdev, 41, speaking on phone in Urdu from Balaghat, Madhya Pradesh. His wife Rekha Kumari, 38, died on April 22, a day before the last Attari-Wagah border opening. “What can I do? The children break me, but I have to get up and keep going.”

Struggling to look after them, fearful of what will happen if one of them gets sick or if something happens to him, Nagdev feels trapped. He worries about their schooling. They miss their mother.

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Covid-19 needs a regional response, say physicians and activists

The South Asia Peace Action Network webinar Neighbours in Peace and Health, June 27, 2021, was the third in the SAPAN series: Imagine! Neighbours in Peace, a title borrowed from an unpublished Chowk.com volume, 2005

Visuals by SAPAN volunteer Vishal Sharma in Simla.

Sunday’s event included prominent physicians like Dr Zafrullah Chowdhury, Dr Anup Subedee, Dr Vandana Prasad, and Dr Hamid Jafari of Pakistan (led the team that eradicated polio in India). Speakers included Salima Hashmi, Khushi Kabir, Kanak Dixit, Lalita Ramdas, besides journalists Beena Sarwar, Mandira Nayar and others. Activist Priyanka Singh conducted the event.

“South Asian countries cannot go it alone, that’s irrational,’’ said Dr. Zafrullah Chowdhury, renowned public health activist and Ramon Magsaysay awardee from Bangladesh.

The hard lockdown in his country will lead to furthering the inequalities in society, he warned, emphasizing that it is irresponsible to impose lockdowns without providing food. “Poverty has increased. There are 25 million more poor without food.”

Dr Chowdhury was among the physicians and health right activists across countries who came together on Sunday 27 June at a webinar organised by the South Asia Peace Action Network (SAPAN) to emphasize that the coronavirus pandemic must be fought collectively.

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Health is a basic human right; inspiring stories of care and compassion

Create economic and healthcare closeness across South Asia during the Covid-19 crisis – Amartya Sen

Posting this a couple of days late, but it’s still relevant: South Asia Peace Action Network press statement 31 May 2021

Create economic and healthcare closeness across South Asia during the Covid-19 crisis – Amartya Sen

Amartya Sen: Our battle is not just against the Covid virus but also against the economic injustice of hunger and poverty (screengrab)

“We have to learn to maintain physical distancing but at the same time create economic and healthcare closeness in South Asia,” said Nobel laureate Amartya Sen, speaking at a webinar on South Asia’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic. The gathering also adopted a resolution describing the pandemic as a wake-up call for regional cooperation, and pressed for equitable vaccine supply across the region.

Stressing the need for contact and collaboration across South Asian borders, Prof. Sen said our battle is not just against the Covid virus but also against the economic injustice of hunger and poverty created by the pandemic.

Prof. Sen was among nearly 200 opinion-makers and activists from across South Asia and the diaspora who came together to attend the webinar titled: ‘South Asian Solidarity in the Time of Covid: Sharing Grief, Inspiration, Hope and Strategies’.

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Pakistani-American physicians express solidarity with the people of India and demand increase in healthcare budgets

Urge South Asian governments to learn from India’s colossal tragedy and increase healthcare budgets, take urgent action to prevent similar crises in other countries

Screenshot from APPNE’s online campaign.
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Sharing grief and solidarity: South Asia regionalism

Even while grieving the loss of her father to Covid-19 the previous day, journalist Barkha Dutt was able to put aside her own pain to send out a powerful message to the world: “Don’t treat this as our problem alone,” she said in an interview to ITV.

Her father was one of over 2,500 Indians who reportedly succumbed to the coronavirus on Tuesday – the real numbers are suspected to be far higher as many dying at home are not counted as Covid victims. If the Covid-19 crisis “erupts” in India, it will “hit the world.” Countries understandably want to shut borders as a “necessary” short term response and put their citizens first but “we live in a world where we cannot be separated indefinitely,” she added.

A number of us had made a similar plea underscoring the connected nature of today’s world and the regionalism of South Asia, at an online discussion originally aimed to focus on Khelne Do (play for peace) on Sunday under the series title – Imagine! Neighbours in Peace’. We changed the focus at the last minute to share grief and solidarity as the situation in India spiraled out of control.

See press release below.

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Understanding life

Samina Saad, October 1961 – February 2021

My cousin Asif Saad wrote this moving and insightful piece about our dearest Mina Baji who left us recently, posted to his website Open Minds Consulting. Shared here with permission.

Some treasures from my sister’s brave soul

Self-help literature places a lot of emphasis on ‘finding your purpose’. The coronavirus pandemic recently snatched away my elder sister who was very dear and close to me. The tragedy leaves me looking at life through a very different lens.

As I re-visit what Samina Saad stood for, I realise that ‘finding your purpose’ is not about finding some great ultimate purpose but making the best of what life throws at you – the lemons and lemonade stuff. Baji, as we fondly called her, taught me about being bold and brave and living life as you yourself imagine it.

It’s not that a sense of purpose is not important. The point is that arriving at your purpose is about starting somewhere and following the process. Whatever feels meaningful to you can be your purpose and it may be different at different times.

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Merry Christmas… my dear

There have been over 300,000 Covid-related deaths this year in the USA alone, and the numbers are still rising as many deniers refuse to take basic precautions like wearing masks. Asymptomatic carriers — no signs of illness — can be infected and infect others. The second wave is well under way. So many losses.

Here’s a recent oped by pediatricians in the Boston area, pleading for the public to stay home: We’re Pediatricians In A Pandemic. We Shouldn’t Be Taking Care Of Your Grandparents. A new confusing disease they’re seeing is multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, MIS-C. In Karachi, Dr Darayus Gazder at Ziauddin Hospital describes the same thing, seeing children “who post-COVID develop multisystem inflammatory syndrome, which is worse than adult onset COVID” (emphasis mine).

Tweet after hearing of another tragedy in the family: Sajid Rizwan Ansari, 36, died in his sleep of a heart attack

So many personal losses this year. Grateful to have spent time with friends and loved ones in Pakistan last winter. Several have since departed this world. There’s sadness also about the departure of some whom I hadn’t seen in years, like my second cousin Khalid Afzal in London, an early victim of Covid-19. In Allahabad, family friend and mentor Comrade Ziaul Haq (Munnan Chacha) passed on in November, joining his wife Dr Rehana who departed a week after his 100th birthday barely a month earlier. My mother’s college friend Inkesar Nawaz died suddenly in Lahore of a heart attack.

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You are free to pray…But please do it at home

Please stay home… Even if the government isn’t requiring you to. Doctors in Pakistan have demanded a “strict lockdown to contain rapid spread of COVID-19” but Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan after ‘conferring’ with the ‘ulema’ has chosen to go with the latter, justifying his decision by saying that he cannot use force in the matter. Here’s my interview on Al Jazeera live about this, April 22.

Imran Khan: Appeasement to what end?
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#PakistanFightsCorona: Lending a helping hand

What to do, who’s doing it, and how to do it

A poetic fundraising resistance to despair

Event invite / Asmer Asrar Safi

The current coronavirus pandemic, and lockdown that is essential to prevent even more destruction, increases urgency in countries like Pakistan to ensure the survival of daily wagers and their families. With lockdown the only way to #stopthespread of COVID-19, many organisations are working on the ground to provide rations to families and PPE to health workers.

One initiative aimed at supporting these efforts is a poetic resistance to despair: An online fundraising effort for COVID-19 relief, Pakistan, Sunday 19 April 2020 at 1 pm ET (10 pm Pakistan time). Join online via this Zoom invite. (www.bit.ly/cvd19apr)

This is the first of a series initiated by the US Pakistan Students Coalition, including students at Harvard, Duke, Johns Hopkins, Swarthmore, Yale and others. The Joy of Urdu is supporting this effort, that I am honoured to collaborate with.

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