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

Gauri-Roh-vigil

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

 

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The fisherman’s tragedy

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Arrested Indian fishermen in Pakistan lockup. File photo. Getty images

Something I wrote in anguish yesterday, published in The Citizen, The Wire and Aman Ki Asha…  Not only are fishermen punished harshly for crossing a border they cannot see, once detained they are treated like prisoners of war by the other country.

The India-Pakistan Fisherman’s Story: Caught, Jailed, Dies, Body Wrapped in Red Tape

Imagine you are a fisherman. Born into poverty. Born in a small coastal village in India. Or Pakistan. (Hardly a matter of choice). You lead a tough life, following the profession of your father and grandfather. You are barely literate. You spend your life eking out a bare existence for yourself and your family, chasing the depleting shoals of fish that the wind and tide drive further out to sea.

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Why #NotInMyName protests against vigilante violence, mob lynchings in India resonate elsewhere too

My piece published in The Wire today. Also posted below.

Not in my name-Orijit Sen

Image by graphic artist Orijit Sen.

Catalysed by the mob murder of a teenager in India on June 24, followed by a Facebook post on June 24 by filmmaker Saba Dewan, a #NotInMyName campaign is taking off across India with simultaneous protests in several cities on Wednesday, June 28, 2017, against the ongoing mob lynchings and vigilante violence targeting Muslims and Dalits. Continue reading

Remembering Indira Gandhi’s Emergency

Jaspal SinghEmail from friend Jaspal Singh on June 25, 2017 that I meant to post earlier about a situation that feels all too familiar to Pakistanis. The long-running democratic political process in India – interrupted only by Indira Gandhi’s three-year long Emergency in 1975 is one of the reasons the country has done so much better than neighbouring Pakistan. Until the current scenario where, fuelled by signals from the top, mob lynchings and vigilante violence in the name of religion are rising. Some argue that the Emergency sowed those seeds. Read on. 

Reflections. June 25,2017

Forty two years ago today, a state of emergency was declared in India by Indira Gandhi  I remember that day very clearly. I had summer job in Vermont and lived in this idyllic village west of Burlington. The rolling hills were full of flowers. There was a small mountain stream in my backyard. I would wake up and go for a bath in the stream. Every where greenery and flowers. It was like being in paradise. I had no TV, no radio. So I was cut off from the world. A friend  who lived close by came and told me that she had heard on the radio that the prime minister of India had declared emergency and thousands of people had been arrested.
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Why being a bystander is not an option

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Photo: Harsh V.

My column Personal Political published in the Cambridge Chronicle, June 8, 2017

Beena Sarwar

“You don’t even speak English,” comes a male voice across the fading evening light.

We glance past Cambridge Public Library’s main entrance. The man is bending close to someone sitting on a bench on the other side. A couple of homeless guys slightly drunk, ribbing each other?

The voice breaks through the dusk again. “This is not your country. Why don’t you go back?”

I jump up and walk purposefully towards them, suppressing a reminder that I’m a small brown woman heading towards an unknown situation.

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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

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