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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Give peace a chance: Activists urge India, Pakistan, to step up for #SouthAsia

The Pakistan-India People’s Forum for Peace and Democracy (PIPFPD) has begun a series of online discussions aimed at reclaiming the people’s narrative. The PIPFPD The page has several video excerpts from these and other discussions. Below reports on both discussions by Neel Kamal, published in Times of India and Aman Ki Asha.

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MSR’s ongoing incarceration: “There still remain journalists in this country determined to hold their ground”

The March 12 arrest of Mir Shakilur Rahman sent shockwaves through journalist and human rights communities, Here’s a link to my piece about this issue in The Washington Post today: In Pakistan, a bizarre arrest shows how media freedom is being squeezed.

But even if he is granted bail now – after over 100 days of being denied his liberty and that too at a time of Covid — this will be a minor victory  achieved at a huge cost, not only for Rahman, but also for media freedom and democracy in Pakistan.

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The need for ‘radical love’ – Cornel West, Dalit and Sheedi solidarity, and a #WC4BL Boston report

This is a follow up to my earlier post about physicians of Pakistani and Indian origin, already in the frontlines of the Covid19 battle in the US, stepping up in the war against a longer-running pandemic, racism. We know that racism is not limited to the US. In our home countries in South Asia, it is expressed as casteism and oppression of vulnerable communities.

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“The moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice” – MLK

Greg White on the many knees on our necks, and the need to keep on keeping on…

Last night, I caught up over the phone with an old and dear friend, Greg White in Chicago who heads a tuition-free public education charter school system with 12 branches, opening a 13th in DC soon. Greg is the first Black or African American friend I made within days of my arrival in the USA as an international student at Brown University in 1982. As a sophomore and Minority Peer Counselor in my dorm, Greg became a mentor and guide who went on to obtain an MBA at Harvard Business School. He now heads a tuition-free public elementary school system. Read below his powerful letter to their 500 employees, a moving message inspired by Martin Luther King. It comes straight from the heart.

Greg’s words resonate with the universal fight against oppression, in America and elsewhere. Keeping populations poor and deprived of education is the surest way of continuing systemic oppression. Read his letter below.

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#WhiteCoats4BlackLives: Boston rally by New England physicians from Pakistan and India, joined by others

Last Sunday some physician friends in the Boston area invited me to help them organise a rally under the banner White Coats for Black Lives. These rallies began last Friday with synchronised standouts taking place at hospitals and medical institutions around the United States. This may be the first one taking place at a public venue.

Dr M. Sarwar, Jan 2007. Photo: Anwar Sen Roy

I found it exciting that Pakistani and Indian physicians are joining hands for a common cause, across the political divide. I’m glad to have been able to help them and glad to see doctors becoming politically active. Remembering my father Dr M. Sarwar who believed so passionately in equality and social justice. He not only wouldn’t charge workers, artists and journalists but also gave them medicines for free. He would have approved ❤️

The event has generated a lot of support (see list of endorsing organisations below).

I’m thrilled that Alicia Barrow, one of the co-organisers of a rally last weekend at South Royalton, VT, is coming down for the Sunday vigil in front of the Boston Public Library. South Royalton is a tiny, predominantly White town, but the rally for #BlackLivesMatter drew a substantial crowd. The demonstration was part of several others in Vermont that weekend – and in small towns around the USA. Read this account by veteran journalist friend Skip Isaacs: “A very small close-up from a very big picture”: a report on a Black Lives Matter protest in very white, very Republican, Pasadena, Maryland. Has the USA reached a tipping point?

Copying below the press release about the upcoming White Coats For Black Lives rally:

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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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“The biggest win is to survive without becoming vindictive and not become that which we are fighting”

— Jailed chief editor’s son after accountability court in Pakistan again extends father’s physical remand

Photo leaked from NAB cell after MSR’s arrest March 12.

“Today was disappointing for us all…. But let me tell you why I am still standing. Because our Mir Shakil ur Rahman is”,  wrote Mir Ibrahim Rahman in a note to a WhatsApp group of Geo TV reporters Saturday after an accountability court again extended the physical remand of his father, Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman, Editor-in-Chief Jang/Geo Media Group, for another 10 days.

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#AuratMarch: The polarity of narratives

The News on Sunday last week asked me to write a piece on the narratives surrounding gender in mainstream and social media, the space to take up the debate on the subject and whether that has increased or shrunk over the years, and what sort of narratives are emerging from movements like the Aurat March (the impact and social deconstruction of certain slogans deemed ‘controversial’ and ‘immoral’ by right wing quarters within the society). I began writing this just before the controversy over ‘Mera jism meri marzi’ (my body, my choice) kicked off that I mention, in the piece below, part of the TNS Special Report on the issue published 8 March 2020, which includes several related pieces worth reading.

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A beloved jurist passes on

Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim (12 February 1928-7 January 2020) gained respect early on in his career for refusing to take oath under the military dictatorship of Gen. Ziaul Haq. Through his life he wore many hats — founder member Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, Pakistan Supreme Court judge, Governor Sindh, Chief Election Commissioner, to name some. But a little-known feather in his cap is his pro bono work for the imprisoned leftist and student activists of the 1950s, that he credited for his politicisation. Those, he would say, were “the best days” of his life. Here’s that story as I heard it from him and from my father Dr. M. Sarwar, published in The News on Sunday and The Wire a few days after Fakhru Uncle passed on.

Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim: A fine legacy (online photo)

By Beena Sarwar

As the debate on the much-delayed restoration of student unions in Pakistan gathers momentum, we celebrate and commemorate a beloved jurist who cut his teeth by taking on cases of detained student activists pro bono in the 1950s.

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