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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#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

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

India/Pakistan: Thought leaders try to build a bridge to peace

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Just a few of the hundreds putting their weight behind the resolution. Collage by Farhan Ahmed

Without expecting overnight transformation, over 500 eminent signatories from both countries are hoping to create a ripple effect that changes how citizens and governments view each other. My piece in The Wire about the recent citizens’ resolution that urges South Asian giants India and Pakistan “to take all steps possible towards improving relations” and aims to counter the prevailing atmosphere of hostility between the two nuclear-armed neighbours. 

Chomsky

Chomsky: Happy to endorse this “excellent statement”

Can the endorsements from significant, leading thinkers create a ripple effect of a “pebble thrown in a pond”, as one political leader hoped? The fact that he did not publicly endorse the statement while supporting it privately speaks to the reluctance of mainstream politicians to take positions perceived as unpopular in the public realm. Going against the tide created by political rhetoric and media hype requires courage, given the risk of being pilloried as a ‘traitor’.

Kishwar Naheed

Kishwar Naheed: Appeal to writers to sign on

But the 900 plus endorsements garnered in days by a loose coalition of activists and journalists – peacemongers – after the resolution was circulated privately shows that many are willing to take that risk. The signatories’ list, updated daily online by volunteers at various websites including Aman ki Asha, includes many who are not the ‘usual suspects’ – top ranking retired military personnel, parliamentarians and diplomats. In fact, the endorsements read like a who’s who of intellectuals, artists, journalists, filmmakers, lawyers, historians, physicians, businesspeople, economists and students in the region and beyond… Read more  

India Pakistan people’s peace resolution in mainstream media

Sand artist Sudarsan Pattnaik - Raksha Bandhan piece at Puri beach- Odisha

Sand artist Sudarsan Pattnaik’s piece for Raksha Bandhan at Puri beach, Odisha, with a message urging India and Pakistan to “Stop Bullets, Be Friends” (file photo, 2015)

Nice to see the mainstream media take note of this privately shared resolution urging India, Pakistan to resolve tensions through dialogue. Some pretty big names on board – check the updated list at the Aman ki Asha website at the end. Over 100 people endorsed it today, bringing the number to over 350 in just 48 hours.

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Nandita Das. Photo by Marjolein

Pebbles in the pond – Lalita Ramdas in The News on Sunday

Why This Powerful Message From Indo-Pak Peaceniks Matters During Our Troubled Times – HuffPo

Indians, Pakistanis Ask Governments to Set Up ‘Uninterruptible’ Bilateral Dialogue: The Wire

Over 250 prominent Indians, Pakistanis sign powerful message for peace: Express Tribune

Indians and Pakistanis finally raise a mutual voice for peace: Hato Bacho

India-Pakistan people’s peace resolution: Throwing a pebble in the pond – Newsin.Asia

Thought Leaders from Pakistan and India call for uninterrupted, uninterruptible dialogue: Daily Times

Citizens of India and Pakistan Call for Peace: The Citizen

Indo-Pak civil society calls for uninterrupted talks: Dawn

India-Pakistan people’s peace resolution: Throwing a pebble in the pond: Aman ki Asha

India-Pakistan people’s peace resolution: Throwing a pebble in the pond

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Music legend Shubha Mudgal

A valiant effort by concerned citizens of India and Pakistan to stem the tide of hatred, bigotry and violence, this Resolution has hundreds of endorsements listed alphabetically below. The Resolution is now online at this link. Please sign and share.

Peacemongers call for India, Pakistan to resolve differences through dialogue

With tensions between nuclear-armed India and Pakistan on the rise, some concerned citizens from India and Pakistan have come together to formulate a statement expressing their deep concern at “the current rise in animosity and antagonism between India and Pakistan”. The resolution urges “both governments and their security establishments to take all steps possible towards improving relations”. Continue reading

Salute to a stellar actor and courageous humanist: Farewell Om Puri (October 18, 1950 – Jan. 6, 2017)

I’m not a great film follower but this is something I felt compelled to write yesterday. Published in the Aman ki Asha website and crossposted here.

Farewell Om Puri (October 18, 1950 – January 6, 2017)

Om Puri: Principled stand for peace

The legendary Indian actor leaves a legacy of humanistic and compassionate values and peace aspirations

Legendary actor Om Puri’s untimely death has saddened film and peace lovers not only in India but in Pakistan and around the world. Like his long-time friends and colleagues Naseeruddin Shah and Mahesh Bhatt, and younger colleague Nandita Das, he had a special relationship with Pakistan due to his desire for better relations between the two largest countries of South Asia. Continue reading

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