Inspiring stories from sportswomen, and behind the scenes with Sapan

“I’ve been attending online events for the past two years, and this was the best, most engaging by far”, a young activist in Delhi after the South Asia Peace Action Network event on Sunday, featuring sportswomen from around the region and their stories.

This was the best feedback ever, especially with the tech issues we had behind the scenes.

International award-winning sportswomen from around South Asia participated in the event. We tried to do a ‘group photo’ but it didn’t go the way we were planned, so Aekta Kapoor found a creative solution and put together this collage for the Sapan website. Top row (L-R): Mabia Akhter Shimanto, weightlifter, Bangladesh; Sana Mir, former captain Pakistan cricket team; Ashreen Mridha, basketball player, Bangladesh; Nisha Millet, swimmer, India; Middle row: Ayesha Mansukhani, athlete and sports investor, India; Champa Chakma, cricketer, Bangladesh; Khalida Popal, former captain, Afghanistan football team; Preety Baral, tennis player, Nepal. Bottom row: Noorena Shams, squash player, Pakistan; Roopa Nagraj, cricketer, UAE/India; Gulshan Naaz, partially blind runner, India; Caryll Tozer, athlete, Sri Lanka; Rumana Ahmed, captain Bangladesh national cricket team.

Continue reading

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 Neighbours in Peace, a title borrowed from an unpublished Chowk.com volume, 2005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.

Continue reading

“Dialogue is necessary for conflict resolution, not the other way round”

I.A. Rehman. File photo

– I.A. Rehman’s last interview, with youth group Aaghaz-e-Dosti

My young friends Atiqa Shahid in Sweden and Nickhil Sharma in Germany got this scoop, an interview with the visionary journalist I.A. Rehman, shortly before he passed away. He looks frail but his words are clear and strong. Wrote this short piece in Aman Ki Asha and thought I’d share it as well, below.

Sheen Farrukh, Zakia Sarwar: At our place in Karachi a couple of years ago. Photo: Beena Sarwar

Meanwhile, trying to process other losses. Another dear friend of my parents, journalist friend Sheen Farrukh passed on today in Karachi. A feisty, independent-minded pioneering journalist, she was so encouraging when I came into the field. Always supported me in all my causes – her causes too. Appreciate our friends artist K.B. Abro and writer Attiya Daud who had moved in with her and looked after her. RIP Sheen Khala.

Aaghaz-e-Dosti’s interview with I.A. Rehman, 27 March 2021

“We are neighbours, situated next to each other. We have a shared history and geography. We have fought for our freedom together… Plus human beings are social animals, and social animals talk to each other. Unfortunately, our politicians and states due to their own compulsions have not allowed us to do this”

Continue reading

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’.

Continue reading

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.
Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

India-Pakistan dialogue must continue – peace activists at virtual brainstorming session agree to form South Asia Peace Action Network

Wonderful discussions at a brainstorming meeting some of us got together for. Thanks to Mandira Nayar – granddaughter of the late, great Kuldip Nayar for putting this statement together.

Press statement, March 28, 2021:

India and Pakistan peace activists across time zones came together for a virtual brainstorming session on March 28, inspired by the work of giants like Dr Mubashir Hasan, Asma Jahangir, Kuldip Nayar and Nikhil Chakravartty and others. On the agenda was the way forward for the movement, how to invigorate it by involving more allies, younger people and expatriates.

Continue reading

Talking to the Indian diaspora on India-Pakistan: Youth, Media, Aspirations, Common Issues

A couple of weekends ago I was invited to share my thoughts with Indian Diaspora Washington DC Metro on a topic close to my heart: India-Pakistan: Youth, Media, Aspirations, Common Issues. I posted the information to social media and was amazed at the response – the most I’ve had for any post in a long time. An indication of the passions and aspirations associated with this issue. Sharing a recording of the video below.

Coincidentally, this event took place barely a week after the Directors General of Military Operations (DGMOs) of India and Pakistan’s agreement that came into effect at midnight Feb. 24/25, to implement the 2003 Ceasefire that couldn’t have happened without high level approval. Then a couple of days ago, the Pakistan Army chief in a speech reached out to India, saying it’s time to bury the past, move forward – read my friend Nirumpama Subramaniam’s analysis in The Indian Express here.

Here’s the talk I gave. They edited out the worst of the abuses. but you can still see some of the trolling that took place. Just a glimpse of what we are up against when we stand for peace, countering the military-industrial complex:

(ends)

So much human suffering – and for what?

Sharing here a piece I wrote published in The Wire and later in Aman Ki Asha about a poor man from a tiny village on the India-Pakistan border who went missing in 2008. For nine years his family didn’t know where he was. But his government knew for four years before the family learnt from another released prisoner that their loved one was in a prison across the border.

Under-trial for three years, he then served a five-year conviction – but remained imprisoned for three more years while the government dawdled over verifying his nationality.

When they finally repatriated him at the end of January this year following court orders, he was made to travel 1000 km upcountry, then wait for three more days at a border town until police from his home state went to bring him back, another 1000 km downcountry. Here’s a map I made about his enforced travels:

Ismail Sama’s short journey across the border (small arrow) – and his long journey home. Fisherfolk caught violating the maritime border also have to endure this when imprisoned on the other side.

Read the full story at The Wire: India-Pakistan Relations: What the Kafkaesque Case of a Repatriated Cattle-Herder Tells Us, or at the Aman Ki Asha (hope for peace) website that I edit.

Here’s a follow up story by Gopal B. Kateshiya, ‘Coming back is second birth for me’: Kutch man returns home after 13 years in Pakistan jail, The Indian Express. Extract: “A scorpion stung me and I felt giddy. I lost my direction. Next morning, around 10.30 am, Pakistan rangers caught me, telling me I had intruded into their country. They took me to hospital and after my condition improved, they handed me over to Inter Services Intelligence (ISI),” said Ismail, son of a farmer.

Ismail Sama with his family: Reunited and it feels so good. Photo: Courtesy Indian Express.

Thirteen years is a long time. The story would be remarkable if it was a one-off but sadly, such incidents are not rare.

<p value="<amp-fit-text layout="fixed-height" min-font-size="6" max-font-size="72" height="80">Here's a report published some years ago which outlines some of the main problems (PDF). Here’s a report published some years ago which outlines some of the main problems (PDF).

The outrage culture about rape masks a landscape of pervasive child abuse

Protest in Karachi over the ‘motorway gang rape’ incident. 12 September 2020. Reuters photo.

I haven’t updated this site for a while, caught up with teaching two journalism courses at Emerson College this semester – prepping for the courses, training for the unprecedented online situation, then assignment-setting, student feedback, grading – it’s been hard to do much else. But when Mehr Mustafa at The News on Sunday asked me to contribute to their special report on rape culture, I couldn’t refuse. Was up till 3 am to meet the deadline for the piece – The outrage culture masks a landscape of pervasive abuse (TNS Special Report, 27 September 2020).

They asked me to define ‘rape culture’ as a lens to view the issue as a social/political construct rather than individual/isolated events, and to address the systematic nature of sexual violence. That rang some bells. Among the things it got me thinking about was systemic oppression – visible in the racial injustice in the USA highlighted over recent months. I revisited the piece I did last year, Moving towards a cycle of healing, focusing on the need for preventive rather than reactive measures and the concept of restorative rather than retributive justice (thanks Anita Wadhwa and Dina Kraft for expanding on my understanding of this). And just found my 2012 post: We must move beyond outrage against selected rape cases.

As I was working on the piece, the rape of a Dalit teenager in India (#Hathras) and then another, began making headlines. Here’s the powerful piece Dr Syeda Hameed wrote about that: ‘She Was A Dalit Child from Boolgarhi Village, She Was Mine and Yours’. Yes, India seems particularly horrific right now but it’s a regional issue: Pakistan/India: There is no honour in killing… End the culture of impunity.

My article for the TNS special report on rape culture below.

Continue reading
%d bloggers like this: