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

As tensions rise between India and Pakistan, we remember a friend who called for peace

Sharing a piece I wrote with Dr. Partha Banerjee about our friend Haider “jigar”Rizvi, published by PRI on October 28, 2016, a year after he died in Lahore. Reproduced here with photos that we weren’t able to get to PRI in time.

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Haider Rizvi celebrating life and love at Ghizar District, Gilgit, 2015. Photo by Qamar Abbas.

Last year around this time, we were saddened by the death of our poet and journalist friend Haider Rizvi in Lahore, Pakistan, on Oct 29, 2015. Haider had lived in New York, and was for many years a correspondent for the Inter Press Service (IPS), based at the United Nations.

With Haider’s untimely passing, we lost someone who loved to make friends irrespective of religion, color or caste — someone who believed firmly in peace.
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Activists support peace defenders in Pakistan, denounce false allegations

MEDIA STATEMENT
Activists support peace defenders in Pakistan, denounce false allegations

LONDON, Oct. 30: Some two dozen activists from Pakistan working in the fields of media, peace, culture, development and politics, USA, Canada and U.K. met in central London to discuss India-Pakistan relations and reaffirm the need for peace between the nuclear-armed South Asian neighbours. They reiterated the vision of Pakistan’s founder Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah that relations between the two countries should be like those of Canada and the United States.

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Group photo of some of the peace activists after the meeting in London.

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Finding lost heritage: Pakistan’s Sikh legacy

My Personal Political column in Himal Southasian, Aug 3, 2016, published also in Aman ki Asha and TOI blogs, posted here with additional links and visuals.

Author Amardeep Singh shares a story from his travelogue. Photo: Beena Sarwar

Author Amardeep Singh shares a story from his travelogue. Photo: Beena Sarwar

Finding lost heritage

“If you could visit any place in Pakistan, where would you go?” asks Amardeep Singh whenever he gives a talk to introduce his recently published travelogue Lost Heritage – The Sikh Legacy In Pakistan.

The question, aimed primarily at Sikh members of the audience, invariably elicits two answers: Sikh holy places. Their ancestral village.

It was the same in Boston on June 18, 2016 at the E-5 Center where Amardeep Singh gave his 42nd such talk. He understands the response all too well. After all, he too once had the same “myopic” reasons, as he says, for wanting to go to Pakistan, which he considers his “homeland”, being the land of his ancestors and also where Sikhdom’s holiest sites are located, like Nankana Sahib, birthplace of Guru Nanak, the first Sikh Guru. Continue reading

Author of travelogue on Pakistan’s Sikh legacy experienced “nothing but love” there, grateful for visa

Amardeep Singh-book

Author Amardeep Singh shares a story from his travelogue. Photo: Beena Sarwar

“I experienced nothing but love in Pakistan,” says Amardeep Singh, author of the photo-illustrated travelogue “Lost Heritage – The Sikh Legacy In Pakistan”, published in January 2016 (Himalayan Books).  Continue reading

India/Pakistan: Sedition and blasphemy – Southasia’s déjà vu

Something I wrote last month about how sedition and blasphemy are the two sides of the same hyper-nationalist coin in India and Pakistan. Updated after the tragic bombing at a park in Lahore on Easter Sunday, published in Himal Southasian on March 30, 2016. 

People vote in the February 2008 elections in Lahore Photo: Wikimedia Commons / boellstiftung - Flickr

People vote in the February 2008 elections in Lahore Photo: Wikimedia Commons / boellstiftung – Flickr

From Pakistan there is mixed news. Recent headlines on the country juxtaposed with news from India prompts the thought that the kind of fascism that Pakistanis have been fighting against is now erupting across India. The encouraging news from Pakistan includes its second award at the Oscars, the execution of convicted killer Mumtaz Qadri (arguments against the death penalty notwithstanding) despite the militant rightwing support for him, and the recovery of the kidnapped son of Qadri’s victim Salmaan Taseer, killed for alleged blasphemy. The bad news includes the horrific suicide attack, allegedly by Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan Jamaatul Ahrar, on Gulshan-i-Iqbal Park in Lahore on 27 March 2016.

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Two disappearances… and a suicide

Zeenat-%22Quaid and daughter of Quaid%22 2014

Zeenat Shehzadi: “Quaid and daughter of Quaid” – her own caption, 2014.

Tragic news from Salman Lateef, brother of the young Lahore-based journalist Zeenat Shehzadi who was trying to help the Indian national Hamid Ansari in detention in Pakistan and was herself ‘disappeared’ in August 2015. Zeenat and Salman’s younger brother Saddam Hussain, 18 years old, who had been pining for his ‘Api’, killed himself last night – hung himself from a tree near their house. They’ve taken him to Sheikhupura / Manawan for burial after Friday prayers. Can’t bear to think of the parents.

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Another tragedy: Zeenat Shehzadi’s beloved younger brother Saddam Hussain, 18, missed his Api terribly. He took his own life last night.

Salman was beside himself, couldn’t stop crying. He said that Saddam often asked about Zeenat – he was her special favorite and she would never let anyone scold or hurt him. ‘Humarey paeron taley zameen nickal gayi hai, ham barbad ho gaye…inn logon ko kab sharam aye gi…’ (the earth has gone from under our feet, we are destroyed… when will these people feel any shame). He said the police had come to the hospital and taken the family’s statement that Saddam killed himself in despair about Zeenat ‘but who knows what report they’ll make’  Continue reading

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