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.

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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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Remembering Mashal Khan at a time of despair, hope, and healing

Demonstration in Karachi for Mashal Khan. AFP file photo
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Farewell Dr Mubashir Hasan: A Nobel Peace Laureate Remembers His Old Friend

In the midst of coronavirus madness, March 14 brought the sad news of Dr Mubashir Hasan’s passing. Wrote this piece published in The Wire a few days back. Reproduced here with additional pix and links.

Pakistan-India People’s Forum for Peace and Democracy, a legacy of Dr Mubashir Hasan, continues to speak out for Kashmir.
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PERSONAL POLITICAL: Rest in peace, comrade Kutty. The struggle continues

I wrote this piece a few days back – the second of my occasional syndicated columns. Published in The Wire, Naya Daur, Mainstream, The Citizen among others.

kutty-smiling.jpg

Early Sunday morning in Karachi, a little over a month after his 89th birthday on 18 July 2019, B. M. Kutty slipped into the ever after. Lifelong activist, trade unionist, political worker, peacemonger, humanist. I like to remember him as I last saw him in Karachi – his big smile, deep voice with its powerful timbre, intense gaze behind the glasses, dapper as usual in bush-shirt and trousers.

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Remembering Doc: The importance of civil discourse and the art of listening

At a small gathering last year, our friend S. Ali Jafari read his essay in Urdu about my father, whom he called “Doc”. His son Salman videotaped the reading, which forms the basis of this 14-minute video I edited for 26 May 2019, ten years after Dr M. Sarwar passed away peacefully at home in Karachi, at age 79.

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India, Pakistan #SayNoToWar: Global StandOut for Peace in South Asia

Salima-Abhi-27Feb

Lahore, 28 Feb: Salima Hashmi holds up a placard demanding that Pakistan return the captured Indian Air Force pilot – a step that Pakistan announced that day.

As tensions between India and Pakistan continue to keep the region hostage people everywhere are stepping up to urge the governments to resolve all issues through dialogue. They include:

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Celebrating Fahmida Riaz in Delhi

Fahmida Riaz-Delhi prog

Post updated to add the programme just received from Delhi; gratified that it includes the poem I posted here earlier, “Palwashe Muskurao”.

Great to know that friends in Delhi are organising this wonderful event to commemorate the great poet Fahmida Riaz – Fahmida Khala to me, she called my father Sarwar Bhai. I love the poem of hope and inspiration she recited, Palwashe Muskurao (Palwasha, smile), at the commemoration we organised for him and the student movement he led. Here’s information about the upcoming event in Delhi, fittingly, on Valentine’s Day, that I put together for the Aman Ki Asha website.

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Happenings Fahmida Riaz-Delhi-Feb 2019

What: ‘Transcending Boundaries, Defying Taboos:
The Poetry of Fahmida Riaz’

When: Thursday, 14 February 2019, 6.30 pm
Where: India Habitat Centre, Delhi
Who: Open and free to the public
Co-hosted by the PIPFPD and India Habitat Centre.

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Tum bilkul hum jaise nikle
Ab tak kahan chhupey they bhai!

(You have turned out to be just like us
Where were you hiding till now, brothers!)

Fahmida Riaz wrote her prescient poem in 1996 when the BJP first emerged as the single largest party in the Lok Sabha. When she recited it nearly twenty years later before an Indian audience in April 201, “it carried a weight equal to the history of South Asia itself” say members of the Pakistan India People’s Forum for Peace & Democracy. Continue reading

Bangladesh #FreeShahidul – my opinion piece in Washington Post yesterday

Shahidul Alam in Central Park, New York, 2012. Photo: Beena Sarwar

The Washington Post published my opinion piece about Shahidul yesterday. Below, a slightly earlier version of the final edited piece for those unable to access WP.

Here’s why Bangladesh made a huge mistake by jailing Shahidul Alam

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With a queered pitch and biased umpires, Pakistan’s struggle for democracy is far from over

Haroon Bilour -s:o Bashir Bilour ANP

ANP’s Haroon Bilour, whose father was killed in the 2013 election campaign, was among those killed at an election rally in Peshawar on 10 July, 2018.

My comment contextualizing the politics of the upcoming Pakistan polls for India Today’s digital edition Daily O, shortly after a deadly suicide bombing at an election rally in Peshawar. The next day, there were two attacks at election rallies, one in Bannu which fortunately took no lives, and a bomb blast Mastung in which the death toll has risen to over 200.

Politics of the upcoming Pakistan polls

With a queered pitch and biased umpires, Pakistan’s struggle for democracy is far from over

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