Asma. A human rights giant, and more. My tribute in EPW

Wrote this piece for the Economic and Political Weekly, published a couple of weeks ago. Unedited version here with additional links, photos and videos.

  • Asma Jahangir, lawyer, human rights activist.
  • Born 27 January 1952, Lahore; died: 11 February 2018, Lahore.
  • Co-founder: AGHS law firm, 1980, AGHS Legal Aid Cell, 1983; Womens Action Forum, 1981;
  • Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, 1986.
  • Involved in launch of Pakistan India People’s Forum for Peace and Democracy, 1994, and launch of South Asians for Human Rights, 2000.
  • UN Special Rapporteur: extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, 1998 to 2004; freedom of religion or belief, 2004-2010; situation of human rights in Iran, November 2016 till death.
  • Elected first female President, Pakistan Supreme Court Bar Association, 2010.

Asma was all this and so much more. Continue reading

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Salute to Asma Jahangir: some upcoming memorial meetings

Asma banner hugThousands attended her funeral in Lahore on Feb 13 – women, men, rich, poor, workers, lawyers, journalists, farmers, ambassadors, ministers. Those who couldn’t attend in person held prayers and vigils in different cities – Karachi, Hyderabad, Peshawar. More are planned in cities around Pakistan and the world. Below, a list of some memorial events planned that I know of, to give a flavor of what she means to us – us being Asma’s tribe, peacemongers who love and fight for peace, democracy, equal rights, human rights and freedom. Continue reading

Pakistan: Another peace activist goes missing #FindRaza

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Raza Khan with a copy of the One Million Signature Campaign against violence against women, Pakistan

On Saturday, peace activist Raza Khan, 37, went “missing” in Lahore shortly after he had organised a public discussion about the recent ‘dharna’ (sit-in) on the country’s capital that ended in ignominious surrender to those seeking power in the guise of religion. He is a law-abiding, passionate campaigner for peace in the region particularly India, for gender equality and interfaith harmony — all of these are anathema to the keepers of Pakistan’s ‘ideology’. Please sign the online petition urging the government of Pakistan to find him. Share your thoughts on social media using the hashtag #FindRaza. A twitter campaign for Raza is planned at 4 p.m. (Pakistan time today, Dec 5), hashtag #FindRaza. More case details below. Continue reading

Behind criminal acts motivated by religion, bigotry, misogyny, lies fear of change

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Gauri Lankesh, Sabeen Mahmud.

My piece for The Wire on the assassination of journalist Gauri Lankesh in Bengaluru, that reminded me of the target-killing of my friend, activist Sabeen Mahmud in Karachi. I traced the patterns and similarity behind these murders.

A spoke in the wheel of this “intellecticide” is the ‘anti-intellectual’ nature of the vote for Donald Trump who shares a host of similarities with Modi in India despite differences. The rise of white supremacy in a nation of migrants built after virtually annihilating indigenous populations is a continuation of ongoing racism in the US.

The pendulum swings of history ushers in periods of the rise of the ‘Right’ or the ‘Left’. We are witnessing the rise of the militant Right at this moment with its ensuing bloodshed in India, Pakistan, the US and elsewhere.

But what will continue to rise inexorably, despite bloodshed along the way, are human aspirations to basic rights, equality and justice. There is no going back, no matter how fiercely the chaddis, topis or kluxies fight it.

Read more: In Life, and in Death, Gauri Lankesh and Sabeen Mahmud Battled Powers Fearful of Change

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Protest at Harvard Square: Commemorating Gauri Lankesh’s murder and ongoing Rohingya massacre. Photo: Beena Sarwar

 

#NotInMyName protests in India and elsewhere, June 28 and beyond

Not in my name-Orijit Sen

People in more cities are joining the #NotinMyName protest against vigilante violence and mob lynching, since the first one was announced in Delhi. Scroll reported that demos were planned in 9 (later updated to 11, and counting) cities including London, Toronto, on Wednesday.  Compiled below, the venues mentioned in the report as well as others: Continue reading

Remembering Indira Gandhi’s Emergency

Jaspal SinghEmail from friend Jaspal Singh on June 25, 2017 that I meant to post earlier about a situation that feels all too familiar to Pakistanis. The long-running democratic political process in India – interrupted only by Indira Gandhi’s three-year long Emergency in 1975 is one of the reasons the country has done so much better than neighbouring Pakistan. Until the current scenario where, fuelled by signals from the top, mob lynchings and vigilante violence in the name of religion are rising. Some argue that the Emergency sowed those seeds. Read on. 

Reflections. June 25,2017

Forty two years ago today, a state of emergency was declared in India by Indira Gandhi  I remember that day very clearly. I had summer job in Vermont and lived in this idyllic village west of Burlington. The rolling hills were full of flowers. There was a small mountain stream in my backyard. I would wake up and go for a bath in the stream. Every where greenery and flowers. It was like being in paradise. I had no TV, no radio. So I was cut off from the world. A friend  who lived close by came and told me that she had heard on the radio that the prime minister of India had declared emergency and thousands of people had been arrested.
Continue reading

Why being a bystander is not an option

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Cambridge Public Library park: Unlikely scene of hatespeech. File photo by Harsh V.

My column Personal Political published in the Cambridge Chronicle, June 8, 2017

Beena Sarwar

“You don’t even speak English,” comes a male voice across the fading evening light.

We glance past Cambridge Public Library’s main entrance. The man is bending close to someone sitting on a bench on the other side. A couple of homeless guys slightly drunk, ribbing each other?

The voice breaks through the dusk again. “This is not your country. Why don’t you go back?”

I jump up and walk purposefully towards them, suppressing a reminder that I’m a small brown woman heading towards an unknown situation.

Continue reading

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