Why being a bystander is not an option

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Photo: 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.

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A minute for peace with Pope Francis, June 8, 2017, 1:00 pm

Cross-posted from Aman ki Asha

A minute for peace, June 8, 2017, 1:00 pm

Pope Francis arrives in Assisi, Italy for the World Day of Prayer for Peace at the Sacred Convent, Sept. 20, 2016. Credit: L’Osservatore Romano

India Pakistan peace supporters have participated in several global prayer vigils in past years. What have these actions accomplished? We don’t know for sure but we believe that there is power in prayer, individual and collective, by persons of any faith or secular vision. Perhaps things would be even worse if we didn’t. We share here an appeal from a humanist of the highest order. Continue reading

My Princeton journalism class re-visited

JRN 457 at SAPNA

The class took a trip to NYC. Here, we are interviewing two Bangladeshi migrants at SAPNA, a Bronx-based non-profit helping migrant women from South Asia.

Thrilled and touched to see my class listed among a student’s favorite classes at Princeton, where I was a visiting professor of journalism last fall. Here’s what he wrote: 

Kevin: I can’t stress it enough: Journalism (JRN 457): “Politics, Causes, and Culture in a Changing Media Landscape,” essentially a journalism ethics class, is by far my favorite course that I’ve had at Princeton. Pakistani journalist Beena Sarwar led the course, and brought all of her friends; almost every week we were visited by the who’s who in journalism.  We talked to some pretty incredible people, including journalists who work in television and print, writers for The New York Times and Reuters, and international reporters from Nepal and the Netherlands. Two of the nine visitors were Pulitzer Prize winners. 

The best thing is that journalism classes are seminars with 10-15 students.  With a small class and required biweekly meetings, students always get to know the professor. I’m working for The GroundTruth Project, an international news non-profit, this summer in Washington, D.C., because my professor recommended me for the job!

The class wrote the blog theprincetonglobe.wordpress.com, if you’d like to learn more about what kind of work we did in the course. 

Thank you Kevin, it was a pleasure and honor being your teacher 🙂 

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

Women’s cross-border solidarity

Screen Shot 2017-04-26 at 11.35.04 AMWrote a short piece last night for the Women’s Regional Network, published on their original content blog. Honoured to be in the company of women like Anuradha Bhasin Jamwal in India, Najla Ayoubi in Afghanistan and others Pakistan taking on issues like how Street Harrassment is Hurting Afghanistan’s Democracy and Development,  Young Pakistani Women Recognized for their Achievements, The Rise of Online Trolls in India, Countering Violent Extremism and more. My brief contribution Borderless Issues: Mothers in Conflict also copied below:  Continue reading

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