India/Pakistan upcoming peace events August 3-9, 2017

Haroon Khalid, author of Walking with Nanak, will participate in a live Youtube discussion on Monday, 7 August.

As Pakistan and India commemorate 70 years of their existence as independent nation states, what is striking is the people’s desire for peace and how those who govern them continue to thwart these aspirations. As media highlight the tensions what goes largely unreported is people on the ground continuing their efforts to push for peace. Below: a few on-the-ground upcoming happenings I compiled that seek to further understanding between the two nations. At the very least, they are all expressions of the desire for normal relations. Continue reading

Want peace between India and Pakistan? Will you push for it?

I wrote this piece last week for The Wire about the ongoing campaign for peace between India and Pakistan. I argued that while the move is unlikely to lead to any great policy change, it is time the citizens of both countries came together to encourage the resolution of all bilateral issues through dialogue. A request to readers who agree to please sign and share the online campaign if you haven’t already done so. Thank you. Also see this powerful call for both countries to talk, from Abdul Basit, the outgoing Pakistan Ambassador to India: Pakistan and India must return to the negotiating table, without further ado and preconditions

Peace Now-Hyderabad

Hyderabad launch on July 1 – Magsaysay awardees Admiral L. Ramdas and Jayaprakash Narayan at the launch. Courtesy: Mazher Hussain, COVA

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In solidarity with Dr. Udayakumar, anti-nuclear activist targeted by “journalists”

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Dr Udaykumar believes that India’s nuclear programme is a costly prestige exercise that endangers the lives of millions. Plus, he points out, villagers are still living in the dark, since most of India’s energy is used by the industrial sector. “Who really benefits from the nuclear plants in the end, except the foreign companies that are building these plants in India?” he says. Photo: Vidhi Doshi/The Guardian

Just heard from peace activist friend Lalita Ramdas in India that the well known anti-nuclear, village-based activist in India Dr. S. P. Udayakumaran, has filed a complaint with the press council of India against the harassment meted out to him and his family by Republic TV and its reporters (see below). Shame on these people using journalism like an entertainment tool, bringing a bad name to the profession. This is not the first time he has been targeted. Read this piece in The Guardian last year on The lonely struggle of India’s anti-nuclear protesters – a struggle that Dr Udaykumar plays a key role in.

It is truly shocking to see the extent to which our so called free and fair media will go to implicate one of our best minds, those with integrity of purpose and courage to stand up for what they deem to be right.

Uday Kumar whom we have known for decades, is a fine scholar, a fearless fighter, and a Gandhian practitioner who had led one of the longest , peaceful and non- violent struggles in our recent history.

Being against nuclear energy and nuclear weapons does not make you anti national.

On the contrary it is these men and women of Idinthikkarai/Koodankulam, who have demonstrated a commitment to the people of this country through their amazing struggle for a nuclear free India.

If this is seditious and unpatriotic and anti national, then I am too.

Lalita Ramdas

Dr Udaykumar’s letter below:

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Ongoing worldwide protests against “missing” bloggers

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Lahore protest. Photo: Khalid Mahmood

January 15, 2017 marks just over two weeks since the professor, poet and activist Salman Haider was abducted from Islamabad, followed soon after by more such “disappearances”. Human rights activists around the world are demanding that Pakistan produce the missing bloggers and end the climate of fear being created. Disappearing activists is not a new tactic, as Pervez Hoodbhoy reminds us – been happening with alarming regularity in Balochistan. But these abductions happened in Punjab. Meanwhile, the propaganda machinery of the dirty tricks brigade (#DTBPk) is out in full force painting as ‘blasphemers’ and ‘traitors’ the missing bloggers and those supporting them – which in the context of Pakistan is a clear incitement to violence and vigilante action. Below: photographs from some of the protests – Peshawar, Toba Tek Singh, Islamabad, Lahore, Karachi, Dallas TX and London, England.  Continue reading

Sabeen Mahmud: Inclusive spaces and #tree4Sabeen

In Karachi last week, I wrote about Sabeen Mahmud and the Creative Karachi Festival held to commemorate her life and work. PRI published it with the title Remembering a Pakistani woman who died because she wanted everyone to have a space to speak freely along with my radio interview with Marco Werman of PRI’s The World. Below is the unabridged text including with more links and photos. Also see our friend Afia Salam’s tribute to Sabeen in The Wire, Why Sabeen Mahmud Will Always Matter.

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A poster with Sabeen’s photo at CKF 2016 on a divider between a stall and walkway at the Alliance Francaise. Photo: Beena Sarwar

Beena Sarwar

Early on Sunday morning in Karachi, a small, eclectic crowd converged at The Second Floor, the iconic coffee shop-cultural hub founded by my young friend Sabeen Mahmud in 2007.  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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‘More Than My Religion’: Reclaiming the narrative

imageMy article for The News on Sunday, Nov 8, 2015 on the ‘More Than My Religion’ (Oct 8-Nov 17) at City Hall, Providence RI – a unique exhibition showcasing art by American Muslims that aims to break stereotypes and build bridges — and help the homeless. Continue reading

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