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

Pakistani, Indian citizens appeal: “Let’s talk peace”

Over 400 artists, writers, activists, academics, lawyers, businesspeople, journalists and students from Pakistan and India appeal to their governments, fellow citizens, politicians and media to strive for peaceful relations between the two countries

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”

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”

It started out as an admin note to members of the Aman ki Asha Facebook group, by volunteer moderator Samir Gupta on August 30, 2015. The pinned post he put up on the AKA group wall read:

Screen Shot 2015-09-01 at 3.23.14 PM“Peace or war?
———————–
As our governments and militaries lose their minds and continue to escalate this dangerous game of military conflict, it is the duty of all members of this group to stand together and demand peace in all fora available. We expect members to be responsible for peace and refrain from making provocative posts and comments. We expect you to be bipartisan”

Several group members commented there, expressing their support for the idea. Continue reading

Pakistan #Intellecticide: Vigils for Sabeen – who was she and why was she killed?

Sabeen-Hero-Karachi-Mohsin Sayeed

Sabeen: delighted to find an old Karachi car number plate reading, “Tu Mera Hero” (you’re my hero) at the “Creative Karachi” festival, fund-raiser for T2F, 2014. Photo by Mohsin Sayeed

Vigils and protests for our slain comrade and friend Sabeen Mahmud are taking place in different cities of Pakistan and around the world. Anyone is welcome to submit online responses to the blog Sabeen Mahmud: A Tribute.

In Boston, students have organized a vigil for Sabeen on Tuesday, April 28, 7.30 pm at the John Harvard statue in Harvard Yard (Facebook Event). In Pakistan, friends are meeting at Press Clubs in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad to register their protest.

Bring an apple. Or a Beatles or Steve Jobs poster. Or Farida Kahlo or Farida Khanum, Faiz, Farid Ayaz… all the things she loved. Black armbands. She loved strong visual statements.

A lot has been written about who she was, what she stood for and why she was targeted. My offerings, with a heavy heart: Onpoint with Tom Ashbrook on NPR; in in Scroll: You refused to cower in silence’: A letter to a fallen Pakistani comrade; and In Pakistan, This Activist Was Martyred for Her Moderation in the Daily Beast co-authored with Asra Nomani.

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Pakistan’s proposed cybercrime bill threatens civil liberties on the pretext of security

The Pakistan National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Information Technology (IT) on Thursday passed a controversial cybercrime bill that industry leaders and civil society members have been protesting against – see objections in the media release below as well as the warning sounded by Bolo Bhi, a net freedoms organisation. Two earlier news reports summing up the reservations: In Dawn – New cybercrime bill tough on individuals’ rights, soft on crime and in Express Tribune – Legislative bungling: In a bill about cybercrime, MoIT inserts clauses legalising censorship.

BoloBhi Pasha Cybercrime bill update

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‘Not just India’s daughter’ – article for TNS Special Report

Jyoti Singh’s death has become a global symbol and the beginning of change. Here’s hoping she did not die in vain… ‘Not just India’s daughter‘: My article for The News on Sunday Special Report on the issue

Not just India’s daughter

India has been under the spotlight for the rape and gender violence since the horrific gang rape in Delhi on December 16, 2012. That night, a 23-year-old physiotherapist on her way home from the movies with a male friend was brutally gang-raped by six men in a moving bus in the national capital. She died of her injuries on December 29, 2012. Her friend who tried to save her was also brutally beaten but survived.

The BBC documentary, ‘India’s Daughter’ following up on a rape that shook not just India but the world, and the Indian government’s subsequent ban on the film has re-ignited hot debate on an issue that is relevant to far more than just India or India’s daughters. Continue reading

Is resistance futile? Lahore church attacks and beyond

Lahore church blast protest. Photo: Mani Rana, Reuters

Lahore church blast protest. Photo: Mani Rana, Reuters

My article in Scroll.in a few days ago pegged on the Lahore church attack and the Global Vigils of Pakistanis against terrorism 

Citizens, artistes and courts are mounting new resistance to halt spread of terror in Pakistan

News about the suicide attacks at two churches in Lahore broke on the morning of Sunday, March 15, as Pakistanis were gearing up for a global vigil against terrorism in several cities around the world, to be held that day in the UK and USA, and in Pakistan on March 16.

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