Harsh Mander and his vision of “a world of new solidarity”

My column in Himal Southasian, published 10 June 2016 –  Harsh Mander on why we should raise our voice against injustice

By Beena Sarwar

Photo : Beena Sarwar

Harsh Mander: Committed, consistent and soft-spoken. Photo: Beena Sarwar

Cross-border solidarity isn’t exactly a new idea. The rallying cry, “Proletarians of all countries, unite!…” that emerged in 1848 from The Communist Manifesto has resounded around the globe in many forms since it was first articulated.

Meeting Harsh Mander, one of India’s foremost activist-intellectuals and a courageous former civil servant, again revived the idea for me, but this time, beyond workers. I had first met the soft-spoken Mander in Karachi, when I worked for Geo TV. He had been part of a small delegation from India visiting Pakistan in early 2004, a visit aimed at improving understanding between India and Pakistan, organised by the social-cultural group Act Now for Harmony and Democracy (ANHAD). Continue reading

Thirty years after 1984 Sikh carnage, ‘Kultar’s Mime’ underscores truths about victimhood and violence

Cat with Rano ptg by Evanleigh Davis

“Rano” – painting by Evanleigh Davis

“Innocent victims are the same, regardless of how they worship God and what tongues they speak” – Sarbpreet Singh 

A dramatic production of Sarbpreet Singh’s poem ‘Kultar’s Mime’ is being performed to acclaim in the USA and Canada, and will be in India at the end of the month. Here’s the link to my article in Scroll.in; text below with photos, links and dates not included in the Scroll version. Continue reading

Email exchange: Sanjiv Bhatt (day before his arrest), Badri Raina and Siraj Khan

Suspended IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt was on Friday detained in connection with an FIR filed against him by a police constable. File photo/PTI

Badri Raina’s poem on Sanjiv Bhatt posted to my yahoogroup and to this blog  on Sept 27 led to an inspiring and informative email exchange, on which I am privileged to have been copied. While compiling extracts for this post (with permission), I heard that Sanjiv Bhatt had been arrested (update: A court in Ahmedabad sent him to judicial remand on Saturday, to be be lodged in Sabarmati jail till his bail hearing comes up on Monday)

“Sanjeev Bhatt’s arrest proves how frightened his detractors are,” tweeted @reenasatin.

Film producer Mahesh Bhatt (@MaheshNBhatt): “If there is one man who is fearlessly living the Gandhian creed in Gujarat it is Sanjeev Bhatt. Will our courts protect this Whistleblower?”

That, time will tell. Meanwhile, below, the correspondence, which began with Siraj Khan’s prescient email to me on Sept 27th: Badri Raina’s poem is awesome. Sanjiv Bhatt needs to be protected. Unfortunately, he will not be allowed to walk away to get a hero’s status and have a fan club.”

My reply: “Thanks and I hope you are wrong about Sanjiv’s fate. Cc’ing to Prof Badri Raina, the poet, because I think you guys should know each other.” (See Bhatt’s last email of the series, just posted at the end). Continue reading

Salute to Sanjiv Bhatt

A poem by Prof. Badri Raina in New Delhi, honouring Sanjiv Bhatt, the IPS officer (Gujarat Intelligence) “who spilled the beans on Modi, revealing how at the meeting of Feb.,27, 2002 Modi had instructed the police to let the Hindus vent their anger; you can imagine what travails he is facing, having now even written an open letter to Modi on the subject of the riots.”

Sanjiv Bhatt’s response to Badri Raina: “Thank you very much for writing to me. Your poem has truly humbled me and further strengthened my resolve to ensure that Gujarat Riots of 2002 is never repeated anywhere in this country.”

Thank you Sanjiv Bhatt. We need officers like you in Pakistan also. There are some mob violence murders disguised as ‘religious riots’ that could do with some whistle-blowing too. Here’s the poem: Continue reading

Ahmedi massacre: threats, demos – add to this debate please

Scanned photo & caption from front page of Dawn, May 29, 2010; Reuters photo

Posted this info to my yahoogroup today:

Dear friends:

There was a front page photograph the day after the Lahore massacres, of an elderly Ahmedi with a cap and small white beard, hands ‘clasped together in a prayer of sorts’ as Dawn captioned it. ‘Of sorts’. Even Dawn could not call it prayer.

Iconic photo of a Muslim man pleading for his life as fanatical Hindu fundamentalists went on the rampage in Gujarat, India (March 2002).

It reminded me of another photo of a man during the Gujarat carnage in India, hands clasped, pleading for his life.

Then there’s this photograph a friend sent of a banner on Mall Road outside Lahore High Court that reads:  “Yahudi, Isai, Mirzai Islam ke dushman haiN’ (Jews, Christians, Ahmedis, are enemies of Islam).

How could this banner be allowed to be put up and remain up?

Continue reading

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