India/Pakistan: ‘Peace is a process, not an event’

My first monthly column for Himal Southasian (Feb 2016 issue), a Kathmandu-based magazine I’ve been associated with since its launch in 1997. The headline derives from something I remember a Naga woman from India saying at a conference I attended in Colombo, Sri Lanka many years ago. I focus my piece on what links the Pathankot and Bacha Khan University attacks, Modi’s Christmas Day visit to Pakistan and beyond – the issue may have died out from the headlines, but remains relevant. Article below with additional links and photos.vxtvfzk
By Beena Sarwar

If Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s stopover in Lahore to meet his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif on 25 December last year came as a surprise, the subsequent militant attack in India barely a week later on 2 January did not. Continue reading

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“My only durable identity is my humanity”

CG Mishra-pic Farhat Sadaqa

Akhilesh Mishra: humanity and poetry. Photos: Farhat Sadaqa

A short piece I wrote about a South Asian event I was invited to speak at in Toronto; I focused on the speech by the Indian Consul General Akhilesh Mishra. Published in the Aman ki Asha page in The News, September 3, 2014.

Speaking at an informal discussion organised by the South Asian Peoples Forum in the Toronto area in Canada on Monday, Akhilesh Mishra, the unassuming Consul General of India won many hearts with his soul-touching poetry, couplets of which were interspersed throughout his brief speech.

This, coupled with his humane and compassionate outlook, comes as a refreshing change from the kind of talk and posturing one usually gets from diplomats. Continue reading

A Southasian vision

Himal Southasian: Under the Bollywood Tree - latest issue, launched at the Bangalore Literature Festival recently

Himal Southasian: Under the Bollywood Tree – latest issue, launched at the Bangalore Literature Festival recently

My article in The Friday Times last week (thanks to Raza Rumi for pushing me to write this, despite the tight deadline):

A Southasian vision

For regional peace, development and prosperity, it is imperative to improve India-Pakistan relations

Beena Sarwar

I like how the Nepali journalist Kanak Mani Dixit refers to the Indian sub-continent: Southasia. One word. Kanak explains why, in the respected magazine Himal Southasian that he edits, that I am proud to be editorially associated with since its launch in 1997. As a magazine “seeking to restore some of the historical unity of our common living space – without wishing any violence on the existing nation states – we believe that the aloof geographical term ‘South Asia’ needs to be injected with some feeling. ‘Southasia’ does the trick for us, albeit the word is limited to English-language discourse. Continue reading

Cartoon and comment: Indo Pak pee further contest, May 1998

In Kathmandu for a meeting, on May 28, 1998 when Pakistan retaliated to India’s nuclear tests with its own, I found my journalist friend Kunda Dixit trying to draw this cartoon, that I re-drew for him. It was published with the commentary “Let them eat grass” in Himal Southasian, June 1998. I’d been trying to find it – thanks Roman Gautam at Himal for emailing the page scan.

Once more for the Spinal Beetle and Southasia connectivity

Spinal Beetle with its Nepali eyes arrives in Pakistan

Here’s the latest report of the Southasian journey undertaken recently by my friend, civil rights activist, writer and journalist (editor Himal SouthasianKanak Mani Dixit, his wife Shanta (a teacher) and son Eelum (an actor, and yes, his name derives from ‘ilm’ which means knowledge, named by his dada, Kanak’s father who is a prominent writer).

Eelum, Kanak and Shanta Dixit: A great drive

The family started their 1100-mile odyssey in Kathmandu, Nepal, ending in Peshawar, Pakistan, to raise funds and awareness about the need for spinal injury rehabilitation. Those who have been following this issue would know that Kanak injured his spine in a trekking accident a decade ago. He survived, making a near miraculous recovery, and started the Spinal Centre Nepal in 2002, inaugurated by the late Sir Edmund Hillary. The coverage they’ve got on this journey has helped publicize their drive tremendously but the required funds have not arrived, and they are well short of their target. This is a personal appeal. Please donate what you can for this important cause. And do read this riveting account of their journey, includes important insights and information… Continue reading

Appeal from Himal Southasia re Pakistan floods

We at Himal Southasian have set up a fund in Kathmandu for those all over Southasia and elsewhere seeking to support the immediate, ongoing relief efforts in Pakistan. Please avail this facility to send money to the victims of floods along the Indus. To donate click here.

No administrative charges will be applied to your support, every paisa will be sent to The Institute for Social Movements-Pakistan (ISM PAK) in Hyderabad (Sindh), working with theOrangi Pilot Project (OPP) on emergency response and support. ISM PAK and OPP urgently need funds for rations, medicine, shelters, drinking water, infant diet support, livestock fodder and vaccination, hygiene kits, makeshift toilets and schooling camps.

— From Urooj Zia in Kathmandu

Not just hot air – Himal Southasian zindabad

This article was published in The News on Sunday (TNS) as Mountain magazine resort’, on the Footloose page, Dec 20, 2009 for a special issue on conference tourism

Not just hot air

Himal Southasian, Feb 1998

There are conferences and there are conferences. Some organisers lure participants with travel and daily allowances and fancy hotels at exotic locales. Others rely on goodwill and commitment. If it’s the latter, it helps to be located in an exotic place anyway — like Kathmandu. It also helps if the organisers are professional colleagues for whom you have the highest regard.

These last two factors contribute to my ‘favourite’ conference being one that took place in Kathmandu in early 1996. The man behind it was Kanak Mani Dixit, whom I had met at an earlier South Asia conference about water resources organised by Panos some years ago. Kanak had decided to turn his ‘mountain magazine’ Himal into a Southasian venture (there is a reason Himalers write ‘Southasian’ as one word – for an explanation see the published magazine or the Himal Southasian website.

So Kanak got together a few journalists from around Southasia to meet and brainstorm on this venture. He put Mitu Varma from New Delhi (who later became Country Representative in India for Panos South Asia) and myself up at the Third World Guest House in Pattan, one of the five ancient kingdoms around Kathmandu that are conserved as World Heritage sites. Continue reading

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