Cambridge event Standout for Peace in solidarity with #StandWithKashmir

Demonstrators at MIT, part of a series of peaceful world-wide protests in solidarity with Kashmir on the weekend of 21 September, International Peace Day. Photo: Beena Sarwar

Published in Cambridge Chronicle, September 24, 2019.

Sunday, 22 September, Cambridge MA: “Resist to exist” proclaimed a placard on the steps of MIT. The placard featured the picture of a woman in a red pheran, the long woolen tunic traditionally worn by Kashmiris from the Himalayan region in India’s north-west tip.

Visual by Zarina Teli, based on a photograph by Sumaya Teli.

The woman holding the placard also wore a red pheran, her mouth taped shut like the others in the pheran-clad group she stood with to symbolize the communications blackout in her home state since 5 August this year. The pheran reflects an iconic image that has become integral to the Kashmiris’ resistance movement, as covered by NPR news recently (Finding resistance in fashion, Kashmiri creator turns to the pheran).

The color red, taken up by thousands in their social media profile images, has come to symbolize the Kashmiris’ spirit of resistance and defiance.

The woman and her companions stood with other peace-loving South Asians and friends on the steps of MIT this past Sunday at noon, to demand that the Indian government “immediately restore communication in Kashmir, remove the draconian measures enforced in the name of security and order, and respect Kashmiris’ right of self-determination”.

Boston event – Global Standout for Peace in South Asia. Photo: Beena Sarwar

The next day, Monday 23 September, marked Day 50 of “the unprecedented and total communications blackout for 8 million Kashmiris enforced on them by the Indian government. Kashmiris, living in the most militarized region on earth, now fear that the present communications blackout is part of a larger plan to ‘ethnically cleanse’ Kashmir,” according to the statement read out at the event.

The event at MIT was part of a series of peaceful protests that weekend in solidarity with the Kashmiri people, coordinated by a small coalition called the Global Standout for Peace in South Asia.

Besides Boston, the Standouts took place in the San Francisco Bay area, Kolkata (India), Gotenburg (Sweden), Islamabad (Pakistan), and Kathmandu (Nepal), on the same weekend as Indian Prime Minister Modi shared the stage with U.S. President Trump in Houston. Solidarity with Kashmir protests took place in Houston also, as well as Seattle WA.

Standout for Peace in solidarity with Kashmir, Goteburg, Sweden

Nuclear-armed neighbors India and Pakistan both lay claim to Kashmir. The Global Standout protestors showed their rejection of these territorial claims by not carrying the flags of any nation or state.

Supporting organizations in Boston included Massachusetts Peace Action, CODEPINK: Women for Peace, MIT Students Against War, Stand With Kashmir, Coalition for Democratic India, Alliance for a Secular and Democratic South Asia, and Boston University Students for Justice in Palestine.

Addressing the participants, Cambridge City Councillor Sumbul Siddiqui encouraged them to keep ‘speaking out for justice’.

The event ended with a drum sounding 50 beats, one for each day since the communications lockdown up to that point.

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Eerie Silence: The Trauma of Kashmir in the Larger Context of the Fight for Democracy and Human Rights

Rafia Bano, 23, was injured by pellets in the courtyard of her house. Photo: Quratulain Rehbar, Kashmir Walla/The Wire

I wrote this piece about the Kashmir issue last week, trying to go beyond the chest-thumping and belligerence to the trauma of the Kashmiri people. Also making the point that brandishing Pakistan flags at protests about the injustice in Kashmir does not help the Kashmiri people. Thirdly, this struggle must be situated in the larger context of the fight for democracy and human rights, relevant beyond India. Published in Naya Daur and Hard News. Some related must-read pieces besides those linked in my piece: ‘Separate Fact From Fiction’: A Letter to PM Modi From a Kashmiri by Salman Anees Soz, India must stop weaponizing the pain of Kashmiri Pandits by Nishita Trisal, Arundhati Roy, The Silence Is the Loudest Sound; and this searing piece in The Wire: Ground Report: Agony and Casualties in the Valley in the Immediate Aftermath of Shutdown. And this: The Mental Health of Kashmiris is Everybody’s concern: Dr KalaMy piece below.

Continue reading

Journalism and “the lives and aspirations of the peoples of Jammu and Kashmir”

Facebook.com/IshtyaquesCartoons

The largest people-to-people group in the region, the Pakistan-India People’s Forum for Peace and Democracy has since its formation in the mid-1990s been calling for India and Pakistan to see Kashmir not as a territorial dispute but as a matter of the lives and aspirations of the peoples of Jammu and Kashmir, who must be involved in any dialogue about their future. That seems even further from the table now. Continue reading

India-Pakistan people’s peace resolution: Throwing a pebble in the pond

Shubha_Mudgal

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

As tensions rise between India and Pakistan, we remember a friend who called for peace

Sharing a piece I wrote with Dr. Partha Banerjee about our friend Haider “jigar”Rizvi, published by PRI on October 28, 2016, a year after he died in Lahore. Reproduced here with photos that we weren’t able to get to PRI in time.

Haider in Gilgit-fb page

Haider Rizvi celebrating life and love at Ghizar District, Gilgit, 2015. Photo by Qamar Abbas.

Last year around this time, we were saddened by the death of our poet and journalist friend Haider Rizvi in Lahore, Pakistan, on Oct 29, 2015. Haider had lived in New York, and was for many years a correspondent for the Inter Press Service (IPS), based at the United Nations.

With Haider’s untimely passing, we lost someone who loved to make friends irrespective of religion, color or caste — someone who believed firmly in peace.
Continue reading

Call me unpatriotic, or even a traitor…

Respect to and solidarity with those who refuse to fall in line with the oppressive narratives peddled by hyper nationalists and security establishments. Sharing a post here by senior journalist Saleem Asmi, former Editor of Dawn and a dear friend of my late father:

Call me unpatriotic, even a traitor if you like, but I must say this straight, without mincing words that we have no right, absolutely no right at all, to condemn what the Indian occupation troops are doing in Kashmir, as long as we are ourselves guilty of committing the same, even worse, crimes in Balochistan. Now look at this: 1) The Indian army has invaded and occupied Kashmir, 2) They brutally oppress the Kashmiri people, and call the freedom fighters ‘terrorists’, 3) We invaded and occupied Balochistan in 1948, 4) We brutally oppress the Baloch people, and call the freedom fighters ‘terrorists’. If anything, we surpass the Indians in kidnapping young Baloch by their thousands without trace. Then their brutally tortured bodies appear under flyovers, by the roads, anywhere.

Also see – by Hasan Raza in Pakistan: Kashmiris continue to be the biggest victims of the Indo-Pak tussle for Kashmir – and Nirupama Subramanian in India: Face the disillusion

 

The real cost of conflict in South Asia

My article on the symposium I attended last week at University of Texas, Dallas, published in Aman ki Asha

The real cost of conflict in South Asia

Peacetalks symposium: Raza Rumi, Pritpal Singh, Amitabh Pal, Nyla Ali Khan. Photo by Beena Sarwar

By Beena Sarwar

Born in the Rawalpindi area in 1943, Suresh Bakshi was about four years old when his family left their ancestral home after Partition in 1947. But he still remembers and has strong feelings for the place where he was born.

These feelings created a powerful conflict when, as an Indian Army soldier, he fought in the 1965 war against Pakistan. Continue reading

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