Media figures call for release of Himal Editor Kanak Mani Dixit

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Kanak being arrested at a pro-democracy rally in Nepal, 2006. Photo by Shehab Uddin

Press Statement: media figures call for release of Himal Editor Kanak Mani Dixit

New Delhi, April 23 — Editors and media figures as well as intellectuals and scholars from India, Nepal, Bangladesh, UK, US, Australia and Sri Lanka have called for the release of Himal editor and prominent Nepali journalist Kanak Mani Dixit who was arrested yesterday in Katmandu by anti-graft officials.

The following is the text of the statement:

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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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Stifling dissent in Southasia

I earlier posted about resistance to the stifling of dissent in India, and why as a Pakistani it matters to me. The trend is visible in other parts of Southasia too, including of course Pakistan about which I’ve written a fair amount. Here’s an update from Bangladesh, where defamation, sedition cases and the attempts to silence the independent media are underway, as well as Chattisgarh, India.

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Smiles and sedition. Photo: Andrew Biraj, Reuters

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Farewell, Aslam

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Aslam Azhar, Islamabad, 2013. Photo: Beena Sarwar

My personal tribute to a giant of progressive politics in Pakistan, published in The Friday Times on Jan 15, 2016, posted below with links that didn’t make it into the TFT copy. 

By Beena Sarwar

Aslam. That’s what everyone, junior or senior, in the theatre group Dastak called him. He insisted upon it. That was just one aspect of Aslam Azhar, the founding father of Pakistan Television and already a legendary figure in the late 1980s. That was when I joined the theatre group that he had started in 1982 with his close friend and comrade Mansoor Saeed – who also insisted on being called Mansoor. Continue reading

In wake of Pakistan university attack, the voices grow louder – stop glorifying the dead

Screen Shot Hamid Mir-Geo TV

Screenshot from Hamid Mir’s Capital Talk, Geo TV, Jan 20, 2016

I wrote this piece on Jan 20, 2016 on the barbaric attack on Bacha Khan University in Charsadda. Published in Scroll.in on Jan 22, 2016.

As Pakistanis look for solutions, a consensus is emerging that people killed in such attacks should not be called ‘martyrs’ or ‘heroes’.

By Beena Sarwar

There is now a numbing familiarity to the kind of news that broke on Wednesday morning from Pakistan.

This time, heavily armed militants in suicide vests scaled the walls of a sprawling university campus near Charsadda, a picturesque town in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (formerly known as North West Frontier) province near the Afghan border. Gunfire and explosions starting at about 9 am resounded through the dense fog enveloping Bacha Khan University, set idyllically amidst sugar cane fields some 13 km from Charsadda.

The four assailants killed at least 19 students and teachers before themselves being killed by the police and army in a three-hour long gun-battle.

The casualty rate was far lower than the attack on the Army Public School in nearby Peshawar just over a year ago on Dec 16, 2014 in which militants killed some 150 school children and teachers.

The relatively low casualties, pointed out Senator Rubina Khalid of the Pakistan People’s Party, is not a basis for self-congratulation.
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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?
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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

An app for India Pakistan love, the patriotism question, and peace-mongering, regardless

20150218-AKA pageMy latest Personal Political post for Times of India blogs

I have for some time been in touch with a young Indian software engineer turned project manager turned ‘digital nomad’, Amrit Sharma. Last week in the Aman ki Asha page that I edit published weekly in The News, Pakistan, we featured a small report on a heart-warming initiative he has started (all the articles are online at the AKA website).

In August 2013, Amrit launched India Loves Pakistan for the joint commemoration of India and Pakistan’s Independence Days. The aim: “to add the human element into the India Pakistan relationship”.  Now he has launched an Android app called “India or Pakistan” through a self-funded tech startup. Continue reading

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