Noam Chomsky, Arundhati Roy among writers, artists urging Bangladesh #FreeShahidul

FreeShahidul

Academics, writers, artists and journalists around the world , including Noam Chomsky, Pulitzer Prize winning photojournalist Patrick Farrell, celebrated writers Arundhati Roy and Bapsi Sidhwa, artist and daughter of poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz Salima Hashmi, historian Ayesha Jalal, Urvashi Butalia, and others from Harvard to UC San Diego, have urged the Bangladesh government to free the detained photojournalist Shahidul Alam, picked up on 5 August — see statement and endorsements below. See also eminent photographer Raghu Rai’s powerful open letter to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. and the Change.org petition urging Dhaka police to drop charges and release him.

Shahidul Alam’s detention underlines the growing crackdown on dissenting voices in Bangladesh, in a pattern that is visible elsewhere too. The court denied him bail and gave the  police a seven-day remand. This was subsequently reduced and the court ordered that Shahidul be sent to a hospital and given an immediate medical exam and treatment. However, at the time of writing (Aug 7), he is still at the Detective Branch and has not been moved to hospital. (UPDATE Aug 8: He was moved to hospital amid tight security and a few medical tests conducted. His family was allowed to visit him before he was taken back to the DB Special Branch centre).
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Activists support peace defenders in Pakistan, denounce false allegations

MEDIA STATEMENT
Activists support peace defenders in Pakistan, denounce false allegations

LONDON, Oct. 30: Some two dozen activists from Pakistan working in the fields of media, peace, culture, development and politics, USA, Canada and U.K. met in central London to discuss India-Pakistan relations and reaffirm the need for peace between the nuclear-armed South Asian neighbours. They reiterated the vision of Pakistan’s founder Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah that relations between the two countries should be like those of Canada and the United States.

London India Pakistan peace cropped

Group photo of some of the peace activists after the meeting in London.

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Ways of seeing: Imagine, South Asia

Something I wrote for The News on Sunday, published Feb 14, on a thoughtprovoking series of discussions and Anila Quayyum Agha’s stunning installation ‘Intersections’ at the cornerstone of ‘Imagine, South Asia’ at the historic Peabody Essex Museum

Intersections

Intersections by Anila Q. Agha: an immersive, mesmerising experience. Photo: Beena Sarwar

In an age of divisiveness and conflict, with media attention focused on power politics and high profile acts of violence, Imagine, South Asia, a weekend-long series of events at the Peabody Essex Museum was a welcome reminder of the healing and inclusive power of the arts.

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Rahul Roy: Addressing “masculinities” through film

My blog post for Harvard South Asia Institute on Rahul Roy’s documentary film series on ‘masculinities’
Filmmaker Rahul Roy, right, captures in his films the nuances, masculinities and realities in a slice of urban life over the years.

Filmmaker Rahul Roy, right, captures in his films the nuances, masculinities and realities in a slice of urban life over the years. Photo: Ashima Duggal

By Beena Sarwar

Indian filmmaker Rahul Roy first met and began filming four young men in 1999 for his documentary film When four friends meet, interacting with them and filming for about two years in the Delhi slum where they live. He stays in touch with the four – Sanjay, Sanju, Kamal and Bunty – over the years and 12 years later, returns to do a sequel titled Till we meet again. Continue reading

‘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

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

We must move beyond outrage against selected rape cases

Protest at India Gate against gang rape in Delhi. TOI photo

Protest at India Gate against gang rape in Delhi. TOI photo

Grieved to hear that the student who was gangraped in a Delhi bus has passed away in the Singapore hospital where she was flown for treatment. And about the teenage gangrape victim in Patiala who committed suicide – one of countless, not just in India but elsewhere in Southasia. And the 42 year old woman. And the two girls – minors – in Umerkot, Sindh who were raped. And that a woman is raped every 22 minutes in India – I don’t know what the rate is in other South Asian countries, but doubt it’s much better elsewhere. But will the outrage at the “Delhi Gang Rape case” and the victim’s death change things for women in our part of the world – not just in urban but in rural areas, not just for women? And for those, including minor girls and boys, who are routinely subjected to sexual abuse, not only by strangers and security forces, but most often by family friends and relatives? And for the countless who are subjected to ‘revenge rapes’ or forced to marry their rapists or exchange girls and women for peace? We need to move beyond outrage at selected cases and work towards changing attitudes, not just of of society but of law enforcing agencies and courts that shame victims more than perpetrators.

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