Uphold the rights of the incarcerated in South Asia, say human-rights advocates

Meant to share this earlier – great discussion last weekend on the rights of the incarcerated in South Asia, organised by Sapan, the South Asia Peace Action Network. Besides human rights advocates and experts, there were testimonies from those who have suffered incarceration, and presentations from Sapan volunteers about prison conditions and best practices in the region. The issues raised are relevant beyond the region. Hope we can keep the momentum going – and we need help to do that. Please like, comment, share and post about this issue that affects all of society. Thank you.

Participants turned on cameras at the end for a group photo. Collage by Aekta Kapoor, eShe magazine.

29 August 2021: “If the government becomes the monster that it can be, then the belly of the beast contains the people in jail”, said Nepali journalist Kanak Mani Dixit, speaking at a regional session on the rights of the incarcerated in South Asia, particularly in light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

He was among the prominent activists, legal experts, concerned citizens, and formerly incarcerated persons across the region who came together online to discuss the issue on Sunday, 29 August 2021, under the umbrella of Sapan, the South Asia Peace Action Network, of which he is a founding member. 

Held a day before the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances, 30 August, the meeting underlined the need to recognise enforced disappearance as a distinct crime. The recent commemoration of World Humanitarian Day on 19 August also pegged the need for compassion and empathy for vulnerable communities. The tragic situation in Afghanistan further highlights the need for solidarity in the region and to insist on upholding human rights principles.

The event featured gut-wrenching testimonies in various languages from those who have experienced incarceration in the region, including those who were picked up but not produced before the courts for months or years. Those who fill the prisons tend to be the poorest of the poor as many pointed out.

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#Goodnews update. And an upcoming event

Glad to report that Ajeet Kumar Nagdev and his children are on the train headed to Amritsar, and will hopefully cross the border on Saturday along with some 50 other Pakistanis who had been stranded in India due to the coronavirus pandemic. Thanks for all those who helped Nagdev and his family, especially Samir Gupta, Shishir Arya and others, including the helpful folks at the Pakistan High Commission, New Delhi, operating under stressful conditions. Salute to all of you.

Meanwhile, need help getting the word out about this upcoming regional event Sunday, on the rights of the incarcerated with legal experts and human rights activists from around the region. Pls subscribe, join, share, post, comment, like, tweet, whatever you can. Much appreciated.

Poster for the event. Thanks Vishal Sharma.

The main panel is coincidentally all women…. (Read more)

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Undaunted by temple attack, Pakistani Hindu stuck in India with three children yearns to return home

This is a followup report to a piece I did in May about a Pakistani Hindu family that migrated to India but wants to go home to Pakistan, made more desperate after a personal tragedy. This not about patriotism or religion but humanity. p.s. I sent this report to several media houses. It’s been published in The News, NayaDaur, South Asia Monitor, The Wire, Aman Ki Asha, Pakistan TodayVibes of India, and its Gujrati portal and others. Note the credit at the end — Sapan News. This report may be a soft launch for syndicated service I’ve long dreamt of. Sapan News is linked with the South Asia Peace Action Network, Sapan, recently initiated by some of us. Check it out! Grateful for your support.

A couple of weeks ago, Ajeet Kumar borrowed a car and took his children on a rare outing: Coping with bereavement and desperate to go home. Photo: Supplied.

A Pakistani Hindu stuck in India with three children after his wife died in April is pleading with the authorities to let him return to before Independence Day, August 14.

“Mein TooT gaya huN – I am broken,” says Ajeet Kumar Nagdev, 41, speaking on phone in Urdu from Balaghat, Madhya Pradesh. His wife Rekha Kumari, 38, died on April 22, a day before the last Attari-Wagah border opening. “What can I do? The children break me, but I have to get up and keep going.”

Struggling to look after them, fearful of what will happen if one of them gets sick or if something happens to him, Nagdev feels trapped. He worries about their schooling. They miss their mother.

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Inspiring stories from sportswomen, and behind the scenes with Sapan

“I’ve been attending online events for the past two years, and this was the best, most engaging by far”, a young activist in Delhi after the South Asia Peace Action Network event on Sunday, featuring sportswomen from around the region and their stories.

This was the best feedback ever, especially with the tech issues we had behind the scenes.

International award-winning sportswomen from around South Asia participated in the event. We tried to do a ‘group photo’ but it didn’t go the way we were planned, so Aekta Kapoor found a creative solution and put together this collage for the Sapan website. Top row (L-R): Mabia Akhter Shimanto, weightlifter, Bangladesh; Sana Mir, former captain Pakistan cricket team; Ashreen Mridha, basketball player, Bangladesh; Nisha Millet, swimmer, India; Middle row: Ayesha Mansukhani, athlete and sports investor, India; Champa Chakma, cricketer, Bangladesh; Khalida Popal, former captain, Afghanistan football team; Preety Baral, tennis player, Nepal. Bottom row: Noorena Shams, squash player, Pakistan; Roopa Nagraj, cricketer, UAE/India; Gulshan Naaz, partially blind runner, India; Caryll Tozer, athlete, Sri Lanka; Rumana Ahmed, captain Bangladesh national cricket team.

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Pakistan’s ‘best kept secret’ (not The Samosa)

Sumaira Samad, Shahid Nadeem, Anwar Akhtar at Lahore Museum (screengrab)

Anwar Akhtar is a Pakistan-origin cultural activist based in London who started The Samosa many years ago — think cross-culture, activism, media, teaching. We had met several years ago and reconnected recently when he reached about his intriguingly titled documentary, Pakistan’s Best Kept Secret. I invited him to write about it for Aman Ki Asha. Sharing the documentary, as well as his piece, here:

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RIP Dr Mubashir Hasan. The last public statement he endorsed was on India’s CAA along with other South Asian citizens

Dr Mubashir Hasan: A towering figure and visionary for South Asia regional peace. File photo.

In December 2019, when I visited Dr Mubashir Hasan at his home in Lahore, I read out to him a Statement on India’s Citizenship (Amendment) Act, drafted by a friend in Kathmandu. Dr Saab readily endorsed it, probably his last public comment (see below). He is the first person who talked to me about pushing for a South Asian Union along the lines of the European Union. He passed away today, aged 98. A great mentor, leader, guide and friend. May he rest in peace. More later.

Statement on India’s Citizenship (Amendment) Act by 14 independent South Asian citizens

26 December 2019

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South Asian activists, academics, journalists urge Sri Lanka not to violate fundamental rights in the name of combating terror

 

SriLanka statement-Wire-collage

Top row (L-R): Sima Samar, Kanak Mani Dixit, Hamida Hossain. Bottom row (L-R): Uma Chakravarti, Shahidul Alam, Pamela Philipose, Beena Sarwar. Collage: TheWire.In

Thanks to friends who initiated this statement in solidarity with the artists, thinkers and people of Sri Lanka, that I have signed along with over 250 other activists, academics and journalists from across South Asia. Please feel free to endorse and share. Signatories include human rights activists from Afghanistan and Bangladesh, journalists from Nepal, Pakistan and India, and historians and feminists from India and Pakistan, among others who have been at the forefront of facing similar realities in their respective nation-states for decades. Full text below, updated from the version published earlier in TheWire.in.

 

May 2, 2019: Continue reading

Towards a South Asian Union

Samir Gupta

By Samir Gupta

Published in Aman ki Asha, Oct 8, 2013… Justice Katju may be controversial but his sincerity to peace and humanity is unmistakable, finds a young activist at a breakfast meeting

I was bit nervous when journalist Beena Sarwar invited me to accompany her to meet Justice Markandey Katju for breakfast in Delhi. Justice Katju had retired as a judge at the Supreme Court of India and was appointed Chairman of Press Council of India. He is known for his controversial statements, including his comment “Pakistan is a “fake” country “created artificially by the British” – that I had also ridiculed. He sounded like a retired person far removed from reality.

Justice Katju: A strong, secular, democratic vision. Photo: Beena Sarwar

Justice Katju: A strong, secular, democratic vision. Photo: Beena Sarwar

Beena, editor Aman ki Asha Jang Group Pakistan, insisted that he is a sincere friend of Pakistan and a champion of peace between India and Pakistan. She wanted to talk to him about his calls for re-unification that are causing unnecessary controversy and diverting from the real issues at hand. This was going to be interesting.

On the day, I met Beena outside his majestic bungalow near Parliament House in New Delhi. He was much taller than I expected, and very warm in welcoming us. As we sat for breakfast, he regaled us with stories of his days as a judge in Allahabad, meeting his counterparts from Pakistan in Delhi, his views of what ails India and his views on Pakistan.
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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

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

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