Sara Suleri bows out

Sharing personal memories of the brilliant Sara Suleri whose genre-defying book Meatless Days inspired generations of writers, feminists, memoirists and dislocated Southasians. Thanks Ailia Zehra at The Friday Times for asking me to write this piece. Published as a Sapan syndicated feature in TFT, The Wire, Geo TV blog, South Asia Monitor and The Print – shared here with additional pix and links.

February 2018: Sara Suleri pays tribute to Asma Jahangir. Photo: Beena Sarwar.

PERSONAL-POLITICAL

By Beena Sarwar

March 25, 2022, Sapan News Service:

Aur bataiye” – tell me more, a polite invitation to keep talking. I can hear her voice, perhaps naturally husky, made deeper with years of cigarette smoking and perhaps more recently with pain and other medications.

She’d send her love to Pakistan whenever I’d call before flying out from Boston, where we had both ended up around ten years ago – she after retiring as Professor Emeritus of English from Yale University. I had transplanted myself from my home city Karachi where I was editing Aman Ki Asha, hope for peace – between India and Pakistan.

“Dream on!” I hear Sara say. And yet, she agrees, it’s important to keep going. She’s also a hundred percent supportive of our push for a regional approach – the South Asia Peace Action Network, or Sapan, the more recent endeavour, launched last year with a wonderful group of inter-generational, cross-border peacemongers.

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Wanted: Adult behaviour in SouthAsia

The last Sapan – South Asia Peace Action Network – event of the year was titled “Growing up, growing together” with activists across the region resolving to continue working for a better tomorrow. It was wonderful to hear so many young people speak – most under 35 years old. Thanks to all those who worked so hard to make the event a success – including the poetry and music at the end. Sapan’s next monthly event on the last Sunday of January will have more music and culture.

The Facebook Live recording of the recent meeting is available at this link – video log online at this link. Here’s a feature report about the event.

Commemorating Human Rights Day, the founding of SAARC, and 50 years of Bangladesh’s independence, Sapan discussion highlights the commonality of human rights issues across the region

Some of the participants at the event – most speakers were under 35-years old. Screenshot.
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“We will fight, we will win”

The spirit of South Asia and the power of the four-letter word love

Commemorating 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence, remembering Kamla Bhasin

By Beena Sarwar

The annual international 16 Days of Activism against gender violence takes place this year without the pioneering feminist and poet Kamla Bhasin, even as her songs and poetry enliven events during this period and beyond.

Kamla Bhasin. Radical love. Photo: Kashif Saeed

The 16 Days are observed annually starting 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. They end 10 December, with international Human Rights Day. These are integrated issues that Kamla fought for all her life. And she did this with love, joy, music, poetry and compassion.

As she famously said, “I am a feminist, and I do not hate men. I am a feminist and I do not hate women who are not feminists. I am a feminist – and I laugh.”

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A Southasia climate resolution

The Sapan Resolution on Climate Change ahead of COP26 is still relevant

At the South Asia Peace Action Network, Sapan, event at the end of October, participants and speakers answered YES to the question of Can South Asia combat climate change? – and also suggested how.

The informative and engaging session hosted by Khushi Kabir and moderated by Afia Salam was followed by breakout rooms focusing on Climate justice, Cross-border reporting, Water issues, Renewable energy, and Indigenous communities, each facilitated by expert moderators and rapporteurs. See details at this link.

At the end of the event, youth activists Disha Ravi of India and Durlabh Ashok Pakistan read out a Resolution that participants endorsed. Read the Resolution at this link.

Speakers, moderators and rapporteurs: Dilrukshi Handunnetti, Vandana Shiva, Saleemul Haq, Khushi Kabir, Sunita Narain, Nalaka Gunawardene, Afia Salam, Sarita Bartaula, Durlabh Ashok, Priyanka Singh, Pragya Narang, Kinga Tshering, Pratima Gurung, Kunda Dixit, Ali Tauqeer Sheikh, Kanak Dixit, Syeda Rizwana Hasan, Shilsila Acharya, Disha Ravi, Prem Shankar Jha, Rani Yan Yan Yoddha, Lubna Jerrar Naqvi, Dayamani Barla. Collage by Aekta Kapoor.

Chomsky among speakers at discussion on “9/11” and aftermath: Impact on SouthAsia and SouthAsians

Event banner

Marking two decades of the September 2001 attacks on New York City, global thought leaders and activists from across South Asia and the diaspora will meet across time zones this Sunday to discuss the impact of “9/11” on the region and its people.

The online event also commemorates the global International Peace Day, September 21.

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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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