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South Asian Activists Join Hands to Form SAPAN (South Asia Peace Action Network)

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Peace activists from India and Pakistan on March 28th through a virtual session resolved to float a South Asia Peace Action Network (SAPAN) to bring “peace-monger” groups and individuals working towards peace and stability in the region under one umbrella. These activists have been working on these issues for a long time and were talking about such a network much before the recent attempts at reconciliation between Delhi and Islamabad. Through this network they plan to urge both governments to reduce hostility and work towards a peaceful South Asia.

India and Pakistan peace activists came together for a virtual brainstorming session on March 28, inspired by the work of giants like Dr Mubashir Hasan, Asma Jahangir, Kuldip Nayar and Nikhil Chakravarty. On the agenda was the way forward for the movement, how to invigorate it by involving more allies, younger people and expatriates. The meeting coincidentally capitalised on a rare moment in recent years where there has been a deliberate lowering of hostility by both governments. With the recent announcement of a ceasefire by both armies and the meeting of the Indus Water Commissioners last week, a thaw between the two nuclear-armed South Asian neighbours does not seem impossible.

Regional Context, Education and Peace Journalism

“There is a need to place the India-Pakistan issue into a regional context’,’ said Beena Sarwar, senior journalist and editor of Aman Ki Asha, or ‘hope for peace. Then, Milind Champanerkar a Pune based writer and winner of the Sahitya Akademi Award in 2017 also stated that “more progressive groups should emerge in both countries and should make peace building efforts in numerous regional languages of both countries as it would help more on the ground”. Rubina Saigol a Feminist scholar and Educationalist who was a pioneering member of the Women’s Action Forum, Pakistan, talked about how negative nationalism and infighting within the specified countries are derailing the peace process and laid emphasis on having Peace education programs for especially the youth of India and Pakistan which could help in tackling hyper-nationalism and could invariably lead to lesser defence budgets. Further, while speaking about the role of media in fuelling tensions between both countries renowned journalist Raza Rumi, editor Naya Daur said,  “There is conflict reporting, but we haven’t placed enough emphasis on peace journalism,’’ specifying that something needs to be done to build the existing peace constituencies on both sides.

 People to People Contact

Participants stressed the importance of urging both governments to normalise relations between the two countries and allow free movement of people across the borders.

“We need to broaden the peace constituency by bringing people together, learning from each other on issues that affect us and that have the potential to change our future”, said Ravi Nitesh, co-founder of the youth group Aaghaz-e-Dosti. Sheema Kermani, a Social activist from Sindh, Pakistan, also the founder of the Tehrik-e-Niswan Cultural Action Group said that “South Asia requires open borders and more people to people contact”, also emphasizing the fact that a better Visa policy shall be in place concerning India and Pakistan.

Siraj Khan, President of the Pakistani Association of Greater Boston who has also worked a lot in India emphasized having a better Visa regime in India and Pakistan and stated that “the artist connection is the biggest peace-builder, and more focus should be put on connecting artists of both countries”.

COVID and Beyond

Furthermore, Jatin Desai, former General Secretary of Pakistan-India Peoples’ Forum for Peace and Democracy, the region’s largest and oldest people-to-people group said that “Things are moving ahead. It is a very important moment, and we must take advantage of it,’’ stating that the pandemic has underscored the need for better cooperation within the region and had forced the governments on both sides to moot better connectivity projects. Farooq Tariq a Lahore based activist and General Secretary of Pakistan Kissan Rabita stated that South Asian governments shall all work together in providing Covid vaccinations for their people.

Thus, all activists hoped the current thaw in India-Pakistan relations will lead to more exchanges between the countries which will further strengthen South Asia. Participants in several breakout rooms at the meeting discussing the way forward strongly felt the need to counter the vitriol on social media targeting those who speak for peace. Other noted participants in the discussions included human rights activist Rita Manchanda, artist Salima Hashmi, former Planning Commission member Syeda Hameed, labour activist Karamat Ali, author Urvashi Butalia, General Secretary PIPFPD India chapter Vijayan M.J., Sanjoy Hazarika of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, Magsaysay awardee Dr Sandeep Panday, editor Kashmir Times Anuradha Bhasin Jamwal, senior journalist Panneerselvan, and former Indian Navy chief Ramu Ramdas who is also a Magsaysay awardee, besides several prominent Rotarians from both sides, among others.

Source: Aman Ki Asha, Beena Sarwar, Mandira Nayar, Vishal Sharma and some other peace activists present in the virtual session

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Vaccination of 15-18 Year Age Group in India from Jan 3, Precautionary Dose for Frontline Workers from Jan 10

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teenage vaccination in india

New Delhi-India will begin vaccination of the children in the age group of 15-18 years from 3rd January 2022. The move is likely to aid in education normalization in schools. The announcement was made by Prime Minister Narender Modi on Saturday evening. He also announced a precaution dose (booster dose) for healthcare and frontline workers from 10th January 2022, Monday.

In India, this has been called the ‘precaution dose’ not booster dose. An option of precaution dose will be available for senior citizens above 60 years of age with co-morbidities on the advice of their doctors from 10th January 2022. 

Referring to the Omicron infections In India, the Prime Minister requested the people not to panic and to follow precautions such as masks and washing hands repeatedly.

According to the Government, the vaccination campaign started on 16th January this year has crossed the mark of 141 crore doses, and 61 percent of the adult population of the country has received both the vaccines and 90 percent of adults have received one dose.

According to the Government statistics, currently, the country has 18 lakh isolation beds, 5 lakh oxygen supported beds, 1 lakh 40 thousand ICU beds, 90 thousand ICU and Non-ICU beds especially for children, more than 3 thousand PSA oxygen plants, 4 lakh oxygen cylinders and support to states is being provided for buffer doses and testing.

The Prime Minister assured that soon the country will develop a nasal vaccine and the world’s first DNA vaccine.

Photo by Nataliya Vaitkevich from Pexels

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Three Farm Laws to be Withdrawn, Announces PM Modi Ahead of Elections in Punjab and UP

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farm laws withdrawn

New Delhi: Ahead of assembly polls in Punjab and Uttar Pradesh, Prime Minister Narender Modi on Friday retreated from his stand on the three contentious farm laws and announced that the government will repeal three laws. He requested the protesting farmers to end the protest that has been going on for over a year now.

He said the three laws would be repealed in the winter session of Parliament starting later this month. He also said that though the laws were in the interest of the farmers, his government failed to convince them.

The Prime Minister chose the occasion of Guru Nanak Jayanti to make this announcement. The decision is being perceived as an attempt to appease the farmers, especially in Punjab ahead of the assembly polls. Also, the results of by-poll held in various states are being seen as a setback to the ruling government that compelled it to reconsider its stand on the farm bills.  

The Prime Minister said, “today I have come to tell you, the whole country, that we have decided to withdraw all three agricultural laws. In the Parliament session starting later this month, we will complete the constitutional process to repeal these three agricultural laws”.

It’s pertinent to mention that the Centre government had to announce a cut in taxes on petrol and diesel right after the results of bye polls were declared.

The three contentious bills are The Farmer’s Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020, the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020 and the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill.

The opposition Congress and farmers’ bodies have termed it a victory of their unity against the government’s decision. Former Chief Minister of Punjab, Captain Amarinder Singh was one of the first to welcome the decision through a Tweet.

 

 

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Himachal Kisan Sabha Condemns Alleged Mowing Down of Protesting Farmers by Minister’s Son, Calls it “Ghastly” and “Inhuman”

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Himachak Kisan Sabha

Shimla-Himachal Kisan Sabha has condemned the incident where four farmers were allegedly run over by vehicles in Lakhimpur Kheri district of Uttar Pradesh on Sunday, terming it a “ghastly” and “inhuman” act. The Sabha paid tribute to the martyred farmers and demanded immediate arrest of Ashish Mishra – son of Union Minister of State for Home Affairs Ajay Mishra – and other accused and book them under Section 302 (murder).

The farmers have alleged that three SUVs that mowed down protesting farmers were part of the convoy of the Union Minister of State. The farmers alleged that Minister’s son was behind the wheel in one of these SUVs. Following this incident, violence broke out that killed four more persons. The Minister, however, denied the allegations. 

Kisan Sabha also demanded that an inquiry should be conducted into the incident by a Supreme Court Judge. The Sabha also demanded that the Union Minister of State should be suspended with immediate effect.

Sabha said that it’s extremely shameful that the Centre government is attempting to end farmers protest against three Farm Laws in a dictatorial way by means of violence.

“On September 25, 2021, Union Minister of State, Ajay Mishra, had threatened to end the farmers protest within two minutes in a public meeting, and now his son has been alleged of mowing down farmers,” said State President of Himachal Kisan Sabha, Dr Kuldeep Singh Tanwar.

“The execution of this ghastly act merely one day after the non-violence day clearly reflects that the current Centre Government has no belief in democracy. The government wants to suppress dissenting voices rising against it at any cost,” Tanwar added.

Dr Tanwar further added that protests would be staged against this “barbaric” act in Himachal Pradesh too. The sacrifice of martyred farmers won’t go in vain, and it would only strengthen the farmers’ protest, he added.  

Meanwhile, following this incident, Priyanka Gandhi, who was on her way to Lakhimpur to meet the affected families, was detained by police, while Akhilesh Yadav – former Chief Minister of UP and president of Samajwadi Party- was put under house arrest ahead of his scheduled visit.

 

 

 

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