Two questions: two answers

Amidst a labyrinth of deceivers lies a sobering reality. In a recent encounter, I posed a pertinent question to NATO’s initial head of the counter-terrorism unit, “Do you believe that NATO’s aggressive deployment in Afghanistan and decimation of Iraq over the past 20 years has done more harm than good to the world?” She responded with a defense of their aggressive stance. It is now twenty years downstream, and we must recollect that the alleged justifications were baseless fabrications spun by the Western media, repeated ad nauseum in order to promote complicity. These wars ushered in the likes of Abu Garaib, ISIL, terrorism, thousands of deaths in Iraq and Syria, and perpetual instability in the region; the phrase ‘Axis of Evil,’ coined by George W. Bush in his iconic TV speech, still echoes in our minds.

As history has its way of preserving memory, we remember and history will remember the names of George W. Bush, Condoleezza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld, America’s first black president, Barack Obama, Iraqi oil reserves, defense of Israel and its unlawful occupation, democracy, Colin Powell, weapons of mass destruction (WMD), drone attacks, and countless others who have played instrumental roles in the massacre of innocent lives. Most importantly we remember the millions who were killed across the region.

On a separate occasion, while in Norway, I asked a member of the Nobel Peace Committee whether it was justifiable to award the Peace Prize to someone like Obama, whose tenure led to millions of deaths across the Middle East. The response was a feeble, “to err is human, and we regret the decision.” With this, I declared that this institution had forfeited its credibility by siding with a perpetrator and a mass murderer, leaving a stain on their hard-won reputation for impartiality, peace and justice.

The bottomline is: always beware of what you consume in terms of information, it might make you part of an unjustified, illegal and immoral act. Remember the consequences of waging war based on fabricated justifications and media propaganda. It underscores how such deeds can destabilise an entire region, give rise to conflicts, and lead to loss of valuable human lives. It cautions against blindly accepting official narratives and encourages critical thinking and truth-seeking, even in the face of powerful institutions.

Inspiration: ‘the Moral Imagination’ by John Paul Lederach

In September of 2014, Kashmir made headlines worldwide, not for the conflict that had long dominated the region, but for the devastating floods that had struck. It was during the aftermath of these floods that I found myself immersed in post-rehabilitation work with several humanitarian organizations. My work took me deep into the heart of Kashmir, where I met with its people and listened to their stories of loss and destruction. During one particularly poignant conversation with a 65-year-old man, whose name I never learned, he imparted upon me a new perspective on my homeland. His words still resonate with me today: “The floods have washed away our grief. The mud has buried our spaces. The foul smell has infused us with new spirit. We will wash it all away with water again to retell our stories. But we lack a space to tell, retell, and memorialize them.”

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(on the left) Musa and Steven selling fish in Fort Portal, Uganda

Experience the charm of Fort Portal on a cloudy day. As the birds chirp and Boda Bodas (motorcycle taxis) zoom by, I awake from my slumber with a desire to connect with the locals. Venturing out into the afternoon sun, I make my way towards a local market. The rectangular tin-roofed marketplace is abuzz with vendors selling everything from fresh vegetables and fruits to fish.


First appeared in Tehelka, 2014

I have grown up under the shadow of guns. I have seen uniformed men with AK-47s slung over their shoulders come to my home at odd hours and throw my small schoolbag out. I remember the searches and parades in my primary school premises — army convoys coming to fight hiding militants, mortar shells blowing up houses, and common people being caught in the crossfire of warring parties and suffering for nothing. I would shudder to think of how it felt to be questioned for nothing or get slapped for nothing.