Published: 01st January 2020
Justice without borders: This Indian peace practitioner is fighting for the release of a Pakistani academic
Junaid Hafeez was sentenced to death for making blasphemous comments of Prophet Mohammed
Here's the story of Sreya M, an Indian peace practitioner and Junaid Hafeez, a Pakistani academic who was sentenced to death for making derogatory comments on Prophet Mohammad. The latter, who's been imprisoned since 2013 and spent most of his time in solitary confinement doesn't know of Sreya, who runs an online platform that connects like-minded Indians and Pakistanis. But now, she has started a change.org petition, seeking Junaid's release.
"I have a lot of friends and activists who tell me about what is happening in Pakistan. Since the past year, I've been noticing that the happenings in India and Pakistan are almost similar. That's how I got to know about Junaid. I did a lot of research and then got to see videos of him about getting arrested six years back and learnt that he was in solitary confinement. He was once beaten up by another inmate too. Blasphemy charges in Pakistan are really intense," says Sreya.
"We urge the Government of Pakistan and the judiciary to adopt a progressive approach and realise that every single life is precious and being in authority does not give anyone or any entity, the right to take someone's life," reads Sreya's petition. 458 people have signed it until now. Sreya tells us that a Pakistani community called People's Forum has also started a similar petition seeking Junaid's release. "There are chances right now that Junaid's case could go to the Pakistan Supreme Court and that he may be pardoned. We hope that happens," she says.
Junaid, who got a master's degree in the US on a Fulbright Scholarship, specialising in American literature, photography and theatre, taught at the Bahauddin Zakariya University (BZU) in Multan. He was arrested on March 13, 2013.
So what is it that prompted Sreya to run this campaign? She says, "Borders do not exist for me. All that matters here is humanity. We are only bringing together people who think alike." People have told Sreya that her efforts are going to go in vain, many times. "I was asked to focus on the issues in my country. I was also told that the Pakistan government is extremist and especially at a time where the CAA is implemented, my efforts wouldn't matter. But, the theory of nations is beyond what I can comprehend," she says.