Dhaka, 1st October 2010: In a cultural award ceremony attended by several prominent South Asian activists at the Bangladesh Shilpkala Academy, the Meeto Memorial Award for young South Asians was given to Akeela Naz, a farmer and woman’s leader from Punjab, Pakistan, whose untiring work has helped trigger land reforms in favour of thousands of landless farmers. The inaugural ceremony was attended by over 400 people comprising artists, activists, academicians and diplomats. Many guests came for the programme from India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Afghanistan, Bhutan, Myanmar, Iran and other parts of the world. The High Commissioners of Pakistan and India as well as leading social activists such as Sir F. Abed, the Founder-Chairman of BRAC and Dr. Zafarullah Chowdhury, founder of the Gonoshastha Kendra attended the ceremony.
In a moving speech delivered by her brother Brij Bhasin, Kamla Bhasin (Meeto’s mother) said her work and life was inspired by her young daughter. Delivering the keynote address at the occasion, Sunila Abeyasekera, well-known, award-winning international human rights and women’s activist from Sri Lanka said, “I am extremely happy to be associated with this award instituted in the memory of Meeto, a very fine young woman who I had the privilege of knowing personally. Meeto’s short life stands as an example of beauty, artistic and intellectual achievements and deep commitment to a syncretic South Asia. This Award is not just a tribute to Meeto and her work, but is also a recognition of the achievements of many young South Asians like her who are living their dreams for a better world”.
Offering a word of thanks, Dr. Hameeda Hossain, prominent human rights activist, author and the founder of Ain O Salish Kendra, expressed her happiness at this unique South Asian award which was not only choosing South Asian individuals but also moving from one South Asian country to another. (The 2009 Award ceremony took place in Delhi, India). Dr. Hossain said that the Award was a very valuable contribution to the South Asian world of human rights work.
Khushi Kabir, the founder of Nijera Kori and a member of Sangat’s Core Group, said she was delighted to host the award in Bangladesh. Abha Bhaiya, one of the leaders’ of the Indian women’s movement Founder of Jagori Grameen and Dr. Ambreen Ahmad, one of the Founders of Rozan, a Pakistan-based women’s NGO, and a Core Group member of Sangat were among some of the many other South Asian activists that attended the ceremony.
The Award was handed over by Anusheh Anadil, singer and cultural activist from Dhaka and winner of the 2009 Meeto Memorial Award. Anusheh and her group of musicians enthralled the audience with their performance.
Book dedicated to Meeto
In a moving gesture, Dr. Hameeda Hossain, the Co-Chair of the South Asians for Human Rights (SAHR) released their latest publication entitled Religion: a tool for discrimination in South Asia? at the Meeto Memorial Award function and dedicated the work to Meeto. The work of the young scholar was focussed on syncretic movements and cultures and communal harmony in South Asia. Based on studies in different countries, the book illustrates how policies and programmes, educational texts, media and administrative measures, have exacerbated discrimination against religious minorities in Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
Speaking at the occasion, Professor Amena Mohsin from the Department of International Relations at the Dhaka University expressed her happiness at the launch of the book and its association with Meeto who helped set up the SAHR network.