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Peace and Justice
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  • This is the best body of work in infra-red photography that I have seen in India.
      Shri S. Paul
    Photographer, on the infra red exhibition Ladakh Huess
  • I am proud to know this couple- Shamim and Sasmita. This book reflects the labour of their love. We could reach the place because of the power of his lens.
      Janab Arif Mohammed Khan
    Former state minister, at the inauguration of the book
  • Words fail me; outstanding!
      Mr. Rajiv Lochan
    Director NAGMA, on "One Fine Tuesday"
  • At times Delhi looks beautiful but the kind of flavour Shamim has brought about in black and white is not only very beautiful but after this book we all will see these monuments from a fresh perspective.

    ( while unveiling of the book 'Forgotten Dilli - Portrait of an immortal city')

    Extraordinarily taken pictures. Akhtar is someone we are proud of.

    ( on 'Ladakh Hues " )
      Mrs. Sheila Dixit
    Ex-CM Delhi
  • When stones burst into songs

    Qutub Minar must count among the most sketched, painted and photographed monuments of the world. What the Eiffel Tower is to Parisians, the Big Ben to Londoners, the Brandenburg Gate to Berliners and the Statue of Liberty to New Yorkers, the Qutub Minar is to Dilliwallahs. It is older and more spectacular than all the other monuments.

    I have seen hundreds of photographs of Qutub Minar but none to match the cover of Forgotten Dilli, Portrait of an Immortal City by Sasmita S. Akhtar and Shamim Akhtar. Shamim is a Bihari Muslim, now in the IAS, posted in Delhi. Sasmita is an Oriya Brahmin, a sociologist, who is a product of Jawaharlal Nehru University. Between them, they produced a pictorial album on Lakshadweep and now one on the old monuments of Delhi.

    Sasmita has written the text; Shamim has taken the photographs. They have limited their work to the end of the Mughal dynasty in 1857. They have pictures of baolis (step wells), dargahs (Sufi shrines), forts, mosques, and mausoleums. What arrests the readers attention is the interplay of light and shade on trees and clouds to highlight every monument.

    It is a sheer joy to turn over the pages of the book again and again. It reminded me of an old film song, 'Geet gaaya paththaron ne ' 'The stones burst with songs'.
      Mr. Khuswant Singh
    The Telegraph, 6th March 2010
  • 'A stunning exhibition, highlighting the unique beauty of Ladakh...extremely impressed by the quality of his images.'

    (on the exhibition, Rode to Heaven in 2008)

    'I have great pleasure in commending this book to all those who love mountains. Packed with photographs, there are short descriptive notes which are useful.'

    (In the foreword of the book, Rode to heaven: Ladakh in 2009)

    ...I myself have not been able to go to Kailasa nor will I be able to go to in this life; but after reading this book I feel I have also done half parikarma.'

    (At the inauguration of the book, 'Kailasa: A journey within' , at the Shanti Stupa, on the 30th of Jan. 2011)
      Dr. Karan Singh
    At the inauguration of the book, 'Kailasa: A journey within', at the Shanti Stupa, on the 30th of Jan. 2011
August 20, 2016
Peace and Justice

For quite some time, a very simple question has been haunting me. Whether peace is the end result of a just society or justice in human society brings peace?

Buddhism, preaches and seeks peace for the entire mankind, whereas Islam is all about justice here in one's life time and then on the judgment day.

There are two contradictory views that I have been trying to understand. First, in any unjust society peace cannot prevail and without peace, justice is meaningless.

So, let me try to explore the basic concept of justice. An eye for an eye is absolute justice. But, justice is only sought when some injustice ( read crime) has been done. Only the victim seeks Justice. We all are sometimes the victim and sometimes the culprit.

When we are the culprits, we believe in forgiveness citing that if an eye for an eye was to be done, the whole world would be blind. But when we are the victims, we believe that absolute justice must prevail.

In the human world, justice necessarily requires some sort of coercion and use of " power". That often results in violence and even lead to war. Mankind has seen too many wars, right from Mahabharata to Qarbala to two world wars, and even today most parts of the world is burning with some or other kind of war.

Has war ( or Punishment) ever resulted in peace?

History tells us that any war fought in the name of justice only results in another war. Every punishment to a guilty gives rise to many more of the "guilt's" offerings, and hence more retaliation.

In order to understand justice, we have to define what injustice is. Anything against the " Law of the Land" is crime and hence punishable. So , if the victim against whom the crime has been committed does not get " justice" it is seen as injustice.

Wait a minute, who wrote those laws and who defines the norm of crime either against the individual or against any nation or towards society or at the much larger scale towards mother nature.

Laws are written to suit a particular group of people in any particular society. Are we sure that laws are justified? For example, if two persons are traveling without ticket in Indian Railways, the rich one can go scot free by paying a fine , the poor one who can't afford the fine has to go to the prison? Is this law just?

A close analysis of all the national and international laws would reveal that they only suit the rich and powerful. We like to believe that we are living in a modern era and " jungle raj" has ended. So why one particular superpower nation like USA goes on interfering in all other nations internal matters and inducing wars?

" Injustice" is a highly confused term. Let's look at nature, what if the deer starts seeking justice for their kids being eaten by tigers? No, I don't mean that the human world is anything even remotely like the world of deer and tiger, but can we see a strangely remarkable resemblance in present times?

Why go beyond, let's have a look at the prevailing situation in India. The rising intolerance in the name of religion, has touched the threshold. The recent Dalit uprising for being beaten in the name of Holy Cow, is just one tiny bit that tells the prefix of the whole story.

So instead of shouting like the victims, asking for justice, let us step into the shoes of the culprits for a moment. When caught , the culprits would like to be forgiven and seek peace.

Now we have two choices, punish the culprit and regain the euphoria of the society and celebrate that justice has been done. The chances are ( that happens often , when someone is hanged in hurry), the kins of the " culprit" will take that as injustice and will wait for their turn to be in the position of delivering justice in the same fashion , an eye for an eye.

The second choice is to listen to the " culprit" with an open mind and find out , if the culprit is really repenting and would not make the same act again. We may forgive him. The victim of the act of this culprit may feel cheated , but when the same culprit is in the shoe of the victim ever, the might of forgiveness will take over.

Before you conclude that I am trying to propagate a justice system, where all the culprits are allowed to go free, please re- read the first paragraph. All I am trying to understand is the concept of justice and peace.

To my own little experience, the so called justice in human societies has not been able to bring peace for almost six thousand years. It's high time that humanity should do a course correction and try to imbibe the notion of peace.

What does peace mean? Is it a mean to an end? Certainly not. Peace is an end in itself. Being peaceful does not mean being a coward rather it requires lot more courage to win over the devil within and to be able to live with a smile in not so just circumstances.

Peace should not be and cannot be a collective phenomenon, rather only an individual can achieve this state of mind. Once someone is peaceful within, a lot of problems, communication gaps, misunderstandings and even crimes can be avoided.

The Zen of one peaceful individual will spread to another human being and eventfully, it will bring an end to all the reasons of unjust and unrest. A peaceful society can resolve any situation through constructive dialogues with a smile. So there will be no need of a punishment system or war in the name of defense.

I firmly believe that the path of seeking justice has absolutely failed in human societies , rather it has brought more wars and more injustice, which has resulted not only in the suffering of mankind , but also the life giving mother planet.

The path of peace is the future in any case , if not now then after the third world war. But , do think if it is absolutely essential to ruin every good thing that mankind has created to make one realize the mistake of taking the wrong path. Even to stop on the wrong path is the beginning of a new path and new era.


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