With the belief that they will inspire others, ACHA Peace Star Award of the Association for Communal Harmony in Asia (ACHA) pays tribute, every two years, to some heroes and heroines, who at the cost of their personal comfort and security, have performed commendable and meritorious work for the higher good, that is to foster peace and communal harmony and to promote human rights, particularly in South Asia.
Upon nomination by their colleagues and admirers, for their exemplary dedication and numerous contributions to peace, communal harmony and human rights in South Asia, this year, ACHA has decided to recognize Mr. Lajja Shankar Herdenia (Bhopal, India), Dr. Syed Mazher Hussain (Hyderabad, India), Ms. Sheema Kermani (Karachi, Pakistan), and Mr. Pramod Sharma (Chandigarh, India), with the ACHA Peace Star Award 2012.
They now join the ranks of reputed peace, communal harmony and human rights personalities, who have received this award in previous years. They are Dr. Asghar Ali Engineer, Dr. Ram Puniyani, Dr. Lenin Raghuvanshi, Ms. Shabnam Hashmi, Dr. Mohammad Arif, Mr. Jatin Desai, Ms. Dilafrose Kazi, and Mr. Faisal Khan, in India; Rev. Dr. Bonniface Mendes, Dr. Abdul Hameed Nayyar, Mr. B. M. Kutty, Mr. Karamat Ali, Ms. Saeeda Diep, Mr. Awais Sheikh, and Mr. Ashfaq Fateh in Pakistan; and Dr. Ingrid Shafer, and Oregon Peace Works in the United States.
ACHA is a 20-year-old, U.S.-based, nonprofit organization, which is dedicated to promoting peace in South Asia, and communal harmony among South Asians everywhere.
Lajja Shankar Herdenia, Bhopal, M.P, India
As a professional journalist, a trade unionist, and officer of organizations like Sarvadhrma Sadbhav Samiti, Samprdayikta Virodhi Committee, Qaumi Ekta Trust, National Secular Forum, Centre for Study of Society and Secularism, and Madhya Pradesh government’s National Integration Committee, for many years Mr. L. S. Herdenia has selflessly agitated against anti-minority violence and communalism, upheld secular values, and promoted communal harmony in India, but particularly in the state of Madhya Pradesh. To further these objectives he has helped bring diverse people together on important celebrations of various faiths; participated in goodwill and study-groups to areas affected by anti-minority violence; organized press conferences and sit-in demonstrations to plead with government officials for appropriate interventions; and authored books and articles and edited publications like Secular Democracy, and Socialist Secular Bharat. Also he has attended two World Peace Conferences held in Moscow, Russia, and an International Conference of Journalists held in Havana, Cuba.
Dr. Syed Mazher Hussain, Hyderabad, AP, India
Involved full time in social activism since 1997, Dr. Syed Mazher Hussain is an indefatigable campaigner for peace within his own society as well as between societies of South Asia. As the founder and executive director of Confederation of Voluntary Associations (COVA); and as a member, or officer of some notable national and international organizations (like Transcend, Coalition for Peace and Harmony ICANID, Pakistan-India Peoples Forum for Peace and Democracy, Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace, and India-Pakistan Conference on A Road Map towards Peace), he has conceived of, coordinated, and led many programs to prevent communal conflict and sectarian violence; foster communal harmony and community empowerment in India; and to promote peace in South Asia. Also he has undertaken social development, people-empowerment and disaster-relief projects in India and some even in Pakistan. Besides he has participated in international conferences on peace, diversity, co-existence, and conflict management. Currently he is working on setting up the Center for Peoples Foreign Policy in South Asia and the International Center for Applied Peace Studies.
Sheema Kermani, Karachi, Pakistan
Ms. Sheema Kermani has made invaluable contribution to the cause of peace, human rights, social harmony and promotion of secular values.
She is one of the founding members of Pakistan-India People’s Forum for Peace and Democracy (PIPFPD), as well as the Pakistan Peace Coalition (PPC), and has taken active part in peace activities of both organizations.
She is an accomplished and internationally recognized classical dancer, choreographer, stage and television actress. Not only she has performed at prestigious events in many countries of the world (namely, China, Egypt, Indonesia, U.S.A., U.K., Germany, France, Nepal, Bangladesh, India, Bahrain, Sri Lanka, Italy, Norway, Kurdistan and the Netherlands), but also, through her inspiring roles in performing arts, she has made particularly bold and immense contribution to the cause of peace and harmony, in spite of the ban by General Zia-ul-Haq on women dancing on stage, rising fundamentalism, and the prevailing conservative and religious norms in Pakistan. Also through dance and drama, and under the auspices of Tehrik-e-Niswan , an organization of young men and women, which she founded in 1970’s, she has strived to overcome the class and gender divisions to empower women, to propagate the Rights issues and secular values among the masses, and to promote peace and harmony in a society divided along patriarchal and religious lines. Besides she has worked hard to raise awareness about and protest against the growing religious intolerance, fundamentalism, obscurantism, extremism, terrorism and the Blasphemy Law, as well as to highlight such Pakistani customs, traditions and social evils as polygamy, the veil, sexual abuse, and honor killing, that unjustly suppress women.
In recognition of her work, she was nominated, in 2005, for the Nobel Peace Prize as one of the “1000 Peace Women from across the Globe,” was awarded the Shah Abdul Latif Award in 2005, and “The Courageous Woman Award” by Pakistan Women Lawyers Association in 2009.
Pramod Sharma, Chandigarh, India
Having experienced, in the wake of the 1947 Partition, the resettlement trials and tribulations of his family of refugees from Pakistan, and armed with M. Phil. Degree in Gandhian and Peace Studies, Mr. Pramod Sharma has dedicated his life to promote culture of peace among youth, and welfare of the marginalized people, through voluntary effort and individual and community action.
As head of Yuvsatta, a Chandigarh-based NGO, he initiated a campaign for making Chandigarh a Peace City and has helped launch Peace Clubs in the area’s more than 100 schools and colleges.
In association with Gandhi Smriti and Darshan Samiti, New Delhi, under the auspices of Yuvsatta, in the year 2000, he organized a World Youth Conference on ‘Millennium without Violence,’ at Chandigarh. And since then, in order to promote the spirit of nonviolence, foster volunteerism, and to combat inequality, he has spearheaded efforts to arrange seven International Youth Peace Festivals at Chandigarh, some of which drew several hundred youth from as many as 25 countries.
Also he has organized training programs and round-table discussions on human rights and has initiated community awareness and development programs regarding such issues as solid waste management, AIDS, alcohol & drug addiction prevention and welfare of girls and slum/working children.