At a time when the border clash has spurted fresh waves of jingoism on both sides of the border, with people challenging the peace activists and advocating a stronger or more inhuman reaction, a people’s initiative, Aaghaz-e-Dosti, re-iterated the hopes for peace and friendship between India and Pakistan on 27th January 2013, at Gandhi Peace Foundation, New Delhi.
An initiative of Mission Bhartiyam, Aaghaz-e-Dosti, targets to create unwavering bonds of peace and friendship between India and Pakistan. The bonds that will survive the vagaries of such troubles times. But these bonds are not artificial ones, they rest on the belief and claim that people of India and Pakistan not only share the same language, culture, values and challenges but also the desire for peace and friendship. It rests on the belief that if there are people on both sides of the border who cannot and do not want to forget the past and do not want others to forget it, there are also people who want to forget the past and not just move on but move along to create a new chapter in history…of friendship and brotherhood.
The programme began with the launch of Aaghaz-e-Dosti’s “Calendar for Peace and Love” with paintings of hope collected from youths of both sides of the border.
Devika Mittal, Convener of Aaghaz-e-Dosti remarked, “the Calendar would remind us every day about these people. The Calendar with the paintings of an innocent and apolitical mind will remind us that mindsets have been constructed. The six paintings narrate the restriction of ‘freedom’, the ‘desire’ with the birds flying across borders and peace and friendship for a better future. Together with the beautiful dreams of the young and innocent, the Calendar also has messages from people who have been actively working to nurture these dreams.”
Prashant Nautiyal, a core member of Mission Bhartiyam, added “This calendar is a collection of shared dreams of peace and friendship. It serves as a hope shared by people who are just like us, in habit and struggle. With the turn of the pages to start a new month, the hope shall be renewed.”
For this calendar, Mission Bhartiyam had collaborated with two Pakistan-based organisations, Center for Youth development activities(CYDA) and Imov Humans.
The Calendar launch was followed by a discussion or a sharing of hopes for a peaceful and friendly co-existence. Ravi Nitesh, founder of Mission Bhartiyam, emphasised on its importance in this hour when peace is being challenged and being considered as one-sided. He remarked, “We condemn the border clash. It was an unfortunate incident but the way things have worked, it has also led to jingoistic sentiments on both sides. People, especially in India, are debating if we are a soft state and remembering and are even talking about repeating the shameful past. It also has to be condemned. Conflict has not given us anything but loss of innocent lives and hatred. Through this discussion, we tried to raise the voices of peace and friendship that have been overshadowed. We wanted to tell people that peace is not one-sided. It is the constructive approach and cannot and should never be replaced with forces of war and hatred.
The panelists for the discussion were people who have been working to strengthen the relations through different methods – through journalism, moulding young minds through teaching, working for the issues of the divided families and through emphasising cultural similarity and winning hearts with poetry.
Sh. Pankaj Chaturvedi, a noted columnist in several newspapers and the co-editor at National Book Trust, remarked that the “relations between India and Pakistan have unfortunately always fluctuated but this should not make us forget that the interests and the desires of the common people across borders is the same.”
Prof. Dhananjay Tripathi, a faculty member at South Asian University, talked about the repercussions of conflict. “Conflict is never the solution to anything”, he remarked.
Sh. Sirish Agarwal, the founder of India Pakistan Families Solidarity Association, shared the issues faced by divided families on both sides of the border. He had also shared his experiences in Pakistan.
Sh. Pankaj Singh, an eminent Hindi poet and part of the Foundation of SAARC Writers and Literature, remarked “The partition was a tragic and unfortunate reality. Poets and Writers across the borders had moaned the tragic reality that we received at the cost of innocent lives. It is not possible to undo history but we must forget the wounds shared by people on both sides and work to create a new chapter in history of peace and friendship.”
Sh. Shivendra Singh , a sports journalist who has visited pakistan many times to cover news and writer of the book "Ye jo hai Pakistan" shared his experiences and talked about changing the mindsets.
The discussion also had some students from Pakistan who has been studying in Delhi. They had shared their experiences.
Kulsum Khan, a student of South Asian University, talked about the welcoming attitude of the people she met in India. She remarked that, “I have realised that not only out language, culture, values are same, our interests and challenges are also similar”.
Sumbal Islam Chowdhury had also shared her experiences in India and emphasised on establishing people-to-people communication to change mindsets.
To this, Zaigham Abbas, another student, talked about changing mindsets at a young age, at school level and proposed changes in the school curriculum. He also talked about the problems with getting a visa.
Sohaildera Khan said that the problem is with lack of information and misunderstandings. There is a need to air news channels of both countries across the borders and these channels should not be stopped in any situation.
Some Indian students also spoke about the need for peace and friendship between India and Pakistan.
V Arun Kumar had shed light on the repercussions of war on those who actually experience it. He talked about the people in the bordered areas and the impact of war on them.
There was also an open session wherein the audience had shared their thoughts about the issue and had also asked questions to the speakers. Another student from Pakistan, Kishore Patel, talked about a more peculiar suspicion that he has faced, being a Pakistani Hindu in India.
The programme was not meant to convince or “pacify” another, it was only to raise these voices and also bring out what the common people from Pakistan have to say. War is not only disastrous, impractical and sown with seeds of misunderstanding but also unaffordable. We need to move together on the path of progress.