When the borders of India and Pakistan are becoming volatile, the peace mongers have their own path to make peace messages more fertile , to counter mutual hatred and violence. With the objective of spreading the peace among people, Aaghaz-e-Dosti, an Indo-Pak peace and friendship initiative of Pakistan-based The Catalyst – TC and India-based Mission Bhartiyam, organized Aman Chaupal on November 7th, at The Indus Group of Colleges, Blue Area campus, Islamabad. Aman Chaupal is an interactive session wherein someone from across the border (here, India) interacts with students in a school or college. The objective of Aman Chaupal is to counter stereotypes and misconceptions. It is to show the side of India that the media never shows.
This was the eleventh Aman Chaupal and the first Aman Chaupal in Pakistan. In India, Aaghaz-e-Dosti has organized ten Aman Chaupals so far with reputed guests as Saeeda Diep, Raza Rumi, Aamir Nawaz and Reserach students. The guests for the session were Dr. Manju Dagar and Mr. Mukesh Kataria. Dr. Manju Dagar is an award winning journalist and news anchor with rich experience of anchoring with organizations like All India Radio, Doordarshan, Aakashvani and various other news channels. She hosts the well-known program “Pal Do Pal,” on channel Ru-B-Ru. Mr. Mukesh Kataria, basically from New Delhi, is the CEO and Chairman at IPCC Ireland. Additionally, Dr. Manju works as General Secretary and Mr. Mukesh Kataria as Programs Advisor for Yuvsatta (an NGO empowering youth), Chandigarh, India.
Aman Chaupal was co-ordinated by Aliya Harir, convener (Pakistan) of Aaghaz-e-Dosti. The coordinator from Indus Group of Colleges was Mr. Junaid Abbasi, Senior Vice Principal. The session consisting of 11th grade students was initiated with Dr. Manju’s pleasing expressions on seeing the multimedia welcoming slide that read “Pakistan mai apka swagat hai” in Devnagri (Hindi) script.
Dr. Manju shared her experience of meeting and interacting with Pakistani citizens for quite a number of years. Expressing her appreciation she said that Aman Chaupal is such a fantastic name as what our ancestors used to do was they used to sit under the shade of a tree and discuss the issues that concern them. Today we do not have that common tree where we the layman can sit and discuss his/her problems so the idea of a cross border person interacting with students is yet another sort of chaupal where I think the one inch of shade is the visa that has been granted. I am here to make most of it and I am open to hear and discuss about your ideas as well.
After this, the interactive session began.
“India is very uncooperative in terms of bringing a solution to Kashmir issue. Why don’t you accept the UN plebiscite on Kashmir?” came from a student.
“I suggest you to go and read about the Indian narrative on the issue of Kashmir and the UN resolution. The debate would get lengthened. But to answer your question in simple words I must say that if Pakistan is affix at the UN plebiscite on Kashmir, then the decision of Pakistani leaders talking with Indian or Hurriyat leaders needs a revision”. Dr. Manju Dagar continued with saying that Kashmir is not the only issues between India and Pakistan, there are millions of them but yes Pakistan and India must find out a solution to this long-standing issue in the interest of the people of the region. The Indian Kashmir enjoys the same status enjoyed by rest of the states of India.
“Then why innocent people are prey of atrocities?” – asked by a student. They are prey of atrocities everywhere, my dear; be it Quetta, Kashmir, Wagha, or Mumbai. No religion teaches violence be it Islam, Hinduism, Christianity, or Sikhism, replied Manju Dagar
“Why does Mr. Modi order the Indian forces to attack Pakistani soldiers?” asked a student.
Dr. Manju with a gentle smile asked a counter question: Does Nawaz Sharif order the Pakistani soldiers to attack Indian forces? No. Similarly, Mr. Modi has nothing to do with the LOC clashes. The LOC tensions are created by the security forces on both sides of the border. Have you ever been informed of the causalities in India because of the firing? No. You simply trust the narrative built by your media. News is created on desk to create hype and sensitize people. Expressing about her experience of having worked with media and news channels in India, she discussed the politics of media in highlighting the negative and biased news.
Mr. Aqeel, a teacher expressed that ‘Pakistan and India share the same culture, food, spices, religions, languages and much more to talk about’.
“Not to talk about Salman khan and Shahrukh Khan being the ultimate heroes of the students sitting here. Katrina Kaif k baray mai apko utni knowledge nahe hogi jitni en sab ko hai”, added the Principal of the college. (The audience laughs)
Mr. Mukesh Kataria who spends most of his time in Ireland, said that South Asia has the potential to become the strongest and most powerful part of the Asia continent in the world. If Europe can create the Europeans union so can South Asian create the South Asian Union. What happened in 1947 must now be forgotten. We need to move on and respect each other’s identity and sovereignty. Exemplifying the Kashmir issue, he said that Northern Ireland a part of both the UK and Ireland. The region has people Irish and British people who share common influence from Ireland as well as UK. So is like Kashmir. Kashmir has its roots in India as well as Pakistan. He expressed his pleasure on the gracious hospitality extended by the people of Pakistan.
Replying to a student’s query about success of peace activities in India, Dr. Manju said that people of India and Pakistan think alike. Like in Pakistan, people in India also have many misconceptions and stereotypes. She shared the efforts and contributions of Yuvsatta in creating peace-cities in India and around the world for people to live in harmony with man & nature. She shared that the idea of an International Youth Peace Fest in India started with just 100 students of India and Pakistan in 2006 and now in 2014, we have hosted young peace activists from more than 40 countries of the world. She motivated the youth to take steps for the betterment of Pakistan’s relations not only with India but with all the regional and global countries. Dr. Manju also discussed about the Global Youth Peace Festival 2015 and discussed its success in the preceding years.
The program was concluded with Dr. Manju presenting the GYPF-2015’s memento of ‘Let’s do more’ with Mahatma Gandhi’s photo, to the college principal. She also presented a shield to the school principal with flags of India and Pakistan that read ‘Aur b jahan hain es jahan se aagay, Aur b manzilain hain es manzil say aagay’.
It is also to be noted that in these Aman Chaupals, Aaghaz-e-Dosti also use visual media through presentations about what it receive from people from India and Pakistan on its social media accounts. These display includes pictures, stories, experiences and interesting facts etc. Recently, Aaghaz-e-Dosti also got recognition of one of the best project in South Asia that is utilising social media in its ground activities and objectives of positive change under the category ‘Best use of Social Media’ in ‘E-Ngo challenge-South Asia 2014’.
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