“The memory of Partition needs to become invalid now”: Fifth & Sixth Aman Chaupal organized in New Delhi
Aaghaz-e-Dosti, an initiative for Indo-Pak friendship, organized its Fifth & Sixth Aman Chaupal on 24 February 2014 at Jawaharlal Nehru University and South Asian University, New Delhi. Aman Chaupal is an informal session wherein people from Pakistan or who have been to Pakistan share their experiences and address students’ curiosities and questions. The two sessions were the fifth and the sixth Aman Chaupal sessions. In the earlier sessions, we have had Ms. Saeeda Diep, Mr. Raza Rumi and Ms. Kiran Nazish as our guests and the sessions were conducted in schools.
In this Aman Chaupal, Mr. Aamir Nawaz was the guest. He is the president of a leading Pakistani Theatre group, Maas Foundation. Maas Foundation had emerged as a parellal theatre in Pakistan in 2002. The plays are based on social and contemporary issues among which indo-Pak is one of the most prominent themes. Mr. Nawaz also has several other achievements. Recently, he has produced and directed a TV drama series by the name of “Pachtawa” which is aired on Royal TV Channel. He is also a visiting faculty at Beaconhouse National University.
In this Aman Chaupal, a video of Maas Foundation’s play “Permasher Singh” which is based on a story of partition was shown followed by a discussion on it and on other Indo-Pak issues.
In JNU, it was done in the School of International Studies. The student co-ordinator in JNU was Pramod Jaiswal. The programme began with an introduction about the initiative and its importance to reduce miscommunications, mutual hatred and suspicion, by Devika Mittal, Convenor of Aaghaz-e-Dosti India. Before the screening, the Director of the play, Mr. Nawaz had talked about the play. He had given a background and a general idea as the play was in Punjabi.
The play was of approximately one hour and captured several themes. It explored the different factors that led to people committing atrocities against the people of other communities. Two major factors explored were the idea of avenging the merciless killing or rape of one’s own kin and the rumours and suspicion that people on the other side of the border are mercilessly killing people of their community. The play explored this theme of sanity and insanity. It showed that how there was a wave of hatred and insanity and it was virtually impossible to not go along with the wave. But despite this, there was one man named Permasher Singh who rose above this and saved the life of a muslim boy named Akhtar. He saw in Akhtar, his own son named Kartar who was probably killed in the riots. Permasher Singh believed that all kids are the same. They are all children of the same god. But expectedly, there were many problems from his community people and his own kin. He was suggested to make him a Sikh but he refuses to do so. They develop a beautiful bonding but then Singh decides to send him to Pakistan to his family. He makes Akhtar cross the border but when the soldiers on the other side see Singh, they shoot him. In the end, the play asks the question, “Whose child was Akhtar, the child of India or Pakistan?
The play was received well. There weren’t many questions on the play. A question was asked about the response of the play in Pakistan. Mr. Nawaz told that the response was great and that could be heard in the video itself as the applause by audience on several scenes and in the end was quite loud and were audible.
In South Asian University, along with the video screening, the interactive session was very intense. The student co-ordinator for South Asian University was V Arun Kumar. South Asian University has students from all South Asian Countries and the audience was also quite reflective of this intellectual richness.
In the discussion that started from the ‘simple’ question, “What do you understand of Pakistan?”went to the question of dalits, religious minorities on both sides, need to resolve Kashmir issue, the biased media, role of civil society and peace initiatives and nationalism. The discussion saw the participation of students from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal. A major point that came about was that we need to forget about the partition and the conflicts that happened between India and Pakistan and Bangladesh and Pakistan and move on.
Kulsum Khan, a student from Pakistan, said that based on her experience in Delhi, she has noted that Pakistan is still a part of nostalgia. She said that we need to come out of this and accept that we are now different and respect each other.
Kumud, a PHD scholar also argued that we must talk about how to make peace, not war.
Dr. Dhananjay Tripthi, faculty member of International Relations, remarked “A country is made of history, geography, politics and economy. We cannot change the history and geography but we can change the politics and economy. We need to take a decision that whether we want an economy of prosperity or an economy of poverty. Till now, we only have economy of poverty”. He raised another important point that while we allow China to enter and dominate in South Asian market, we are not allowing SAPTA.
There were also questions about the army, its interference in political matters and terrorism. Mr. Nawaz rightly argued that there was a tendency to blame India but now people knows that what happens in Pakistan is because of Pakistan. India also needs to recognize this. As about terrorism, he argued that in Pakistan, everyday has become difficult because of it. Mr. Nawaz also argued that to blame India/Pakistan and these fluctuating relations is also a way to distract the people of both the countries from more important internal problems. In both countries, there are problems to provide the basic amenities to the people.
There were also some Kashmiri students. One of them talked about how he hopes that peace initiatives can benefit Kashmir.
Roopak, a student from Kerala, also said that while there is a need to talk about Kashmir issue, there are also other important issues like the issues of Dalits, religious minorities among other issues that need to be discussed on international forums but they are neglected.
This discussion had happened before the screening of the play. After the play, there was again a small discussion about the play and other issues like about how peace initiative can reduce suspicion and hatred, how it can influence the “minority” who do not want peace and about religious fundamentalism.
In the end, Ghazanfar Abbas, Co-ordinator for this aman chaupal session, had concluded the programme with a short poem emphasizing on the need for Indo-Pak peace and friendship.