Eighth & Ninth Aman Chaupal: Pakistani students interact with youths in an educational centre in Delhi
EIGHTH & NINTH AMAN CHAUPAL: PAKISTANI STUDENTS INTERACT WITH YOUTHS IN AN EDUCATIONAL CENTRE IN DELHI
New Delhi: Aaghaz-e-Dosti, an Indo-Pak Friendship initiative of India-based Mission Bhartiyam and Pakistan-based The Catalyst – TC, organized Aman Chaupal on 4th October at two centres – Hastal Village and Jeevan Park, of AAM Foundation, an NGO that provides free English classes. Aman Chaupal is an interactive session wherein someone from Pakistan 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 Pakistan that the media never shows.
This was our eighth and ninth Aman Chaupal. The guests for the two sessions were two Pakistani students studying in India, Ms. Fatima Parveen and Mr. Poonamchand Chauhan. Both are pursuing their post-graduation in Sociology from South Asian University.
Aman Chaupal was co-ordinated by Devika Mittal, convenor (India) of Aaghaz-e-Dosti and Madhuri Mittal, Aaghaz-e-Dosti team member. The co-ordinator from AAM Foundation was Pushkar Ranjan.
The session began with the guests introducing themselves. The audience was told that they will introduce themselves in urdu. They murmured that then they will not be able to understand but when they spoke, they understood every word of it. This cleared the misconception that there is a language barrier. The spoken hindi and urdu are similar.
They shared their experience of having lived in India for more than a year now. They shared how their perceptions had changed. They stated that people in India would not know that they are Pakistanis and not Indians, unless they told them. According to Fatima, this was because of the language. She shared that her first interaction was with an auto person. He had not thought that she is a non-Indian and when she told him, he was very surprised but thereafter, talked a lot with her.
Similarly, Poonamchand shared a similar spirit that he had experienced when he came through train from Rajasthan. People in the train had assumed him to be an Indian but when he told them, they were shocked because they found no difference in talk.
After this, the interactive session began. The audience was a mixed-group of students, young professionals and housewives.
“Why is the relationship between India and Pakistan bad”?, asked a student.
They answered that this is because of misconceptions and miscommunication. People of both countries consider each other as an enemy and assume that the people of the other country does not want peace. But this is a misconception. People of both countries desire peace and friendship.
There were questions on the status of religious minorities. Poonamchand informed them that Pakistan is home to many religions. The Hindu population is largest in the Sindh Province. He shared that in his own city, the Hindus constitute 50% of the total population.
He also shared instances of communal harmony. He shared that Holi, Diwali, Dusshera and all Hindu festivals are celebrated in Pakistan. In all these celebrations, Hindus and Muslims participate.
Fatima informed them that the white portion in Pakistan flag is for the religious minorities. Constitutionally, people are free to practice and propagate their own religion.
Another question was on how Pakistanis think about India. They answered that people of India and Pakistan are very similar. But like people in India have many misconceptions, so do people in Pakistan.
They were asked if Indians are welcomed in Pakistan. To this, Poonamchand said that the people in Pakistan are as hospitable as people in India. He shared that if someone takes a visa for 30 days for different places, one does not get time to visit all of them because they end up going to everyone’s house, irrespective of whether they know the person or not. When people get to know that an Indian has come, people don’t mind travelling even for a hundred kilometer to meet him.
The discussion also addressed the politics of media, how it highlights only the negative, the visa restrictions and status of women.
In the second session, there were similar questions. There were several questions on the status of women in Pakistan.
“Why is burqa compulsory for women in Pakistan?”
To this, Fatima replied that it is not compulsory. Women in Pakistan wear all kinds of cloth. There are some areas wherein women wear burqa but this is not true for all areas.
Another question was on the education of women.
To this, Fatima informed that there is no ban on education for women. There are some conservative views about women’s access to education but that is restricted only to some areas. The Government encourages equal access to education. There are also policies and reservation for women in educational institutions. She talked about her own region, Hunza. She narrated that even though it is a remote area, both men and women are educated.
Other questions were on movies, serials, food and festivals of Pakistan.
In both sessions, the programme was concluded by planting a “Harmony Tree” dedicated for Indo-Pak Friendship.