Event: Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi Youths discuss challenges to peace-building and peace builders
New Delhi: On 20th March, Aaghaz-e-Dosti, a joint Indo-Pak Friendship Initiative, organized a discussion with youths from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. The topic of the discussion was “Impediments to India-Pakistan Peace-Building and Peace Builders”.
It was a gathering of college students, young professionals of diverse backgrounds from Delhi, a youth activist from Kashmir Mr. Muddasir Hassan, Ms. Shucheesmita Simonti from Bangladesh and youth peace activists and team members of Aaghaz-e-Dosti Pakistan, Aliya Harir and Suraya Islam.
The discussion began with peace activists from Pakistan, Aliya Harir and Suraya Islam sharing their experience in India. Since it was the first visit of Suraya Islam, she spoke about the apprehensions of her family and friends. She talked about how there is a lot of fear and suspicion among people to travel across the border. There are many stereotypes about Indians and especially Hindus. Aliya’s experiences also voiced this.
Dipul Chawla and Akash Singh shared that this is the case in India as well. There is fear, apprehension and stereotypes about interacting with Pakistanis and especially Muslims. With discussion, it was discussed how this is a result of the past baggage, the unchallenged construction that Hindus and Muslims are different and opposing.
Shucheesmita Simonti shared her experience as a Bangladeshi. She shared how Bangladeshis have the same attitude for both Indians and Pakistanis. This is because of the political conflicts and the stereotypes underlying the conflicts.
Muddasir Hassan from Kashmir asked about the role that Kashmiri Youths can play in peace-building between India and Pakistan. He talked about how Kashmiris are among the primary victims of the conflict. He asked how they can contribute to peace-building initiatives.
Devika Mittal from Aaghaz-e-Dosti India responded to this by sharing how Aaghaz-e-Dosti addresses the K-issue and concerns of Kashmiris. She said that Aaghaz-e-Dosti through its activities like interactive sessions, the virtual eight-week peace building course Friends Beyond Borders and peace-building workshops, is trying to educate people about conflicts and in doing so, it also talks about the Kashmir Conflict. Aaghaz-e-Dosti attempts to show the complex reality, the different stands and perspectives as they exist in reality.
This was followed by discussion among the youths from India, Pakistan and Kashmir wherein they shared what they knew, how media presented the issue, the voice of Kashmiris in both India and Pakistan and the complex and heterogeneous community of Kashmiris that exists. They also discussed the probable reasons that explains why it has proved so difficult to the Indian and Pakistan state to solve this issue.
There were also discussions on other conflicts like Siachen, Sir Creek and fishermen issues, discussions on conflicts within India, Pakistan and Bangladesh like communalism and rise of religious extremism.
Sarral Sharma, a research student at Delhi University, initiated a discussion on the immediate issues like the issue of terrorism, ceasefire violations etc raised by common people in India and Pakistan to confront peace-builders and peace-building initiatives. Ravi Nitesh from Aaghaz-e-Dosti India responded to this and said that these are frequent issues that confront peace-builders and it is important to address them. Peace-builders and peace-building initiatives should not be silent in times of clashes and should address them or else, the talk of peace will look very passive and ineffective.
There was also a discussion on how peace, the demands that several peace-building initiatives including Aaghaz-e-Dosti has raised are not in conflict with what the Indian and Pakistan State has proposed. Both Indian and Pakistan State have taken and continues to talk several initiatives for peace-building and so civil society members who work for peace cannot be seen as working against any state. Many times, they only re-iterate or re-emphasise on proposals that were forwarded originally by their respective States.
There were also discussions on culture of India, Bangladesh and Pakistan. Aliya and Suraiya from Pakistan talked about the rich diversity of Pakistan. They talked about the culture of their native place, Chitral. Shruti Achesh from Aaghaz-e-Dosti India talked about how culture can be empowering and contributes in peace-building.