Pakistan is a land of Diversity: Pakistani students dispel stereotypes during Aman Chaupal in a Delhi School
Aaghaz-e-Dosti conducts Aman Chaupal sessions in schools in India and Pakistan where a Pakistani guest (usually an activist, artiste, academician or journalist) interacts with Indian students and vice versa and answers their questions, dispels stereotypes and give them the “other” narrative. Aman Chaupal, a unique initiative of Aaghaz-e-Dosti was started in 2013. Since then, Aaghaz-e-Dosti has conducted 20 sessions in schools and colleges in India and Pakistan.
On 14th February 2017, Aaghaz-e-Dosti India conducted the 20th Aman Chaupal in KIIT World School in Pitampura in Delhi. The guests from Pakistan were Bharat Makwana and Suneel Nand. Both are pursuing masters in Sociology from South Asian University in Delhi. The session was moderated and co-ordinated by Aaghaz-e-Dosti team members – Devika Mittal and Madhulika Narasimhan. The teacher co-ordinator was Ms. Sheetal.
The Pakistani guests were warmly welcomed by the school in a traditional way by applying chandan tika on their foreheads and with garlands. The school administration, including the principal was very encouraging towards this effort of Aaghaz-e-Dosti and highlighted its importance in adding to the goal of schooling.
The Aman Chaupal session was conducted with students of a mixed group – grades 5th to 9th. The students were very enthusiastic. Bharat Makwana and Suneel Nand initiated the interaction by sharing their experience of being in India. Bharat shared that his experience in India has been overwhelming. He always wanted to visit India and when he got the opportunity to study in India, he was very happy and excited. But when he came here, his happiness was much more, the reason being, that the people turned out to be far nicer than he imagined. He shared that he has interacted with people from diverse backgrounds, of different socio economic backgrounds, but all have been nice to him, and have expressed desire for peace, just like Pakistanis do.
Suneel added to this and shared that since Pakistanis have for long had access to Indian movies and culture, are keen on visiting India and the places they have seen in Indian movies and tele-serials. He is often flooded with questions when he goes back to Pakistan. One of his friends expressed his disappointment over the fact that while he (Suneel) has been to India, he hasn’t yet met Salman Khan.
During the session, the students asked questions around the culture of Pakistan, the everyday life, the perception of Pakistanis towards India and Indians. One student asked, “what do you like most about India?”. Suneel answered, the diversity of India.
Suneel and Bharat had made a powerpoint presentation about Pakistan, it’s diversity in terms of language, ethnicity and religion. The presentation also educated the students about the great philanthropist from Pakistan, Abdul Sattar Edhi and his contribution to communal harmony and peace.
There was a discussion around the presentation. Some other questions were around the reasons for hatred and conflict, the role of popular perceptions, the role of people and especially students and youth. A student of grade 5 shared the story of his grandmother who told him about the pre-partition era when there was harmony. His grandmother had migrated from Pakistan. This led to a discussion on how the harmony can be revived and the role that an average citizen can play in the process.
Students also sought clarifications on the knowledge that they had gathered from the popular media. A student asked about the insufficient power supply in Pakistan about which he had learned from news channels. Suneel said that while it is true, the problem is uneven and is being solved. Madhulika Narasimhan added to this discussion by highlighting the fact that this particular issue and uneven development in general is a huge problem for both India and Pakistan.
The session was a learning experience for the students as well as for the guests and the organisers.
Report made by
Devika Mittal and Madhulika Narasimhan
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