Author Archives: aaghazedosti

Lahore and Surat met, talked, laughed and advocated a future that belongs to peace

To cross the border and to meet a neighbor country citizen is always a difficult task when it comes between Pakistan and India; but young students of two countries are paving the way of a peaceful future and exploring the similarities and differences, learning from each other, talking, laughing, enjoying with each other and exploring bond of friendships through classroom connect programs. ICT (Information, communication, technology) is the tool of connection and video conferencing is helping them to enable and to create their peaceful future through breaking stereotypes. 

When Aaghaz-e-dosti Surat chapter’s coordinator Sagar Papneja in India and Amman Pukar’s President Asifa Sheikh in Lahore, Pakistan informed their students a day before about the scheduled classroom connect program where students would get an opportunity to talk with their peers on other side, students became very enthusiastic to participate in the session. Though their initial idea about the other side was much built through the secondary sources of media and what people say, they all were much excited to talk and they never had done this before. The idea was to let students from both nations learn about culture of each other in order to promote peace and it was organised in spirit of World Cultural Day. This was 15th classroom connect program of Aaghaz-e-Dosti and around 40 students from both sides took part.

​The session began with students from Amman kids club Lahore gathered in Gulberg singing a song about friendship ‘Dosti aisa naata’ for their peers across border to which Indian students presented a famous bollywood song “ye dosti hum nahi todenge” (We will not break this friendship).

Safina from Lahore recited a beautiful poem and Atishi from Surat narrated a story. Students explored their subject leanings and fear as well and one Pakistani student told that she loves Maths to which Indian student expressed she was fond of English. Students Tanya, Vihaan & Keshav from Indian side spoke about their culture, festivals and traditions and Pakistani side students Urooj, Komal and Mehreen also spoke about diverse culture, festivals, traditional attires and languages of Pakistan. They talked about Ramzan, Holi, Eid, Diwali and Basant festivals.  

Himakshi from India recited “Aag jalni chahiye” a famous couplet of Dushyant Kumar. Guitar was played by Kapish to which students sang “Gulaabi Aankhein Jo Teri Dekhin” and it made the whole environment filled with much fun. The atmosphere was mesmerized when Mohsin Hashmi, one of the directors of Amman Pukar, recited a poem named “sweetheart” for students on Indian side. This was followed by Sahil from Indian side reciting his beautiful poem titled “Hamara desh ek classroom” and Sofia from Lahore singing a song in her melodious voice.

During the connect program coordinators also explored their ancestry and found that while Indian coordinator Sagar’s  forefathers lived in Layalpur (Faislabad) before partition, coincidentally Asifa’s grandparents belonged from Amritsar and Jalandhar. Another inspiring moment came when Mehreen from Pakistan mentioned about Akbar and Sheeshmehel in their town as Indian students had read about Akbar in history and they knew about the Indian Sheeshmehel.

After this, students were given time to directly interact with each other where they talked much about cricket, Bollywood, TV serials etc. Sahil (India) asked if the students from Pakistan also break glasses while playing street cricket and was glad with the affirmative answer and was introduced to Murtaza who had done it a lot of times. Karan (India) enquired about the street cricket rules and asked if they also have one tip one hand out. Sunny (Pakistan) replied that they also have similar crazy rules and questioned back to Indian students if they fly huge colored *Guddis*. All the Indian students together jumped on it if guddi means Patang (Kite) and then they all cheered and explained about Makar Sakranti and Kite flying festival. They then invited each other for the same. Rashmi asked them about their favorite actor and Komal replied with Mohseen Khan (he acts in Indian serials) and asked Indian students about their favourite actor to which Shilpa replied Fawad Khan. There were many such questions asked and answered.

After these conversations, Kapish presented vote of thanks and appreciated the energy and time by Pakistani students despite fasting for Ramzan. Both the sides waved good bye with a promise to talk again.

Coordinators and students on both sides expressed that this was a beautiful event to witness. An hour filled with emotions and cultural exchange to learn about each other, the similarities and the differences. Volunteers were overwhelmed as they got messages from students and their parents thanking for doing this and making it possible for students to experience something which they never had done before.

Aaghaz-e-Dosti conducts such classroom connect sessions to connect school students of Pakistan and India. This was 15th such session. For Amman Pukar, this was first such session. Asifa, President of Amman Pukar , Lahore expressed that though Amman Pukar works for promotion of peace on local level in Pakistan, this was first such session where they realized the potential efforts of peace through such video conferencing sessions. Sagar who was coordinator of Aaghaz-e-Dosti from Indian side told that considering both countries have young population, such sessions would definitely help young minds in exploring more about peace as with these sessions, students build their own opinions which are free from media bias. Founder of Aaghaz-e-Dosti, Ravi Nitesh said that we are conducting more such sessions in coming time and we are hopeful that future belongs to these young students who are advocating peace.

To contact us, email at aaghazedosti@gmail.com

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Call for Poems: Aaghaz-e-Dosti & Kavishala presents Indo-Pak Poetry Collection Program

kavishala and aaghaz-e-dosti

There are few things that cannot be restricted by any borders, these are emotions, dreams and hopes. We, at Aaghaz-e-Dosti, have always believed in promoting these free birds for spreading peace. We join hands with Kavishala to give you an opportunity to weave them in a beautiful poetry and we will help the peace bird take a greater flight. 

As a joint initiative of Aaghaz-e-Dosti and Kavishala, we present an “Indo-Pak Peace and Friendship” Poetry Collection that will take the form of a book with 100 poets and poems written in 5 major languages of the subcontinent. Here are few guidelines:

  1. Original and Unpublished Poems
  2. Language – English, Hindi, Urdu, Punjabi or Sindhi (For punjabi and sindhi, please send a rough translation in Hindi/Urdu or English). 20 poems from each of the 4 languages will be selected.
  3. A maximum of two submissions per person
  4. Send file in word/text format and the file should have your details – name, address, contact number and a brief bio
  5. You can send it at aaghazedosti@gmail.com or upload it at website of Kavishala http://kavishala.in/poetry-for-peace/

Deadline: 30 June 2018

Poem: Suno Aee Mere Humsaye

by Osama Siddiq (Pakistan)

Anubha Rawat

 

Hamain Tum Say Muhabbat Hay 

Suno Aee Mere Humsaye 

Hamain Tum Say Muhabbat Hay 

Khuda Nay Tau Zameen Banai Thi 

Daantoon Talay Zabaanay Hum Nay Bheechi Hain 

Sub Lakeeray Yahaan Wahaan Hum Nay Kheechi Hain 

Daikho Suraj Aik Hay Apna 

Chaand Ki Chandni Dono Ko Mayaseer Hay 

Hawa Sub Kay Liye Hi Tau Zindagi Ki Alamaat Hay 

Agar Tumhain Ghum Hay Thora Sa Tau 

Yahaan Bhi Malamaat Hay 

Chalo Phir Aik Ho Jain 

Agar Sukha Paray Wahan Tau Barish Hum Say Lai Laina 

Yahaan Jo Baar Ajai Tau Tum Paani Chura Laina 

Hamaray Suroon Ko Tum Apna Saaz Dai Daina 

Koi Mushkil Jo  Aajai Tau Bus Awaaz Dai Daina 

Hamareay Sath Chalnay Walay Dosti Kay Saee 

Hamain Tum Say Muhabbat Hay 

Suno Aee Mere Humsaye 

Hamain Tum Say Muhabbat Hay!

*Painting by Anubha Rawat, an Indian student studying in Goodley Public School (Delhi)


Osama Siddiq is based in Pakistan. He works as a scriptwriter at Geo Entertainment

Indian and Pakistani students sing songs, celebrate birthday and wish for a peaceful future: 14th IndoPak Classroom Connect

PRESS RELEASE

Indian and Pakistani students sing songs, celebrate birthday and wish for a peaceful future: 14th IndoPak Classroom Connect

Surat/Karachi: Amid the turbulent political relations between the two countries, people on both sides still looked for ways to build bridges to remove enmity and to break stereotypes as a process of peacebuilding. In its line of peacebuilding through programs of peace education in schools across Pakistan and India, Aaghaz-e-Dosti organised its 14th “Classroom to Classroom connect” program between students of Karachi city of Pakistan and Surat city of India on 5th May 2018.   

This classroom connect program was conducted in collaboration with Akhil Hind Mahila Parishad, Bruhad Surat branch from the Indian side and L2L (Learn to Learn), a Karachi-based commercial alternative school from Pakistan side. This classroom connection program connected around 150 students. On the Indian side, students were participants of summer camp in the centre while in Pakistan, students were participants of an activity learning school. The session was coordinated by Sagar Papneja of Aaghaz-e-Dosti Surat Chapter and Adnan Kudiya, a Karachi-based educator and activist working with #MainBolunGa, a social cause from Pakistan.

Before the connection was initiated, students on the Indian side were asked for their opinion about the neighbor country and they voiced some of the stereotypes and misconceptions. When asked for the source of their knowledge, they said parents, movies, and news. The coordinators gave them an analogy that they choose their own best friends and that their parents never tell them whom to befriend so then why shouldn’t they apply it here, in this case? They should choose their own friends and even foes by analyzing, talking to them and then deciding. They agreed.

The session began with national anthems of both the nations. It was followed by a discussion on summer vacations. The students interacted for an hour and asked questions about favorite food, movie actors, songs, school vacations, and much more only to realize that on both the sides everything was same.

During the session, students of both sides revealed their likes and dislikes and found that both sides loved many things similar. An Indian student asked to Pakistani students ‘Who is your favorite hero?’. Pakistani students replied ‘Fawad Khan, Hrithik Roshan, Tiger Shroff, Salman Khan’. Then Indian student wondered ‘Fawad Khan! Tiger Shroff! they all are our favorites as well’. Another Indian student named Jhanvi asked ‘Karachi me kya famous hai?’ for which she got reply from a Pakistani student ‘Karachi ko city of lights kehte hain’ to which all Indian students became happy and eager to know more.

Then both sides together found that they both love faluda dessert, Afridi, Dhoni and Virat so much. In the lighter mode, both sides of students expressed how they hate school uniforms.

In a surprise move, when Pakistani sides of students got to know about the birthday of a student on Indian side, they wished and sang a birthday song for the Indian student that made the whole environment very emotional. During the concluding time of the session, students of both sides requested to extend the session for more time and also sang “swag se karenge sabka swagat” and “bahubali” song for each other. By the end of the session, the kids befriended each other and realized that across border the culture is same. They were no-more enemies rather friends with some positive future ahead. Their glowing faces with this first ever experience were expressing their happiness after meeting their peers.

Aaghaz-e-Dosti, a collaborative peace initiative of two voluntary organisations – Mission Bhartiyam (India) & Hum Sab Aik Hain (Pakistan), believes that students are future of these countries and have all the potential to build new bridges of peace and reconciliation that would pave the way for future.

Issued by

Aaghaz-e-Dosti

https://aaghazedosti.wordpress.com

 

Appeal by People of India and Pakistan to stop ceasefire violations immediately and start dialogue

To:        

Prime Minister of India

Prime Minister of Pakistan

Respected Sir,

This is difficult time to see disturbances along Line of Control where reports are coming of frequent ceasefire violations by Pakistan and India that is resulting loss of lives of soldiers on both sides and also of civilians. It is also reported that people who are living nearby border areas are fleeing from their villages to save their lives.

It is said that this is first time when artillery used after the ceasefire agreement of year 2003. Reports are coming of civilians which include even school students who got stranded in their schools due to heavy shelling. Bunkers are being provided to villages. More than 400 incidents of violations have been recorded in this year 2018 only. Many schools have been closed, walls of schools and houses are damaged, agricultural fields are destroyed and studies are hampered. These all are in contrary to fewer such incidents in earlier years.  

We, who are concerned about these frequent violations see that role of diplomats and political leaders of both sides are extremely important and crucial in this time. Many think tanks and experts found that engagement through dialogues with each other always help in reducing numbers and intensity of such violations. Retired officers of security forces also claim that in the absence of any diplomatic engagement, armies of both sides are bound to answer each other in their own way.

We have example of effective engagements of both sides during the year 2003 when despite earlier present vicious atmosphere, Government of both sides together took the role for the verbally announced agreement that brought down numbers of incident sharply from 8376 incidents in 2002 to almost Nil incidents during 2004 and 2005 and then only fewer violations in years.    

We, who are citizens of India and Pakistan and support peace-building hereby appeal to Government of India and Pakistan:

  • To start dialogue process between diplomats and political leaders of both sides immediately
  •  To start frequent meetings of DGMOs of both sides immediately  
  • To remove heavy shelling arms , artillery from front lines immediately
  • To take immediate measures to stop ceasefire violations to protect lives of soldiers and civilians on both sides
  • To bring a renewed ceasefire agreement by both sides in written form and with SoPs to guide security forces for steps to be taken
  • To ensure safe living for border population, including opening of schools
  • To provide compensation to farmers of both sides whose crops destroyed in shelling
  • To provide special provisions , weightage and concessions to students whose studies affected due to shut down of schools for the reason of these violations

We appeal you with all hope that your effective steps would not only saves lives of people including soldiers, but would also develop a confidence among people on both sides that their leaders are capable to handle situation and care for people. We must remember that if dialogues can save even a single life, we must go on with dialogue without any ego. We are well wishers of democratic values and we want to see a developed, more engaged and peaceful South Asia which is not possible without efforts by Govt. of Pakistan and India considering Indo-Pak line as one of the heaviest military deployment and volatile region.   

Endorsed by people of India and Pakistan:

Aabida Ali Activist Karachi, Pakistan
Abha Bhaiya Activist, feminist Himachal Pradesh, India
Admiral L Ramdas Former Chief of the Naval Staff, President Emeritus PIPFPD – Pakistan India Peoples Forum for Peace and Democracy and Patron – India-Pakistan Soldiers Initiative for Peace Alibagh, India
Ali Abbas Social Worker Hyderabad, India
Aman Gupta Software Developer Hyderabad, India
Ammara Ahmad Writer Lahore, Pakistan
Amit Ranjan Faculty Member National University of Singapore
Anil Kr Singh Academician Faizabad, India
Anuradha Bhasin Editor- Kashmir Times J&K, India
Asha Hans PIPFPD India
Atiqa Shahid Hum Sab Aik Hain Lahore, Pakistan
Beena Sarwar Peace Activist, Journalist, Editor-Aman ki Asha  USA
Bharat Bhushan Journalist New Delhi, India
Bhargavi PIPFPD, India Delhi, India
Bhawani Shanker Kusum Sarvodaya Worker Jaipur, India
Bina Sarkar Ellias Writer, editor, publisher, international gallerie Mumbai, India
Brig (Retd) Rahul Bhonsle Retd Brigadier Delhi, India
Chaman Lal (Retd) Professor of JNU, Former President JNU Teachers Association (JNUTA) and Fellow (Senator), Panjab University, Chandigarh Punjab, India
Chintan Girish Modi Peace educator Mumbai, India
Devika Mittal Convener-India, Aaghaz-e-Dosti New Delhi, India
Dr. Dhananjay Tripathi Assistant Professor, South Asian University New Delhi, India
Dr. Jagjit Singh Sandal Retd Officer, Airport Authority of India Hosiarpur, Punjab, India
Dr. Lenin Raghuvanshi ED-PVCHR Varanasi, India
Dr Raja Muzaffar Bhat Activist, Columnist and Founder – Jammu Kashmir RTI Movement Srinagar, J&K,India
Dr. Sandeep Pandey Activist, Founder-Asha Parivar Lucknow, India
Dr. Walter Fernandes Senior Fellow, North Eastern Social Research Centre Guwahati, India
Harsh Narayan Filmmaker & Creative Director New Delhi, India
Hasnain Ashraf Advocate, High Court Punjab, Pakistan
Hayat Amiree Social Worker Delhi, India
Jatin  Desai Journalist Mumbai
Jawed Naqvi Freelance Journalist New Delhi, India
Kamayani Bali Mahabal Advocate, Activist Mumbai, India
Kapil Kak Air Vice Marshal (retd), Member-Track-2 initiatives on India-Pakistan Relations Delhi, India
Kavita Krishnan Secretary-AIPWA  India
 Lalita Ramdas Citizen – Educator – Peace Activist Alibagh, Raigad, India
Meena Menon Journalist Mumbai, India
Mohd Tahseen Human Rights Activist Lahore, Pakistan
Nadeem Social Activist Lucknow, India
Obaid Activist, Journalist Lucknow, India
Pamela Chaterjee Activist Almora, Uttarakhand,India
Prakarsh Social Activist Gurgaon, India
Prof Kamal Mitra Chenoy Former Prof, JNU New Delhi, India
Prof Anuradha Chenoy Former Prof, JNU New Delhi,India
Rafat Social Activist Lucknow, India
Ravi Nitesh Founder-Mission Bhartiyam Delhi, India
Raza Rumi Editor Daily Times/Faculty Cornell Institute for Public Affairs Newyork, USA
Reema Abbasi Journalist and writer Karachi, Pakistan
Ruchhita Kazaria Aarcee Enterprises Advertising Kolkata,India
S. K Singh Social Activist Faizabad, India
S. N. Subba Rao Veteran Gandhian Delhi, India
Saeeda Diep Peace activist and executive director- Institute for Peace and Secular Studies (IPSS) Lahore, Pakistan
Salima Hashmi Artist, Educator, Curator, Writer Lahore, Pakistan
Samir Gupta IT Professional Ghaziabad, India
Sarita Kumari Ghanerao South Asian Women’s Network , Ex VP-All India Rajput Women’s Organisation Pali, Rajasthan, India
Satyapaul Secretary General- South Asian Fraternity New Delhi, India
Sehyr Mirza Independent Journalist Lahore, Pakistan
Shahnawaz Alam Social Activist Lucknow, India
Shailendra Journalist Lucknow, India
Sharad Patel Social Activist Lucknow, India
Sheema Kermani Founder-Tehreek-e-Niswan Karachi, Pakistan
Sheharyar Riizwan Journalist Lahore, Pakistan
Sonya Fatah Assistant Professor, Ryerson University School of Journalism Canada
Sushobha Barve Peace Activist Delhi, India
Swati Sharan Peace activist Hamilton, Canada

Khushwant Singh: A Tribute: Few interesting facts to know

Khushwant Singh

15 August 1915 – 20 March 2014

Khushwant Singh is one of the most celebrated author of subcontinent.  His sensitive, courageous and frank writing has touched so many hearts; yet he himself was an amazing personality. People who met with him ever, remembered her forever. We are providing here few interesting facts about this legendary and loved writer:

Khushwant Singh born in Hadali, Khushab in Punjab Province. (now in Pakistan) and later moved to India during partition.

Khushwant Singh’s final posthumous journey to his beloved birthplace Hadali, Pakistan. DESIGN: SAMRA AAMIR

Pic: Express Tribune

Khushwant also practiced in Lahore High Court and later moved to Delhi during partition. His house in Delhi was an apartment in Sujan Singh Park. It is first apartment complex that was built by his father Sobha Singh in the year 1945 and named upon Khushwant’s grandfather Sujan Singh.

City Neighborhood - Sujan Singh Park, Central Delhi

Pic source: http://www.thedelhiwalla.com/2014/03/17/city-neighborhood-sujan-singh-park-central-delhi/ 

His punctuality for time was well known. He always felt happy meeting people, but only with prior appointment. His door bell was famous for the reason you can see in door bell pic.

City Neighborhood - Sujan Singh Park, Central Delhi

Pic Source: http://www.thedelhiwalla.com/2014/03/17/city-neighborhood-sujan-singh-park-central-delhi/ 

He did not join Foreign Service job for his passion of writing. Khushwant has served in All India Radio and later as founder-editor of Yojna. Later he also served in Illustrated Weekly, Hindustan Times and National Herald.

Pic source: Wikipedia Commons 

Once during his talk with Asim Awan who was a Pakistan and met with Khushwant during his India travel : He said he had been to Pakistan many times that he could not recount them all adding  “Whenever I planned a trip to Pakistan my mother would say don’t go there… these Muslims are very cruel… they will kill you and I would reply Mother, until now they have been killing me by feeding me very delicious meals and lots of Scotch! But in the same breath she would say please give my salaams to sister Asghari, do go to the house of so and so and give them my regards and don’t forget to take some gifts for them.” (Source: Express Tribune )

Pic: Express Tribune (https://tribune.com.pk/story/720360/khushwant-singh-the-final-homecoming/ )

He has been Member of Parliament (Upper House)in India during 1980 to 1986.

His famous novel ‘Train to Pakistan’ (written in 1956) was based upon his own experiences during partition 1947.

Train to Pakistan : Anniversary Edition

Khushwant Singh has written many books. Few are listed here:

  • The Mark of Vishnu and Other Stories, (Short Story) 1950
  • The History of Sikhs, 1953
  • Train to Pakistan, (Novel) 1956
  • The Voice of God and Other Stories, (Short Story) 1957
  • I Shall Not Hear the Nightingale, (Novel) 1959
  • The Sikhs Today, 1959
  • The Fall of the Kingdom of the Punjab, 1962
  • A History of the Sikhs, 1963
  • Ranjit Singh: The Maharaja of the Punjab, 1963
  • Ghadar 1915: India’s first armed revolution, 1966
  • A History of the Sikhs, 1966 (2nd edition)
  • A Bride for the Sahib and Other Stories, (Short Story) 1967
  • Black Jasmine, (Short Story) 1971
  • Tragedy of Punjab, 1984
  • The Collected Stories of Khushwant Singh, N.p., Ravi Dayal Publisher, 1989
  • Delhi: A Novel, (Novel) 1990
  • Not a Nice Man to Know: The Best of Khushwant Singh, 1993
  • We Indians, 1993
  • Women and Men in My Life, 1995
  • Declaring Love in Four Languages,by Khushwant Singh and Sharda Kaushik, 1997
  • India: An Introduction,by Khushwant Singh
  • The Company of Women, (Novel) 1999
  • Truth, Love and a Little Malice(an autobiography), 2002
  • With Malice towards One and All
  • The End of India, 2003
  • Burial at the Sea, 2004
  • Paradise and Other Stories, 2004
  • A History of the Sikhs: 1469–1838, 2004
  • Death at My Doorstep, 2005
  • A History of the Sikhs: 1839–2004, 2005
  • The Illustrated History of the Sikhs, 2006
  • Why I Supported the Emergency: Essays and Profiles, 2009
  • The Sunset Club, (Novel) 2010
  • Gods and Godmen of India, 2012 ISBN 978-9-350-29244-0
  • Agnostic Khushwant: There is no God, 2012 ISBN 978-9-381-43111-5
  • The Good, the Bad and the Ridiculous, 2013 (Co-authored with Humra Qureshi)
  • More Malicious Gossip1989 – Collection of Writings
  • Sex, Scotch & Scholarship,1992 Collection of Writings
  • Big Book of Malice,2000, Collection of Writings
  • Khushwantnama, The Lessons Of My Life,2013
  • The Freethinker’s Prayer Book and Some Words To Live By,2012

Khushwant left this world at the age of 99 on 20 March 2014. He was cremated at Lodhi Crematorium.

Pic Source: https://www.outlookindia.com/blog/story/khushwant-singh-tributes-on-twitter/3205

During his lifetime, Khushwant Singh was keen on burial because he believed that with a burial we give back to the earth what we have taken. He had requested the management of the Bahá’í Faith if he could be buried in their cemetery. After initial agreement, they had proposed some conditions which were unacceptable to Singh, and hence the idea was later abandoned.He was born in Hadali, Khushab District in the Punjab Province of modern Pakistan, in 1915. According to his wishes, some of his ashes were brought and scattered in Hadali. One may see the memorial plate in Hdali:

Pic source: Express Tribune (https://tribune.com.pk/story/720360/khushwant-singh-the-final-homecoming/

He also prepared an epitaph for himself, which runs:

Here lies one who spared neither man nor God;

Waste not your tears on him, he was a sod;

Writing nasty things he regarded as great fun;

Thank the Lord he is dead, this son of a gun

Pic source : https://www.inmemoryglobal.com/remembrance/2015/03/khushwant-singh/  

A famous quote from ‘Train to Pakistan’

“Not forever does the bulbul sing

In balmy shades of bowers,

Not forever lasts the spring

Nor ever blossom the flowers.

Not forever reigneth joy,

Sets the sun on days of bliss,

Friendships not forever last,

They know not life, who know not this.”

— Train to Pakistan

 

Aaghaz-e-Dosti appeals for peace over escalation in ceasefire violations

PRESS RELEASE

Aaghaz-e-Dosti appeals for peace over escalation in ceasefire violations

The youth led voluntary initiative for Indo-Pak Friendship, Aaghaz-e-Dosti (li. Beginning of friendship) expresses concern over increased incidents of ceasefire violations between the two countries across Line of Control.

‘’We believe that governments of the two countries are capable enough to engage in dialogue with each other and should do their best efforts to reduce these incidents of violations and cross border firings till the extent that it should not happen at all. Such cross border firings often result as fatal to soldiers and civilians on both sides and both countries must understand the pain and suffering of these soldiers and civilians who are human being. ‘’

For countries like India and Pakistan where there is glorification of war and where common people love their country and its soldiers beyond all limits, such ceasefire violations are more dangerous. However, it is the responsibility of respective governments that without compromising to any glory or honor; dialogues, negotiations and diplomatic steps should be taken to avoid any loss to lives of soldiers on both sides.

Another constituency of affected people is of those who live in border areas. There are media reports available that even children have been died as they got trapped in these firings. Many houses have been made damaged on both sides despite a considerable number of population live on both sides of line.

Aaghaz-e-Dosti highly appreciate governments’ initiative during 2003 when ceasefire violations were brought down through a mutually agreed agreement between the two governments and their armies and we are highly hopeful that the same should be done by the present governments on both sides. Aaghaz-e-Dosti express its hope with the leadership of both sides in Governments, Diplomatic Missions and Armed forces who can definitely bring down these violations through initiating and establishing dialogue process. Meetings of two NSAs also bring some hope to us for its positive results are yet to come on ground and most required on border where lives of innocent people are on stake.

Aaghaz-e-Dosti also appeals with Governments of India and Pakistan to resume meeting of DGMOs of both sides and to remove heavy casualty arms and ammunition from front lines from both sides as its immediate availability and use would only result in more casualties. Being a most volatile start in 2018, escalated incidents of ceasefire violations must be brought down with efforts of governments and people. 

We at Aaghaz-e-Dosti believe that our efforts in fostering people to people relations would continue. We are the youth group who believe in ideology of peace and love. On one side, we are deeply distressed upon the disappearance of our member Raza Khan in Pakistan, however our hope still remains with the Government of Pakistan as we feel that Government would do its best efforts to protect peace workers. However, our commitment to peace is undeterred and without any fear and we feel that being voice of youths, who are in majority in both countries, our voice will be heard by leaders on both sides and effective steps will be taken in welfare of humanity and with the vision of long lasting relations of two countries. Doing this would save much lives from both sides and will be a real service to people. 

Issued by

Aaghaz-e-Dosti Team 

https://aaghazedosti.wordpress.com

News published on:

The Nation (Pakistan) https://nation.com.pk/02-Mar-2018/aaghaz-e-dosti-urges-pakistan-india-to-reopen-diplomatic-channels?show=preview?unique_ID=636504300008702949

Rising Kashmir http://risingkashmir.com/news/aaghaz-e-dosti-urges-india-pak-to-reduce-loc-tension

Kashmir Times http://www.kashmirtimes.in/newsdet.aspx?q=76867

Kashmir Pen http://www.kashmirpen.com/aaghaz-e-dosti-appeals-for-peace-over-escalation-in-ceasefire-violations/

Aaghaz-e-Dosti launches the 6th IndoPak Peace Calendar in India

Indo-Pak Peace Calendar 2018; Photo by Abhishek Shukla

New Delhi: Amid disappearance of its Convener in Pakistan since Dec 2, Aaghaz-e-Dosti continued its efforts on peace building and launched the 6th Indo-Pak Peace Calendar. Members of this young team are highly hopeful that Raza will return soon. Members informed that as a peace education group, our activities are not against anyone and therefore we think that we must keep working for our activities.

Indo-Pak Peace Calendar was launched in India International Centre, New Delhi on 13th January by voluntary youth initiative Aaghaz-e-Dosti that works on fostering people to people relations between India and Pakistan. This calendar is a collection of selected paintings of Pakistani and Indian school students along with messages from 12 renowned persons from both countries who favor Indo-Pak Peace. This year, peace calendar carries messages of Prof M S Swaminathan (Father of Green Revolution), Kamla Bhasin (Feminist and Peace Activist), Kapil Kak (Retd Air Vice Marshal), Rahul Jalali (Former President-Press Club of India), Nirupama Subramanian (Sr. Journalist and has been posted in Pakistan for few years) and Amardeep Singh (Author-Lost Heritage-Sikh Legacy in Pakistan) from India and of Dr. Mubarak Ali (Pakistani historian), Imtiaz Alam (Secretary General SAFMA), Anam Zakaria (Activist and author), Dr Anita M Weiss (Academician) and Farooq Tariq (Activist and spokesperson of Awami workers party) and Lt. Gen (retd) Mohd M. Alam.

Aaghaz-e-Dosti aims to create unwavering bonds of peace and friendship between India and Pakistan and seeks to become the medium to discover and recognise the misrepresented reality on the other side of the border. It is focused on citizen diplomacy and works primarily through peace education aimed at familiarising the people about the ‘other‘, countering stereotypes, homogenised and negative image of the other, educating them about the issues of conflict, the existence of diverse views and developing critical thinking and developing confidence in dialogue and peace building for conflict resolution.

This was the sixth year of the initiative and peace calendar. In earlier years, these calendars have been launched in several cities of India and Pakistan. A panel discussion on the topic ‘Sharing of Hopes for a Peaceful Co-existence’ was also organised by India International Centre and Aaghaz-e-Dosti jointly where speakers like Kapil Kak, O P Shah, Rahul Jalali, Jyoti Malhotra and Prof Jagmohan Singh participated and spoke upon various issues.

Air Vice Marshal (Retd) Kapil Kak

While speaking on the occasion, Retd Air Vice Marshal Kapil Kak talked about the importance of peace building, specially through such people’s initiative. He quoted Faiz Ahmad Faiz to explain diplomatic engagements between India and Pakistan- “Dil se toh har mamlaa hal karne chale, saamne aaye toh har baat badal gayi”. Highlighting the efforts of Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh governments, he called the 2003-2007 phase as the ‘golden period in the India Pakistan dialogue process’, post which he said we suffered from a ‘famine of dialogue’. Referring to Narendra Modi’s 2015 visit to Pak as a ‘leap of faith’ and quoted Elliot alongside- “only those who risk going far can know how far one can go”. He stated the importance of *connectivity*- need of engaging people across the LoC, media, public engagements for building opinions on the need for peace. He also told that we all need to have patience- most critical virtue, for any resolution as it takes time. Voices from both sides must speak for peace.

Rahul Jalali

Senior journalist and former President of Press Club of India, Rahul Jalali said that there are much need to work on peace building these days to counter hatred and violence at every level. He also insisted that media groups may play a positive role in peacebuilding effectively. He appreciated Aaghaz-e-Dosti’s for peace in today’s disturbed times when there’s a dearth of those taking on or for peace between the two neighbors. Highlighting the role of social media in shaping public opinion he told that need of the hour is to present facts and not focus on myth building and hate mongering. He advocated to continue dialogue as the world desires peace between the two neighbors.

O P Shah

O.P. Shah who is founder of think tank Centre for Peace and Progress talked about the necessity of people coming forward and take a centre stage to decide policies of their own and demanding peace, harmony and development. Expressing hope for a much better things in future, he congratulated Aaghaz-e-Dosti peace building efforts. He talked of existence of ‘crisis of confidence’ between and among the neighbors.  He also emphasized that unless well meaning people work hard together and with honesty to create a climate of trust and confidence, we won’t get much. He highlighted the importance of a continuous dialogue and he quoted Mani Shankar Iyer’s line- “there’s a need of uninterrupted and uninterruptible dialogue with Pakistan”. He also advocated the need of positive, constructive and meaningful role of media and need of leadership like that of Gandhi.

Prof Jagmohan Singh

While speaking on the occasion, Prof Jagmohan Singh who is activist and author and nephew of Shaheed Bhagat Singh, talked about Bhagat Singh and Pakistan. He told about the place where Bhagat Singh was studied and hanged as it is in Pakistan. He told about his experiences on how Bhagat Singh still lives in so many hearts of Pakistanis and Indians and can be a connecting medium for peacebuilding. He distinguished between two layers of politics, emphasized on the role the lower level consisting of civil society and students engaged in peace can play. He told that there are two types of mindsets- fixed and growth and that Aaghaz-e-Dosti represents the later, with it’s efforts in trying to build the bridge it is building including the students at school level especially’

Jyoti Malhotra

Senior journalist and columnist Jyoti Malhotra emphasized that these paintings made by students are actually something we need to learn and understand about what these students, who are future generation of these countries, desire for. Lamenting the unnatural state of affairs between India-pakistan, she stated ‘it isn’t our responsibility to decide whether Pak is good or bad, what is needed instead is to hope for a more normalized relations with our neighbor, which given our geography cannot be ignored.  She referred to Aaghaz-e-Dosti’s engagements with school children across the borders as the ‘story of the future’, wherein technology has to be leveraged in the interest of the two countries.

Devika Mittal, Convener of Aaghaz-e-Dosti in India told that the importance of the calendar is that it is a collection of shared dreams and hopes for friendship which we will be reminded of every day. This calendar is one of our peace education activities in schools and colleges. The purpose of these activities is to enable the future leaders to forge the path to a better world by engaging them with aspects of critical thinking, civic engagement and dialogue as solution. She told that this year again Aaghaz-e-Dosti received many paintings from many schools of Pakistan and India. In these six years, Aaghaz-e-Dosti has been received paintings from school students from almost all states and provinces of India and Pakistan.

Madhulika V Narsimhan, Aaghaz-e-Dosti member during her moderation talked about important points raised by speakers and also about various other activities of the initiative during last six years.

Many eminent persons like educationist C. Raja Mohan, Supreme court advocate Ram Mohan Rai, Secretary General of South Asian Fraternity Satyapal, Activist Khurshid Reshi, NYP Coordinator Sanjay Rai, Youth activist Mushtaq ul Haq, Akhtar Hussain, Mubashir Malik, Suresh Yadav, Abhishek, Sanjana, Madhuri and others were present. Photography was done by Zephyr, a photography society of Delhi University students.

Talking more about Aaghaz-e-Dosti, Ravi Nitesh informed that Aaghaz-e-Dosti has given peace trainings to more than 6000 students and youngsters through 20 Aman Chaupals (peace session) across India and Pakistan and also uses video conferencing to connect classrooms of India and Pakistan in sessions called Indo-Pak Classroom Connect that facilitates interaction between students of India and Pakistan. Aaghaz-e-Dosti conducts regular Exchange of letters and cards between students of India and Pakistan and has recently exhibited these letters at the renowned Faiz Ghar (house of Faiz Ahmed Faiz) in Lahore.

Many students participated in the launch ceremony. They described and talked about their vision/thought guiding their art works. The teachers of the participating school also shared their experience.

On the disappearance of its Pakistan’s convener Raza Khan, Aaghaz-e-Dosti stands on its earlier statement that the whereabouts of Raza are still unknown but all members are highly hopeful that Raza will be back soon and will start working again. Group has not criticized Government of Pakistan or its agencies and instead maintains that being a voluntary peace group, we respect constitution, democratic values of both countries and our activities are not against any government or ideology. Emphasising its stand, group states that it doesn’t attach itself with any ideology except ideology of peace and harmony that is need of this world. Aaghaz-e-Dosti is not a funded project of any organization and never receives any governmental or foreign support for its activities. Group states that their members are mostly engaged in peacebuilding through their participation in peace education activities among school students in India and Pakistan.

In previous years for its peace calendars, Aaghaz-e-Dosti received messages/ participation from Dr S N Subbarao, Kamla Bhasin, Dr Syeda Hameed, Col Virender Sahai , Major General Ashok K Mehta , Dr Shashi Tharoor , Vishwajyoti Ghosh, Pankaj Chaturvedi, Dr Dhananjay Tripathi, Ram Mohan Rai, Dr Meenakshi Chhabra, Dr D S Rana, Javed Naqvi, Deepak Malviya, Dr Chaman Lal, Late Sh Pankaj Singh, Air Vice Marshall (Retd) Kapil Kak, Sudheendra Kulkarni, Dr Kavita Sharma, Kuldip Nayar ,  Shailja Kejriwal , Tara Gandhi, Admiral Ramdas,  Satyapal, Syed Salman Chishty, Ram Puniyani, Shirish Agarwal, Dr Pritam Rohilla, Pramod Sharma, Lalita Ramdas, Sadia Dehlvi, Manik Samajhdar, Deepak Malviya from India and  Dr. Pervez Hoodhboy, Raza Rumi,Beena Sarwar, Sheema Kermani, Dr Ayesha Siddiqa, Aamir Nawaz, Rahil Yasin, Awais Sheikh, Dr. Salima Hashmi, Lt. Gen Muhammad Masood Alam,  Dr I A Rehman, Khadim Hussain, Karamat Ali, B M Kutty, Anwar Jafri, Dr Ishtiaq Ahmad, Saeed Ahmed Rid, Nisar Ahmad Chaudhary, Dr Zahid Sahab Ahmed, Dr Farzana Bari, Asma jahangir, Dr Mubashir Hasan from Pakistan.

The calendar is scheduled for launch in Pakistan on 27th January in Lahore.

For more information, contact us at aaghazedosti@gmail.com

Photos in the blog are by Abhishek Shukla and Volunteers of Zephyr: The Film and Photography Society of CVS

 

An Indian’s New Year Wish: The Return of Pakistani friend and Activist Raza Khan

by Shruti Achesh

This article has been written for Raza Khan, a peace activist and also convener (Pakistan) of Aaghaz-e-Dosti who went missing from Lahore since December 2. People from across the globe have been demonstrating support for him and have started a #FindRaza campaign.

Today is the 2nd of January 2018. The new year didn’t come to me with any new news or I’d rather say ‘any good news’. 

It’s been an entire one month since Raza Bhai went missing from his place in Lahore. ‘Bhai’, yes, ‘Brother’ that’s what I call him, as he is one to me and a very dear one too. He is a brother from a different mother, a different land, a different religion, but same values. Like most of us (who have known Raza), I too have no clue of his whereabouts. He went missing from his flat in Lahore on 2nd December 2017 and since then we’ve been just praying every day for his safe and immediate return.

Why is he so important to me..? Why am I so affected by him been missing? And even if I am, then why am I writing it here? These were the questions that I asked myself before typing these words into this article and, here’s what I got…  There’s no big pain other than seeing your loved one missing from your life. A person who you look up to, a person who’s been a very special influence on your being, a person who was with you when you were going through a difficult time of your life, a person who heard you for hours and hours without even asking a single question, just to help you vent out your grief because you needed someone to hear it out..  And that’s not enough… There are more reasons for me to write this piece. I am writing this for him, I am writing this for others to know him, I am writing this for the world to know the kind of person Raza is and that he cannot think of harming anyone even in his dreams. Yes, I want to tell everyone that his disappearance is affecting me and others who love him. It’s affecting humanity, it’s coming in the way of his dream of making the world a better and a more humane place.  Yes, that’s why I am writing it!

My hands are trembling to write these words here and I have tears in my eyes right now… I am just not able to express the grief that has afflicted on all of us because of him not being here with us for this one whole month. I never imagined how life’s going to be without Raza Bhai.

It will be more astonishing for all of you to know that I am from India and I have never met Raza in person but, I have known him. I have known him to the extent that I can vouch for his honesty, his love for his country, for his people and his determination for Indo-Pak Friendship.

Why? I ask, Why? Why is he missing? How can a person like him do any harm to anyone? He, who worked for the welfare of his country, his people.. how can be a threat? He who wanted peace with the neighbor so that there can be peace in his country, how can he go missing? I completely fail to understand this… I don’t get why after so much pleading and begging to the authorities, after repeated protests, press conferences, social media campaigns and even court hearings, we have no information about his whereabouts. Is this a new year we are celebrating or expected to celebrate?

We, all, his family, friends remain in deep shock even a month later. What are we to do? How do we make sense of this, of our own lives, of our future? A life full of disappointments, of grief, of people fearing to participate in peace activities..? Because that’s what we can see happening. It’s disheartening to see all this. What is his fault, what is our fault?

After many requests that we have already put forward, I put one here too.

‘Please find my dear Raza Bhai. We cannot live without him. His love for humanity is incomparable. His work for Indo-Pak Peace is calling him again and again. He is a peace lover and a peace educator. He is the kind of human we all want in our society. He is an inspiration for us and for many others who know him and his work. Please find him. The world needs him.’

#FindRaza #BringBackRaza


Shruti (Achesh) Arora is a theatre educator. She is a team member and regional coordinator of Aaghaz-e-Dosti.

Aaghaz-e-Dosti appeals to authorities to find peace activist Raza Khan

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Aaghaz-e-Dosti is concerned about the whereabouts of Raza Mahmood Khan, a Pakistani peace activist who is also the convener-Pakistan of Aaghaz-e-Dosti. It has been reported that Raza Khan went missing on the evening of 2nd December 2017. He was last seen at the end of a talk he organized on the issue of extremism at Lowkey Lokai. The Lahore police subsequently registered an FIR for a missing person case on the complaint received from his family and friends there. Since then, there has been no trace of him even as the investigation is ongoing.

Aaghaz-e-Dosti is a joint project of two youth-led organisations – Mission Bhartiyam (India) and Hum Sab Aik Hain (Pakistan). It is managed by students and young professionals who work for Aaghaz-e-Dosti voluntarily, without any form of monetary remuneration. 

Aaghaz-e-Dosti is an apolitical initiative that does not attach itself to any political ideology, except for the ideology of peace and humanity. Aaghaz-e-Dosti members from both India and Pakistan have complete faith in the constitutions of their respective countries and their affiliation with this initiative is voluntary on the basis of their belief in the universal value of human rights, to which all countries and people of the world are committed. 

Aaghaz-e-Dosti is a civil society initiative and works on a people-to-people level. It does not speak about the domestic affairs of the respective countries. It works to highlight the role that people or civilians can play in improving relations between the two countries. For this, it works through peace education activities that facilitates interaction between people of both countries, dispels stereotypes and stresses the importance of peace and peacebuilding.  

For 5 years now, Aaghaz-e-Dosti has been consistently working through peace education activities that include interactive sessions called ‘Aman Chaupals’, connecting Indian and Pakistani classrooms through video conferencing (Indo-Pak Classroom Connect), peace workshops, discussions, letter and greeting card exchange programs, Indo-Pak Peace Calendar, Indo-Pak open mics that facilitate virtual interactions between youths, a virtual eight-week peace-building course, peace Internships, and various virtual campaigns. 

While being deeply concerned and in pain, Aaghaz-e-Dosti acknowledges Raza Khan’s valuable efforts to work for peace education, mostly among school students. Raza joined Aaghaz-e-Dosti in year 2015 when he was already involved in activism at a local level in Pakistan for different issues concerning Pakistan. 

Aaghaz-e-Dosti extends its gratitude to everyone who is supporting and helping to find Raza Khan. We have complete faith in the working of state agencies and the judiciary and are hopeful that they will be able to find Raza soon and safe.

To contact us, email at aaghazedosti@gmail.com

*This is the second press statement. The first one can be accessed at https://aaghazedosti.wordpress.com/2017/12/06/statement-of-aaghaz-e-dosti-on-missing-report-of-raza-khan-convener-pakistan-of-aaghaz-e-dosti/

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