Category Archives: Articles

Cross-Border Experience: Mapping the Difference..

by Devika Mittal (India)

I was in Lahore and was staying with my friend Madhavi (Bansal) in a guest house. One evening, I was waiting for my friend Namra (Nasir) as we had planned to go to her place. There was a power cut and so I decided to go outside and wait near the gate. The guest house had 3 people to take care of it. One of them was a young fellow. He offered me a chair to sit. I thanked and struck a conversation with him. I asked him where he is from and he mentioned a place. I asked him how far it is from Lahore. He said, it is about two hours. He, in turn, asked me where I am from. I said, I am from Delhi.

As I spoke the word, his eyes widened and he was shocked. I found it surprising because when I and my friend had arrived at the guest house which was provided to us by our hosts, they had informed the people who took care of the house about us. So i assumed that he would have also known but it turned out he didn’t. He asked me again, “Aap Hindustan se aaye ho?” (You have come from India?)

He then asked me questions around my experience here. One of his last questions was, “Aapka ghar yaha se kitni durr hai?” (How far is your home from this place?)


Devika Mittal is a research student from India. She is the convener-India of Aaghaz-e-Dosti. She tweets at @devikasmittal

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Hatred Inc. – A Reflection on Kya Dilli Kya Lahore Movie

by Sabir Ali (Pakistan)

On 8th July, Aaghaz-e-Dosti had organised a screening of “Kya Dilli Kya Lahore” in Lowkei Lokai, Lahore. About 20-25 people had gathered for the screening. The screening was followed by a discussion. The discussion was moderated by Shoaib and centered around partition, the human aspect of war and conflict. 

Here is a reflection by Sabir Ali who had participated in the event:

Hatred Inc. 

It was just a stroke of pen that divided not only a land of co-existence into constantly conflicting pieces but also made defunct a wonderful civilization, distorted history, negated rich cultures, blotted hearts with hatred and filled minds with pseudo-identities.

We say that we created a new homeland but actually we partitioned a homeland, and partitioned it in a cruel way. Nearly a decade-long movement of rights ended up in boundaries marked with barbed wires. This politics of rights was introduced to us by imperial and colonial powers to make sub-continent a periphery of capitalist world-order. A position that granted us so many depravities and deprivations that are beyond measure and imagination. We have had to stick to this identity and since partition we are trying to justify and validate this identity.

This struggle of identity involves a number of contradictions so it seems to be futile. The idea of democracy and self-determination was non-existent in sub-continent. Our centuries-long history does not corroborate this concept. Being an imposition, we were forced to practice it prior to theorize it. This project is still unfinished because of this fact and remains a source of controversies and conflicts on either side of partition.

Democracy was a pre-requisite of nation-states to be created later. Colonial powers played their game well and certain concepts of human rights, self-determination, state, citizenship and governance were made popular through local intelligentsia. Popularity is not the guarantee of coherence and legitimacy. The practice of these concepts and its consequences continuously invites challenges, doubts and refutations because of inherent incoherency of these concepts. All these emerged from a single theory that was inception of certain influenced minds and strangely twisted. So strange an antifoundational theory became foundation of an ideological state. The theory was said to be based on religion and advocated separation in the name of a religion that itself vehemently rejects and refutes this idea. A religion that does not recognizes geographical borders based on nationality, the very same religion was made a base for nation and nation-state. A religion that invalidates even the concept of state was put forward to create and run a modern sovereign (theocratic) nation-state.

It is no surprise, then, that such a theory caused stratification among the inhabitants of sub-continent more specifically among the Muslims. How can a theory of separation and stratification be backed by a religion that makes global communal unity one of its primary doctrines? A specific class of us contemptuously blames mullah for Muslim factions but intelligently ignores the factions formed by state-borders. Jurisdictional sects are only four while the state-factions amount to fifty-eight. Who outnumbers? Obviously, the nationalists and their wonderful theorization of nationalism(s).

Nationalism makes it imperative to create pseudo-identities for citizens. Of course, the identity of being a Pakistani or Indian is a matter of geographical limits that were created haphazardly by a line first on the map then on the land. State creation is in fact a process of imposing constraints on humans and limiting their movements, thus, controlling their lives and therefore, making them more miserable than ever. This complex and hideous process of statecraft turns to be always profitable business that entails the manufacturing of commodities of citizens, patriots and traitors.

Citizen is a source of income for and servant of the state. Identification cards, passports, visas, multiple registration certificates and other emblems of patriotism are for the facilitation of state functioning but citizens pay heavy price for them. In other words, state creates citizens for its own ends but forces citizens to pay for this creation. It is safe to say that any benefit citizen receives is a by-product and inevitable outcome of state’s self-serving functions. Sate’s other mechanisms of protection and defense work on the basis of hatred for other (rival) state citizens. Partition will not work without this hatred. If there is no enemy, there is no defense, and hence, no patriotism. Rivalry with other states has become raison d’être for state’s existence. Imagine the absence of hatred between Pakistan and India; hundreds of thousands will lose prestige, income, worth, status, terror and temper. So, hatred is preached and propagated, love is condoned and condemned. Bunker is for the love of banker.

Every citizen is manufactured by erecting border-lines. Nationality becomes supreme identity making all other essential identities irrelevant. This identity is the need of the state not of the human who inevitably and unfortunately happens to come under the state jurisdiction. Other identities are more relevant to the citizens but of no use to state. This fact is the source of alienation and erosion of humanist traits. Thus, a national identity that is simultaneously supreme and trivial imposes a pseudo-identity on the individual. Individual’s natural and imposed identities never come into compatibility. All the circumstances and realities reinforce these opposing identities under different sorts of pressure. The result is confusion, contradiction, alienation, anomie, volatile passions, loss of identity and thus the ‘pursuit of identity’.

When two citizens from rival or conflicting states face each other standing on border-lines, each of them undergoes a panic of dual confrontation. They share the same lifeworld but just a single step beyond the line and the scenario is changed. Just a line of half-step width on the land becomes sole determiner of life and loyalty. Watch your step, because if you take this step, there is violation of sovereignty of sacred hatred, you will become a legitimate victim and your slaughter will be saluted. This life-threat is the result of nationality by that person who shares your lifeworld and is experiencing the same feelings. A person for whom you would have sacrificed your own life if the pretext of borderline was not there. At this point partition appears a grim reality manufactured by the business of state. The cover of state and imposition of its institutions compel you to prove your patriotism for the sake of state. On the other hand, your natural love for the citizen before you compel to do otherwise. If you do otherwise, you are a genuine traitor.

But what is the authenticity and legitimacy of these labels and what is the source and measure of authenticity? Loyalty and disloyalty are determined by the state that has no reference other than itself; thus, has monopoly in this domain. State requires patriots for its protection, service, legitimacy, functioning and existence. State has nothing to do other than manufacturing patriots and setting its own manufacturing standards. Logically, this leads identifying the enemies and labeling the citizens as traitors and terrorists. In the prevalence of only patriots, partition cannot be a useful commodity for state. So, state has to do this labelling every now and then.

Training the patriots against supposed and indoctrinated (by other similar states) enemies and suppressing them in the name of protection is the whole business states are running and citizens are serving.

Citizens have their own standards of patriotism but a citizen is not an authorized entity to decide her fate and is quite helpless in comparison to the state power and its authority. This marginalization of citizen’s natural authority and emotions again leads to (temporary) disenchantment with state benefits. He is sandwiched between national identity and his own personal identity. State given identity is pseudo-identity because it is imposed, volatile, abstract and often in transition. Since it runs against the history and lived experiences of the individual, it is hard to conceptualize and materialize. It is impossible to forget who we are and to internalize and emphasize who we have to become. Everyone is quite sure that one will die as man or woman but no one is sure that he or she will die as a citizen he or she is right now. This is the reality of peripheral entities turned into central ones.

Therefore, partition of subcontinent was a political issue entailing the imposition of identity of patriotism. Citizens in both states now have to prove their loyalties along with other things to be proved and expressed. Imagine the old man (or woman) who slept on 13th August 1947 and in the morning, to his (her) surprise, his (her) identity was changed; now he (she) had to avow his (her) allegiance to a new power in addition to the existing ones. how can one undo one’s whole life and history? This is the problem we are facing at the individual and social level.

If we accept the theory of two nations, express eternal hatred for each other and make national state our prime identity then what about pre-partition men and women and their history? Had our whole history in the subcontinent gone wrong? Had our ancestors lead their lives clinging on wrong beliefs and practices and living with wrong and bad sort of persons? Who told us all this? Again, this wrong turn and anachronism forces us to go ahead. If we say that that theory was wrong, then we have to accept the responsibility of the brave deeds done in its name. The burden of several millions of casualties explicitly shifts to our shoulders. Our feeble and fragile bodies cannot bear this strain and our moral incompetence cannot handle this. Now it has become a matter of ego, arrogance, stubbornness and of course, of business. We have distorted our history and now it is quite safe and even profitable to continue with these and further distortions. May be the state is not supposed to listen truth, so I beg its mercy.


Sabir Ali is a Lahore-based researcher, content writer and translator. His translated works include Development Dictionary, Does Capitalism have a future?, Historical Capitalism among several others. He can be reached at sabirnastran@gmail.com 

Can Literature Join What’s Divided by War?

by Zahra Akbar (Pakistan)

Indian and Pakistani Entertainment Industries have always kept the people of both countries connected.  Where Pakistani dramas have found appreciation from their Indian audience, Indian TV Serials and Films also have lots of fans in Pakistan. Art and literature are universal and can help people see the best in each other. Despite the tension between the both countries, people of Pakistan and India are often seen willing to connect with each other.

In 2016, a Pakistani literary forum Daastan, joined hands with a Global literary platform The Ancient Souls (TAS) to help Indian writers make their dreams of getting published come true. The Stories Untold is a writing competition Daastan introduced in Pakistan. Its second season was themed ‘A War Within’, and it inspired many Pakistani and Indian writers to express themselves freely and create masterpieces.

‘A War Within’ was introduced to help writers face their inner barriers and make the best out of their passion for literature. Many Pakistani and Indian writers submitted their works in this competition, and according to Daastan’s tradition, top 30 finalists and winners got published on Qissa – a digital publishing platform created by Daastan.

Where mainstream media thrives on controversy and sensationalism, even if it ends up thwarting all the efforts being made for peace between Pakistan and India, platforms like Daastan and The Ancient Souls have shown that nothing says ‘peace’ better than doing things together.

Many Indian and Pakistani writers face the same struggle today; the lack of publishers who are open to aspiring writers. Getting published and having their voices heard are dreams of all such writers. Daastan wants every talented writer to achieve this goal, and that’s why it introduced ‘Qissa’, a digital self-publishing platform that’s the first of its kind in Pakistan. By bringing offline literary industry online, Qissa is helping many writers turn their dreams of getting published every day without charging them anything. “The Stories Untold Season 2 – A War Within” helped not even Pakistani but some Indian writers get published, not just within Pakistan but in India too. Indian writers started opting for Qissa to give an uplift to their careers.

Writers like Abhirun Daas, Ahsan Raza Bhaskarjyoti Paul, Neeraj Brahmankar, Suchitra Shetty, and Zena Vatsa were the first batch of Indian authors to get published through Daastan.

Abhirun Das is the Co-founder of TAS, and his short story ‘Across the Line’ was in the Top 2 finalists  in ‘A War Within’.

Zena Vatsa; Co-founder TAS, is another Indian writer and to join Daastan to self-publish her work. She is an England-based Indian writer and published her book ‘Her Great Escapade’ through Daastan in May 2017. Her book was in the TOP 15 finalists of Stories Untold Season 2.

Poignance of the Soul” by Bhaskar Paul secured 3rd position in the competition. However, Neeraj Brahmankar, a boy from a small town, through his biography; “An Abandoned Leaf” became the voice of many mute survivors and stood 6th in the competition.

Ahsan Raza and Suchitra Shetty through their captivating stories; “The Crown has Fallen and The Cascade of Lifemade it to the Top 30.

This venture, The Ancient Souls and Daastan embarked on together is inviting us to look at things with a new perspective. Should we offer more opportunities to the people of Pakistan and India to indulge in such activities together so they can overcome the war within that’s creating an unnecessary tension between these two countries?

Daastan is a literary forum that is empowering writers by helping them self-publish both digitally and print form. To get in touch with Daastan, inbox at merasawal@daaatan.com or send a message on Daastan’s facebook page www.facebook.com/MyDaastan

To self-publish your work digitally, or to read many great books by other authors, sign up at www.meraqissa.com


Zahra Akbar is a literary activist and writer from Pakistan. She is a literary graduate currently working with Daastan as a social media manager.

Indo-Pak Travelogue: A New Lease of Life in India…

by Mahpara (Pakistan)

I am from Pakistan but I have a special affection towards India. Firstly, because my grand-parents belonged to India and second, because it is Indian doctors that gave me a new life. My name is Mahpara. I am student of M.Phil at University of the Punjab, Lahore. I am originally from Toba Tek Singh (Punjab, Pakistan). It is a city named after the Sikh saint Toba Tek Singh who lived here and served the poor and the needy. Both to me and my father, India and Pakistan generate similar feelings and emotions.

During my childhood, I remember my grand-father listening to some songs and becoming nostalgic about the shared culture between India and Pakistan. He told me that both in India and Pakistan whenever families celebrated a happy occasion, they sang to welcome prosperity in the household. My grand-father had the habit of recording these songs so that when my Indian cousins would visit Pakistan, they could also listen to them. He often invited all our relatives and other villagers to our house whenever we hosted my Indian cousins. The entire village felt exhilarated and showered their hospitality on the Indian guests.

My family always had this desire to visit India because we believe that the culture in India and Pakistan is very similar. In 2015, when my father suffered from some problems in his liver; the doctors advised us to go for a liver transplant. It was then that my father decided that he would visit India for the treatment. But the next big question that we faced was who would be the donor? I decided to step forward and donate a part of my liver to my father. It was indeed a very difficult time for me and my family.

We travelled to India via the Dosti bus (The bus of friendship) which we believe is a very good initiative for the people of India and Pakistan. On the day of travel, while we were worried and anxious about my father’s health, people in the bus cheered us up and were very cooperative. In Delhi, my father was treated by Dr. Subhash Gupta from the Indraprastha Apollo Hospital. Under his care, we felt relaxed and comfortable. Our belief in God and Dr. Gupta’s care encouraged my father as well. The transplant was done on 10th November, 2015 post which we stayed in Delhi for 2 months and 10 days. That was the happiest day for my family. Dr. Gupta’s entire team was extremely supportive and caring. I believe they have magic in their hands. They are angels; nothing less than God’s blessings to mankind. We visited Indian again in 2016 for the follow-up treatment and ended up staying there for more than a month.

People of both countries have stereotyped the ‘other’. However, during my visits to India, all kinds of stereotypes were shattered. All that I experienced in Delhi was amazing hospitality, great food, music and people who welcomed us with open arms. People were kind and would do everything to make us feel at home. For me, it was the first time that I was meeting a lot of my cousins. More so, it became a trip to remember for the whole life. In Delhi, I was able to visit the Dargah of Khwaja Nizamuddin, Jama Masjid, Red Fort, Dilli Haat, Lajpat Nagar,  India Gate and Rashtrapati Bhavan. I also had the chance to do some shopping at Connaught Place which is so similar to the M.M. Alam road in Lahore. I captured all the lovely moments that are so integral to my India visit. I also celebrated Diwali. Whenever anyone met us and came to know that we were from Pakistan, they would say, “Oh! You are from Pakistan! We would love to visit Lahore. We have heard that Lahore is very beautiful!”. Such are the memories of my India visit, that they have filled me with happiness and laughter. I have made friends that I will value for a lifetime. On the last day, when it was finally time to bid good-bye, I could not stop crying. At that time, an Indian doctor motivated me, “A girl is more powerful than a boy. No matter how difficult life is, always be grateful to God and keep smiling.”

Certainly, the common people of both nations love each other and have feelings of concern and affection for the ‘other’. During both the visits, all I received from Indians was love and care. They are delighted when they meet someone from Pakistan and are curious to learn about Pakistani culture and lifestyle. Why would the common man wish for war and hatred? We are all the same and we should not be fighting with one another. Instead, we should be fighting to achieve peace. What sets us apart is that we live on different sides but that should not come in the way of our love for each other. My wish is that someday I want to visit my grand-father’s village in India. My message to Indians and Pakistanis is: love not only your country, but also love the ‘other’. Pray and work for peace between India and Pakistan so that we can sow the seeds of happiness and laughter. Let smiles be infectious and cross borders. Because “Jaisa Desh hai tera, waisa Desh hai mera” (As is your country, so is mine; we are in fact so similar).

This article has been edited by Dr. Nidhi Shendurnikar Tere (Vadodara, Gujarat, India) 


Mahpara is an M.Phil student (Gender Studies) at University of the Punjab, Lahore. She aims to be a changemaker, especially by challenging stereotypes regarding women. She is at the helm of a campaign promoting education for girls in Toba Tek Singh. She also volunteers for MASHAL, an organization that works towards developing alternatives for human empowerment by facilitating communication between communities.

Photo Blog: Indo-Pak Cricket is a Game Changer for Peace

by Ravi Nitesh (India) & Syed Zeeshan Ali Shah (Pakistan)

When we think of India-Pakistan matches, we think of a subcontinent fully charged with nationalism, mostly aggressive nationalism. The environment is intense and everyone is (or expected to be) glued to the television, radio or other avenues for live commentary. The social media is also abuzz with memes and videos. But sadly, all this has mostly been in a negative spirit. People forget that it is, afterall, just a game and the two teams are not rivals, but competitors. Infact, they may have friendly relations with each other. This negative and aggressive spirit is what tends to dominate the media and public sphere. 

Here is a compilation of photos that counter the popular, negative understanding of India-Pakistan cricket matches. These photos show what India-Pakistan cricket should be about.

1. Competitors, Not Rivals: Indian and Pakistani cricketers wishing each other luck 

2. Preparing for the competition, not for war.

3. Indian Cricketer MS Dhoni with son of Pakistani cricketer Sarfaraz Ahmed

4. Pakistani cricket Azhar Ali thanks Indian crickets MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli for meeting his children. 

5. We love this waving of both flags together, do you?  

6. When we asked Indians and Pakistanis to share their favorite cricketer from each other’s team

indopak cricket aaghazedosti

7. #CongratsPak trended in India

8. Author and Political Analyst from India gives an important lesson about nationalism. Nationalism means love for one’s country but it does not mean hating others. 

9. Great tweets by Pakistan Envoy to India, Abdul Basit and Author and Political Analyst Sudheendra Kulkarni 

10. More of twitter reactions by sports personalities, activists and true Indians and Pakistanis who convey the real spirit of India-Pakistan cricket matches.  

*All these photos have been downloaded from internet.  

Have something to add to this story? Email at aaghazedosti@gmail.com 


Ravi Nitesh is the founder of Aaghaz-e-Dosti. Syed Zeeshan Ali Shah is member of Aaghaz-e-Dosti Islamabad Team. 

Photo Blog: Gurudwara Dera Sahib, Lahore (Pakistan)

by Devika Mittal (India)

Gurudwara Dera Sahib is situated in Lahore, Pakistan. When I and my friend tried to enter the Gurudwara, we were stopped. We were told that “Muslims are not allowed”. On sharing that we are Hindus, we were immediately asked, “Where are you from?” We replied that we are from India. With a continuous glance of suspicion, we were asked if we are carrying our passports. We were allowed inside the Gurudwara once we submitted our passports to the caretakers of the Gurudwara. 

Here are some photos capturing the story of the Gurudwara.

Gurudwara Dera Sahib is located opposite Lahore Fort and next to Badshahi Masjid. Infact, it is clearly visible from the Badshahi Masjid.

 

Gurudwara Dera Sahib has been constructed in the memory of 5th Sikh Guru, Guru Arjan Dev ji. The Gurudwara is believed to have been built on the exact spot where he was tortured and was martyred in 1606 CE. This platform was originally built by Guru Hargobind Singh ji but was demolished. In 1884, Maharaja Ranjit Singh, known as “Sher e Panjab”, the ruler of Lahore built a gurudwara in the memory of Guru Arjan Dev ji. It came to be known as Gurudwara Dera Sahib. 

This is the place where he was tortured. A shrine has been constructed at this spot.

After the torture, Guru Arjan Dev ji is believed to have gone to River Ravi and disappeared. This site marks his route towards martyrdom.

A photo of the Gurudwara where the pious Adi Grant is placed.

Here is the photo of Maharaja Ranjit Singh who is regarded as “Sher e Panjab”. His samadhi is also located in the Gurudwara complex. 

Gurudwara Dera Sahib is one of the holiest places for Sikhs around the world. Every year, thousands of Sikhs from India visit Gurudwara Dera Sahib.

Have something to contribute to the story? Please share in comments.


Devika Mittal is convener (India) of Aaghaz-e-Dosti. She is a PhD student of Sociology at Delhi University. She tweets at @devikasmittal 

Photo Blog: Toba Tek Singh, a city and district in Pakistan named after Baba Tek Singh

by Umair Ahmad (Pakistan)

Toba Tek Singh is a city and district in punjab province of Pakistan. The place gets its identity from a saint named Baba Tek Singh who was known for his kindness and generosity. It is believed that he used to serve water from a garha (pot) to the thirsty travellers, irrespective of their identity.

The original spot where he is believed to have sat and served the thirsty travelers is situated near the railway station.

Here are some photos that capture the present of this historical place.

The Railway Station of Toba Tek Singh – Toba Tek Singh is an important train junction.

The Municipal Committee of Toba Tek Singh

Toba Tek Singh has many higher education institutes – Photo of Toba Tek Singh Campus of University of Agriculture, Faislabad. Agriculture remains to be an important occupation of residents of Toba Tek Singh.

Out and Around Toba Tek Singh of Today (Photos from Gojra City, Toba Tek Singh district)

Toba Tek Singh is also a popular place because it has featured in stories of popular authors. Among the most famous stories of legendary storyteller Saadat Hasan Manto is “Toba Tek Singh”, a story set in the time of partition. It revolves around a so-called “madman” named Bishen Singh who hailed from Toba Tek Singh.

Anything to add to this story? Share in comments.

Write a photo blog for your city and send to aaghazedosti@gmail.com


Umair Ahmad is from Toba Tek Singh. He is a peace activist and advocate. He is the Toba Tek Singh Co-ordinator of Aaghaz-e-Dosti.

Aaghaz-e-Dosti appeals to the Governments of India and Pakistan to Stop Ceasefire Violations

Aaghaz-e-Dosti appeals to the Governments of India, Pakistan to stop ceasefire violations and restore Peace across LoC

Photo Source: IB Times

We, at Aaghaz-e-Dosti are common people, mostly youth, of India and Pakistan, who are concerned about recent unfortunate developments across LoC wherein incidents of ceasefire violations have been widely reported on both sides. This exchange of fire has claimed lives of armed forces personnel and even of civilians on both sides. We are deeply disturbed by reports that border villages have been affected with such cross-border fire where even houses have been damaged. 

On the Indian side, it is said that over 1000 people have been evacuated from border villages to provide them with safe living areas, and approximately 87 schools have been shut including 51 in Nowshera sector and 36 in Manjakote and Doongi zone. With the shut down of schools, approximately 4600 students are affected.  It is said that firing from long range mortars and automatic weapons are still continuing. 

On the Pakistan side, it is said that unprovoked firing from India has resulted in the loss of civilian lives and injury to few others. It is said that the Indian side violated ceasefire in sectors mainly in Karela, Kotkotterra, Sabzkot, Baroh, Tandar, Khanjar. 

We need to understand that an entire population living in the vicinity of LoC is tramautised by such violations that can start at any point in time.

We appeal to the governments and security forces of both sides to find measures to stop these violations, to restore peace and to respect ceasefire agreement of 2003. 

We also firmly believe that beheading and mutiliation of soldiers must be stopped, and strict instructions to security forces by governments must be given against such acts.

Civilian population on both sides of the LoC desire and deserve peace, while their lives depend on the peaceful relations between the two nations. 

We believe that governments on both sides are capable of taking effective and positive measures in this regard. We remember that various effective, people friendly measures such as ceasefire agreement, dosti bus service, samjhauta express train service, cross LoC trade routes opening etc have been taken in the past by governments of both sides, and there are so many things that still remain that need to be done in the larger interest of the people, especially for those who are directly affected by such violations.    

We have all the faith in our governments and we believe that their concerned officials may have been working on restoring the peace. Yet, through this appeal, we would like to convey our request and the desire of millions of people, especially the young whose future needs to be respected and safeguarded, to strengthen the strife for peace across borders.

 Issued by

Aaghaz-e-Dosti Team

From One Home to Another… A Pakistani’s Experience of India

by Syed Zeeshan Ali Shah 

I was on cloud nine when I learnt that I had been selected for the Global Youth Peace Festival (GYPF) to be held in Chandigarh, India from September 28 to October 2, 2015. I was quite thrilled to be representing my country Pakistan at GYPF and working for peace between India and Pakistan. When I applied for a visa it was quite late, and I felt like I may not be able to visit India. As I waited anxiously, I still didn’t lose hope. My bags were packed, I was all set and my moral was high. While few of my friends congratulated me on my selection in GYPF, there were some who reacted strangely. I was asked questions like how and why I was visiting India, was it safe to visit etc. A few days later, we received the news about our visa application being accepted and here we were … all set to travel to India. When I visited the Indian Embassy in Islamabad with my friends Raj and Irfan, I was quite impressed with their cooperative behaviour. During our journey to India, we were joined by other friends from Lahore and Karachi. Upon reaching the Wagah border, we underwent the process of immigration and crossed the border on foot.

As I put my foot on Indian land, I felt as if I had just arrived at my home from another home (Pakistan). Upon our arrival, we were received by some GYPF members and then we travelled to Chandigarh along with them. Not for one moment, I had a feeling that I was in a different country. Only the names of people and the food we ate seemed a bit different. I had already started craving for non-vegetarian food. As we reached Chandigarh to be a part of GYPF, we were welcome with Dhol (traditional Indian musical instrument, typically used in weddings to welcome guests) and Bhangra (traditional dance form of the state of Punjab in India). GYPF gave us the opportunity to meet people from different countries. The event saw the presence of participants from about 30 countries. Over the years, GYPF has made its mark as an annual gathering of young people from all over the world who want to contribute positively to peace building. On the third day of GYPF, we went and visited a few villages around Chandigarh. What I observed that life there is much similar to the villages in Pakistan. During my stay in India, I made many Indian friends and found them to be very supportive.

From Chandigarh, we travelled to Delhi and it was quite an amazing journey. In Delhi, we stayed at Rajghat and visited many places such as Chandni Chowk and India Gate. We also enjoyed the unique services of Metro rail and Green buses. This was also an opportunity for me to meet and interact with many members from AED’s India team. I was fortunate to meet Devika, Madhuri and Ali, all of whom have inspired me to think differently and work for peace. I am equally grateful to Pramod ji, his family and the team of Yuvsatta which managed this program. Through our participation in the program, we have been able to convey to the world the message of peace supported by each and every Pakistani and also show the humane side of Pakistan to the world.

After Delhi, we went to Amritsar and crossed the Wagah border on foot to reach Pakistan. This trip to India will be etched forever in my memory and my heart.  

This article has been edited by Dr. Nidhi Shendurnikar Tere from Baroda (Gujarat, India)


Syed Zeeshan Ali Shah is from Chitral. He is doing software engineering from COMSATS, Islamabad. He is a member of Islamabad Chapter of Aaghaz-e- Dosti, an Indo-Pak Friendship Initiative.

70mm War Drama evokes Nostalgia: Movie Review of Kya Dilli Kya Lahore

by Dr. Nidhi Shendurnikar Tere (India)

Directed by: Vijay Raaz

Starring: Vijay Raaj, Manu Rishi, Raj Zutshi & Vishwajeet Pradhan

A 2014 Release

The conflict between India and Pakistan has been the subject of many a popular movies in Hindi cinema (Bollywood). Mainstream movie discourse in both India and Pakistan rests on building upon a hatred of the ‘other’ so as to glorify patriotism and a sense of national superiority. Very few movies have dwelled upon the humane side of this cross-border conflict raging since 1947. It is for this reason that Kya Dilli Kya Lahore (What is Dilli, What is Lahore) presented by renowned Indian lyricist and writer Gulzar and directed by Vijay Raaj comes across as breath of fresh air.

How easy it is to picture camaraderie between a Pakistani solider and a cook in the Indian army? Impossible in the immediate war dominated scenario of 1948 following the partition of the Indian sub-continent into India and Pakistan? The movie builds upon a conversation that these two individuals have with each other while they are fighting for their own country. Samarth Pratap Shastri (Manu Rishi) is a cook in the Indian army, left to guard an army check-post all alone at the height of war. From the other side, you have Rehmat Ali (Vijay Raaj), a young, newly inducted soldier in Pakistan’s army sent by a senior to get hold of a confidential security document from the Indian camp. Hesitant as he is, Rehmat proceeds towards the Indian side, only to encounter Samarth holding on his guard from an isolated check-post in a difficult terrain. What follows thereafter are conversations that are not only funny but also heart wrenchingly emotional.

As Rehmat and Samarth talk, they very predictably blame each other for the mess that India’s partition brought along. Murders of innocents, mayhem, destruction and servering of relationships that had survived peacefully through centuries. We learn that Rehmat belonged to Delhi before being forced to shift to Lahore after the partition and Samarth had his roots in Lahore before he moved to Delhi. The mass movement of Hindus to northern and central parts of India while that of Muslims to what was now Pakistan resulted in many people leaving their homes, cities and their near and dear ones far away, to never be able to return. Both Rehmat and Samarth begin their relationship with distrust, a sentiment that is commonly acknowledged by many Indians and Pakistanis. In the beginning as they talk to each other with the knowledge of ‘otherness’ and ‘hostility’, a wall of antagonism separates them (it is only after some time in the film that they finally face each other, before that continuing to converse through a barrier of distrust in typical Punjabi dialect).

The most poignant scene of the film comes when Rehmat gets emotional as he shares his love for Delhi, the narrow by lanes of Chandani Chowk and Samarth is reminded of the Anarkali Bazaar in Lahore where he once lived with his family and Muslim neighbours. To both of them Delhi and Lahore were once home and the displacement caused by the partition has affected them immensely. Both cannot come to terms with the fact that they had to leave their beloved city and friends to settle for a new life across the border. It is a fact that prior to the partition, Delhi was home to several Muslims and Lahore was inhabited by Hindus. The loss of one’s home is evident from the teary eyed faces of both Rehmat and Samarth. Something that most people who experienced the partition can relate to.

As the film progresses, the unthinkable becomes a reality. An Indian and a Pakistani start to recognize the human inside the ‘other’, leading hatred and animosity into oblivion. At one point, Samarth even makes ‘aloo paratha’ (a sub-continental food item) for Rehmat and as both of them share their lives over a meal, borders become insignificant. A gradual realization creeps in among the two that this conflict is a creation of political one-upmanship and self serving leaders who care the least for the sufferings of people on both sides. Rehmat and Samarth become friends who realize and fear that they will be labelled as ‘traitors’ for the last that one expects from a soldier is friendship with the ‘enemy’ whom he is supposed to annihilate. They sense that their nationalism will be questioned and their loyalties doubted. In fact, both of them are repeatedly cornered by their senior officials for being ‘refugees’ from whom loyalty cannot be expected as their heart beats for the ‘other’ side.

The film is filled with heart touching moments of the friendship that develops between two people who though on opposite sides of the border, begin to realize the special bond through which they are connected to each other. Rehmat starts referring to Samarth as ‘bhaijaan’ (brother) and in the same way Samarth also acknowledges the special place that Rehmat has made in his life in a very short time.

One can view this movie from a soldier’s perspective. While the duty of a soldier is to essentially guard the borders of his country from the enemy, he/she is at the end a common person who pines for his family, who wants to lead a normal and peaceful life. War and conflict have a damaging impact on a soldier’s psyche and the movie lets the audience come face to face with the humane side of a soldier. Rehmat and Samarth become friends in a very short period of time under extremely trying circumstances. Yet in the end, they come out with flying colours as they prove to be worthy friends divided by the border, but united by hearts that don’t succumb to human-made divisions. The climax scene is a reinforcement of their unspoken yet deep, pure friendship and love for each other. Kya Dilli Kya Lahore signifies the spirit of this friendship where there is more in common that can bring people together as opposed to keeping them apart. Because once upon a time, the cities of Dilli (Delhi) and Lahore were a symbol of sub-continental unity. Today, even as they belong to different countries, they remain very much similar in character, spirit and love for the one who is on the other side of the border.

This review was previously published on the author’s blog www.68pagesofmylife.blogspot.com


Dr. Nidhi Shendurnikar Tere has a PhD in Political Science from The M.S.University of Baroda, Gujarat and presently works as an independent researcher and writer based out of Ahmedabad. She is the Baroda Co-ordinator of Aaghaz-e-Dosti. 

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