Category Archives: Articles
Aaghaz-e-Dosti denounces war hysteria, welcomes Abhinandan
At a time when the relationship between India and Pakistan are dismal and there is a fierce culture of war mongering, we, Aaghaz-e-Dosti, a citizen diplomacy initiative appeals for peace and sanity. Through our work among the people, we assert that people on both sides demand and deserve peace. These recent happenings based on hostility and aggression have claimed the lives of soldiers who serve their country, protect it, affected the people living near the border and has also aggravated the hostility much beyond the border. It has become severe with a war hysteria that endangers the entire subcontinent.
Aaghaz-e-Dosti denounces any talk of war. War claims lives of the innocent, soldiers and civilians like, drains economies and only works to push back countries, their development. It is an impractical and even as ineffective step for a permanent solution. We believe that diplomatic and political engagements may not only prevent any war or war like situation, but would also bring fruitful results in terms of resolving conflicts.
Aaghaz-e-Dosti appeals with prime minister of India and prime minister of Pakistan to take immediate steps to prevent any further escalation and to take steps for peace and dialogue. In this regard, we also thank the Pakistan Government for releasing IAF pilot Abhinandan. We see it as a step of political maturity and in favor of the people of both countries.
Being an initiative that works mostly through peace education, Aaghaz-e-Dosti believe that any positive step from both sides would be welcomed wholeheartedly by people on both sides and this would not only result in to an instant step of peace, but will also be much meaningful when it will be looked in history as this step would ensure confidence of both prime ministers in a hopeful future, a future that would be safer, saner, free from violence and so a future of prosperity.
We believe that it can be done and governments on both sides are completely capable to do this. We believe that talking peace and taking actions for peace may be difficult than talking war, but would be more stable and notable.
An Indo-Pak Friendship Initiative
Adishwar Kumar Jain, aged 60 years is from Mumbai. Recently, he was watching the famous bollywood film Henna and was reminded of a beautiful incident that goes back to 1991 which he is proud to have been part of. He writes,
“I was on a business trip of Bombay (now Mumbai) in 1991 from Ludhiana (Punjab) when this film Henna was released. It was super hit on the box office and I too went to see the film in Metro talkies of Bombay. Despite of heavy rush, managed to get a ticket for me in black. That time 3 young men came to me and asked for 3 tickets and told they are from Pakistan and do serve in merchant navy. Their ship was parked near Bombay and they took special permission from the captain to see the movie Heena in which Pakistani girl Jeba Bakhtiyar acted as a heroine. It was very embarrassing situation for me to listen all that and start thinking about how to arrange 3 tickets for these Pakistanis. I offered my single ticket to them but they denied as this was not going to solve their problem.
Suddenly I shouted to the huge crowd that 3 Pakistani guests are there and they specially came to see that movie so please arrange 3 tickets for them. To my pleasant surprise, with in minutes at least 20 persons gathered around those young men, shook hands with them and offered their tickets to them. Even few were with their families.
I was just stunned to see the love of common Indian nationals for the Pakistani these nationals. With in no time, 3 tickets were handed over to them and no money was even accepted.
One in the crowd said “Hum to kal dekh lenge par hamare Pakistani bhaeeyon ko aaj hi film dikhayengay….”
In addition, I found that during the interval, people were presenting them with the chips packets and sandwiches etc. They were so happy and were too emotional seeing the love from the Indian people for them.
I still remember this incident which was very touching and that day I realized that how much love the people do with each other of these “Enemy” countries. I always pray for the day when there will be no borders and that Frontier mail (Now Golden Temple Express starts from Bombay) will again run between Bombay to Frontier province and I will go to Peshawar to see the house of Dileep Kumar Sahab (Yusuf Khan).”
Adishwar Kumar Jai is a renowned collage artist of India who has exhibited paintings in all leading art galleries in India and abroad. He holds the post of Vice President of Physically Challenged Cricket Association of India. He is also serving as the Sr. Vice President in a textile company of Mumbai.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.’
Shruti (Achesh) Arora is a theatre educator. She is a team member and regional coordinator of Aaghaz-e-Dosti.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
*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/
Environment is a global issue. Natural calamities do not see political and administrative borders. It is imperative that the states understand this, co-operate and learn from each other.
With this understanding, the 13th Indo-Pak Classroom connect session connected students of Gyan Mandir Public School, Delhi and Beaconhouse School, Karachi and facilitated a dialogue on water conservation.
The session began by an introduction on the challenge of water conservation and water pollution in the South Asian context.
This was followed by students interacting with each other. The students on both sides shared how people in their countries view the challenge of water conservation. The students on Indian side highlighted that people have ignored this problem. They waste water. The students on the Pakistan side stated that the situation is not any different on their side.
They took turns to list out the sources of water pollution in their respective countries. Commonalities were noted. Then then delved on to share some methods being followed for conservation of water. The Indian students through charts explained the water harvesting and roof water conservation method that they read about in their textbooks. The Pakistan side also talked about methods and some initiatives that were being taken.
On both sides, the students were taking notes. Ms Anju Anand, teacher co-ordinator from Gyan Mandir Public School, highlighted that it is important to learn from each other when we face the same challenges. Environment, Climate change, pollution are immediate as well as South Asian and global issues. We need to find solutions together. Sharing ideas is one of the methods.
From the Pakistan side, Ms Amber Sajid from Beaconhouse School agree with Ms Anju’s thoughts on the need to collaborate on thinking, implementing ideas on these common challenges. She further added that this session was conducted as part of the Environmental management subject. Having this session was like a practical class. They researched on their country’s concerns, challenges for water conservation and could share it with the neighboring country who was also facing a similar challenge, understanding in this process that solutions come when we learn to co-operate, share ideas and implement them together.
Indo-Pak Classroom Connect is an initiative of Aaghaz-e-Dosti. It connects an Indian and a Pakistani classroom through video conferencing to facilitate dialogue amongst students. This was the 13th Indo-Pak Classroom Connect session. If you want to conduct it in your school, write to us at email@example.com
by Devika Mittal (India)
As a North Indian and Delhite, the first place in Pakistan that I imagined and felt a connect with was Lahore. I would also hear about the similarities between Delhi and Lahore. The famous line “Jine Lahore ni vekhya o jamiya e nai” was another reason for my fascination and focus on and around Lahore.
The second place of my fascination was Karachi which I heard, was similar to Mumbai. Like Mumbai, I heard it was far more cosmopolitan than Delhi and Lahore. I had also read that Karachi is called the city of lights. But my knowledge about Karachi and Sindh remain quite limited until I got into my mission of exploring to educate Indians about Pakistan. This was as part of my association with Aaghaz-e-Dosti, an Indo-Pak Friendship Initiative wherein we conduct discussions and workshops with Indian and Pakistani students and break their stereotypes and misconceptions about life and people across the border.
One of our focus areas is to challenge the homogeneous picture of Pakistan and Pakistani culture that most Indians uphold and vice versa. In our interactions with Indian students in schools in different cities of India, we have seen that students regard Pakistan to be an entirely Muslim, Urdu-Speaking Country. They have very less knowledge about the rich religious, ethnic and linguistic diversity that Pakistan has and boasts about. It was in this context to educate that my research began and I came to explore Sindh which I now describe as the land of great harmony.
The only thing that I previously knew about Sindh was regarding our shared historical pride – the Indus Valley Civilization. As a history enthusiast, it was and is my dream to visit Mohenjodaro. My love and desire was limited to this Harappa period until recently when I traced how Sindh continued to be rich post-Harappa. Sindh witnessed rule by different dynasties of diverse ethnicities. The soil of Sindh seems to have absorbed the beauty of diversity and to have become fertile with it.
I was mesmerized to explore the beautiful, diverse monuments and shrines that make up Sindh. I was happy to know the rich religious diversity that Sindh not only comprises but boasts about. A Sindhi Muslim friend told me how a Sindhi Muslim marriage is quite different from the traditional Muslim marriage as it is an integration of Hindu and Muslim marriage rituals. It is a Sindhi marriage.
The Sindhis may be Hindus, Muslims, Pathans or Balochs but the prefix “Sindhi” is crucial and unites them all. The Sindhi culture is an integration of diverse beliefs and cultures. It is unique and cannot be tied to one religion. Sindh has been a land of great sufi saints like Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai, Lal Shahbaz Qalandar and others who preached about the beauty of diversity and cultural harmony. The dhamaal response that Sehwan and Sindh led by the iconic Sheema Kermani gave to the inhuman Sehwan attack last year restored faith not only in the power of Sindh, the land of Sufis but through it, in the power of peace.
I was surprised to hear about the amazing Mithi. Known as the town where “a Hindu fasts and Muslim does not slaughter cows”, Mithi is an inspiration for the world to know that diversity is to be treasured, not feared.
The beautiful ajrak which is an important Sindhi identity also speaks of the rich history of this land of harmony. Ajrak is traced to the Indus Valley Civilization and forms an important part of the Sindhi culture. The ajrak is presented as a mark of respect and hospitality to guests and in this way, symbolizes the Sindh, its history and culture which welcomes and integrates all.
For me, as an Indian, Sindh speaks of the side of Pakistan that the world in general doesn’t know and should know and even learn from.
Devika Mittal is a PhD student and the convener – India of Aaghaz-e-Dosti. She tweets at @devikasmittal
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:
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
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.
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 email@example.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
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.