Category Archives: Press Releases
Aaghaz-e-Dosti is concerned about the whereabouts of Raza Mehmood Khan, a Pakistani peace activist who is also our convener. 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 his office. The Lahore police subsequently registered an FIR for the missing person case on the complaint received by his family and friends there. Since then, there has been no trace of him while the investigation is still on going.
Aaghaz-e-Dosti is a joint collaborative venture between India and Pakistan which was founded in 2012 with a team of volunteers, mostly youth and students who were advocating for global peace. 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 own countries and their affiliation with this initiative is voluntary on the basis of their belief in the universal values of human rights, to which all countries and people of the world are committed.
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 as a core work of the Aaghaz-e-Dosti for Indo-Pak Friendship. Raza joined Aaghaz-e-Dosti in year 2016 and 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 are supporting and helping to find Raza Khan. We have complete faith in the working of state agencies and are hopeful that Raza will be back soon with the efforts of the Government of Pakistan and its state institutions.
To contact us, email at email@example.com
Aaghaz-e-Dosti Lahore chapter organized ‘Chiraagh-e-Aman Jalao’ on 6th August 2017. Aaghaz-e-dosti believes in peace and harmony in South Asian Region and the whole world, collectively. Mainly there are two reasons why Chiraagh-e-aman Jalao was organized. Firstly, in August 2017, Pakistan and India are going to be 70 years old and still the two neighboring countries are living in conflict.
Even after 70 years of birth, Pakistan and India needs to resolve all the contemporary conflicts including border conflict. We are gathering at river Ravi, which symbolize that future of India and Pakistan must flow together like waves of river and with the virtue to serve humanity.
We gathered on 6th August as 6th and 9th August 1945 has been one of the darkest days in world’s history when during the final stage of World War II, the United States dropped nuclear weapons on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The two bombings, which killed at least 129,000 people, remain the only use of nuclear weapons for warfare in history. We hope that despite being nuclear empowered nations, India and Pakistan will take all steps to resolve their conflicts and to provide future generation a better region that will be free from any kind of violence, hatred, conflict and war. Our future must grow together.
This, Chiraagh-e-Aman was a very tiny memorial for all violence and hatred provoking incidents resulting in numerous victims. Aaghaz-e-dosti calls on all actors to regurgitate the significant responsibility of the States in the prevention and resolution of conflicts. AED also stresses the importance of peace and humanity. AED urges all actors to increase their inputs for sustaining peace.
Aaghaz-e-dosti demands both Pakistani and Indian State to back the treaty banning nuclear weapons. It’s been more than seven decades when the world has witnessed the macro destruction due to nuclear weapons, now it is the time to learn from the her-story. Both nations need and dreams for the freedom from poverty. We demand for a welfare state instead of a security state. People are still deprived from pure drinking water, health facilities, food, shelter etc. Both countries need to relax visa policy and increase trade, religious tourism, cultural exchange etc. For emphasizing on this AED called the both nations to join to lit the lamp, a lamp of hope, harmony and humanity.
Aaghaz-e-Dosti (lit. beginning of Friendship) aims to eradicate mutual hatred and suspicion to create unwavering bonds of peace and friendship. This is because we believe that miscommunication and lack of communication has helped sustain the conflict. To meet our objective, Aaghaz-e-Dosti has taken several initiatives ranging from interactive sessions in schools to public demonstrations, from art-based initiatives to writing articles and issuing statements to disseminate the misrepresented voice across the border.
Aaghaz-e-Dosti seeks to enhance people-to-people relations. It seeks to become the medium to discover and recognize the misrepresented reality on the other side of the border. Aaghaz-e-Dosti was started in 2012 by Mission Bhartiyam, an India-based youth organisation. It has collaborated with several organisations in the past but from May 2017, Aaghaz-e-Dosti became a joint initiative of Mission Bhartiyam and Pakistan-based “Hum Sab Aik Hain”.
‘Hum Sab Aik Hain’ is an organization formed by a group of young people based in Lahore. The objective of this organization is to promote peace and harmony among the masses by highlighting, advocating and organizing towards discourses and movements to bring about Socio-Political and Economic changes required for a peaceful society.
Aaghaz-e-Dosti, a cross border Indo-Pak Friendship Initiative, is now a laureate under the category of “Special Mention” for the Public Peace Prize 2017. Public Peace Prize is an International award and regarded as the “People’s Award”. It is the public that sends in nominations and then votes to choose the laureates according to the proposed categories. In 2017, it has recognised peacemakers from Cameroon, Colombia, Ghana, India, France, Nigeria, Pakistan, USA and Yemen. The criteria for recognition was is uniqueness of project, challenges, courage, audacity and selflessness of changemakers and their efforts.
In 2017, it has recognised peacemakers from Cameroon, Colombia, Ghana, India, France, Nigeria, Pakistan, USA and Yemen. Besides Aaghaz-e-Dosti, 2017 laureates include Elliot Hillary Dogbe who is an 11 year old peace activist from Ghana, Khairatul Saidu from Nigeria who is working for rights for the unjustly imprisoned, Zubair Torwali from Pakistan for his work to increase literacy in the indigeneous people of Swat Valley among several other inspiring changemakers who have been felicitated as laureates or finalists.
Aaghaz-e-Dosti (“Beginning of Friendship” in Hindi and Urdu) is proud to have received such a recognition. Aaghaz-e-Dosti is proclaimed as Laureate for the 2017 Public Peace Prize in the category of Mediators for Reconciliation between Groups Divided by Conflicts.
Public Peace Prize wrote for Aaghaz-e-Dosti, “Aaghaz-e-Dosti is laureate 2017 for its pledge and its consistent actions seeking to reconcile communities that have been rivals in two countries. Most of the public’s support went to this civil initiative which was considered both innovative and bold.”
An initiative engaged with citizen diplomacy, Aaghaz-e-Dosti works by facilitating people-to-people contact, challenging mutual hatred and suspicion, creating a culture of peace and understanding among people of both countries, and highlighting the issues of victims of conflicts. It works through peace education activities in schools and colleges, advocacy on the issues of the victims of conflict by documentation and by approaching the concerned authorities on both sides.
Despite being a voluntary and unfunded initiative, Aaghaz-e-Dosti has been able to be a consistent voice and platform working for Indo-Pak peace since May 2012. Aaghaz-e-Dosti was started by some individuals led by Ravi Nitesh of Mission Bhartiyam in India in 2012. For Aaghaz-e-Dosti, Mission Bhartiyam had collaborated with several organisations of Pakistan (such as CYDA, IMOV, The Catalyst, The Catalyst for Peace) in the past and from May 2017, Aaghaz-e-Dosti became a joint initiative of Mission Bhartiyam and Pakistan-based Hum Sab Aik Hai (lit. “We are One”).
Aaghaz-e-Dosti has always been run by active and committed individuals who worked voluntarily. For this reason, there have been people who also left in the spirit of keeping the initiative active. This award is dedicated to every individual who has ever contributed to Aaghaz-e-Dosti.
At present, Aaghaz-e-Dosti has regional chapters and or co-ordinators in Aligarh, Chandigarh, Dehradun, Delhi, Mumbai and Vadodara in India and in Lahore, Islamabad, Karachi and Toba Tek Singh in Pakistan. It also has co-ordinators in Dubai and Kyrgyz Republic.
Aaghaz-e-Dosti has received several awards in the past for its peacebuilding efforts. For Aaghaz-e-Dosti, this recognition is recognising the commitment of the team of volunteers who are working for the cause and realising the hope for peace of millions of people who are affected with conflict, violence, hatred and enmity.
Aaghaz-e-Dosti extends its sincere thanks to Public Peace Prize and assure that it will continue to bring to our fold, more committed and motivated young people who want to make this world a better place to live in and in making our region more peaceful and free from violence. Aaghaz-e-Dosti is committed and increasing its membership base in both countries as well as in third countries to cater IndoPak diaspora and spreading peace message across globe. It respects, appreciates and follows SDG goals of UN where Peacebuilding is seen as one of the global committment under SDG13. In coming months, Aaghaz-e-Dosti is bringing few innovative and new programs under which people will take part towards strengthening citizen diplomacy and peace education.
With the objective to increase the peace tribe, Aaghaz-e-Dosti launches peace internships. The Peace Internship Program is a four-week internship program (can be extended) which while being specialized in a specific field – writing, research, video editing and designing, will inculcate an understanding of peace and conflict in context of the Indo-Pak issue. The internship will equip you to understand conflict, and contribute to peace between India and Pakistan.
The Peace Internship Program has been designed keeping in mind the voluntary nature and the time constraints that may bound an individual. The program is home-based and easily doable but does require hardwork. An intern will have to devote about 10 hours in a week.
Since this is a non-funded initiative, we will not be able to offer any monetary remuneration. However, the interns will receive a certificate on the completion of the internship program.
Aaghaz-e-Dosti is offering four types of internship. While an applicant can apply for more than one, he/she will be accepted only for one.
Writing Interns will be given a maximum of 4 different writing assignments which may include movie review, article, poem and fiction story. Feedback will be provided on the writing style, analysis and understanding of the conflict.
- Good command over written English
- Prior knowledge of writing skills
- Ability to analyse issues
- Able to meet deadlines and complete one assignment (writing and incorporation of feedback) in a week’s time
To apply, please send a writing sample along with your CV and statement of interest.
Work: This will be done in a group. A group of 4 people will work on a particular issue that informs the Indo-Pak Conflict. The team will divide the work and will be involved in compiling, analyzing and documenting data. The objective of the research team will be to understand the issue from different perspectives.
Data collection will involve finding and reading existing works, collecting data through survey and interview method.
The team will write a joint report. Besides the report, they can also explore creative, alternative methods to present the findings.
Eligibility: Any previous experience in research will be preferred. To apply, please send your CV and statement of interest.
Interns will make video on particular issue, in collaboration with research team or independent. This will involve video making and editing work.
Eligibility: Some experience in video making/editing is mandatory. Please share any previous work along with your CV and statement of interest.
Design Interns – photo editing and designing of posters (content will be given).
Eligibility: Some experience in designing and photo editing is mandatory. Please share any previous work along with your CV and statement of interest.
The first peace internship will start from 20th June (tentative date). Please do not apply if you will not be able to commit one month (10 hours a week) for this program.
Deadline to Apply: 15 June 2017
To apply, please email with the above-stated documents to firstname.lastname@example.org
Aaghaz-e-Dosti (lit. Beginning of Friendship) was initiated by Mission Bhartiyam in 2012. At present, it is a joint project of Mission Bhartiyam of India and Hum Sab Aik Hai of Pakistan.
The working structure of Aaghaz-e-Dosti consists of founder, two convenors (temporary post) – India and Pakistan, core committee members, city-coordinators, members of regional team and task-based committees.
Aaghaz-e-Dosti has been working consistently since its launch in 2012. With the motive to work actively and extensively, every year, the team is restructured and membership is renewed. Here is the current team structure:
Founder of Aaghaz-e-Dosti: Ravi Nitesh
Conveners – Devika Mittal (India) and Raza Khan (Pakistan)
Core Members: Ravi Nitesh, Devika Mittal, Raza Khan and Madhulika V Narasimhan
Aligarh – Ilma Iqbal (Co-ordinator)
Baroda – Dr. Nidhi Shendurnikar Tere (Co-ordinator)
Chandigarh – Astinder Kaur ji (Co-ordinator)
Dehradun – Prashant Nautiyal (Co-ordinator)
Delhi – Madhulika Narasimhan (Chairperson), Madhuri (Treasurer), Shruti Achesh, Sarral Sharma, Neelanjan Chakraborty, Sanjana Arya, Manish Bhaduariya, Madalsa Poddar, Radhika Arora, Dr. Praveen Saraswat and Rupika
Islamabad – Syed Zeeshan Ali Shah, Fatima Shah and Saba Khalid
Lahore – Raza Khan, Safia Bokhari (Co-ordinator), Farooq Ishraq (General Secretary), Sarah Awan (Information Secretary), Atiqa Shahid
Toba Tek Singh – Umair Ahmad (Co-ordinator)
Nasima Karim – Co-ordinator
Zebaish Shaikh – Co-ordinator
Blog/Editing Team Devika Mittal, Madhulika V Narasimhan, Dr. Nidhi Shendurnikar Tere and Sheharyar Rizwan
Social Media Initiatives Team Swathi Gadepalli and Rupika
Design Team Shruti Achesh and Prashant Nautiyal
Volunteers: While anyone can apply to become a volunteer, only those who work are recognised as volunteers and on the basis of their work, are given a responsibility and enrolled in the team.
Chandigarh, India: Aaghaz-e-Dosti, a voluntary and non-political Indo-Pak cross border friendship initiative launched its 5th Indo-Pak Peace Calendar in Chandigarh on 18 February at St’ Stephens School.
The calendar was launched by Smt. Asha Jaswal, Mayor, Municipal Corporation, Chandigarh; Dr. DNV Kumara Guru, Director – External Relations and Human Resources at Indian School of Business, Mohali, Punjab; Mr. Sandeep Joshi, Cartoonist, The Tribune Group; Mr. Avtar Singh, Director – People’s Convention Centre; Mr. Louis Lopez, Principal, St. Stephen’s School, Chandigarh; Mr. Pramod Sharma, Director – Yuvsatta and Shruti Achesh, member Aaghaz-e-dosti.
The Launch program was organised at St. Stephen’s School by Yuvsatta, a Chandigarh based youth empowering NGO, who is also one of the collaborators of the Aaghaz-e-dosti Indo-Pak Peace Calendar this year. The program was attended by majority of the students of the school along with the school Principal, Vice Principal, teachers and the staff members.
Besides the Launch, the esteemed guests also presented their views regarding Indo-Pak issues and the value of developing friendly relations with the neighbouring countries.
The Aaghaz-e-dosti Indo Pak peace calendar features selected paintings (6 paintings from India and 6 from Pakistan) from schools students (Grade 8 to 12) of India and Pakistan. These Paintings depict an innocent and apolitical horizon of peace.
This year, we received thought-provoking expressions from students of several cities in India (Bulandshahr, Cuttack, Dehradun, Delhi, Jammu and Kashmir, Kolkata, Lucknow, Mumbai, Surat and Vadodara) and in Pakistan (Karachi, Lahore, Swabi and Toba Tek Singh). Along with the paintings, peace calendar includes messages from peace activists and renowned intellectuals. This year, Peace calendar includes messages of Dr. Salima Hashmi, Dr I A Rehman, Prof. Ishtiaq Ahmed, Lt. General (Retd) Muhammad Masood Aslam from Pakistan and Dr Shashi Tharoor, Col (retd) Virender Sahai, Major General (retd) Ashok Mehta, Sudheendra Kulkarni , Dr Syeda Hameed from India.
Speaking on the occasion, Mr. Louis Lopez, Principal St. Stephen’s School congratulated Aaghaz-e-dosti for taking this thought forward to initiate Peace between the two nations. He talked about the role of students in peacebuilding and how the noble values of peace and non violence can lead our country and can contribute in developing a peaceful and more humane environment in the world.
Shruti Achesh, who is a member of the Aaghaz-e-Dosti team, Delhi, gave an introduction on the vision and mission of the initiative and, how this peace calendar is helping to bridge distances between the people of India and Pakistan. She said that both countries have a history and geography shared together and in no way both can even think about being a rival of each other. She described how common people as well as children of both the countries are eager to develop friendly relations and are doing efforts to achieve that. She recited examples when during classroom connects of Aaghaz-e-Dosti, students from both sides became so happy while talking to each other and started inviting each other to their home immediately.
Chief Guest Smt. Asha Jaswal said that Indo-Pak relations is one area where we need more and more people to work for.. And the best people who can contribute towards this initiative is the youth of both the nations and everyone should support them. She also congratulated Aaghaz-e-Dosti for initiating this process of people to people contact and emphasized on the point that no one wants war, everyone wants to live in peace with each other and, if Aaghaz-e-dosti has taken this initiative to bring this forward, then everyone should encourage them by themselves being a part of this process. She also told that there are lot of efforts being done to normalise the relations through increased role of people to people communication and it needs to be developed more and more.
Mr. DNV Kumara Guru who is the Director – External Relations and Human Resources at Indian School of Business said, there are much deeper bonds of love and friendship between the people of India and Pakistan and we should continue making efforts to strengthen these bonds, to build bridges and to remove all kinds of barriers that divide us. He said we all are peace loving human beings and it is our responsibility to break this rhetoric to foster harmony, love and the importance of togetherness.
Mr. Sandeep Joshi, who is a cartoonist with the Tribune Group stressed on the importance of art in bridging the gap between the two nations. He further added that art accepts no boundries and can be one of the ways in which we can create a momentum for peace between India and Pakistan.
Pramod Sharma, Director and Coordinator – Yuvsatta told that he has had many experiences through his travel to Pakistan and he has found that people on both sides of the border are same. He also talked about the Global Youth Peace Festival that is organised by his esteemed organisation every year in Chandigarh, and where they are trying to promote the process of building peaceful ties by inviting and encouraging the youth from different parts of the world.
Running since last 5 years and, presently with a vibrant team of youth coordinators along with more than 15 chapters in both Pakistan and India, Aaghaz-e-Dosti aims to create unwavering bonds of Peace and friendship between these two nations by strengthening people to people contact. Aaghaz-e-Dosti is heading towards its objective through various activities such as Aman Chaupals, Peace Workshops, Classroom to Classroom connects, Indo-Pak Peace Calendar, Discussions and Seminars and others. Aaghaz-e-Dosti is one of the most prominent voice on Indo-Pak issues and has been recognized for its voluntary efforts by people, media and governments on both sides of the border along with many awards from organizations and peace institutions.
This year, calendar has been launched in presence of various dignitaries in Lahore (1 Jan), Toba Tek Singh (8 Jan), Peshawar (9 Jan), Karachi (29 Jan) in Pakistan and New Delhi (14 Jan) Mumbai (30 Jan), Dehradun (5th Feb), Panipat (11th Feb) and Kolkata (5 March) in India. The Calendar has also been launched in Kyrgz Republic.
Press Release by
On International Non-Violence Day, a peace demonstration organised in Lahore
Lahore: A number of citizens under the banner of Aaghaz-e-Dosti, an Indo-Pak friendship Initiative, gathered at Liberty Market on Oct 2, 2016 to raise their voice for peace. The Slogan was “Save Our Future – End War Mongering between Pakistan and India”.
They said that as neighbors, we, the peoples of Pakistan & India share one water, we share the air, we share a history, culture & language. We also share poverty, illiteracy, inequality, pollution and youth unemployment. And most importantly, we share a future.
But our future is jeopardized by war mongering, hate, jingoism and in dehumanizing the other. As peace loving people of this land, we demand of both States and Leaders to engage each other, de-escalate, and resolve their differences diplomatically.
Both states have been engaged in a proxy war in Afghanistan, Kashmir and Baluchistan which does not serve the people of this region. Because of this, the whole SAARC region is affected leading to a lack of regional cooperation, which is critical for the success of all countries in the region. Additionally, it is important for both States to understand that Human Rights are key to peace in their respective countries, and thus both states should ensure that all their citizens have the rights enshrined in their respective constitutions as well as the UN Charter.
As peace loving people, we demand that leadership of both nations talk immediately to de-escalate the current situation, followed by devising an institutional framework (restart the composite dialogue) to resolve all outstanding issues diplomatically. Else we the people will suffer, we will fall further behind the rest of the world, and we will not be able to manage the coming crises such as climate change which will impact us all.
The gathering consisted of senior activists, young activists, college and even some school students. The gathering was also joined by some passersby.
For further information, email at email@example.com or contact Raza Khan (Lahore Co-ordinator) at +92 300 4934142
Aaghaz-e-Dosti, an Indo-Pak Friendship Initiative, is inviting paintings from Indian and Pakistani school students from grade 8 to 12 to send their paintings on the theme ‘Indo-Pak Peace’ for the 5th Indo-Pak Peace Calendar. Schools or students may send their paintings in India and Pakistan till 30th September.
Best 6 paintings from each side (India and Pakistan) will be selected to be included in the Indo-Pak Peace Calendar 2017 that will be released in December-January in various cities of India and Pakistan through public events.
Alongwith these 12 paintings, 12 peace messages are also to be included of eminent academicians, activists, writers etc. During the last four years we had received messages from personalities like Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy (Pakistani Nuclear Physicist and Adviser to UN Secretary General on Disarmament), Ms Tara Gandhi (Granddaughter of Mahatma Gandhi), Beena Sarwar (Pakistani journalist and documentary maker), Admiral (Retd) Ramdas (Former Navy Chief of India), Awais Sheikh (Pakistani advocate of Sarabjit Singh), Asma Jahangir (Pakistani human rights activist), Syed Salman Chishty (Gaddi Nasheen-Ajmer Sharif Shrine), Ram Mohan Rai (Hali Panipati Trust India), Lalita Ramdas (Peace activist India), Anwer Jafrey (Theatre artist Pakistan), Satyapal (Secretary General of South Asian Fraternity), Saeeda Diep (Chairperson, IPSS Lahore), Prof Chaman Lal (Former Prof JNU), Sheema Kirmani (Pakistani theatre artist, Founder-Tehreek-e-Niswan), Raza Rumi (Sr Pakistani journalist and Author-Delhi by Heart), Dr Ayesha Siddiqa (Political analyst, former Director of Naval Research of Pakistan Navy), Dr Dhananjay Tripathi (Academician at South Asian University), Dr Farzana Bari (Academician – Quaid-e-Azam University), Pankaj Chaturvedi (Hindi Columnist), Nisar Ahmed Chaudhary (South Asian Fraternity Pakistan), Ram Mohan Rai (Social Activist), Dr Zahid Shahab Ahmed (Academician NUST Pakistan), Kuldeep Nayar (veteran journalist and writer), Meenakshi Chhabra (Prof of Conflict Studies – USA) and many other eminent persons. We have also received messages from 12 film directors of India and Pakistan including Ketan Mehta, Aparna Sen, Mehreen Jabbar, Nikhil Advani, Bejoy Nambiar, Siraj-ul-Haque, Shahbaz Sumar, Tanuja Chandra, Khid Ahmed, Tigmanshu Dhulia, Sabiha Sumar, Meenu Gaur and Farzad through a collaboration with zeal for unity initiative.
In Previous years, these calendars have been released in Delhi, Islamabad, Panipat, Lahore, Ayodhya, Peshawar, Nashik and many other places in India and Pakistan. Aaghaz-e-Dosti receives hundreds of paintings each year from various locations in India and Pakistan and during all these years, we received paintings from almost all states of India and all provinces of Pakistan.
This year Aaghaz-e-Dosti is planning to have a peace exhibition also along with calendar release event. In this exhibition, we will showcase letters and greetings that were exchanged between Indian and Pakistani students through our other programs. Like last year, we had a special screening of Ketan Mehta’s Toba Tek Singh, this year too we are planning to do something such creative to sensitize the participants towards peace.
With the ground team of Aaghaz-e-Dosti that has spread through more than 15 chapters in India and Pakistan and 2 international chapters, mostly led by young women peace activists, the initiative is ready for its fifth year of peace calendar. This year, we are hopeful to increase places for calendar release and tentatively these places would be Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Bhuvneshwar, Chandigarh, Panipat, Ayodhya, Lucknow, Hyderabad, Srinagar, Aligarh, Ahmedabad, Vadodra and Varanasi in India and Lahore, Karachi, Peshawar, Rawalpindi, Toba Tek Singh and Islamabad. Along with many other ground initiatives that includes Aman Chaupals, Peace Workshops, Discussions, Letters and Greeting card exchange, Classroom to Classroom connect and others, Aaghaz-e-Dosti is continuously working towards peacebuilding on people to people level.
Aaghaz-e-Dosti is completely youth led and voluntary initiative that works on no cost model for volunteers. It is trying to build a movement for Peace for the reason that peace is a common desire of every human being and a right. This is also in line with the UN SDG goals as well as basic human values of our subcontinent that teaches about tolerance, non violence and harmony. Being a traditional rival, both India and Pakistan have a lot of misconception and a lack of understanding about each other that creates and sustains stereotypes and hatred for each other. It is trying to enhance people to people relations and through this, also helping the governments who are also working for peace and friendship with each other.
For any query or further information, email at firstname.lastname@example.org
19th Aman Chaupal: Pakistani Peace Activist, South Asian University student share their experience with Karachi students
On 30th May 2016, SMB Fatima Jinnah Girls School’s Summer Camp organised an Indo Pak Peace Program in collaboration with Aaghaz-e-Dosti, an initiative to build bridges between India and Pakistan. This event was conducted for the students of 9th and 10th grade. The management team invited Mr. Bharat Makwana, a Pakistani student at South Asian University in Delhi, India and Ms. Suraiya Islam, coordinator/representative of Aaghaz-e-Dosti in Karachi, Pakistan, who recently had the privilege to visit the beautiful heritage of India.
This program was held in form of a two way dialogue between the guest speakers and the audience. Students participated enthusiastically in asking questions to our guest about their experience of visiting and living in India as a Pakistani. The speakers corroborated their responses by showing photographs that were clicked by them.
The students asked questions around schooling in India, festivals celebrated in India and most importantly about the food. On food, Mr. Makwana commented that he never missed home because of the delicious DESI food available in India. A student also asked the guests about the recipe of Pao Bhaaji, common dish eaten in India, which the guests could not answer but surprisingly a student in the class was able to share the recipe of Pao Bhaaji she learnt and cooked by the help of YouTube.
Students shared their fear about India based on media representation and asked questions to our guest regarding treatment of Muslims in India, to which Ms. Islam, who is a Muslim, answered by sharing how she was treated well in India and how her encounter with Muslim families living in India taught her that Media representation is not at all the truth.
The event ended at a high note with Ms. Shehnaz, Program Manager at SMB Fatimah Jinnah School and Ms. Sana Kazmi, representative of Zindagi Trust and Head of SMB Fatimah Jinnah Girls School’s Summer Camp appreciating the guest speakers for their time and contribution. Students also showed gratitude and great enthusiasm about visiting India in the future and also applying to South Asian University for higher studies. This event was co-ordinated by the teachers, IT department and Azima Dhanjee of PUAN Karachi.
Report by Azima Dhanjee and Suraya Islam
Aaghaz-e-Dosti Karachi Chapter
On the occasion of International Women’s Day on 8th March 2016, Aaghaz-e-Dosti collaborated with the Pakistan US Alumni Network (PUAN) – Karachi to organize a virtual cross border socializing session between young minds from Karachi and New Delhi.
The session involved the participation of students as well as young professionals on both sides. The participants from India were Akash Singh, Amrita Middey, Nigar Khan, Neelanjan Chakraborty, Madhulika Narasimhan, Sampa Arya and Sarral Sharma and from Pakistan, Azima Dhanjee, Mariam Batool Qazi, Naureen Khalfan, Khadijah Siddiq, Alishah Dhanjee, Irfan Chourbati, Faraz Liaquat and Afzal Amin Shivji, most of whom are associated with PUAN.
It was a session meant primarily for people who did not have any previous or less experience of interacting with people across the border. Madhulika Narasimhan, Core Member of Aaghaz-e-Dosti said, “This virtual session was an introductory session but with some specific objectives. It was designed to not just connect people but initiate them for critical thinking. It had the youth to explore the country across the border as it encouraged them to talk about women leaders from across the border who inspire them, to clear their stereotypes and also steered the dialogue towards the ways in which the youth can contribute to building peace between the two nations.”
The session was moderated by Azima Dhanjee from Pakistan and Amrita Middey from India.
The session began with the discussion on women leadership. The youth from both countries talked about a woman leader/personality from across the border that inspired them. They talked about women personalities from diverse backgrounds like theatre/drama, travel/automobiles, art, politics, literature and activism. Some of the names included Amna Mawaz Khan, Asma Jahangir, Benazir Bhutto and Zenith Irfan from Pakistan and Indira Gandhi, Kiran Bedi and Arundhati Roy from India. They also reflected on the situation of women, the existing stereotypes and problems that women face in both countries.
The participants also took turns to share their thoughts about the other country, and what they particularly liked about it. Some of the common themes that fascinated the participants about the other country revolved around food, music and cricket.
Further, there was a discussion on the kind of role that the youth can play as peace ambassadors to bridge the gap between the two countries, and some key methods through which peace can be achieved. The suggestions ranged from encouraging young individuals to engage with those across the border, be it virtually, to try and bust stereotypes and go beyond simplistic understandings of what Pakistani or Indian culture entails, which are often misrepresented by mainstream media; initiating student exchange programmes; and as Azima Dhanjee, from PUAN Karachi suggested, “organizing interactions between an individual and a family from across the border over a sustained period of time”.
Some emotional chords were touched when an English Lecturer, Sampa Arya, expressed her gratitude to Pakistan for helping rescue her husband who was stuck in Somalia during the conflict, and further shared a poem she had penned on the need to forget the past and focus on peace and love between the two nations.
The participants in New Delhi also included two students from Sindh, Pakistan, pursuing their Masters at South Asian University – Bharat Makwana and Suneel Nand – who shared their experiences of being a Pakistani in India, confessed to feeling welcome and at home in their host country, and were of the opinion that it was an experience that their fellow Pakistanis must have.
Another special guest in New Delhi was Mr. Ram Mohan Rai – a senior Gandhian, peace activist and a close associate of the late Nirmala Deshpande ji – who has been to Pakistan many times in the past, and spoke about the tremendous hospitality of the common folk there towards Indians.
Sarral Sharma, an M.Phil Student at the University of Delhi, on speaking about the session, stressed on the need to “figure out the way forward, first by educating ourselves and then by spreading the message among those who may not necessarily be involved in peace initiatives, in order to take this initiative to a logical conclusion.”
The participants appreciated the session and found it thought-provoking. Azima Dhanjee, youth activist and active member of PUAN remarked, “The beautiful exchange of words and love really showed me that borders can’t stop us from being one. We are way beyond grieving about the past; it’s time to create bridges OVER the borders and impact each other’s life peacefully.”
Mariam Batool Qazi, General Secretary of PUAN, said “From talking about cricket to women activists to cultural/educational exchanges and visa policies, we had a great time with our neighbors. I believe if we keep organizing such exchanges, it will help both the countries in eradicating stereotypes and in strengthening people to people ties between both the countries.”
Aaghaz-e-Dosti and PUAN – Karachi are planning to organise such sessions more regularly and to follow up this one with sessions on more specific issues related to Indo-Pak relations.
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