Category Archives: Press Releases

Aaghaz-e-Dosti felicitated with Public Peace Prize Award 2017

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.

Apply Now: Peace Internship Program

Peace Internship Program

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

Work

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.

Eligibility

  • 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.

Research Interns

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.

Video Interns

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 aaghazedosti@gmail.com

Present Team Structure of Aaghaz-e-Dosti

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

Regional/City Co-ordinators

India

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

Pakistan

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)

Kyrgyz Chapter

Nasima Karim – Co-ordinator

Dubai Chapter

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.

Report of Chandigarh Launch of 5th Indo-Pak Peace Calendar

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

Shruti Achesh

Aaghaz-e-Dosti

On International Non-Violence Day, a peace demonstration organised in Lahore

Press Release

On International Non-Violence Day, a peace demonstration organised in Lahore

Indo-Pak peace demonstration 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. 14517358_10154647474295625_8635658374150391488_n

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 resAaghaz-e-Dosti organised indo-pak peace demonstration in lahorepective 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 aaghazedosti@gmail.com or contact Raza Khan (Lahore Co-ordinator) at +92 300 4934142

Announcement: Paintings of Hope invited for 5th Indo-Pak Peace Calendar

 

indo-pak-peace-calendar-2017-poster

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 aaghazedosti@gmail.com

19th Aman Chaupal: Pakistani Peace Activist, South Asian University student share their experience with Karachi students

19 Aman Chaupal with Bharat Kohli and Suraya Islam

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.  

19th Aman Chaupal with Suraya Islam

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 ask questions in 19th Aman Chaupal in KarachiStudents 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

Event: On Women’s Day, Indian and Pakistani youth discuss women leadership and peace-building

Cross-border socialising event between Indians and Pakistanis - aaghazedosti and PUAN

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.

Press Release issued by

Madhulika Narasimhan

on behalf of

Aaghaz-e-Dosti India

Letter to Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan to end Siachen dispute and protect lives of soldiers

To,

The Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan

Subject: Protection of Lives of Soldiers on Siachen, End of Siachen Dispute

We, Aaghaz-e-Dosti are a group of youths working for Indo-Pak Peace through various ways such as peace education, advocacy and others.

We know that you, as a head of country are working towards the same through your government as well as through your personal innovative ways that we have seen. We understand that you are aware about core issues of conflict between the two countries and also about victims of these conflicts. We appreciate, respect and support your efforts towards peace.

Recently, an avalanche on Siachen claimed lives of 10 Indian soldiers. Many such avalanche and other climatic incidents over this glacier have claimed lives of soldiers of India and Pakistan both. This is a glacier where dispute of land started in 1984. Since then this glacier deployment of security forces resulted as loss of lives and economy of both countries as more than 200 million dollars is expenditure over this deployment. It is a wonder that this deployment was not even considered necessary till 1984 while India and Pakistan had fought three wars till then.

Many appeals of civil societies were launched to Governments of India and Pakistan in past appealed to declare Siachen as Peace Park and start demilitarization of both armies from there. Despite efforts by previous governments, it could not be achieved as yet. As, now there is change in government and your leadership have shown a positive angle towards resuming talks and resolving disputes, we request you to take up this issue with India/Pakistan and to start resolving Siachen dispute as the precious lives of our soldiers are at the same risk.

As, Siachen is a fairly recent conflict and happened due to lack of adequate dialogues between the two countries, it can be resolved by both governments together. Also, if it will be resolved, it will not only save lives of soldiers, but also economy and glacier environment. It will be able to send a message across the globe that issues can be resolved and India/Pakistan has the will to do that.

With such request, we would also like to add that in addition to declaring it a Peace Park, both countries together can set up a jointly operated laboratory for glacial research in Siachen. This will be more fruitful in view of the objective that a place of conflict can be known as a place from where people are working for global challenges.

We see hope and courage in you to resolve this conflict.

Regards,

Aliya Harir and Devika Mittal (Conveners)

on behalf of Team Aaghaz-e-Dosti

Sign the online petition https://www.change.org/p/prime-ministers-of-india-and-pakistan-resolve-siachen

Letter to Hon’ble External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj ji with suggestions on issues of talk during her honorable visit and meeting in Pakistan

Kind Attn: Hon’ble External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj ji

Respected Madam,

First of all we, a youth-led Indo-Pak friendship Initiative known as Aaghaz-e-Dosti, convey our sincere best wishes to you for your visit to Pakistan tomorrow. This visit by you is one of the important steps that can convey the message of maturity and commitment of the Government of India for peace talks and good relations with our neighbor country.

We are also as an initiative focused to facilitate people to people communication and try to contribute in the objectives and commitment of the governments of India and Pakistan for a peaceful and friendly future. Though we understand that you will have a list of agendas to be discussed there, we want to convey few of our requests, if the same can be considered by your goodself to be included for a discussion with your counterparts or through concerned authorities of both countries.

We see that how through the re-organizing of the NSAs talks in Bangkok, both governments have fulfilled their Ufa promises. We request you to talk about the second promise of Ufa which pertained to releasing all fishermen along with their boats. We request you to kindly consider talking about telecom partnership of both countries, to allow cellphones network of each other in international roaming. 

We also request for a meeting with you after your return to handover more suggestions that can be done by both governments as peace steps and part of CBMs. These suggestions that we want to share are garnered from talking to the victims of conflict. 

Thanking You

Regards,

Ravi Nitesh

(Founder of Mission Bhartiyam, Aaghaz-e-Dosti)

On behalf of Aaghaz-e-Dosti Team (India & Pakistan):

Devika Mittal (Convener from India), Madhulika Narasimhan (Delhi), Madhuri (Delhi), Arvind Kumar Lodhi (Delhi), Madhavi Bansal (Bangalore), Amrita Middey (Kolkata), Ali Abbas (Hyderabad, India), Ilma Iqbal (Lucknow), Nidhi Shendurnikar Tere (Gujarat), Prashant Nautiyal (Dehradun), Aliya Harir (Convener from Pakistan), Imrana Qasim (Islamabad), Shakeel Ahmed Shah (Islamabad), Namra Nasyr (Lahore), Umai Ahmed (Toba Tek Singh), Syed Zeeshan Ali Shah (Islamabad), Saba Khalid (Islamabad), Suraiya Islam (Karachi) and Abdur Rauf Yousafzai (Peshawar)

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